1 – Hospital San Nicolás de Bari
It is unknown to many that the very first hospital and hospital services in the Americas were in the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo to be exact. In 1503 Nicolás de Ovando, who was the second governor of Hispañiola, commissioned the construction of the hospital. The actual building of the hospital was performed in two stages: once in 1503 and again in 1552, both at the request of Nicolás de Ovando. The hospital was built in the Spanish colonial style, which included stone floors and thick walls to act as a fortress. The wards accomodated up to 70 patients, and it is said that the hospital was modeled after the Hospital of Sancto Spiritu in Rome. In 1586 a pirate attack left the hospital terribly damaged. During its heyday the hospital served wounded and ill soldiers and was renamed Hospital Militar (Military Hospital) for a brief time. After operating for 350 years, Hospital San Nicolás de Bari is now a preserved ruin that qualifies as one of the most unusual and visited landmarks in the Dominican Republic.
2 – El Meson De La Cava
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic is home to beauty, history, culture and a great deal of dining options. However, there is one place in particular which is just as unusual as it is spectacular, and has both local and international visitors flocking to it for a chance to view and indulge. El Meson De La Cava is a natural limestone cave that was formed by over one billion years of ocean waves. In 1965, the soldiers of the Organization of American States originally used the space for storage. Two years later, this beautiful cave became home to El Meson De La Cava restaurant. Known and respected as the most renowned restaurant in the area, El Meson De La Cava is also famous for some of the best cuisine that can be found in all of the Dominican Republic, with an emphasis on modern Spanish, local Caribbean and classic French cuisines. The restaurant is adorned with a spiral staircase that is 12.2 meters (40 feet) in height and takes diners down to the lobby. Guests can enjoy natural features within the cave, including stalagmites and stalactites all around, and viewing the belongings of the cave’s previous occupants. Diners will never find an experience like this anywhere else in the world.
3 – Corral de Los Indios
Located approximately 5 km north of the city of San Juan de la Maguana lies a circular ceremonial site, which has been compared to Stonehenge and the Ring of Brodgar. Named Corral de Los Indios, this pre-Columbian ceremonial site was once used by the Caonabo and Anacaona Indians and features a circular clearing 771 feet in diameter. Within the center of the clearing, visitors will find a vertical stone with the carving of a face, and it is speculated that astronomical phenomena could be observed from this ceremonial and astrological rock. In 1918 during an invasion by Americans, the ceremonial site was damaged when the center stone was moved. However, in the 1960s Emil Moya Boyra restored the center stone to its original condition and placement where visitors now see it today.
4 – FARO A COLÓN (COLUMBUS LIGHTHOUSE)
Faro a Colón, also known as Columbus Lighthouse is located in Santo Domingo Este, Dominican Republic, a municipality of Santo Domingo province. Faro a Colón is reinforced concrete constructed into a cross-shaped monument that reaches 210 meters (680 feet) in height and 59 meters (195 feet) in width. It represents the Christianization of America and is said to contain the remains of Christopher Columbus, a belief that continues to add to its mystery and generate many visitors to the monument annually. However, there has been a great deal of disagreement over this report.
Faro a Colón was constructed in 1986 and inaugurated in 1992. The project cost an estimated $70 million USD and was funded by Latin American states. The monument features 157 beams of light that project upward toward the sky; these beams of light can be seen as far away as Puerto Rico. The architect’s intent for the monument was for it to serve as a mausoleum, however former President Balaguer requested it be turned into an exhibit that showcases a permanent collection of exhibitions from America, European and Asian countries. Today, both local and international visitors flock to Faro a Colón for its beauty, mystery and history.
5 – CUEVAS DE LAS MARAVILLAS (CAVE OF WONDERS)
San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic is currently known for being the home to a large number of professional baseball players. However, it is also home to a great historic wonder, and that is Cuevas de las Maravillas. Taíno shamans used the cave for religious and funeral rites over 1000 years ago. In 1926, when this 800-meter cave was discovered, it was still decorated with hundreds upon hundreds of Taíno cave paintings, all of which were incredibly intact. In addition to the mesmerizing cave paintings, Cuevas de las Maravillas is home to beautiful stalagmites and stalactites that surround visitors during their tour, as well as a preserved bat inhabitant.
Cuevas de las Maravillas is west of La Romana, Dominican Republic and lies between the Soco and Cumayasa Rivers. The cave must be accessed by taxi or rental car, as tour companies are not yet offering excursion opportunities to the cave due to its private ownership. Once at Cuevas de las Maravillas, guided one-hour tours take visitors 25 meters (80 feet) deep underground and are offered Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The cost of each tour is $10.00 USD and reservations are recommended. Please keep in mind that photography is not permitted, but the memories you will have after visiting Cuevas de las Maravillas are worth their weight in gold.
What are some of the most unusual things you’ve done while traveling to the Dominican Republic? Share your experiences below!