Santo Domingo and Punta Cana, are two locations in the Dominican Republic so different from each other, that it will be quite easy for me to expose the attractions of each.
Santo Domingo, is the capital city of the Dominican Republic, like any capital in the world, is a fairly inhabited and restless, and with one of the most interesting historical legacies of all Latin America, probably the world.
Punta Cana, on the other hand, is a town that has become the heart of tourism in the Dominican Republic, is the only town in the Dominican Republic among the top 50 world destinations, and is among the most visited destinations in all of Latin America.
The comparison between the two places and the decision of which one to choose can easily be summarized as follows;
Punta Cana is a place designed and thought for leisure, entertainment and rest for tourists, with more than 60 all-inclusive hotels available and a variety of spectacular beaches, some considered among the best beaches in the country and even in the world, Punta Cana is a Caribbean sanctuary of relaxation and rest.
Santo Domingo, from the tourist point of view is a city rich in historical places and structures to visit, the main attraction is the well known colonial city, the place where “everything started”, personally I LOVE this place, in Santo Domingo there are no beaches.
But not far from the city you can find the beach of boca chica, which may not be the best option because it is a public access beach and therefore mostly overcrowded, they are also relatively close to the beach of Juan Dolio.
Santo Domingo is like any other big capital city, it is not dangerous if you move around in the right places, and you take the necessary precautions.
If you are in Santo Domingo and want to visit more beautiful beaches you can visit Bayahibe, although Bayahibe is quite far away from Santo Domingo in the east, about 146 km away, 1:47 hours.
To go on your own from Santo Domingo to Bayahibe you have to go to the bus station in Parque Enriquillo and take the bus to La Romana, preferably an Express that makes fewer stops, and tell the driver you are going to Bayahibe, so he can drop you off where the buses stop, get off and change buses.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Punta Cana has the advantage of being a much more familiar place, if you come with your family, including children, being in a place like Punta Cana has great advantages compared to Santo Domingo.
Is much quieter, more planning and much more entertainment, the constant movement in the city of Santo Domingo may not be appropriate to be with a family group.
In case you are in Santo Domingo with your children, in the colonial zone there is a children’s museum where the children have a lot of fun while learning many things.
Also more to the center of the city is the national zoo, perhaps you are not a lover of seeing animals locked up, but at least the nature of the place is incredible.
One of the great advantages of Santo Domingo in relation to Punta Cana is the transport, and I don’t mean public taxis, in Santo Domingo a couple of years ago the service of Uber works, this is an easy, economic and safe form to cross the city.
In Punta Cana still doesn’t exist the service of Uber.The ideal would be, that you visit Santo Domingo by your own and you can visit several places without tour operators, otherwise it would be expensive, you can use the service of Uber to move where you want and thus to know the city in a quite simple budget.
If you want to know more about how Uber works in the Dominican Republic, I wrote a whole detailed topic about it.
Santo Domingo is a city where you could move much more easily without spending so much money, Punta Cana, being a tourist area, the souvenirs and excursions are adapted to tourist prices.
In Santo Domingo you can visit the model market that is near the colonial zone, in a commercial area called “la Duarte”, there you can find almost everything at local prices.
I remember once I had an experience, on a return trip from Colombia to Santo Domingo, to make a long story short, I ran out of money arriving in Santo Domingo, which is my hometown, and I was able to get from the Las Americas airport, to my house located at one end of the city with less than 2 dollars.
I must say that Punta Cana is a much safer place than Santo Domingo, Punta Cana is a tourist place, very planned and safe, Santo Domingo is the largest city in the Dominican Republic, with all that implies.
Another advantage of Punta Cana, is that you will most likely arrive at an all-inclusive hotel, you will have lodging, food, beach, all in one package, no matter how cheap Santo Domingo is, my concern is with the food.
In Santo Domingo you will find some of the best restaurants in the country, but if you decide to eat elsewhere, very cheaply, you could expose yourself to food manipulation that could compromise your health.
We Dominicans do it because we have an adapted stomach, in Punta Cana, the food is better manipulated and prepared with more conscience.
About the aiports
Santo Domingo and Punta Cana have their respective airports, with Santo Domingo’s Las Americas airport being the main airport in the country, but currently the busiest airport is Punta Cana.
The advantage of the airport of the Americas in Santo Domingo with respect to Punta Cana is that it is more comfortable and of course fresher than the old terminals of Punta Cana, which are open without air conditioning, and the airport itself works better and flights are usually more punctual.
What to see in Santo Domingo?
You must dedicate several days to the colonial zone of Santo Domingo to be able to know many of its historical buildings, in a single day you will not be able to know it completely, although perhaps you will visit the most emblematic places in one morning.
In case you did not know, the colonial city of Santo Domingo has an immense historical importance, declared historical patrimony of the humanity, this was the first city founded in America, the first cathedral, first university, and many other buildings constructed in this place founded what today is known as America.
I have written several quite detailed topics about the colonial city of Santo Domingo and its historical contributions, I already mentioned that I LOVE this place?
Outside the Colonial Zone on George Washington Avenue, also called the Malecon, is relatively close to the monument to Friar Anton de Montesinos, which has now been transformed into a Taino museum.
Much further down the same avenue is the site where Trujillo (Dominican President Dictator) was killed on May 30, 1961, the place is represented by a sculpture that can be seen from the avenue.
The Columbus Lighthouse is still an impressive structure, but it no longer has the magnificence of previous years, I do not recommend visiting it, and as a natural space the Three Eyes Park is a very interesting place to visit, it is a cave with an underground lake, in case you want to get out of the city.
A wonderful historical place unknown in Santo Domingo
Some time ago while performing a Uber service in Santo Domingo I visited an impressive place that I had no idea existed, they were a kind of colonial ruins, but far from the colonial area.
These ruins consist of a palace, a chapel and a large lake in an area of the city called Engombe, is a place with a wonderful atmosphere, very little visited and unknown.
The old Engombe Palace is a colonial structure from the 16th century, when the Santa Ana sugar mill was founded. Without a doubt, this part where the ruins of the sugar mill are located, constitutes the most important historical reserve of the community.
Due to the group of buildings it has, formed by four basic structures, which are: the Casona or Palace, the Church, the Galpón or Warehouse, which was used for slaves and at the back, the Trapiche.
The palace has two levels and still preserves its stately style. It lost its stairways, but still preserves its gallant air that shows the characteristic way of life of the colonial era.
Santa Ana is the first name of the small church, erected to the left of the palace, is a temple of a single level, its roof is two slopes becoming a half dome in the part that corresponds to the altar.
The bell tower of the chapel has one of the biggest fortresses of the building, since according to the experts, it is the buttress of the building, next to the sacristy, counteracting the architectural load of the semi-arch of the vault.
The waters of the Haina River, the fabulous view and the fresh breeze enjoyed there, take the visitor back in time, to the stories of work, sweat, slavery, but also to the splendor and style of a high economic level.