Santiago de los Caballeros
This, the second-largest city in the Dominican Republic, is an inland metropolis that, instead of offering beaches and golf, welcomes business travelers and other visitors to an untouristed destination with urban nightlife and culture. Study your steps on YouTube and pack your dancing shoes, because Santiago is the birthplace of merengue. Tipico Monte Bar is a great place to hear and see—and, if you’re ready, dance—authentic merengue; another prime spot is Ahi Bar Dance.
The major concentrations of restaurants in town cluster around the Monumento a la Restauracion and on Calle del Sol. For a meal with the best view in town, head to Camp David, a hillside restaurant whose tables offer a 180-degree vista of the city.
Daytime musts include the Tomas Morel Museum of Folkloric Art, which has a wild collection of carnival masks, and the Museo del Tobaco, which is fascinating even if you don’t smoke cigars. If you do, you’ll also want to tour the E Leon Jimenez Tobacco Company and, for dessert, the Bermudez Rum Factory. The best shops line Calle del Sol, and Parque Duarte, just north of it, offers primo people watching.
Hodelpa Gran Almirante is a luxury hotel with a spa, pool, tapas bar and casino that’s about two miles from the monument. Hodelpa Centro Plaza, which also has a casino, is just a 5-minute walk from the monument. Many visitors to Santiago rent a car and drive out into the countryside for a look at rolling hills with traditional farms growing sugar, tobacco, cocao, coffee and other crops. Or they combine their stay in town with a few days at a resort in Puerto Plata, to the north. There, Barcelo, Iberostar, and RIU, among others, offer all-inclusive resorts and classic beach vacations.