- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
The second-largest city of the Dominican Republic, Santiago de Los Treinte Caballeros (more commonly referred to as Santiago) is an important commercial center in the Valle del Cibao as well as in the Dominican Republic as a whole. The fertile land yields bananas, cocoa, and coffee. Most importantly, the tobacco and sugarcane grown here are turned into rum and cigars, making Santiago a very important and lucrative city for the republic.
It is a bustling city but not as frenetic as Santo Domingo, and it somehow seems more ordered, perhaps because it is steeped in a culture of business and not so much in travel. Therefore, accommodations cater to the international businesspeople who frequent the area. Although there is a good nightlife and arts scene, there are not many sights.
As it is the gateway to the surrounding ecotourism of the Cordillera Central, with an international airport just 24 kilometers away and the Autopista Duarte connecting to Santo Domingo, tourists often swing through Santiago for an afternoon or for a night before they head to the mountains where adventure sports await.
Bartolomé Columbus, Christopher’s older brother, first founded Santiago in 1495, in the hopes of finding gold. In 1562, it was ravaged and destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake. Eventually the townspeople rebuilt onto what is the modern-day site of Santiago, along the eastern banks of the Río Yaque del Norte.
Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of Santiago’s long string of difficult times. Pirate attacks, French invasions, three more earthquakes, and a major fire during the Restoration War challenged and all but extinguished Santiago. But it was after that war that the city truly began to thrive.
As World War I raged in the rest of the world, prices for products grown in the area so easily (sugar, tobacco, and coffee) rose dramatically, and the city got steadily richer until the 1920s. Today, Santiago’s economy has leveled off, but there are still quite a few very wealthy families because of the agriculture and tobacco industries.
Surrounding Santiago are mostly tobacco farmlands and other farms. This doesn’t exactly make for a tourist hopping place. To some, that is music to their traveling ears. Two main points of interest in the area for tourists are La Cumbre and Higüerito de Moca.
Getting to Santiago
By Air: The Aeropuerto Internacional del Cibao (tel. 809/233-8000, www.aeropuertocibao.com.do) is 20 minutes out of town. Airlines that service it are: American (tel. 809/233-8403, www.aa.com), Continental (tel. 809/233-8161, www.continental.com), Delta (tel. 809/233-8487, www.delta.com), and Jet Blue (tel. 809/233-8212, www.jetblue.com). Taking a taxi from the airport to Santiago costs US$15–20.
By Bus: There are two bus stations in town. Caribe Tours (27 de Febrero at Las Américas, tel. 809/576-0790, www.caribetours.com.do) is in the Las Colinas neighborhood and has bus service going to many cities. There are 26 Santo Domingo (US$6.70) buses every day leaving 6 a.m.–8:15 p.m. and stopping in La Vega. For Puerto Plata (US$2.75), with a stop in Sosúa, buses leave every hour on the half hour 8:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., and Monte Cristi (US$3.65) has six buses 9:15 a.m.–6:15 p.m., stopping in Dajabón along the way.
Metro Tours (Av. Juan Pablo Duarte and Calle Maímon, tel. 809/587-3837, www.metroservicioturisticos.com) is a second choice that has service to Santo Domingo (US$7) every two hours and Puerto Plata (US$2.75) six times a day (starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 9 p.m.).
By Car: The Carretera 1 cuts through the nation from Santo Domingo and after 164 kilometers reaches Santiago, where it bends west for 120 kilometers to Monte Cristi—making a trip from either of these directions very direct. From Puerto Plata one only needs to take the Carretera 5 to the Carretera 1 for the easiest-to-map route.
The airport at Santiago has a bevy of car rental agencies to choose from. Booking online ahead of arrival is always the best way to ensure both a good rate and availability: Alamo (tel. 809/233-8163, www.alamo.com); Avis (tel. 809/582-7007, www.avis.com); Dollar (tel. 809/233-8108, www.dollar.com); Eurocar (tel. 809/233-8150, www.europcar.com); Honda Rent-a-car (tel. 809/233-8179, www.hondarentcar.com); National Rent-A-Car(tel. 809/233-8163, www.nationalcar.com).
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition