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Emily: One of my best friends lives in Arlington, Virginia, so I don’t see her very often. We met in college and have been friends ever since. The first (and last) time we took a vacation together was to Barcelona, Spain in 2007.
I thought it would be super fun to celebrate my 30th birthday with her in the Dominican Republic. So we planned a trip to 3 locations, including Santo Domingo, Bayahibe, and Bavaro (near Punta Cana) over the course of one week.
Emily’s Birthday Trip to the Dominican Republic Index:
- Trip to the Dominican Republic — Introduction and Planning
- Santo Domingo Hotel – Sofitel Nicolas de Ovando
- Activities in Santo Domingo – Zona Colonial and Latin Dancing
- Activities in Santo Domingo – Casa de Orientación y Desarrollo Real (CODR)
- Eating in Santo Domingo
- Bayahibe – Isla Saona and Hotel Bayahibe
- Bavaro Hotel – Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
- Activities in and Around Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
- Eating in and Around Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
- Return Delta Flight from Punta Cana
- Conclusion and Blog Giveaway
Santo Domingo Walking Tour
One of the main reasons why I wanted to visit Santo Domingo was because of the history. It was the first city in the new world, and it listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
One of our guides was written by Peace Corps volunteers and they published a very nice walking tour of Zona Colonial, the old city, in Santo Domingo.
Kristen and I had breakfast at the hotel, and then went to Parque Indepencia to begin our walking tour. On the way, we saw lots of sights, including artwork…
The walk itself was very nice. The guidebook said it would take anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days. For us, 2 days was more like it! We only finished half of it.
The Parque Indepencia has one of the original entrances to the walled city. It was interesting to see the old architecture in the park.
Afterwards, we went to Plaza Misericordia, where the first shots were fired that signaled Dominican independence from Haiti.
Afterwards, we went to the sea. Unfortunately, you can’t swim in it because the shores are rocky, and because the water is not that clean.
The streets were mostly empty from tourists so there were no crowds to fight through at the major sites.
We passed an old church…
…and another one.
We stumbled upon a small outdoor arts and crafts market.
Kristen and I bought jewelry from one shop.
The shopowner was so friendly and welcoming, Kristen and I couldn’t help taking our photo with her. I purchased a beautiful necklace which I’m wearing in the photo.
We continued on our walk and enjoyed the colonial homes. We were surprised to find some of them empty and in disrepair and I dreamt about moving in and fixing them up!
We then made our way to the Fortaleza, or the large fort that once protected the city.
I loved it because there were so many little places to explore.
The views from Fortaleza were beautiful. We could see for miles.
We climbed to the top of Fortaleza.
We then made our way to Christopher Columbus’ son’s home, El Alcazar de Colon. Unfortunately, we did not get to tour the inside, but the outside was still fun to explore.
The walls of El Alcazar de Colon were made from coraline blocks.
The home was built in 1515, and has 22 rooms.
Santo Domingo Dancing
Another reason why I wanted to visit the Dominican Republic was because of the dancing. Kristen and I both know how to Latin dance.
We got ready at the hotel and then walked around to a few different places mentioned in the guidebook, before we settled on El Sarten, a small bar with a cozy dance floor.
The people there were friendly, and we read about the experienced dancers in our guidebook and were anxious to learn from them!
Some very nice people did teach us how to dance, and invited us to sit with them at our table! I felt like “part of the family” and had such a good time.
Everyone was so nice and welcoming! They took the time to teach us dance moves and help improve our technique. Some dancers were very good…they danced so naturally and effortlessly.
Kristen: Dominicans’ friendly and gregarious nature came out with a night of dancing at El Sarten, known for the plethora of dancers willing to show a rookie how the Cuban dance of ‘Son’ is done. I can only explain ‘Son’ by saying it was a smooth mix of Samba and Salsa.
Kristen and I loved exploring the historical heritage of Santo Domingo and had so much fun dancing with the Dominicans. There was never a shortage of things to do!