Santo Domingo Nightlife | The 9 Best Bars and Clubs in 2020
I remember my first time experiencing Santo Domingo nightlife.
It was my first night in the country. A gringo who didn’t speak any Spanish looking to experience real Latino culture.
I hopped off the plane just a few hours early and grabbed a taxi to my Airbnb apartment in Zona Colonial. The sea breeze hit my face as I stepped out of the airport and tried to hail a cab without getting scammed.
The Caribbean views were stunning as we drove to the colonial city. I was mesmerized. Romeo Santos was blaring on the radio as the taxi driver gave me the low-down on the DR in broken English.
After arriving, I checked in and quickly passed out. Hours upon hours of travel will do that to a man. Then I woke up to find night had fallen and a little rumba was about to be enjoyed.
I looked at my phone to see a girl I had “met” before arriving was in Zona Colonial with her amiga. She wanted me to join them. Being in a new country and not knowing anyone whatsoever, I graciously accepted the invite and threw on my best button-down. It was time to party.
And party we did! The night was legendary. I visited nearly every club in Zona Colonial with two stunning Dominican chicks on my arms.
People had told me the girls would try to scam me before I arrived, but they just kept buying me Presidentes. I was baffled. They weren’t scammers at all. Just genuinely friendly girls.
Now, I won’t go too far into the details of how that night turned out. But, I’ll say it was a great introduction to the nightlife in Santo Domingo.
I was hooked!
In this nightlife guide, I’ll breakdown the ins and outs of partying in this crazy town. Everything you need to know about the nightlife in the capital of the Dominican Republic is found below…
What’s So Great About Santo Domingo Nightlife?
Now, before we dive into the best spots and where to go on what nights, we need to discuss the “why” of la rumba in Santo Domingo.
Philosophical ponderings, you see?
Why should a gringo go party in Santo Domingo? Well, here’s a few reasons:
Dominicans Are Friendly
Dominicans are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. Some say they always have an angle to play, but for the most part, I found the people in the DR to be great.
Dominicans are always ready for a party and often willing to let you join their group. They’re outgoing and just love to have a good time. I’ve yet to find a more welcoming culture to party in, especially in Santo Domingo and Santiago.
It’s hot as hell in the DR. To me, that means people are full of energy and life – always willing to go out. There’s no winter in the Dominican Republic. The clubs pop off the whole year around.
Plus, the Dominican girls love to wear skirts and high heels – and they can because the weather is so perfect. I certainly wasn’t complaining about that.
If you want to experience a true Latin culture with unique rhythms, then the Dominican Republic is for you.
Popular Santo Domingo nightlife spots play a mix of reggaeton, bachata, and dembow. Shit pops off and people dance non-stop.
Tons of Spots
Santo Domingo is a huge city. As such, you’ve got a number of nightlife options in the capital. I’ve found there are three main zones in the city:
- Zona Colonial
- Avenida Venezuela
If you’re looking for a big night out in Santo Domingo, it’s likely you’ll end up in one of these three areas. There’s a solid selection of clubs and bars in each area, although the neighborhoods are a bit far apart.
Santo Domingo Nightlife is Cheap
Nightlife in Santo Domingo doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it can be downright cheap. A bottle of rum in the club might only cost your $20-40 USD with mixers. A beer at the club might only run you $2-3 USD.
You can even get drunk before you go out at a local convenience store, called a colmado, for under $10 USD.
Many times the colmado will be filled with people downing Presidentes on a weekend night. Bachata will be blaring and it’s usually a pretty fun time.
I almost always pre-gamed at a colmado before partying in the Dominican Republic.
Do I Need To Speak Spanish?
English levels in the Dominican Republic aren’t that high. You’ll have a much better time if you can speak a little Spanish.
How do I know? Because on my first trip I couldn’t speak anything, but my second time in the DR I could.
While I loved my first trip, there is no denying I had a better time once my Spanish improved. You’ll just get a better feeling of the culture when you understand what people are saying and can actually interact with them.
Plus, you’ll have a much better shot at getting in with that cutey at the bar.
How To Survive and Thrive Partying in Santo Domingo
Before you book a flight and hit the ground running in Santo Domingo, you need to know a few things about the country. Mainly, how to ensure you enjoy nightlife in Santo Domingo without worry or issues.
Luckily, that’s what I’m here for.
As an abject degenerate who has spent more than enough time in Santo Domingo, let me show you the ropes…
Make Local Friends
The best way to have a banging night out in Santo Domingo is to infiltrate a local crew. And luckily, Dominicans are among the friendliest folks in Latin America — so it shouldn’t be that hard.
Locals know the best spots, can introduce you to their hot friends, and are a hell of a lot of fun to party with. Of course, you’ll probably need to know a little Spanish because most don’t speak good English.
Guard Your Drinks
Although uncommon, drink spiking sadly does occur in the Dominican Republic.
Both men and women should keep a close eye on their drinks at all times, and be wary of accepting free booze from strangers.
Not All The Hot Girls Are Prostitutes
If you’ve just come from somewhere like Puerto Plata, chances are you’ve started to grow a little suspicious of attractive local women.
But unlike that dirty seaside sex-tourism hub, most of the girls out on the town in Santo Domingo aren’t charging by the hour. There’s tons of normal Dominican girls in Santo Domingo who work a legit job and/or study.
But she might be a Chapiadora
The Dominican slang ‘Chapiadora’ means ‘gold digger’ in English and refers to a woman who’ll do whatever it takes to extract money from a man, usually a foreigner.
Noticed a pretty lady dressed up to the nines chatting with some ugly fat dude across the bar? She’s probably playing the long game.
It’s not always safe out on the streets
While I wouldn’t say the Dominican Republic is the most lawless country in the Caribbean, you still need to take sensible precautions on a night out. Party in a pack, avoid unlit streets, and drink within your limits. Aka watch out for the blender jugs at 75 Grados!
P.S: Learn more about Dominican Republic safety.
Where to Stay in Santo Domingo?
Let’s go through the top three nightlife districts so you can settle on a place to stay.
As the oldest part of town in one of the oldest cities in Latin America, Zona Colonial is seriously…well, old. But the nightlife here certainly doesn’t get old, because the cobblestoned barrio boasts some of the best rumba in the Carribean.
It’s also got a distinct colonial charm to it, the kind of vibe you only get when surrounded by centuries-old edifices and historic monuments at every turn.
Most of the bars and clubs here are small and cozy, so it’s easy enough to make new friends on a whim.
The best hotel for party animals in Zona Colonial is Hodelpa Nicolás de Ovando.
These two neighboring barrios host most of the city’s upper-middle class, so come here if you fancy a sophisticated night out. Of course, prices are higher too so you’d better be ready to splash some cash.
The city’s biggest and loudest clubs can also be found here, which makes it an excellent option for when you want to get loose with a big crowd.
For a real local experience without a pasty-gringo face in sight, check out Avenida Venezuela. Located on the Ozama River about 5 minutes east of the center, this raucous party strip is all about boogying away to boisterous Latin beats.
The scene is unpretentious, with cheaper booze and no covers, unlike other places in town. Nevertheless, for me, it just doesn’t have the same level of excitement that I find in Zona Colonial or Naco.
Costs of Santo Domingo Nightlife
One of the best things about nightlife in Santo Domingo is how cheap it is. Sure, you can spend some money, but you don’t have to!
Here’s a quick breakdown of how much nightlife costs in the capital:
- Cover charge: $0-10 USD
- Beer in club or bar: $2-6 USD
- Drinks in club or bar: $3-10 USD
- Bottle of wine at a bar: $20-60 USD
- Bottle of booze at a club: $20-200 USD
Costs will vary depending on what part of town you’re in and the crowd attending each spot. Zona Colonial and Avenida Venezuela will be noticably cheaper than anywhere in Naco or Piantini.
If you’re looking for a safe, cheap night out — then Zona Colonial will be your best bet on the weekends.
The Best Bars and Clubs in Santo Domingo | 2020 Guide
Alright, now we’re getting to the good stuff.
After spending countless nights out in Santo Domingo over the course of nearly six months, I’ve put together a list of my favorite after-dark haunts.
Many hangovers were had to bring you this information. Do with it what you will.
I spent most of my time in Zona Colonial and Piantini – so this list reflects that. Avenida Venezuela can be fun, but I prefer my Zona Colonial nightlife.
Here’s the best places to party for young gringos looking to have a good time in Santo Domingo:
Onno’s, Zona Colonial
If you’re staying in Zona Colonial, there’s a good chance you’ll end up here every time you go out. Onno’s is legendary, but it depends on the night.
I usually went to Onno’s every Thursday, as it gets packed due to ladies’ night. The small club is also fun on Saturdays if you’re looking for a cheap night out. Overall, this is a staple of Zona Colonial nightlife.
Mamma Club, Naco/Piantini
A staple of the high-end nightlife scene in Santo Domingo, Mamma Club is where to go when you want a big night out. The place isn’t cheap, but you’ll see some of the best-looking people in the DR here every single weekend.
If you go to Mamma Club, you need to remember a few things. First, make sure you dress nice. That backpacker shit won’t fly here. Second, go with a few friends and buy a bottle. You’re wasting your time if you don’t.
VIP Room, Malecon
A buddy told me VIP Room is quickly becoming the “next” Mamma Club in Santo Domingo. The place is super high-end and some of the hottest Dominicans go here every single Saturday.
Like Mamma, you’ll need to dress well and open the wallet to make the most out of this club. I’m confident you’ll have a great night out in VIP Room if you can do those two things.
I absolutely love Zambra. It might be the easiest place to meet sexy Dominican girls with real jobs in the whole country. Plus, the music is fantastic and it was within walking distance of my apartment in Piantini.
Zambra isn’t a huge club. In fact, it’s downright tiny. But, the music is fantastic and the place gets packed on weekends. Plus, there’s a huge outdoor patio that’s perfect to chill out on.
La Fabrica, Naco/Piantini
La Fabrica is an “underground” club in Santo Domingo. It’s located around Naco and Piantini, so it’s pretty damn upper-class. Actually, this is the only place in the DR where I’ve heard people got denied entry, even though they were wearing nice clothes.
Suffice to say, the place is classy. The one time I went it was a hell of a time, too. The music is great and the place just has a vibe to it. Would recommend if you can get in.
Parada 77, Zona Colonial
Another solid Zona Colonial nightlife spot here. While most places in the Dominican Republic play a lot of reggaeton, bachata, and merengue – Parada 77 in Zona Colonial also plays salsa.
If you’re looking to dance to Latin music all night long, then this is the ideal spot. They stick to salsa, merengue, and bachata pretty much the whole night. It’s great for a date, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I had free cover when I went.
75 Grados, Bella Vista
75 Grados is damn fun! If you’re looking for a rowdy night out and some rumba that’s 100% Dominican, then this is the spot. This place gets jammed packed and only plays dembow and reggaeton.
The dancing here is dirty and the only drinks you can get are sugar-packed frozen blenders filled with rum or vodka. Suffice to say, if you go to 75 Grados, it’s going to be a sloppy night. You’ve been warned.
Shots Bar, Naco/Piantini
Shots Bar is the only place I’ve been in the DR where I heard rock music and English conversation. Lots of middle-class Dominicans who have spent time in New York like to come here.
If you’re tired of reggaeton music, Shots Bar may be a good place to check out. It’s not a club, but you’ll find people here Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Sparta Lounge, Bella Vista
Newer spot in Bella Vista, just a hop, skip, or jump from Piantini. Here you’ll find a bumping crowd and Latin beats mixed with hip-hop. The music is damn good and people come here to party.
This isn’t exactly a fancy spot, though. If you want that stick to Naco.
Best Nights to Rumba in Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is a real city, with real people working real jobs. Therefore, don’t expect a whole lot of rumba outside the weekends.
But by weekends, I mean Thursday through Sunday.
Having said that, a few places do put on some cheeky mid-week shenanigans from time to time. Check out my recommendations above to see what’s what. Of course, weekly events are changing all the time so it’s best to confirm with the venue before heading out.
Here’s one mid-week recommendation though…
- Go out on Thursday: You’ll find solid party options on Thursdays at both Onno’s and Shots Bar. Both spots should be packed and dirt cheap this night. Highly recommended!
Santo Domingo Nightlife 101 | Verdict?
It’d be damn near impossible to cover all the nightlife spots in Santo Domingo. These are just what I know. If you’re in the capital of the Dominican Republic, use this list to start things off and then go from there.
The one thing I do know? Dominicans love to party and you’re sure to find somewhere fun on the weekends in Santo Domingo.
If you have any questions about nightlife in Santo Domingo, feel free to shoot off a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer.