Santo Domingo is a paradoxical metropolis where an intensely urban experience mixes with colonial wonders and sea-side resort bliss.
You’ll often wonder if you’re really in the Caribbean amid the chaotic traffic and high-rise towers, but blaring bachata music, a relaxed pace of life and that hot-and-stick climate quickly remind you of the fact.
Similarly, Gay Santo Domingo is contradictory. The most LGBT-friendly country in the Caribbean – which admittedly is a very low bar – except maybe Cuba, Dominicans have a relatively open attitude to sexuality similar to those found in Thailand and Brazil. While like many religious destinations including Kuala Lumpur, Guadalajara and Istanbul the gay scene in Santo Domingo is very discreet during the day but positively wild at night.
Sure, everyone like to appear honest and church-going during the day but what does on a night in gay clubs or behind closed doors is your own business. For this reason, we advised no kissing or hand-holding in public, but your unlikely to experience any open-discrimination at hotels, restaurants or bars.
The macho culture imported from Spain and seen all over Latin America is pervasive here, which combined with a hidden but vibrant LGBT scene means progress toward equality is slow moving at best. There is still a long way to go but an organization such as RevASA are paving the way, forcing the government toward legislative action and running LGBT workshops and support services. Gay life in Santo Domingo is largely centered in the historic Zona Colonial which is home to the highest concentration of queer-friendly nightlife in the city.
To really get a taste of the gay scene in Santo Domingo you just have to attend one of the twice-annual Draguéalo Parties. We were surprised by a lot of things we found in Gay Santo Domingo – largely the level of LGBT acceptance – but this was the most surprising. A subversive dance event that challenges gender-binaries, infuses the local LGBT community and creates a space to share stories and celebrate a uniquely Dominican queer identity.
No matter what your visiting for, Gay Santo Domingo is a city that sucks you in and takes it’s time to reveal all its charm. One visit is never enough as you will quickly discover the many layers of life here – each offering something unique and fun. Glamourous all-night parties, beautiful colonial streets, luxurious resorts and a booming gastronomical scene, Santo Domingo should be top of the list for any gay travelers in the Dominican Republic. At the very least it deserves a few days before heading off the to the LGBT-friendly Punta Cana resort area.
Gay Santo Domingo Guide: The Essential Guide To LGBT Travel In Santo Domingo Dominican Republic
In this article we will cover...
Gay Things To Do In Santo Domingo
Obviously being gay does not define which attraction most of us will want to see in each city and most queer travelers will simply want to check out the top things to see in Santo Domingo during the day! Generally speaking the upscale and touristy areas of Santo Domingo are safe but still, all travelers should take caution crowded areas or at night in bars with valuables.
There is so much to do in this chaotic city – but we found our favorite memories were just wandering through galleries in the old town, relaxing by our hotel pool and chatting with friendly locals who seemed happy tourists were exploring their country rather than only visiting all-inclusive hotels on the coast. If you have the time you might consider hiring a car to check out the beautiful surrounding countryside and coastline.
If you have time try to spend a night at Villa Celeste, a gay-owned retreat in the mountains. You can’t throw a stone in the central zone without hitting something historic – but still, it helps to have some kind of idea what is going on, so here are our just a few of our favorite things to do in Santo Domingo that you should not miss!
- Explore The Old City – The oldest city in the New World with beautiful plazas, cathedrals and plenty of landmarks to keep you busy for at least a day. Take a camera and plenty of water!
- Museo Bellapart – A private museum with around 200 works by local Dominican artists. Interesting collection, but check their opening hours carefully to avoid disappointment.
- Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor – the oldest cathedral in the new world in the heart of the old town. Its cornerstone was said to be laid by Christopher Columbus’s son. Entrance is free. Be sure to take your time to bask in its Gothic glory.
- Island Time – Spend the day snorkeling, sipping cocktails and working on your tan aboard a boat. Catalina Island has colorful reeds, pure white sand and plenty of palm trees. If you don’t have time to explore this beautiful country more, at least you can escape the chaos of the city for a day!
- Parque Los Tres Ojos – A beautiful natural park with limestone caves and lakes that extend deep underground. Easily reachable from Santo Domingo by car or tour and best combined with a visit to Faro a Colón, an intense lighthouse-to-end-all-lighthouses in tribute to Christopher Columbus.
- Boca Chica – A beautiful white sand beach also known for prostitution and hustlers. Don’t stay overnight as the accommodation is terrible – but its close to Santo Domingo and a nice place to enjoy a beer, swim and all the cute boys.
- Cigar / Rum Tour – Perhaps the most icon part of the Caribbean’s gastronomic culture, there are plenty of distillation plants and cigar factories set up for tourists. Big fans can’t pass on the opportunity to visit the Ron Barceló museum.
- Traditional Dominican Cuisine – Cook classes are always a great way to experience the local culture when travelling and here you should try make traditional Dominican dishes such as asopao (a rice-based soup), mangu (mashed plantains), arroz con pollo (one-pot chicken and rice), habichuelas (beans) and platano frito (fried plantains). Or at least look out for them at street side restaurants.
- Santo Domingo Gay Pride Parade – Taking place annually in July the streets are covered in rainbow flags and the LGBT community makes a rare show of numbers in public. In a country where stigmatization and discrimination of gays still frequently occurs, especially in poorer or less-educated family, this is an important movement to demand recognition of their human rights. Many gay parties and events are also organized around Santo Domingo’s Gay Pride.
- Caribbean Pride – A fabulous pride festival held annually a few hours away in the LGBT-friendly Punta Cana resort area. Held in September. Caribbean Pride is mostly American’s and international jet-setters who fly into for this epic party. Held in 2018 at the extremely gay-popular CHIC Punta Cana All-Inclusive resort.
Gay-friendly and Gay Hotels in Santo Domingo
In Santo Domingo, you are unlikely to find a hotel which had any issues with gay guests – and it is unheard of with more luxurious properties. Some hotels are more popular with queer travelers however due to their location, especially in the Zona Colonial Old Town or in the upscale Piantini District, or their inclusive environment / LGBT-friendly vibes. There are the hotels we feature here since there is only one largely-gay hotel in Santo Domingo – and its very basic. Each of these gay-friendly Santo Domingo hotels offers something very specific, so be sure to choose the right style and location to meet your needs.
Prices are cheap compared to North American and European hotels and standards are high – so it’s a great place to splurge! Of course, there are also hundred’s more hotel and hostel options in Santo Domingo
if none of these suit your desired budget, facilities or area! Whether you want a fun and social hostel, a cheap place to crash after a night of partying or a chic designer option to sip cocktails poolside and surround yourself with fabulous people – Gay Santo Domingo has something for everyone!
- JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo ☆☆☆☆☆ – A Uber-fashionable hotel in the exclusive Piantini District of Santo Domingo, and our first choice when in town. Not only is the Marriott known worldwide as being LGBT-friendly, but they sponsor Pride Parades and other LGBT events worldwide so gay travelers know they will have no issue here. Beyond that, the JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo provides a gay-popular location to relax with a beautiful rooftop infinity pool, elegant suites, fitness center and lavish surrounding to escape the world. Frequently named one of the best luxury city hotels in the America’s, it is conveniently located above the fashionable BlueMall and only a short taxi trip to the Santo Domingo gay scene.
- Billini Hotel ☆☆☆☆☆ – A luxury hotel only one block from the Parque Duarte gay area (if you want to explore the nightlife). Chic interior design, a rooftop infinity pool and quiet, spacious rooms off an opulent Spanish courtyard. We loved they managed to provide all the expected amenities of a big hotel like 24/7 concierge service, a spa and fitness center and wine cellar while keeping small touches like custom art, keeping up with your place and providing L’Occitane toiletries in every room.
- Sheraton Santo Domingo ☆☆☆☆☆ – A high-end international property located beachfront mid-way between the Zone Colonial and Downtown. Elegant and spacious rooms with views out over the Carribean, free valet parking, large club lounge and relaxing jacuzzi/pool area. We also found the staff to be very attentive and helpful. If its important to you there is a large gym and a well-known sauna where discreet action has been reported.
- Hodelpa Nicolás de Ovando ☆☆☆☆☆ – A refined hotel in the zone of the Zona Colonial found in a restored 16th-century building on the first paved road in the new world. Polished rooms with your choice of modern or colonial decor with complimentary parking and breakfast. Quiet outdoor pool and a fitness room, plus in-house massage services. We loved the original details like hacienda shutters, ochre tile floors and exposed wooden-beams that offers a magical blend of historic and contemporary.
- Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo ☆☆☆☆– A extremely gay-popular hotel housed in a mammoth glass-and-steel building. The infinity pool is simply divine as is their breakfast and fun evening cocktails. High-level rooms have spectacular views and modern design, and there is a Silver Sun Gallery downstairs if you need to get some shopping done. We have even heard the sauna/gym can get a bit cruisy, though we can’t confirm. Located in an upscale neighborhood only 15 minutes by taxi from the historic center.
- Luca Hotel ☆☆☆☆ – A modern villa in the heart of Colonial Santo Domingo with a fun jacuzzi and rooftop for sunbathing. The decor throughout creates a colonial and contemporary environment complete with Zen fountains and eclectic art. We love the spacious rooms, geologic rock art and tasting menu at their fusion restaurant.
- Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino ☆☆☆☆ – A homely yet funky waterfront property with fun resort vibes yet only a 20-minute walk to the old town of Santo Domingo. With beautifully landscaped grounds, airy modern rooms and an outdoor pool this is perfect for a relax-amongst-chaos stay.
- Hotel Villa Colonial ☆☆☆ – Another renovated historic building in the heart of Santo Domingo’s historic center. Feel like your staying with a family with friendly staff, charming rooms and a beautiful pool and patio out back. Gay-popular thanks to its gorgeous design, location and value-for-money prices that are amongst the lowest in Santo Domingo…well, excluding those whose reviews make you want to run for the hills!
- Barceló Santo Domingo ☆☆☆ – A contemporary chic hotel close to the metro with colorful rooms and plenty of amenities. There is a gym, wellness spa, 4 restaurants and two outdoor pools including a pool bar. A bit dated but with a nice rooftop terrace and prices that reflect it’s age.
- Casa Sanchez Hotel ☆☆☆ – Chic hotel in the historic center with vintage vibes and original mosaic floors. Not a gay-hotel in Santo Domingo but it is gay-owned with a terrace restaurant, lobby cocktail bar, outdoor pool and hot tub.
- Adam Suites Hotel ☆☆ – The closest thing to a gay hotel in Santo Domingo with sexy photos of men adorning the rooms and walls. Owner Gilbert seems to know everything about the gay scene so can help you navigate, and its location is perfect right in the heart of the colonial zone with gay clubs just outside. Local boys have been known to wait for guests outside the hotel. Adam Suites Hotel is extremely basic but cheap and guest- friendly.
- Island Life Backpackers’ Hostel ☆☆ – A fun and social hostel I the heart of the ‘Zona Colonial’. Modern, clean and beloved by past guests this is the best hostel in the Dominican Republic and perfect for those on a budget. If you don’t mind sharing a dorm, you can meet other travelers and take on the nightlife together – or just have new friends to explore with during the day. Going out in Santo Domingo can be a bit daunting to some, so staying at a friendly and social hostel might solve any problems! Run by a cute British guy and his wife, gay travelers will be welcomed here with open arms.
Gay-Friendly / Gay Bars in Santo Domingo
While gay life in the Dominican Republic during the day is subdued (at best) at night a thriving gay scene comes alive. Yes, we were taken by surprise in this heavily Catholic country! Not quite as organized as Medellin or Bogota, but still with the best gay scene in the Carribean, most of the gay bars in Santo Domingo can be found in the Colonial tourist zone.
Gay bars and clubs are opening and closing all the time here and it’s impossible to keep up. Many clubs also have gay nights so we recommend to start your night off at the Parque Duarte, a gathering spot for young and fashionable LGBT people to get all the latest gossip. You can drink in public spaces here so bring a few beers and ask around. You can also try your hotel reception – or more helpful, gay hook-up apps in Santo Domingo. Warm nights, great music, friendly locals and low prices make a night out in Gay Santo Domingo one you will never forget, just be careful!
