Dominicans from around the island will tell you: they love Santo Domingo at night. Whether it’s the live music, the trendy clubs, or sidewalk bistros facing lantern lit, cobblestoned plazas—there’s something magical and energizing about this city after dusk. Blame it on the romantic ballads and catchy beats of the country’s national music ringing all over its neighborhoods. Each day of the week in La Capital brings another “place to be,” so keep an eye out for the latest, including happy hour specials, by consulting www.quehacerhoy.com.do.
Get started by hitting up a colmado for some cold Presidente beers, music, and local vibes—there are some fantastic no-name ones in the Ciudad Colonial, particularly on Calle Pale Hincado, at the corner of Arzobispo Portes. Then go for a happy hour al fresco in the Ciudad Colonial or at a fancy hotel bar on the Malecón or in the Piantini District. And then go dancing.Start off in the Colonial City, where the happy hour buzz gets going at sunset—have a beer at a local colmado to warm up, and then go for some sangria.In the Ciudad Colonial, you’ll find a whole row of bars on Calle Hostos, which intersects with Calle El Conde, and some fancy spots a block north of the Parque Colón. For a night of seeing and being seen, dress casual chic and head to Lulú Tasting Bar (Calle Arzobispo Meriño 151, corner of Padre Billini, 6pm-3am daily), one of the trendiest lounge-like places to hang out after work hours or on weekends with a gorgeous outdoor terrace and an equally attractive interior of tables and dim lit bars filled with top liquors. The bartenders are friendly and the food here is good.
For live merengue music with bites, there’s the brand-new Jalao (Calle El Conde 103, tel. 809/689-9509, no cover), conveniently located across Parque Colón, opened by the owners of Lulu’s and Pat’e Palo. Dress appropriately for this one if you go in the evening.
For more of a chill-out bar party vibe, the popular chain Onno’s (Ciudad Colonial, Calle Hostos 57, corner of Calle El Conde, tel. 809/689-1183, 9pm-3am, drinks US$4-10) never disappoints and attracts more foreigners. The volume and the mood rise as the clock strikes twelve, like at most watering holes in the area.
La Cacibajagua (Calle Mercedes #319, corner of Sánchez, tel. 809/333-9060, Tue.-Sun., 10pm-2am) is another solid bet for a laid back and funky atmosphere, with DJs spinning rock, old school, and alternative music in a dim lit, cozy colonial building that spreads out into a courtyard. Expect a diverse, eclectic, 30-something crowd, and occasional live music.
You won’t see a sign outside, but El Sartén (Calle Hostos 153, tel. 809-686-9621, 10pm-2am, no cover) is a local dance spot and bar for the older crowd, playing Latin beats in a small space that gets crowded late at night. Most head here after Onno’s, just a couple of doors down. If you’re up for dancing in a crowded and more hip space, the small disco Bio Bar (across Falafel Restaurant, Calle Sanchez 125, tel. 829/766-8122, 11pm-3am, no cover) works for after midnight stops. The DJ spins a variety of international dance tunes while the light and smoke effects are full on. Head to the second floor and dance freely wherever you’re standing.
Parada 77 (Calle Isabela La Católica 255, one street before Plaza de España, tel. 809/221-7880, 7pm-1am Mon.-Thurs. and Sun., 7pm-3am Sat., no cover) is the preferred, casual hot spot in the Ciudad Colonial, with a twenty to thirty-something crowd dancing the night away to merengue, bachata, and salsa on a dimly lit open floor inside a colonial building. There’s a doorway to a back courtyard, as well, where you’ll find more couples twirling under the stars on a second floor. If you’re solo, don’t be afraid to ask a guy or gal to dance! Many also like to take a breather outside on the sidewalk with their drinks. This is a popular stop on Sundays after the outdoor Bonyé concert at the nearby San Francisco Ruins. Look out for any weekday live bands on the social media site.
Club Murcielago (formerly Guacara Taína, Av. Mirador del Sur 655, tel.809/533-1051, 9pm-2am Tues.-Sun., US$7) was popular in its heyday, but is now more of a tourist club, where newcomers experience the thrill of dancing inside a cavernous chamber underneath the Parque Mirador del Sur. Music ranges from merengue to contemporary genres like rap.
Jet Set (Av. Independencia 2253, tel. 809/535-4145, 9pm-3am daily, US$7) is the one nightclub that remains while others come and go like the wind—it’s been around at least 40 years. Skyline views of the city add to excellent live merengue and salsa bands during the week, including a popular live bachata night on Mondays that’s not to be missed.
Speaking of a jet-set crowd, mix and mingle with Dominican professionals and business travelers at the gorgeous Vertygo 101 (JW Marriott, Av. Winston Churchill 93, Piantini District, tel. 809/807-1717, drinks US$6-20). Bring your bathing suit if you dare, for a dip in the transparent, infinity pool while you sip on cocktails and nibble from the tasty bar bite menu. And don’t forget to stand on the glass floor terrace, where you can stare at your toes 101 feet above Avenida Winston Churchill.
East of the Ozama River, across the bridge and off the beaten path from the tourist-trail of the Malecón is another favorite among young Dominicans, Euphoria (Calle Venezuela #15, across from Burger King), on a street famous for its string of clubs and bars, most of which are ultra-local and play Dominican beats. Just say “La Venezuela” to a taxi driver and he’ll know where to go. Leave the valuables at home and go with a local if you can.
If you’re a salsa fan, the place to be is Discoteca El Águila (Av. San Vincente de Paul 20, tel. 829/578-3434, 9pm-4am Wed., 9pm-3am Fri.-Sat., 3pm-1am Sun., no cover), where you’ll see some of the country’s best salseros.
Best Barhopping Circuit in Santo Domingo
Start off in the Colonial City, where the happy hour buzz gets going at sunset—have a beer at a local colmado to warm up, and then go for some sangria at Tasca, overlooking the lit Alcázar de Colón. Afterwards, head over to Lulú Tasting Bar where the young and fabulous mingle over tapas and wine or a number of premium cocktails on an outdoor colonial terrace. From there, walk over to Doubles, a popular bar that fills up early.
Take it up a notch with a taxi ride to the Malecón and park yourself at Parada Cerveza, for some Brugal rum or Bohemia over loud merengue and the sea breeze blowing from across the avenue. Feel like a fancier vibe? Continue on with a taxi hop to the open-air Vertygo 101 Lounge & Bar, at JW Marriott, with panoramic views over the city center.
When you’re ready and warmed up for more music with your drinks, grab another taxi and head to the first drive-through bar in the Dominican Republic at El Trompo (Av. Tiradentes, Ensanche Naco, tel. 809/878-5827), with happy hour from 6pm-10pm. You could also end your night back in the Ciudad Colonial, where patrons are packed on small dance floors under dim lights while the salsa, son, and merengue echo out onto the cobblestoned streets, starting with Onno’s.
Then stumble down to Bio—just a couple of steps over—to dance some more. If you’re able to leave the exhilarating mood there, walk over to Parada 77 for even more dancing, some of which spills onto the sidewalk, or grab a taxi to La Cacibajagua—a hip and funky lounge set in a colonial building, with a DJ spinning old-school R&B to world beats.
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Dominican Republic.