A week in the sun in a Third World Nation
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
Considering it's "vacation", arriving at the
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The flamingo's really surprised me - I didn't
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.
All of my tropical trips so far have had
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.
Over the course of the week (as we got closer to
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.
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
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).
Parque Nacional del Este
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.
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.
The plan was pretty simple - wake up early
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
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!
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.
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
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
Santa Domingo Day Trip
I only have so much patience for sitting on a
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.
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
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.
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.
Street photography doesn't
come naturally to me, but I did enjoy the experience.
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.
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 resort...next 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.
Friday, March 12th, 2010 at 08:08:35
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