- G Lounge – One of the hottest male strip shows in Santo Domingo, this gay club is always popular with go-go boys, drag shows and strong cocktails. We can’t find an active social media but by all accounts, it is still open. Contact us if you have more information.
- Fogoo Bar & Lounge – Right next door with louder music and deep club bass. More drag shows, fun remixes and crowded by members of the LGBT community.
- Esedeku – One of the most popular gay bars in Santo Domingo playing pop rather than the normal salsa /merengue/bachata. A small space but nice terrace on the roof with friendly service. Hot guys and unashamedly gay!
- Vertygo 101 @ JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo – A hang-out for the young, fabulous and gay, or those who like to try. Stunning rooftop location, expansive terrace, distinct glass-floor design and some of the best cocktails in town. This is one-of-a-kind bar!
- Cinema Café – A gay-popular cozy cafe with live music, great ambiance and cool people. It can get really crowded but it generally a good place to eat, chat and enjoy a chic bohemian atmosphere.
- VIP Room – A straight club, but probably the best in the entire country. Dress up and things get wild here and it’s not cheap. There are gays to be found here as well as some bi-sexual men too..
- La Fábrica Contemporánea – Space for art, good eating and sharing. Often hosting LGBT / Queer events, art shows and more. As ‘ambassadors of diversity’ this is always a queer-safe space and should be supported.
- La Espiral – Gay popular bar with reggae and laid-back atmosphere. In the heart of the colonial zone with food, drinks and live music on weekends.
- Pool Party At Hilton Embassy Suites – An incredible curved infinity pool boasting panoramic views over the vibrant capital city. Often hosts DJ’s and fabulous pool parties, but otherwise, there is always fun cocktails to full the day with. The perfect place to escape chaotic Santo Domingo, we recommend staying here but you can also buy a day-pass.
Gay Cruising & Gay Saunas in Santo Domingo
For those looking to spice up their gay Dominican Republic getaway – There is currently one gay sauna in Santo Domingo. If you want a bit more guaranteed action, the gay bathhouse Apolo Sauna will not disappoint you (unlikely all those faceless accounts on Grindr or the other hook up apps…). Loud music, questionable hygiene but its cheap, central and with plenty of hot guys. Sure, some of them are more interested in your cash than your body, but there is still plenty of fun to have in this popular gay sauna in Santo Domingo.
On Saturday there is an open bar with strippers and different prices and events throughout the week listed on their website. There is a sauna, jacuzzi, open showers lockers, and male massage services – but leave all your valuables in your Santo Domingo hotel safe as theft is sadly not uncommon.
Condoms are also BYO which is disappointed giving the prevalence of HIV/AIDS (among the lowest percentage-wise in the Caribbean region, but still high by Western standard). The Sheraton Hotel Santo Domingo Sauna also has a very cruisy reputation and you might get lucky – but only convenient if you’re staying here.
There are popular places for outdoor public cruising in Santa Domingo – including the central Parque Duarte and Playa Guibia – but this is very risky and not recommended. The Dominican Republic prohibits “every violation of decorum and good behavior on public streets” and while we have not heard of a tourist being charged under it, you are putting yourself at undue risk – both legally and physically in this still pubically conservative country. Instead try sitting outside at the Cafeteria Paco / Grand’s Cafeteria and Bar where hot guys frequently cruise (there is a ‘by the hour’ hotel nearby) or try the Cine Lido, a porn cinema busy with gay locals in the early evening.
Cash is King in Gay Santo Domingo and you can find many Bugarron’s (straight guys who have gay sex for money) and Sankie-Pankie guys (can go both ways but are looking for something more long-term) in clubs and bars. Dominican men are absolutely obsessed with arse and very horny, meaning they are more open to exploring sexual fluidity and topping gay men – either for money or simply for pleasure. This applies especially to guys from the poorer barrios. While the general rule of thumb is 10% of guys worldwide are gay, here you can find up to 20% of mainstream guys might be interesting if your a bottom and there is something in it for them. If you want to top, better stick with gay clubs in Santo Domingo or hook-up apps.