John Harvey Photo

Dominican Republic

Go to Slide Show Smaller Images A week in the sun in a Third World Nation

  Wrist Band

Mark went out of his way organizing this trip.   Mark and Mike had just finished their last products and I was about as late into production as I could be and still consider going on vacation so a week in some place sunny would be appreciated.  We started by considering Cuba, but the uniqueness of that country worked against it - an all inclusive resort removes most of the cultural experience from the trip so if you are going just to experience beach, sun and free drinks, why go to a more expensive place with biting insects when the Dominican Republic is available?  My first all inclusive - give it a go.

Road In ResortResort Buildings
Considering it's "vacation", arriving at the airport 3 hours before an 8am flight seems awfully counterproductive.  The six hour flight to Puerto Plata plus the jump to Punta Cana plus the 4 hour of time zone change plus the half hour bus ride from the airport meant we arrived at our resort some time around 10pm local time.

We chose to stay at the Melia Caribe resort - one of the higher rated (4+ stars) and well reviewed (online) resorts.  The resort is huge - 40 buildings of rooms (16 to 24 rooms a building at least in the buildings we saw), at least 4 pools, 8+ a la carte restaurants and being at this was November and off high season, much of the resort was under utilized.

Palm Tree With Blue Sky
You sleep like a zombie (the 4 hour time change helps with the sleeping in part) and when you wake up, it's beautiful skys, palm trees, sandy beaches and hours of just playing around. 

Our Beach FrontMike Sailing
Eroded Palm Roots
I quite enjoyed the evening walks on the beach.  The beach at Punta Cana is tens of km long so you can walk in either direction for at least an hour without running out of resorts, beach huts and just general activity.

Mike At SunsetBusy Beach

Palm Tree Silhouettes
As the sun sets, the view gets that much more spectacular.  Our beach ran North South and the sun set over land so we didn't get the bright sun on the water effect you get in other places. 

Palm Trees At SunsetResort At Sunset

If you like the Casino (are you nuts?) or the Disco (I'm not single) there isn't much of a night life in the resort.  Take your time at the dinner, plan your next day or take advantage of all of the TV channels the resort gets.

Pool Bar
Life at the Resort
Our resort was actually quite large - one end was the restaurants and the lobby - the other end was most of the accommodations and the beach, but in the middle was a large park like area which include both well tended gardens as well as more natural swamp.  (I was surprised to see standing water because we found almost no flying insects).  The gardens had a number of bird species.

Great EgretFlamingo Walking
The flamingo's really surprised me - I didn't know until I got back that Flamingo's are endemic to Caribbean as well as South America and Africa.   For days they hung out in the same pools - I started to think they were chained in, but they really were just there for the filter feeding.

Common MoorhenWhite Hibiscus

Puerto Rican Crested Anole From Behind
All of my tropical trips so far have had Gecko's and it took me a few days to find one here - turns out they really like the beack umbrellas.  Once I got home and looked at the photos, I'm starting to think this isn't a Gecko - the toes appear too long compared to anything I've seen.

Puerto Rican Crested Anole Side Shot

Over the course of the week (as we got closer to American Thanksgiving) the resort got busier and busier.  When we arrived it was easy to find chairs near the pool or under cover at the beach - by Tuesday good seats became scarce.  We could reserve restaurants on the day of - later in the week, we had to call early or get the dreaded 9:45 sitting.

JeweleryCarved Wood
On the last day before we left a market sprang up.  Generally, the resort tries very hard to control the experience of guests - sales people (mostly selling CD's) would be escorted if they came to our section of the beach.  The market was the first time I saw people (very well behaved) selling things in the resort.

Night Market

The selection of things for sale is sadly small.  Jewelery, wood carvings and paintings are completely commoditized - you can buy the same items in town, on the beach or at the resort.  Some items vary wildly in price - A beach vendor offered 500 pesos for a bottle of reserve rum (roughly $20CDN) - the resort sold them for 14 US but we purchased bottles at a fixed price store for 155 pesos (roughly $7 CDN).

Horn ShipsPaintingsPetrified Wood Carvings

I only found the cheapest of books for sale (the resort had only paperbacks - nothing on the Dominican Republic) and similarly high quality art work seemed to be non-existant. 
Parque Nacional del Este

Mike and I are both rather partial to caves.  I asked at the information desk about trips to caves (The rough guide lists several caves) and was told there were none.  (I later found out that other operators had tours that visited caves, but I didn't find that out until just before we left).  The closest/easiest cave to our resort is in Parque Nacional del Este - a national park approximately two hours from our resort.

Wasp Honey Comb
The plan was pretty simple - wake up early (6am?) rent a cab for the day and drive out, visit the park, hire a guide, hike the 3km and then come home.  Execution was only slightly more complicated - our Taxi driver didn't speak English (not much of a problem) and he had never heard of the park entrance (more of a problem).  When we got to Bayahibe (the town closest to the entrance) our cab driver found a person that spoke english well and he got us sorted - we went past the end of the road (it was blocked by stones - he moved them aside) and down the km or so of dirt road (grounding out our Taxi) to the park offices.  Then we hired a guide for 200 Pesos (approximately $8 CDN) who came with flashlights (we had our own).  The guide didn't speak English either but that wasn't much of a problem.

