On the rise as a stand-alone destination for culture, history, and music lovers, Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, offers a plethora of accommodation options. From charming boutique hotels in the recently renovated Colonial City–on the UNESCO World Heritage List as the first urban settlement in the Americas–to plush rooms in the sprawling, modern city center, it can be tough to make the right choice. These five hotel picks are your best bet–ideally located in the most appealing neighborhoods, they fit varying budgets and tastes, leaving you to focus on the big fun that Santo Domingo does so well.
1. El Beaterio Casa Museo
In the heart of the Colonial City, El Beaterio was once the 16th-century home of beatas, the first religious women in the “New World” who later joined convents. Sitting on a quiet street, it’s a mere block from the area’s major sights. The tastefully furnished building is a step back in time, with period furniture and contemporary touches that contrast against the original stonework interior. In 2016, the DR Ministry of Culture declared the hotel a Casa Museo, and funded a museum-like display of the building’s archeological finds, with a self-guided walk through the lobby and dining areas. Past these, a hallway leads to 11 immaculate rooms centered on a plant and light-filled Spanish courtyard. Each ooze of romance with red and white walls, and cast-iron bed frames, with the modern comforts of air-conditioning and wifi. Pick the spacious upstairs suites, close to the rooftop terrace bar. Doubles start at $75, and include a made-to-order breakfast served in a cozy colonial dining room.
2. Billini Hotel
The Billini Hotel raised the Colonial City’s luxe profile with 24 sleek, white and red avant-garde, posh suites in a former colonial home. Each is outfitted with all the bells and whistles–Bang Olufsen speakers, L'Occitane bath products, and private patios. Perks also include 24-hour room service, free non-alcoholic minibar, wifi, and turndown service. Book the terrace executive suite to end up with your own outdoor Jacuzzi. Relax at the hotel’s bougainvillea-covered Corner Cafe patio for a slice of passion fruit cheesecake, or at the rooftop pool lounge for panoramic views of the ancient city. Doubles from $190 include breakfast.
3. Maison Gautreaux
Nearly straddling the city’s seafront boulevard, on a tree-lined residential street, Maison Gautreaux is an all white three-story, family-owned colonial home that's been turned into a 20-room guesthouse. Recently renovated, the rooms are simply decorated, with air-conditioning, wifi, cable TV, and glass door showers. A block north is the heart of Gazcue: a historic, verdant neighborhood where local cafeterias, markets, and fruit vendors abound. It’s a pleasant area to explore on foot, filled with 19th-century Victorian architecture. Come evening, cool off at sunset in the hotel's rooftop Jacuzzi. Doubles start at just $50, and include breakfast served in a colorful diner-style room.
4. Sheraton Santo Domingo
Set directly on the city’s seafront boulevard or Malecón, the 248-room Sheraton Santo Domingo is a stand out for the hotel’s compact, intimate layout, and value amenities. Renovated in 2015 with a sleek, high-ceiling lobby lounge and bar area, the latest upgrades include glass showers, new carpeting, and an in-room guest entertainment system (with access to Netflix, a first for Caribbean hotels). Club level suites are the best bang for your buck -- expect private, soundproof balconies, rain showers, and 24/7 access to the club lounge for complimentary drinks and daily happy hour bites. The highlight is the swimming pool terrace with panoramic sea views, a new Jacuzzi, and adjacent grill serving tasty poolside meals. Junior suites start at $250, and include a copious breakfast buffet.
5. JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo
The gem in a sea of downtown hotels, the five-star JW Marriott begins on the 12th floor of the upscale Blue Mall, which counts a Hard Rock Live venue and an IMAX movie theater. Luckily, the hotel packs its own punch in luxury amenities. Past the vertical gardens and marble-walled hallways, the deluxe rooms come with private terraces, baths with aromatherapy salts, mirrors with in-built plasma TV, and access to a 24-hour gym. The chic factor is highest at the infinity pool lounge and bar Vertygo 101, set on a partial glass floor terrace perched 101 feet above Winston Churchill Avenue. Dine at the adjacent Winston Grill, where chefs whip up oriental duck tacos and shrimp risotto in an open kitchen. Deluxe rooms typically go from $309, but there’s a current special running for last-minute weekends; we found a rate of $219 for a deluxe room for two for June 23-25, 2017.