Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, takes up two-thirds of the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola; the rest of the island is shared with Haiti. Altogether, the D.R. is about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, and it's rumored to be home to Christopher Columbus' tomb. The nation also is home to lots of Taino Indian history, among other things.
Located on the southern coast of the country, Santo Domingo is full of culture and, unfortunately, poverty, thanks to the decline in the production of sugar, one of the country's main exports. This region of the country probably isn't a place you'll want to navigate on your own. When you hear about violence, robberies and the like, this is one of the areas of the D.R. where they most often occur. Locals will bombard you with solicitations for everything from jewelry to windshield wipers, but you're likely to encounter plenty of nice and helpful folks, too. It's hot there, and the main streets in tourist areas are clean, but if you venture to other areas of the city, you might find it a bit ... unkempt, albeit colorful. Ships dock at the Sansouci pier, about a five-minute drive to the Zona Colonial or Colonial City, which dates to 1498, when it was founded by Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher Columbus' brother. It's also a 10-minute drive to the lighthouse and tomb of Christopher Columbus; a 15-minute drive to Mirador del Este, a park that houses the limestone cave of Los Tres Ojos (the three eyes); a 30-minute drive to Boca Chica, a beach town that's a great place to interact with locals and sample their cuisine; and a 90-minute drive to Casa de Campo, a tourist resort in La Romana, where you'll find the famous Teeth of the Dog golf course and various other shore excursion options.