- 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
Just 25 kilometers west of Santo Domingo is San Cristóbal, known infamously as the birthplace of the brutal dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, who ruled from 1930 until his assassination in 1961.
It is believed that the city was named after the nearby San Cristóbal fortress that Christopher Columbus had built on the Haina riverbank. But in 1934, Trujillo changed the name of the town to Ciudad Benemérita (Meritorious City), supposedly because it was the place where the first legal constitution of the Dominican Republic had been signed in the Palacio Municipal in 1844, but it probably had more to do with the fact that it was his birthplace. The name quickly reverted to San Cristóbal when Trujillo was killed and his regime overthrown.
Today’s San Cristóbal is a good day trip from Santo Domingo and has the ghostly (or ghastly) memories of Trujillo’s egoism and “hard-earned” (at the hands of the Dominican people that is) ostentatious wealth in the form of two of his old palaces. San Cristóbal, with a population near 170,000, buzzes like a mini Santo Domingo without its cosmopolitan feel.
A good sampling of the pumping life and activity can be felt near the center, the Parque Colón, right by the cathedral. It is the gateway to the “Wild West” of the Dominican Republic, where the cacti start to dot the landscape and the ground becomes more arid. Although its vibe is busy like a city, it does not have the amenities of one and is, therefore, best for a day trip from Santo Domingo.
Spending a couple of hours in the town itself sightseeing is good enough, but then you should venture out and go to either the Reserva Antropológica El Pomier or to one of the area’s beaches for a relaxing afternoon. These are both great self-guided tours good for those who want to get away from the tourist clogged areas and fold themselves in with local culture.
Getting to San Cristóbal
San Cristóbal is 25 kilometers west of Santo Domingo and can be accessed easily by driving Highway 2, or you can catch a guagua from Parque Enriquillo in Santo Domingo. In San Cristóbal, you can catch a guagua back to Santo Domingo about every half hour or so from the Parque Central. If you’re headed toward Barahona in the west, you’ll need to go out to the main highway to flag down a guagua. There is no major bus terminal.
Taxis and guaguas are readily available in San Cristóbal near Parque Independencia.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition