Santo Domingo is the largest, oldest, and liveliest city in the Caribbean. The traffic, sprawled out across 12 lanes on the main expressway, drones on from sunup to sundown. Yet despite the traffic jams and overloaded infrastructure, SD has some real charm and is a vibrant, beautiful city that is steeped in history.
The most popular place to stay is near the Zona Colonial, which boasts closed pedestrian streets, shopping, cobblestone streets, an old fort, a cathedral and monastery, and museums. We opted for an Air BnB between the Colonial Zone and the malecon. The Colonial Zone is safe for walking around and there are ample, cheap food choices around.
A great thing about Santo Domingo, besides having an Ikea, is that it is only a few hour’s drive from most attractions in this small country. We took a side trip to visit a cacao farm and make our own chocolate at El Sendero de Cacao (www.cacaotour.com). They were actually closed on the day we went but were nice enough to hook us up with a tour anyway. They took us out into the fields where they grew the cacao trees, showed us all of the steps of the production, and we made our own chocolate to take home!
Also, H went scuba diving with Tropical Sea Divers (www.tropicalseadivers.com). They are excellent! Super nice people, they speak English, Spanish, French, German, and maybe more. I forget how much dives were but according to H, they lead an awesome shipwreck dive!
Getting There: SD is about a 5-hour drive from Port-au-Prince. Signage and roads are good once you cross from Haiti to DR in Jimani. There are good beaches east of SD, like Boca Chica, about 30-45 minutes away.
Pro Tip: I read somewhere that traffic in Santo Domingo is bad between 7am and 7pm, and we found that to be pretty accurate. We left at 5:30am on our departure date and had a smooth, easy ride to the Haitian border.