A July 2008
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
My business travels finally took me somewhere near, in this
case the island of Hispaniola,
in the Caribbean
Sea. I spent three days in Santo Domingo,
the capital of the Dominican
Republic, and had a good time.
Santo Domingo has a long history, more than 500 years, and was one of
the central points in Christopher
Columbus' travels. Some of him remains there, read the
Wikipedia article for more information.
My AA flight left roughly on time and had a pretty direct routing on
the twin-engine A300. When the pilot landed at SDQ
a large cheer came up from coach; the same happened on the return
First view of the island coming in from the north.
Much of the north seems to be farmland:
I liked this picture for the good view of the cloud layers.
Thought this was our runway, turns out it was the local air force
Some rain was nearby, thought this was a good shot of the storm front.
After an easy clearing of customs I was met by Dennis and Chris and we
headed off to the Hilton. This is the road to the airport, very
On the way we stopped at a local tourist site, Monumento Natural Cueva
Los Tres Ojos de Santo Domingo, the Three
Eyes. An interesting natural cave formation of (actually) four
lakes, it was a good stop for an hour. It was generally hot and
humid down there but one spot where you take a raft across a lake was
quite cool and breezy. This
link has some info on the site.
Here Dennis waves hi to his family from the entrance.
This shows the first lake and how deep the cavern goes.
I thought the thick stalactites
were interesting, especially the ones which were created at an
angle. Souvenir hawkers outside were selling pieces of them, some
bare, some carved into various things. I didn't encourage this behavior
by buying anything.
View back up to the entrance. Pretty tall.
Most of the lakes appeared to have fish, and we saw at least one turtle
I think this means "lake of sulphur"
This channel is where the river came in that created the site.
Trying not to fall in...
I mentioned a raft which took you across one lake to get to another.
This is what's on the other side. Cool
We left and continued the journey to the hotel. Passed through
Chinatown which has street signs in Spanish and Chinese.
Some of the areas seemed almost European to us.
This is a ferry which connects to Puerto Rico.
Animals are still used for transportation but the vast majority have
Along the George Washington Avenue there are several memorials, this
one is a general one to women heroes of the country. There was a men's
The view from the Hilton,
looking southeast. Although the water was warm, we assumed it was
the the rocky shoals which kept people from going in. There was a
small casino attached next door.
Room was $115 a night and quite nice. The TV had about 50
channels, and although there were only about 6 english channels, three
were the three New York network channels I would have watched at
home. Guess I wasn't really far from home after all.
This is the Presidential Palace. The guards let me put the camera right
up to the gate to get this shot.
And one took this one for us. Nice! In addition to me and
Dennis is Jason who you might recall from another trip
Guess there's a significant Chinese influence here. I did not notice a
lot of Asians during my visit.
These are the ruins of an old church. It's from the early 1500s
and it's used store streetlamp parts and old
Next we stopped at the Museum of Alcazar, Museo Alczar de Colon.
This was the palace built by Christopher Columbus' son Diego starting
in 1510. Certainly some impressive things there, though another
tour guide told us that most of what's there is not original. I
don't know who's right.
The Columbus family crest.
They were shorter then, the doorway is just about 5' 9" high.
Even if it's not all original, some of it looks pretty authentic to me.
Supposedly some of the furniture came from churches in Spain. The
old gregorian chant book in the cabinet looks to me like it could be
From here you can see what someone said was a MLB player's boat, and
the Faro de Colon, a church-shaped memorial in Christopher Columbus'
honor, where supposedly there are some of his relics. It lights
the sky up with a cross on some evenings, though not while we were
Looking upstream. While the water in the sea was very blue, the
river discharge made some of it brown.
We next stopped at an old fort which is used as an armory museum.
Here Chris is ready to repel invaders, WW II style.
Apparently the US sold much of their equipment to their dictator "El
during one of his times in office. This anchor says "US Navy".
Even Sikorsky helicopters.
The fort had examples of cannons, these were 16th century Spanish,
there were also some later British.
The top gave a good view of the river.
Other guns, torpedos and tanks were on display. Interesting.
So what did I eat while I was down there? Well you're not
supposed to drink the water, and the Coke is "Real Coke", with sugar,
not corn syrup. Good eats. I accidentally drank some water at the
hotel but had no problems, and used ice, but you should still take
care. We ate breakfast at the hotel, where they had a very good
buffet with usual items, like pancakes, omelets and waffles
cooked-to-order, and the steam trays had mashed plantain, onion rings,
cold meats and cut fruit, very cooked bacon, various sausages, and
pastries. Lunches at the office were beef and chicken or pork in
a tasty sauce, either potatoes or yuca (casava), which
tastes pretty similar to mashed potatoes. For dinner one night we
went to a local grill where we had bbq ribs, a dry chorizo sausage
which none of us thought was great, and a well done but still juicy
strip steak. But the best were the empanadas, which were
stuffed with a spiced ground beef.Prices were less than I'm used
to but not a drastically lower price. Hotel breakfast was about
$20 (720 pesos at 37 to US$1), the grill dinner was about $15. A
coke or beer in a restaurant was about 80 pesos or $2. Another
night we ate at the hotel where they had a special Colombian buffet,
and we had such dishes as cold shrimp or grouper in a light vinegar,
almost like a cucumber salad. Tasty.
The local beer is good too.
One of the few sandy non-rock areas along the water, with much garbage.
A better shot of Faro de Colon
I haven't seen anything quite like this in my travels. They look like
long row of garage-sized public storage lockers, but you rent them for
a couple of hours. One would drive in and spend some time with
someone you care about to "get away".
Apparently there's plenty of demand for this service, as this road is
lined with them.
Not your typical restaurant.
A resident at the office, not sure if it's an iguana or a
chameleon. There was a rumor of a color change but I didn't see
Buy an apartment for $35,000.
Gas is sold in gallons, not liters, and works out to $5.40 a
Not all the infrastructure is great. Although internet is more
available and faster, there were 2 power outages the first morning at
the office.And still rats' nests of cables.
We saw these graffitis all over, apparently for two competing political
parties running for office.
Also saw quite a few mostly-finished buildings with not a lot of
I thought this was a nice looking lighthouse, southeast of the hotel.
One night we went to Eagle which was described as the local
Hooters. The food was okay, the "decor" not amazing, and the
jukebox which played mp3s and videos kept locking up on anything with
bass so the manager kept rebooting it and putting on salsa music even
after Jason paid for 50-Cent.Oh well.
Here you get a better idea of how blue the water can be.
And finally, another cloud picture on the way home. My flying lessons
have had me looking more at the weather to figure out what it's like
out there.Bottom line? I had a good time in DR, traffic
wasn't bad, and I think someone with a map and some desire to drive
there could do okay. The food was generally recognizable and I
had no problems at all. There's a lot of history to see and if
you speak Spanish you'll have no problems. English-only is harder
but possible. Give it a try.