Dominican Republic Conclusions

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The Dominican Republic is a small tropical country occupying two thirds of the island of Hispaniola. It is the most visited destination of all other Caribbean nations attracting tourists with its natural beauty and geographical and biological diversity, luxurious beach resorts, small mountain villages, cities, rainforests, high mountains, caves, rivers, waterfalls. Here is the highest mountain peak in the Caribbean, the biggest lake with the lowest elevation, some of the best surfing beaches in the region and the first cathedral, castle, monastery, fortress, and university in all of the Americas. There is so much to see and do! Not surprisingly, we met many people from different corners of the world who have moved here permanently after visiting the country making the Dominican Republic their home. Even whales come here for their honeymoon.

We spent one month in the Dominican Republic travelling inland and visiting many of its historical sites and natural monuments. The further we explored the more we fell in love with this country and its nature and we promised ourselves, one day we will return.

The Best Hurricane Hole in The Caribbean

Anchorage in Luperon, Dominican Republic

Anchorage in Luperon, Dominican Republic

The anchorage in the small rural town of Luperon on the north shore of the Dominican Republic is a notorious hurricane hole surrounded by hills and cow pastures. Deep inside a channel among mangroves, with excellent holding, the bay harbors a community of sailboats, some staying here for years. It is a safe anchorage protected by the National Guard against theft where we left our boat at anchor for days and went to explore the interior of the island not worrying for the boat’s safety. 

Read full article The Hills of Luperon

The Highest Caribbean Mountain

Early morning on Pico Duarte

Early morning on Pico Duarte

Climbing the 3087 meters-high Pico Duarte was the best part of our visit to the Dominican Republic. It is an adventure that requires physical strength and endurance, provisions and gear for at least two days, a guide and mules. Walking through rainforests, inside dry riverbeds, through high-altitude meadows, pine forests, and mists was the most beautiful experience of our lives so far. And it’s not the summit but the journey to the summit that we so much enjoyed. We would do it again and again, once or twice every year if we had the chance.

Read full article Pico Duarte. Journey Beyond the Clouds

Most Extreme Waterfall Adventure

Evo

Evo

The Damajaqua Cascades is an extreme waterfall adventure that we all absolutely loved, more than we expected. The tour includes hiking up river for about 30-40 min and then swimming, sliding, cliff-jumping and diving downriver for about one hour. Young children are not permitted, and only physically fit adults can do all 27 waterfalls and cascades.

Read full article Swimming, Sliding, Jumping, Diving Down Damajaqua Cascades

The Oldest New World Capital

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Santo Domingo and its Colonial Zone, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, should be on every visitor’s list. This is the oldest New World capital with some of the oldest colonial buildings, museums, and ruins. To us, it seemed much more impressive and preserved than the colonial zone in Havana, Cuba. In and around Santo Domingo there are many other tourist attractions. We only had time to visit the National Botanical Garden.

Read full article Santo Domingo. History, Culture, Nature

The Biggest and Lowest Caribbean Lake

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Lake Enriquillo in the southwestern part of the DR near the border with Haiti is one curious place. It is the biggest and saltiest Caribbean lake lying some 30 meters below sea level, populate by the densest in the world population of American crocodiles. On its arid shores, among dry spiky trees and cactus plants, we also met lots and lots of friendly lazy Rhinoceros Iguanas. Near the lake, in the town of Descubierta, we slept in the best hostel ever, an old house once belonging to a high-ranked official in Trujillo’s government, one of most terrible dictators the world has seen.

Read full article Lake Enriquillo. Crocodiles, Iguana, and Other Predators

The Surfing Mecca of The Caribbean

Kitesurf Beach, Cabarete

Kitesurf Beach, Cabarete

Cabarete near Puerto Plata on the north shore of the island became our favorite small town in the Dominican Republic. It is a very touristy, artsy, and laid-back place with a large community of expats who, together with locals and tourists, spend their entire time mostly surfing. Or kite-surfing. Or wind-surfing. Or paddle-boarding. Or chilling. We spent two memorable days in Cabarete with our friends Jade and Gabriel, surfing-maniacs and traveling junkies like us, who started us surfing a bit. Read about Jade&Gabby’s adventures and follow them at We Travel And Blog.

Read full article Surfing Cabarete

Oldest New World Settlement

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The ruins in Isabela Historica, a National Monument, are from the oldest settlement in the Americas constructed by Columbus and his settlers. Not much is left of the buildings but the place itself, a site up on the rocky cliffs facing the Atlantic Ocean near a snug little harbor is a beautiful place to see and hang around for a bit. There is a small museum with artifacts and historical information, as well as gift shops with hand-carved wooden Taino figurines, extremely cheap. Not too far is Montecristi, a small coastal town with very relaxed atmosphere and beautiful seascapes. One day was enough fo us to visit obth, Isabela and Montecristi.

Read full article Isabela Historica and Montecristi

Sailing Dominican Republic

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Cruising by sailboat around the Dominican Republic, especially on the north coast and especially going east, is not a joke. These are considered some of the most dangerous and difficult  waters for sailing due to unfavorable strong Trade winds, North Atlantic swell, strong Equatorial current and rocky shores with very little possibility for anchoring and sheltering, especially in bad weather coming from the north. A hook that helped us get from Luperon to Puerto Rico across the infamous Mona Passage safely is a must-read for anyone attempting the passage: The Gentelmen’s Guide to Passage South by Bruce Van Sand.

Read full article The Murderous Mona Passage

Our Biggest Regret

Cabo Samana, DR

Cabo Samana, DR

Not visiting Samana and the national park Los Haitises is our greatest regret. We were planning to stop there with the boat on our way from Luperon to Puerto Rico, but we had such a nice weather window that we ended up sailing all the way non-stop taking advantage of the favorable sea conditions. Samana and the park Los Haitises with their gigantic rocky cliffs looming over the sea and caves where the Taino Indians used to hide form the conquistadors provide the most impressive owe inspiring Jurassic vistas. The deep bay is also humpback wales breeding ground in the winter months. We hope to return to Dominican Republic some day and visit Samana. This time, we just sailed by the cape early in the morning absolutely stunned by the size and beauty of the cliffs.

Dominican Republic Facts

Entry Procedures for Sailors: The entry procedures are somewhat lengthy but not necessary unpleasant. You will have El Comandante from the National Army come aboard and inspect the boat, but chances are he is a really good guy. On shore you will go through customs and immigration and you need a dispacho when leaving a port.

Currency: They spend pessos in the DR. One USD is about 43 DR Pesos.

Language: Spanish is the language here and not many speak English or any other language. Moreover, the Dominican speak a very fast and muffled sort of Spanish, hard to hear and understand them even for Spanish-speaking people.

Security: Be vigilant, theft even gun shots are not uncommon occurrence in this part of the world. We didn’t have any problem, but it does not mean it is totally safe. Lock your boat/car/room and guard your stuff. Don’t get in trouble and respect everyone.

Music: If you don’t like merengue tipico you will be in hell here. Loud music is everywhere all the time booming from huge loudspeakers from restaurants, shops and cars parked at some street corner.

Food: Food is not expensive even in the restaurants. You can have a grilled chicken with french fries and beers for four people for less than 20 USD. Plantaines are everywhere and often they will serve you fried plantains instead of french fries, so make sure to make it clear what you order.

Shopping: mostly everything is available in the DR but only in the big cities. In the small ones like Luperon shopping is limited. For groceries there is a big chain store like WalMart in the big cities called La Sirena. Food is not expensive (especially after the Bahamas).

Water: Fresh water is a problem. There is no such thing as drinkable tap water and everyone buys huge water jugs. Not expensive.

Electricity: Electricity is a problem too. Many places have electricity for six hours and then don’t have electricity for the next 6 hours… Some people install generators.

Transportation: Getting from place to place is a hustle for visitors and locals. Fuel prices are high and there is no pubic buss. Instead, there are public guanchas, normal cars where 7 strangers get squeezed and the driver is usually crazy. The big highways are in excellent conditions but the small roads between cities are all broken up and sometimes not passable. The motoconcha, a motorbike, is another option to travel cheaply, but it is even more precarious than the guancha. Renting a car is a good option to travel independently and visit the country. You can rent a car for about 1000-1500 DR Pesos

Climate: the best of the tropics, always sunny and hot, windy near the shores, but rainy and very cold even freezing in the mountains. Bring a jacket if you plan to climb Pico Duarte.

Nature: Diverse, abundant, mostly unspoiled green nature virtually everywhere. Mountains, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, pastures, forests, beaches, banana plantations, paradise on earth.

