Many Dominican Republic travelers spend their time  in the Caribbean sun at an all-inclusive resort. However, some may be missing out on the capital city.

Santa Domingo is the New World’s first city, with 16th-Century buildings, quaint colonial streets, romantic ruins, and a lively atmosphere. A full day is all you need to experience the city’s architecture, culture, and food. A coach bus ride from Punta Cana is only $9.

Santo Domingo was founded soon after Christopher Columbus set foot in the New World. The city became the colonial capital of the Americans and launch pad for further Spanish expeditions. It is known as the Zona Colonial, it contains many European “firsts” in the Western Hemisphere including the first street, cathedral, hospital, and university.

The Museo de las Casas Reales and the Alcázar de Colón — Diego Columbus’ palace — show you how the wealthy Spanish lived when they came to the early colonies and provide some history of the island’s colonization, all for only a few dollars.

After exploring, your final destination is the zone’s main drag, Calle El Conde. This pedestrian-only street is the place to shop. You’ll find street sellers selling colorful artwork; music stores to pick up that merengue and bachata music you’ve heard blaring out of everyone’s stereos; and jewelry shops featuring native amber and the sky-blue stone larimar found only in the Dominican Republic.