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While everyone else is heading to the Dominican Republic for the big city feels of Santo Domingo or the beaches of Puerto Plata, you’re off for an off the beaten path in the Dominican Republic vacation. With dozens of universities, including the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, tons of galleries and art centers, history museums galore, and plenty of outdoor activity, the small city of Santiago de los Caballeros, in the north of the country, is truly a historic, cultural, and educational gem of the Dominican Republic. With so much to do and see, it’s hard to list everything, but here are our top picks of things to do in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
1. Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration
Or, as it’s called in Spanish, El Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración. This monument celebrates the soldiers who fought for the Dominican Republic’s independence from Haiti in 1844. The eight-story building was originally built, however, by former dictator Rafael Trujillo, to honor himself. Statues line the stairs and halls, while the sixth floor offers a museum dedicated to Dominican history, and is something you must check out while in town.
2. Yaque del Norte River
If you’re looking for some freshwater fun, splash around in the Yaque del Norte River. The river is the largest in the Dominican Republic, flowing through the city, from the Cordillera Central, through the Cibao Valley, to the Atlantic Ocean in the north of the country. The river offers great whitewater rafting for those looking for adventure. Start in Jarabacoa, just south of Santiago de los Caballeros, where you’ll encounter class II rapids on a guided excursion.
3. Monumento Natural Pico Diego de Ocampo
A fan of hiking? Just because you’re on an island doesn’t mean you can’t get on some great treks. Check out the paths at Monumento Natural Pico Diego de Ocampo. The mountain is part of the Cordillera Septentrional Mountain Range and sits just north of the city, making it easily accessible during your stay in town. The most popular path is about 1.8 miles and brings you to a lookout point with panoramic views of the Cibao Valley.
4. Catch a Baseball Game
Baseball isn’t just the national pastime of the United States. The Dominican Republic absolutely loves the sport too. Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the country and as one of the largest cities in the country, of course, Santiago de los Caballeros has popular local baseball teams. The local teams in town are the Aguilas Cibaeñas and Los Metros de Santiago, who play during the country’s winter season. The Aguilas Cibaeñas play at Estadio Cibao, while Los Metros de Santiago play at Gran Arena del Cibao.
5. Fortaleza San Luis
Get your fill of Dominican history at the San Luis Fort, right in the center of Santiago de los Caballeros. The fort was built in the 17th century to protect against the French. The fort is also said to be one of the places where the flag of the Dominican Republic was raised for the first time in the 19th century. Today, Fortaleza San Luis is home to a military museum detailing the battles fought and won by the country, as well as the equipment used historically, an art and culture gallery that’s home to Dominican folk and religious art pieces, Pre-hispanic art galleries, information about the fort, and more. If you want an all around history and culture lesson, San Luis Fort is the place to go.
6. El Centro Leon
Are you an art and culture junkie? Get your fill at El Centro Leon, located in the east of the city. The center is the biggest in the city for Dominican and folk art, highlighting local artists. Travel through time with art from all ages of the country, as well as depictions of local life to get a taste of the local culture. The center also offers workshops and classes for the public. If your Spanish is up for the challenge, check out some of the workshops on folk dances, cultural heritage, drawing, as well as classes on themes from photography to creative writing.