Five Fun Ways to Enjoy Santo Domingo on the Cheap

The best things in life really are free, or cheap. The same is true for things to do in Santo Domingo. Living by the coast in a major city allows for plenty of fun things to do on a budget. As you know, I am living on a Dominican salary so I am doing my best to live within my means. Here are a few things that I do for fun, or things I would recommend for first-time visitors to Santo Domingo.

1) Stroll along the Malecon

The Malecon, or the esplanade along the sea along the southern stretch of Santo Domingo, is a beautiful place to relax or take photographs. While some sections can be a little questionable in the evenings, it is a gorgeous drive or walk. Top spots along the Malecon for me are Park Guibia and Adrian Tropical. Guibia has a gazebo on the water, a volleyball court, playground, little shops and food stands, and an outdoor gymnasium. At night, this park becomes a lively place to share drinks with friends. If you have some money to spend, head over to Adrian Tropical Restaurant for mofongo (mashed plaintains), seafood, a cold cerveza (beer), or mixed drinks.

Malecon
The view from the Malecon

2) Play Dominoes

The game of Dominoes is very popular in the Dominican Republic. The rules are easy to learn, but mastering the strategy can take years. Walking the streets of Santo Domingo you will find men playing under a shady tree or in front of a colmado. My friends and I got together one night to play dominoes. I was lucky that my Dominoes partner was Dominican or I would have lost by many more points.

Playing dominoes
Playing dominoes

3) Dance to Free Music: Thursday Jazz and Sunday Grupo Bonye

For real Dominican flavor, save Thursdays and Sundays for free music in the Zona Colonial. On Thursdays starting around 8pm, Jazz flows from ancient steps near the water at the edge of Calle Conde, just past SegaZona café. The crowd tends towards the alternative side; the audience contains most dreadlocked Dominican folks I have ever seen in one setting. Drinks are for sale at the entrance and the spirit is lively. For more about Jazz, see this blog.

Jazz
Jazz en la Zona

On Sunday nights, a huge crowd gathers for Grupo Bonye at las Ruinas, also in Zona Colonial. The crowd tends to be more traditional, as the band plays a mostly mix of merengue and salsa. Wear your dancing shoes, but watch the cobblestones.  Drinks are available at any number of restaurants by las Ruinas and also through temporary vendors. This is one of my favorite things to do in Santo Domingo.

Las Ruinas
Las Ruinas – Grupo Bonye

4) Explore Beaches

Make a day trip and check out some beaches near Santo Domingo such as Juan Dolio and Boca Chica. Juan Dolio, while smaller, is beautiful and you are less likely to be harassed by vendors. However, Boca Chica’s much grander beach is surrounded by myriad restaurants so if you don’t feel like packing food, you may want to brave the crowds.

Juan Dolio boats
Boats at Juan Dolio
Juan Dolio
Juan Dolio beach
Boca Chica
Boca Chica at sunset

5) Relax at the Malls

As mentioned in a previous post, I spend quite some time at malls. I am usually not there to shop, but mostly to hang out with friends, find wifi, get relief from the heat, and people watch. Check out my post for details on where to head when you want to beat the heat.

What do you do for free or cheap in your favorite city or when you’re away from home?

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