 

 

* Other similar articles from the blog: Bahamas Conclusions

 

 

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In The Footsteps of Columbus. Isabela Historica and Montecristi

Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.

-Christopher Columbus

Not far from our Luperon anchorage is the site of the very first European settlement in America, La Isabela, founded by Christopher Columbus and named after Queen Isabella de Castile. We stop here for a visit on the sixth day of our road trip across the Dominican Republic.

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Set on the rocky cliffs near a small river delta facing the Atlantic Ocean, the place where Columbus and the new settlers built their houses, storerooms, and a Roman Catholic church is today a national historical site. Here visitors can see the remains of a few stone foundations of buildings and a lonely tree still standing on the cliffs where the first New World mass was held. There is a unique feel about this place, a strangeness in the air like ghosts, a sense of struggle, disillusion, death.

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After the first unsuccessful attempt to build a permanent settlement in the New World during his first voyage, Columbus returned to the island of Hispaniola in 1493 with seventeen ships bringing more than a thousand settlers: carpenters, stonemasons, and other workers, as well as horses, livestock, wheat, and sugarcane. He also brought priests, soldiers, guns, rats, and a variety of European diseases: measles, smallpox, and typhus. The colonists began the construction of the New World on top of Some Other World that was considered so inferior and insignificant that it could be disregarded and ultimately annihilated. The world of the Taino Indians.

Under this tree the first New World mass was held.

Under this tree the first New World mass was held 5 centuries ago.

Initially, the Europeans and the Tainos who inhabited the island since many centuries led a life of peaceful coexistence, exchanging goods and knowledge. But it didn’t last long. Columbus had an important mission and it was not merely building a new settlement and bonding with the natives. He was in pursuit of gold. But gold was nowhere to be found and the colonists came up with an alternative plan to make a profit. They enslaved many of the Taino Indians and imposed a heavy tax on those who remained free. The ones who revolted against the injustice were brutally slaughtered. Within twenty years of the arrival of the Europeans, the native Taino population was wiped out completely by murder, slavery, imported diseases, and suicide.

Ruins at Isabela Historica.

Ruins at Isabela Historica.

The new settlers did not prosper much either. Within a few years their crops failed, they begun to die of starvation, scurvy and influenza, and their buildings and ships were destroyed by hurricanes. In 1498 Columbus abandoned his settlement project and returned to Spain with a damaged reputation.

The site of Christopher Columbus house.

The site of Christopher Columbus house.

Today Isabela Historica is a site worth visiting. The admission fee is about $1.50. Earlier in the day there are no other tourists but us. Apart from the ruins, there is a small museum with some artifacts and miniature models of the ships and the church, as well as lots of information (in Spanish only). It takes us less than an hour to see everything without being in a hurry.  On the way out we stop at the souvenir shop to adopt a hand-carved Taino figurine for only about $2.

Wooden Taino figurines at the souvenir shop.

Wooden Taino figurines at the souvenir shop.

It is still morning and we have time to explore further. We drive west. This part of the country is dry and desolate. We pass through salt flats and poor small villages populated by Haitians until we arrive in Montecristi, a coastal town near the Haitian border, which was once a prosperous trading center, doing business with pirates. Here Columbus found some gold in the river. It was also the site of the signing of el Manifesto de Montecristi by Maximo Gomez and Jose Marti at Maximo Gomez house on Mella Street.

Village near the salt flats, Montecristi.

Village near the salt flats, Montecristi.

Today visitors come to Montecristi mainly for the dramatic vistas the rocky shores provide. An 825-foot El Morro suddenly rises from the sea 2 miles north of town. Beneath, Atlantic waves crush onto a small beach of red sand and round stones.

El Morro & beach, Montecristi

El Morro & beach, Montecristi

Another beach near the marina closer to town is very popular with the locals who spend their weekends chilling here all day long, to the loud sound of merengue tipico booming from the loudspeakers of cars parked near-by.

Kids at Montecristi beach.

Kids at Montecristi beach.

Before heading back to Luperon, we stop at a small PicaPollo, a local fast-food place surrounded by stray dogs where a portion of 4 pieces of fried chicken with fried plantains, French fries or rice costs less than $2. It is not the healthiest food but it does miracles for hungry people. You can find  a PicaPollo at every street corner in Dominican Republic. The one in Monteristi is the best.

Fishing boats, Montecristi.

Fishing boats, Montecristi.

Mira and Evo, Montecristi

Mira and Evo, Montecristi

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