Three Nights in Santo Domingo
Heading to the Dominican Republic? Make sure you add three nights in Santo Domingo! The Zona Colonial is charming, walkable and full of amazing food options and activities. Wondering how to plan your stay? Keep reading!
Arrive late afternoon and check yourself into Casas del XVI, grabbing your mango welcome drink on the way to your casa. This boutique hotel is actually a collection of beautifully restored houses in Zona Colonial, each with their own flavor. Take a welcome bath (seriously, it’s drawn for you), unpack and catch your breath. The Santo Domingo seat-gripping traffic got you a little stressed? Ask your butler for a drink (did I mention that your stay comes with a butler?) and hang out in the courtyard.
For dinner, walk to Lulu Tasting Bar. It’s about a five minute walk from any of the casas of Casas del XVI and is very, very easy to navigate. Not comfortable going it alone? Ask your butler to accompany you and they’ll be happy to get you there! Make sure to sit outside (unless it’s raining, then the covered courtyard indoors is beautiful). Take note: smoking is typically OK in outdoor seating areas in the Dominican Republic so if that’s not your scene ask to be seated indoors.
Order a glass from their wine list and share some tapas style dishes. Be aware, however, that they come in entrée size portions so don’t go too crazy unless you’re super hungry! Also don’t be surprised at some of their interesting presentation and plating – our rice balls came in a (clean) Chuck! The bread is delicious and the quinoa salad is tasty and refreshing. Carnivore? The slider sampler will set you up well.
Take your time and enjoy! The atmosphere here is upbeat but not rushed, with a fairly diverse crowd. After dinner, take a slow stroll back to your casa. Once there, have a drink mixed up, take a late night plunge (if you’re staying in a casa with a pool) and enjoy the warm night air.
For your first full day, shut off the alarm! I know it’s tempting to try to cram as much into your trips as you can but sometimes it feels so good to sleep in…especially if you had more than one glass of wine at Lulu! For breakfast you won’t have to go far as Casas del XVI offers it included with your room. Note: it’s not to be missed. Choose to have your breakfast in the AC of the dining room or alfresco in the courtyard – they’re more than accommodating! Make sure to not fill up on pastries, juice, coffee and fruit before you choose from selections such as banana pancakes, oatmeal with dates or traditional Dominican breakfast. Breakfast will set you up for a day of walking around Zona Colonial!
Slather on some sunblock, grab your camera and hit the streets. Zona Colonial is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s absolutely stunning. You can choose to stroll aimlessly through the streets, admiring wrought iron clad windows on pastel painted casas. The street dogs will steal your heart, along with the locals and shopkeepers that put out bowls of water and food for them (*swoon*). Head over to Fortaleza Ozama, a 16th century fortress overlooking the Ozama river. Make your way to Reloj del Sol, admire the sun dial and check out the vantage point over the water (and the cannon!). There are a number of museums along the way if that’s more your style. Prefer the sights outside? Keep your eyes on the lookout for different doors, some brightly painted and others with heavy, dark wood and iron bolts. There are plenty of great Instagram shots to be found!
As the afternoon heats up, meander to the Plaza de España and grab an outdoor table at Pura Tasca, getting some relief from the scorching sun. You’ll have great views of the Alcázar de Colón palace from the patio. Order up chinola sangria while you decide which toasts to order….but don’t forget the patatas bravas! The menu here is fairly extensive but it’s too hot in the afternoon for a large meal. The eggplant arugula toast is crispy, flavorful and filling enough.
After lunch you can either make your way back to your casa for a nap and a swim or you can head towards the Parque Colon. This is a lively spot to grab some great photos and people watch (or pigeon, whatever floats your boat). Pop into the Amber Museum for a quick, free pass. Learn about the DR’s history of amber and check out their small but interesting collection. Pro tip: pop out the second floor Juliet balconies at the Amber Museum for some beautiful shots of Parque Colon below! After that, take a tour of the Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor. Make sure to take the longer route back to your casa. Walk down Calle el Conde to people watch, shop or grab a cold drink.
Grab a shower and some quite time before dinner. Then head over to Jalao for some more traditional style Dominican food and a colorful atmosphere. It’s a comfortable walk from Casas del XVI and, even at night, it’s a relatively safe and comfortable stroll. Looking for post dinner nightlife? Your butler will give you great recommendations, from bars to bachata dancing! Don’t drink too much because tomorrow you’re going to want to get up a little earlier (maybe).
Rise slightly earlier than yesterday and enjoy another amazing breakfast at Casas del XVI. Then meet up with your guide for the day and hop into your private transport van to head to the Ron Barceló rum distillery! The drive will take you out of Santo Domingo and past sugar cane fields until you come to the distillery. Enjoy the tour, the beautiful grounds and the tasting. Don’t worry if your Spanish isn’t up to snuff, the guide we had did the tour in English, Spanish and Dutch! Word to the wise: buy your Ron Barceló rum here! It’s much, much cheaper than the airport. After the tour wraps up, snag a few photos and then head back toward Santo Domingo. If you’re dying to reach the beach now’s your chance! When staying in Zona Colonial this will be your closest beach (but I’d suggest adding a second destination in the DR to soak up the sand/sun time). Ask to stop at Boca Chica to see where locals like to hang, get some swim time and grab some seafood.
Grab a nap, swim or cold beer and a book before dinner. You won’t have to go far to eat at Casas del XVI! They don’t have a restaurant, however with a little notice (i.e. the morning of) your butler can arrange for the chef to make you an amazing three course meal to be served wherever you want in the casa. If it’s nice out, opt for the courtyard, complete with candles and jazz. Don’t forget to pick out a bottle of wine (or champs!) for your last dinner in Santo Domingo.
Ah, the last morning…..it’s always a bit of a disappointment to leave (unless of course you have another stop in the Dominican Republic!). It will feel like three nights in Santo Domingo wasn’t enough! Enjoy one last early morning stroll around Zona Colonial and savor one last breakfast at your casa. If you’re heading to the airport your butler will call you a private car and you’ll be off to Las Américas International Airport. The drive is only about 20 minutes. Don’t bother springing for the VIP airport service as the terminal is nice enough and it’s really not worth the cash. That money will be better spent bringing home some coffee, sugar or rum!
If you’re heading to the Dominican Republic don’t forget to check out my reviews of Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge and Casas del XVI. Do you have a favorite spot or activity in Santo Domingo? If so I’d love to hear from you! Just comment below and let me know.