The walk there was more exciting that I was expecting - quite early on we found some life totally new to me - land crabs!

Land Crab Going Into BurrowLand Hermit Crab

The cave itself was beautiful.  While it's unprotected (there are no gates), it's relatively unspoiled - no large sections appear to be missing.  We didn't see soda straws - it's possible they don't form here or bats knock them down or they had been taken, but otherwise things appeared unspoiled.

FlowsFlows On WallMore White WallsMike Through Gate

The cave was also quite large - we didn't have to crawl or slide on our bellies.  There were bats in the cave (perhaps 50) and they were quite active - they tried to fly out of our way when we walked through - it's quite disquieting to have them fly by close, but they didn't hit us.

Filling InGoing Into CaveBeam Of Light From Ceiling

We didn't spend that long in the cave (our cab drive was told to wait for three hours) but the hour or so we were there was really worth the time to get out.  There is another cave another 2km further down the trail, but we had neither the time nor Mike's health to make the further journey.  On the walk back, we skipped the last km of trail and walked down the beach instead - this is a beautiful part of the world.

Stuck To ShortsBeach In Parque Nacionaldel Este
Santa Domingo Day Trip

Basilica At Higuey
I only have so much patience for sitting on a beach - after a few days I pretty much go insane.  Mark and I booked ourselves on the Santa Domingo Day trip.  It had an unfortunately early start time - be at the drop off area at 6:40 but somehow Mark made it.  Our first stop was the Basilica at Higuey - a huge, post modern building that has very clean bathrooms - most the of the tour bus was thankful.

Higuey as a town is rough - their doesn't seem to a single route through town so traffic seems heavy and random. 

Los Tres Ojos (The Three Eyes)
After the long bus ride to Santa Domingo, we were quite happy to get off anywhere.  I was surprised by our first stop - the Three Eyes.  The cave roof has collapsed and exposed three ponds to the outside sun. 

EntranceFirst PoolGoing To Third Pool
Second PoolThird PoolCave Art

As you walk up, you are accosted by people selling necklaces.  As you leave you are set up by people selling stalactite art - the worst medium for art I can think of.  Some tourists found the attention hard - by this point had my "no" hand down pretty well.
Zona Colonial
Drawing On AStreet
The Zona Colonial (Colonial Zone or old part of the city) holds the Cathedral and the Calle El Conde - a foot traffic only shopping road.  We toured the Cathedral and Christopher Columbus's Son's home but I found the street the most interesting - lots of people who didn't really care that we were there. 

Chess Game
Street photography doesn't come naturally to me, but I did enjoy the experience.

Peeling FruitTruck Selling Fruit

Parliament BuildingsRiding Motor Bike

Plane On The Tarmac

Mike Sailing
Person: Michael
Chess Game
Tags: Dominican Republic, game, street photography
Plane On The Tarmac
Tags: Dominican Republic, plane
Great Egret
Species: Ardea alba (Great Egret)
Tags: bird, Dominican Republic
Palm Trees At Sunset
Tags: Dominican Republic, long exposure, palm, sunset, tree
More White Walls
Tags: cave
Road In Resort
Tags: resort, road
Cave Art
Tags: Dominican Republic, shopping
Puerto Rican Crested Anole Side Shot
Species: Anolis cristatellus (Puerto Rican crested anole)
Tags: Dominican Republic, gecko
Filling In
Tags: cave, Dominican Republic
Pool Bar
Tags: Dominican Republic, panorama, pool, resort
Going Into Cave
Tags: cave, Dominican Republic
Flows On Wall
Tags: cave
Flamingo Walking
Species: Phoenicopterus ruber (Greater Flamingo)
Tags: bird
Carved Wood
Tags: Dominican Republic, market
Land Hermit Crab
Species: Coenobita clypeatus (land hermit)
Tags: crab, Dominican Republic
Petrified Wood Carvings
Tags: Dominican Republic, market, shopping
Resort At Sunset
Tags: Dominican Republic, palm, resort, sunset
Truck Selling Fruit
Tags: apple, Dominican Republic, produce, truck
Mike At Sunset
Person: Michael
Palm Tree Silhouettes
Tags: beach, Dominican Republic, long exposure, palm, tree
Land Crab Going Into Burrow
Species: Gecarcinus ruricola (purple land crab)
Tags: crab, Dominican Republic
Palm Tree With Blue Sky
Tags: Dominican Republic, lone tree, palm, tree
Parliament Buildings
Tags: Dominican Republic
Peeling Fruit
Tags: Dominican Republic, market
Third Pool
Tags: cave, Dominican Republic
Beam Of Light From Ceiling
Tags: cave, crepuscular rays, Dominican Republic, long exposure, Skylight
Tags: cave
Second Pool
Tags: cave, Dominican Republic
Tags: Dominican Republic, market
Going To Third Pool
Tags: cave, Dominican Republic, motion blur
Busy Beach
Altitude: 5m (16 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, Dominican Republic, palm, sunset
Our Beach Front
Tags: beach, Dominican Republic, palm, resort
Eroded Palm Roots
Person: Mark
Stuck To Shorts
Altitude: 18m (59 feet)
Location: Go To...
Common Moorhen
Species: Gallinula chloropus (Common Moorhen)
Tags: bird
Tags: cave, Dominican Republic
Puerto Rican Crested Anole From Behind
Species: Anolis cristatellus (Puerto Rican crested anole)
Tags: Dominican Republic, gecko
Basilica At Higuey
Altitude: 116m (380 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Dominican Republic, place of worship
Wrist Band
Tags: Dominican Republic, resort
Night Market
Tags: Dominican Republic, high contrast, market
White Hibiscus
Tags: bird, Dominican Republic
First Pool
Tags: cave, crepuscular rays, Dominican Republic, lava
Beach In Parque Nacionaldel Este
Person: Michael
Altitude: 6m (19 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, Dominican Republic
Horn Ships
Tags: Dominican Republic, market
Drawing On AStreet
Tags: alley, art, city, Dominican Republic, street photography
Tags: Dominican Republic, market, shopping
Resort Buildings
Tags: night, place to stay, resort
Mike Through Gate
Tags: cave, Dominican Republic, spelunking
Riding Motor Bike
Wasp Honey Comb
Tags: Dominican Republic, insect
Tags: Dominican Republic(39), cave(12), market(7), palm(6), resort(6), beach(4)
People: Michael(3), Mark(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > Dominican Republic

