Everything You Need to Know About City Park Culture

Plaza El Clavo de Yogui in Zona Colonial

Photo: Anton Lau

One of the best places to experience Dominican culture is hiding in plain sight, and it’s (almost) free. Here’s how to buy a $2 liter of beer and make the most of it.

Cobblestoned city parks are the backbone of Dominican social life. Wherever -and whenever- you visit the DR, parks serve as meeting places where locals gather for midday meals, low-key hangs, and cute dates (with summery weather all year long, romance is always blooming). Nearby, you’ll see hawkers hawking cold drinks, ice creams and fresh seasonal fruit from carts, men in jaunty hats contemplating a chess board, or a lively group slamming down a game of dominoes.


In Puerto Plata, a wander through the historic central square is worthwhile just to see what the food vendors are cooking up. Santiago and La Romana’s city squares are filled with life-sized baseball statues by day, and come alive at night with beer-drinking university students. Over in Santo Domingo, historic Parque Colón is the best best park to see colonial architecture, cosy Parque Duarte is the best park for chill vibes, and the grand palisades of the Parque Independencia are a wonderful place to learn about Dominican history.


By day, troops of trained pigeons flutter and photobomb tourist selfies, but it’s at night, after the pigeons have disappeared, that these cultural hubs really come alive. This is particularly true in Santo Domingo’s historic district, the Colonial Zone. A night spent roaming La Zona is the must-have experience no one talks about. Here’s how to blend in and make the most of city park culture.

Parque San José in Santo Domingo

Photo: Anton Lau

Parque Colón (Columbus Park), Santo Domingo

Amidst Santo Domingo’s tree-lined boulevards and shady Spanish-colonial squares, Parque Colón is the front yard of the oldest cathedral in the Americas. This vibrant square is paved in red and white cobblestones, surrounded by grand architecture, and has plenty to offer travelers. The Santo Domingo tourist office is here, and lining the park you’ll find brick-and-mortar shops and cart vendors selling food and drink as well as Dominican specialties like cigars, amber and larimar.


During the day it bustles with merengue musicians and tourists snapping the bougainvillea climbing over the centuries-old stone walls. As dusk falls, the tourists filter out and the locals filter in, bringing bluetooth speakers and liter bottles of Presidente beer to party al aire libre.

Parque Colón in Zona Colonial

Photo: Angel Rosario

Mirador Sur

A stone’s throw from the Colonial Zone, the city park party continues along the Mirador Sur. This eight-kilometer stretch of green is about a half mile from the ocean and popular with active types jogging, cycling, working out or walking their dogs. Relaxing (and city park parties) kick off around 4pm.

Plaza de Güibia on the Malecón, Santo Domingo

Photo: Anton Lau

Malecón de la Av. España

During the day, the Malecón is popular with joggers, children and fisherman alike. Things get lively around six in the evening, when crowds gather to share a cold beer and play music from guitars, drums, or smartphones. Groups sit on the edge of the boulevard with feet dangling over the ocean, and sometimes fishing lines. As the night wears on, the outdoor gyms and climbing frames become playgrounds for drifters, groups of youths and others who find the city’s bars too hot or too expensive.

Parque Duarte

Parque Duarte stands as an oasis of calm by day, its quietude a backdrop for those delving into books from the small bookstore set up in the middle of it. This serene daytime character, markedly different from the crowded Parque Colón, subtly shifts as evening approaches, signaling a transformation into the heartbeat of Santo Domingo's LGBTQ+ nightlife.


On weekends ss dusk turns to dark, around 9 PM, the park becomes a lively assembly, buzzing with the anticipation of night adventurers. By 11 PM, it's a full on block party, thrumming with music and the energy of young Dominicans, artists, bohemians, and spirited revelers sharing tales and toasts.


Parque Duarte, Santo Domingo

Photo: Angel Rosario

What to Wear to Party in the City Park

The city park dress code is summer casual, and flirty is just fine. At night, characters and alter-egos of all kinds emerge, and cross-dressing and avant-garde fashion is a celebrated part of the parties. Taboos are reserved for daytime and Sunday mornings, so don’t be afraid to express yourself.


Dark denim jeans and a fashionable top are always a safe bet, regardless of what pronoun you rock, but anything goes - including rave glitter, colorful wigs and fun accessories. It’s a great space in which to experiment - but not with your new dancing heels! The cobblestones of the Colonial Zone aren’t ideal for high-heels, so flat shoes are your friend.

When to join (or people-watch)

In Santo Domingo, the parks start to buzz with music around 11pm. The action will really get going around midnight, and peter out around 4am. As the restaurants that line the squares close down for the night, more people join the party, and if you’re a bit of a wallflower, dining at one of these is a great way to people-watch.

A colmado in Zona Colonial

Photo: Anton Lau


Step one of this urban ritual is to grab a beer at a colmado. These late-night liquor vendors can be found dotted throughout every city and village in the Dominican Republic. It’s a highly informal atmosphere that harks back to 1950s soda-pop bar culture in the US. To properly experience Dominican city park culture, it is essential to set aside twelve-ounce beers and embrace the liter bottle. US $2 will get you a liter of Presidente (about 34 US ounces) and a sheaf of cheap plastic cups.

Beer sharing etiquette

Next, grab a seat on one of the many park benches surrounded by centuries-old trees. It’s time to kick back, and relish the late night ocean breeze from the nearby caribbean sea. People-watching is entertaining for hours on end, but don’t expect to be left alone - Dominicans are famously friendly. In the city park especially, openness is a core value. If you speak basic Spanish, have a friendly demeanor and are willing to share a beer it will be nearly impossible not to make new friends while partying in the park.


Beer sharing etiquette requires every plastic cup in reach to be filled three quarters full with beer whenever a fresh bottle comes around. When in doubt, offer to get the next round. It will set you back two dollars, and gain you a world of exuberant goodwill from your new friends.

Nightlife in Zona Colonial

Photo: Angel Rosario

Get home safely

Although the rowdiness and free-flowing beer might put you off, keep in mind that city park parties tend to be vibrant but relaxed, with little drug use or illicit activity. Without any sort of zoning laws or heavy policing, the tone of park partying is self-regulated by the local revelers. Once you’re done for the night, no matter the time, you’ll find an Uber or taxi ready to whisk you safely home.

Written by Emily Bauman


Published December 2023.

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