Travel The Dominican Republic in 3 weeks
If you only have three weeks to explore the stunning Dominican Republic you'd want to divide your time between its beaches, lush mountainous region, its towns/cities and maybe find time for one of its many adrenaline fueled activities or water sports! We don't like rushing when we travel as we love to really have time to sit back and absorb a place so we decided to set our route to cover these areas and explore this beautiful Caribbean country. Normally known as a touristy all inclusive destination famous for its beaches we decided to see what else it had to offer.
This was our route (using public transport)
1. Santo Domingo 2. Jarabacoa 3. Puerto Plata 4. Río San Juan 5. Las Geleras 6. Samana 7. Punta Cana (stop over in Santo Domingo)
Being the oldest inhabited European settlement in the America’s, Santo Domingo has a fascinating mix of Spanish charm and modern Latin flair with quirky Colmados on almost every corner in the residential areas (by day a corner shop by night a bar!). We explored the historical colonial zone which is worth taking a full day to explore. It hosts over 300 sites constructed by the Spaniards including the first fort, castle, cathedral and monastery built in the Americas! Did you know that! Bam!
(Convent and Church of the Dominican Fathers. Colonial Zone Santo Domingo)
Christopher Columbus first adventured and colonized the island in 1492 naming it “La Hispaniola”. His son, Diego, was its first governor and visiting his house/museum was well worth a visit.
We were lucky to celebrate new years even in Santo Domingo and it turned out to be a major highlight! Everyone packed onto the Malecón. We expected to see lots of tourists but were pretty much dancing the night away with hundreds of locals. There were tonnnnnssss of police (we were searched three times to even get in and they took my hair pins for safety measure?!) The music was great the fireworks were loud and the atmosphere was sufficiently celebratory! We ended the night drinking champagne by (and in) a hotel pool.
A beautiful town in the central mountain region of the island and definitely worth mentioning the best coffee we had in the DR served at Tostado which also serves great food!
We did a tandem paraglide jump with Hawk Paragliding School, an insane 1500 metres high experience of sweeping mountain views and lush waterfalls. One of our pilots was a bit of a Maverick flying about 50m higher than the other and totally unphased by the threat of being thrown up on! One of us loved the experience and the other…less so but would still agree it is an incredible experience (video coming this week!).
(Paragliding over beautiful Jarabacoa)
Whilst in Jarabacoa we also visited three stunning waterfalls including Salto De Baiguate Salto Jimenoa Uno and Dos (Uno is the one from the opening scene of the first Jurassic Park movie).
This city was the old tourist hot spot until Punta Cana took over, however it felt relaxed and offered a lovely modern city with lots of amenities and easy access to beaches. Puerto Plata does boast having the only cable car in the whole of the Caribbean! Bam look at us with all these facts! 800 metres long Teleferico offers breath taking views of the city, beaches and surrounding mountains.
Puerto Plata was more of a stopping point for us to visit Damajaqua Cascadas, a complex of 27 waterfalls offering high- adrenaline guided tours hiking up to the highest waterfall and jumping, swimming and scrambling back down. Although we could only venture up to the 12th waterfall (due to it being dry season) it was still incredible jumping over 9 meters into the water below (video coming this week!). It was very crowded when we went and there isn't really a chance to absorb our surrounding as it was a bit of a conveyer belt...but if you take it for what it is then its great fun!
Río San Juan
Río San Juan is a little gem in the Dominican Republic. We stayed at Bahia Blanca hotel balanced on the rocks jutting out into the ocean. Though a little run down the hotel has an understated humblity about it but its views are anything but!
The town is very small with a distinct French expat community and the best pain au chocolat we have had out of France! You can take a short boat ride through the mangroves but the real reason to stay here are the nearby beaches. Playa Grande and Playa Navío are only a few miles down the coast, with white sands and turquoise sea, they were arguably some of the the best beaches on the island.
(Sunset from Bahia Blanca Hotel, Playa Navío we had the whole beach to ourselves!)
Located on the north eastern peninsula, with a great beach and good swell it’s a great playground for ocean sports, with lots of places offering surfing and kitesurfing lessons. There is also a large French expat community here as well serving up ridiculously good crepes at Le BDM Creperie (if that’s your bag!)!
The weather was stormy and the oceans rough during our time here so unfortunately our plans to scuba dive were cancelled which was a shame as it’s supposed to be some of the best diving on the Island.
We hiked from Las Galeras over the headland to Playa Fronton. We choose to hike with a guide due to stories of travelers being robbed on this particular route! The hike was steep but ending on yet another incredible deserted beach making it well worth it even if it was raining! Only accessible via this path or by boat Playa Fronton feels wildly natural and as we stood on the beach we imagined this is how Columbus may have first seen the island! Our guide was well worth the money as he was excellent stopping a number of times along the way to point out wildlife and teaching us about the land and the crops that grew (he also found loads of free fruit which we happily munched!).
On our final day in Las Galeras we hired a scooter from the town and headed about 40 minutes west to visit Playa Rincón and with the threat of more rain we were unsure what we would find but you guessed it, another astounding postcard worthy beach.
(Playa Rincón and Playa Fronton)
We only stayed one night in Samana, having heard there was not much to this port city, as our only reason for staying here was to go whale watching. Unfortunately, due to the continued stormy weather our tour was cancelled, so we had time to explore the city and we were pleasantly surprised! Walking around the port and venturing out to The Bridge of Samana commonly known as The bridge To Nowhere! Built in the 1970s with the intention to draw tourists to the area the 800metre bridge scans three small islands and ends at a derelict restaurant and well….no where! The end is a little underwhelming but the bridge is the real experience and the views are breath taking. It isn’t for those afraid of heights as one woman in front of us turned back!
(Samana bridge, the bridge to nowhere!)
We actually didn’t want to go to Punta Cana but flights were cheaper from here to Puerto Rico our next destination but we stayed in a totally unique AirBnB in Bávaro. Built like a castle it was well worth a nights stay! We sampled the delicious 50c local empanadas, and got soaking wet (again!) visiting the local beaches, Playa Bávaro & Playa Nirvana.
So after three weeks and a lot of rain we honestly would say we could and would recommend backpacking and travelling the Dominican Republic (look out for our next post more about this coming in this week!). It was an affordable (less than , beautiful country filled with stunning scenery, lovely people, great beaches, interesting culture and of course tons of adrenaline fueled activities that would be a pity not to try…you know what they say “when it Dominican Republic”.
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