Travel Diaries: Santo Domingo / by Didier Young

If I were to mention the Dominican Republic to anyone, the initial response would most likely make reference to Punta Cana, the beautiful weather and the gorgeous beaches. As such, it may surprise some that one of my highlights from my most recent trip to the Caribbean island only had one of those assumptions correct.

As it turns out, the Dominican Republic is far more layered than what I previously expected. Yes, you are right to expect those beaches and friendly smiles but you may not expect that they are also known for their delicious coffee and that the Dominican Republic is one of the major chocolate producing countries in the world. Furthermore, the island’s rich history dates back to the Spanish explorers who set up a key port in Santo Domingo, now the second biggest city on the island. 

The Dominicans did a fantastic job of conserving their heritage within the perimeters of the colonial city located within the city of Santo Domingo. Our second stop on our Dominican trip took up to the Hodelpa Nicholas de Ovando, eponymously named after the previous proprietor of the location who also turned out to be the governor of Santo Domingo after Christopher Columbus discovered the island. The hotel was non-inclusive but given its location in the heart of the colonial city, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. 

We had a fantastic lunch at Buche Perico where I had the chance to consume one of my favourite ceviches all trip long and our dinner was at Pat’e Palo, the oldest brasserie on the island. Being immersed in the Dominican city allowed me to have a better understand of its culinary heritage and trust me, it is quite delectable. Pescado Frito (Dominican Fried Fish) was simply divine and let’s not forget Bacalao, a traditional stew served with rice that was so good that I went back for a second round. The Dominicans also make extensive use of chinola (passion fruit) in their cuisine, going as far as creating sauces to top their poultry dishes with (which was equally amazing). 

We only had a few hours to truly explore the colonial city but that was all it took for me to fall in love with it. The city was an explosion of bougainvillea which paired beautifully with its Spanish-styled architecture. The day of our arrival coincided with the Feria Internacional del libro (international book festival) which caused the whole city to be invigorated with the energy of thousands of its inhabitants. When I took a walk the next day, the city felt completely different, a quiet haven glistening from the morning’s short rainfall.

I think that the main reason why I loved Santo Domingo so much is because it was completely different from what I expected when I was invited to take part of the Dominican trip. I have long associated Caribbean destinations with all-inclusive resorts and nature excursions so it was nice to discover a city like Santo Domingo which was filled with so much history and beauty.