Hy my name is Angela, i like the pictures you all took of my country. Yes i'm from Higuey,Dominican Republic, i am proud to be from the country. Thanks to talk and interest of my country. I have a question, They didn't tell you (cual es la vaina?)Thanks bye.
Angela B. Robles
Sunday, April 29th, 2007 at 16:06:50

Sounds like you had a good trip. I just returned from the Dominican myself. We stayed at the Riu Bachata resort near Puerto Plata and had a similar experience. Neither I nor my husband are fluent spanish speakers and we found the fact that everyone was constantly trying to get a buck off of us so off-putting that we were afraid to leave the resort at all. We still had a wonderful time (when you love science, there's no end of interesting things to see on a beach), but I would have liked to have visited the National Parks. Good for you for being brave and finding the caves! Next time we will have a better plan and really go for it! Jen from Texas
Monday, June 25th, 2007 at 15:43:11

i am dominican and i love that you enjoyed the dominicna republic. your comments are also very good. we need to more if you want to keep attracting good tourinst like yourself.
Sunday, February 10th, 2008 at 17:57:21

My husband, brother and I were in Punta Cana in November 2007. We enjoyed the trip. Didn't care too much for the time we'll choose more wisely. We went to Higuey and saw the basilica. Gorgeous! We traveled to several different areas, as well as went horseback riding on the beach, went to the local shopping malls, etc. It was fun. My brother and I lived in Maracaibo, Venezuela for 4 years, so nothing was shocking to us. :-) Fortunately we speak Spanish fluently and were able to avoid any problems. By chance, did you make it to Saona Island?
Thursday, August 14th, 2008 at 15:14:45

We just spent a week at sunscape casa del sol in La Romana and it was wonderful. We say a giant beetle there but could not take a photo i would love to know what they are, never saw one that big. Resort was great and the people are so nice and friendly, will go back. Thank you Sexy Leo for the aerobics lessons and your wonderful smile.
Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 at 18:54:40

We just returned from a week at Dreams La Romana near Bayhibe. Absolutely awesome country, Dominican Republic! I am impressed with what one of the Dreams staff said: "We are a happy people." Oh, yes!
Saturday, February 28th, 2009 at 13:56:05

Thanks so much for the great description of your natural beauty trip to Punta Cana.....I was so afraid of not seeing any natural beauty.....there was no direction listed anywhere! My dive buddy and I went to Sosua last year....the diving wasn't very interesting as the reef was overfished and lacking coral and fish, but 27 chacos was an absolutely beautiful and amazing natural vist worth undertaking. We also spent a full day horseback riding into the back country. We loved it. Next week I am going to stay in the new Majestic Elegance in Punta Cana and hope the diving is better, but if it isn't......I will now know what to do, thanks to you and this website! DR is a great country of great people with great natural beauty....hopefully it will stay this way for years to come.
Monday, March 9th, 2009 at 20:23:32

My husband and I have visited the Dominican Republic two times now and are planning again in September. We mostly stay in Samana. There is a beautiful resort there and also some nice small hotels in town. Sometimes we have electricity and sometimes not. It matters not. The Dominican people are very friendly and gracious. I hope they do not grow tired of us tourists. I always remind myself that I am a guest in their country and, therefore, treat them with the respect due to any good host or hostess. Yes, what happy people they are.
Saturday, August 15th, 2009 at 14:47:01

I've just got back from Dominican and I can't wait to go back to Mexico,wish I'd gone there in the first place.
Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 at 08:14:15

Next time try Las Terrenas in Samana. Not as all inclusive resort oriented as Punta Cana and Bavaro. More small hotels with lots of mingling with locals and plenty of nature.
Peter Weidlich
Friday, March 12th, 2010 at 08:08:35

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