Thursday, November 20, 2008

36-Hours in the Dominican Republic

First, I don't have many photos. About half of the time I was driving. And the second day it was overcast and misty and photo opportunities were drastically reduced.

If you are visiting the country for a few days and would like to see more of the country, this would be a good trip for you. We started by taking Autopisto Duarte out of Santo Domingo to the north coast. This highway is great and goes through the heart of the country.

Our first stop was Villa Altagracia. No particular reason. I just have always seen the name driving by, and was curious. Small town. Drove through in about 15 minutes. Next stop, it was time for lunch and made our way to Bonao. No particular reason. Everyone was hungry, and it was the next town.
Went to this nice little hotel called the Aquarius Hotel. We were the only people there and the food came quickly and was pretty good.

No particular place to go. Just knew that we were going to sleep in Cabarete. Drove on through La Vega, stopped for minute in Santiago, which is a really beautiful clean city. Then drove to Puerto Plata and was nice to see the improvements to Puerto Plata.

From Puerto Plata it was on through Sosua and then to Cabarete. Our Dominican friend had been there the previous week, and took us right to a place he stayed. 5-minute walk to the beach, clean and cheap. After getting settled just decided to head to the beach for some drinks and h'ordeurves. Found this place, can't remember the name but they had white furniture, and a very good shrimp cakes with an extremely attentive waitstaff.
After watching the sunset on the beach just relaxing, about to fall asleep, we decide to mill about and see what was going on. I have written about Cabarete before, and got several responses about others not having a good time. For me it is the complete opposite. I have a great time. Found a great dive of a pool hall, with a nice mix of locals and tourists. Cabarete being a serious water sports town, including kite boarding, it attracts a young surfer type. It is fun to see how local kite boarders are not adopting the surfer look, even dying their hair.

While looking around on the beach in Cabarete,
I saw some great new restaurants. Many of the businesses in Cabarete seemed to be owned by foreigners who have moved here to take advantage of the laidback lifestyle. One of the really great things about this is that you can see the difference in the service. I met the owner of Miro, which also has a sushi bar. Had a nice chat and told her I would be back for dinner. Not sure I was, but we did go there and the food was great and service just as top-notch.
For me it was off to the room and rest, while my friends commenced to bar hopping, and getting in late. I was up about 9:30am (early for me!) ready for breakfast. Found this great breakfast place where the eggs and bacon were done just the way I like them, along with coffee and muesli. Service. Service. Service. I would eat there everyday.

Back to the hotel to start our intended journey to Las Terrenas. We would use the new highway to get back into Santo Domingo at a reasonable hour. So off we go. I can't remember if Gaspar Hernandez was our first city, but we stopped there so my friend could get a haircut. Another friend decided to take a motoconcho around the town. I found I could get a signal, so I decided to write a blog blurb.

Then off again.
Next town we stopped in was Rio San Juan. Been hearing good things about this town from meeting people online. I found this nice online right on the beach for rent. We were on a nice roll, and didn't want to break our pace looking for some house. We decided that the next town we would stop in to get some lunch would be Nagua. Nagua seemed pretty quiet. Find a spot near the water and it was empty. Asked to look at the menu and thought this would be a great place to have lunch. MISTAKE. Not that the food was bad, it just took OVER AN HOUR. I say this everytime I travel in the country that I should've just went to a cafeteria where I can see what is being served and eat quickly and move on. This threw us seriously behind schedule.While having lunch two bodybuilders walked in and spoke with the owner about the competition taking place there this weekend.
Headed on to the final push to Las Terrenas. Las Terrenas, and the whole Samana peninsula for that matter, is really beautiful and would be great to explore for a couple of days by itself. To me, it is unfortunate what is happening to Las Terrenas. This beautiful place is being overbuilt at such a fast clip that it is shocking. To get to Las Terrenas you have go from the main road up to through this mountainous overpass that can be treacherous, esepcially if it is lightly raining like it was when we were making the journey. The drop is straight down, but the views to the ocean are simply spectacular. Unfortunately, the traffic in this oasis is horrific. This is why everyone gets around on motorcycle. Upscale condos, beautiful estates, chic cafes and lounges, along with construction, construction, construcstion is everywhere. Las Terrenas is still beautiful and worth a trip for anyone visiting the country, but it is also a lesson in what happens when there is not careful town planning, infrastructure and allowing anyone who has money to do whatever they want to do regardless of what is good for the better good. Oh well, there is still Las Galeras and Playa Rincon. All that said, I still want to go and spend the night in Las Terrenas, but it is still a shame what they are doing to her.
It was now dark and drizzling rain. It was now time to head home. I have written several entries on the new highway from Samana, but this is the first time I have driven it myself. First, the highway in the north is closer to Nagua than Samana. BUT, once on the highway until we joined Las Americas right past the toll was exactly one hour and 10 minutes. And this was at night during the rain. I can't tell you how great this highway is for cutting the time. It usually takes about 4 hours through winding mountains. First coming up on side, and then going down the other. It was exhausting. My only problem with the highway is that it is only two lanes. One going, one coming. WHY?????? It should've been at least 4 lanes. There are not many people using it now, but once it catches on in popularity it will be gridlock with everyone trying to get around the slow moving huge trucks. But then no one asked me.


Scott said...

Hey Anthony,
Thanks for sharing. It sounds like you all had a great time.
Hope everything else is going well.
Peace, Scott~

Anonymous said...

Oh Lord!!!...there's something about red daihatsu pickup trucks that just does things to me...mmm....mmm...mmm

Anonymous said...

I spent some god forsaken days in Cabarete and it was so awful......perhaps it was because I was at an all gay bizarre resort out on the outskirts of the town. I did visit the Miro restaurant and that was one of the highlights of the trip. I fully enjoyed it and concur with your recommendation.

Anonymous said...

Is there any wonder the kids clamor and scream for more, more, more when you don't post? what great accounts of your trip. makes me homesick - as if I'm from there!!! will definitely try to duplicate some of your journey Ms. Marco Polo 2009 when I am there next. I swear, to do more for tourism on that island than any Tourist Board - HANDS DOWN! Thanks again.
Brien, NY

Anonymous said...

Hi Anthony,

The wonderful restaurant on the beach with the white furniture is called BLU. They have a wonderfully large dinner menu that includes sushi, lobster, filet mignon and even Maryland Blue Crab Cakes. The wine can be pricey in the evening but they have wandering musicians who sing salsa, bachata and lots of old romantic spanish songs from Julio Iglesias, etc... I highly recommend BLU for the quality of the food, the service and the devine wine list. Just bring your wallet...$2500RD to $3000RD per person is not unheard of. I ate there twice in August.

Anonymous said...

Another reasonable Restaurant in Cabarete is right next to the the wind surfing school and is called Serrenta. The food is wonderful, cheap and just the right amount for lunch. Dinner was not was good as the lunches. It can be found at the Hotel Taino.

Anonymous said...

After I retire in December, I hope to go to the DR and discover the rest of the country like you have. I enjoyed reading your 36 hour adventure!
From Puerto Rico,

Nubian Dreams Blog said...

Nice post Anthony. Where is your donation button for this blog. Me and my friends would donate. It takes alot of time to do these blog entries. Think about it and get some advertising. These entries make me want to come back tomorrow. Best to you.

Anonymous said...

Was the comment about the "obscure" gay hotel Arco Iris or something like that... I think it's been closed now? That owner...the English one, he is a piece of work, isn't he? When I stayed there he woke up late, was belligerent to guests (the few that were there, and drank heavily. The power went out all the time, too. I don't think he was meant to be in the hotel business.

Anonymous said...

The last post on this blog is 11 day old. Wassup wit dat?

Monaga said...

Haven't felt like updating (along w/Internet connectivity problems). That's wassup.