Week before last, I visited the Dominican Republic–and the Caribbean–for the first time! I went with my tried and true travel partner, Ilse, for five days of R&R. We both had a lot going on in our lives this summer and, contrary to my personal travel style, opted for a lazy, beach vacation. This trip ended up being a lot more than we bargained for; while we had plenty of relaxation, we also had some trials and tribulations.
We stayed in Cabarete, a small coastal town known for its kite surfing; Ilse’s grandfather built a small home here on the beach which is where we stayed.
We were assaulted by mosquitoes almost constantly through this trip, lathering on layers and layers of repellent to the point that there was really no point in showering. Speaking of showering, we were also given a mid-week shock when the unfortunate drought in the city prompted a citywide water shutdown for about 24 hours without warning or update of when it would be turned back on. Even with these inconveniences, however, the location was definitely prime for everything going on nearby.
The beach ended up acting as our main road instead of the actual road since temperatures were pretty high and we could enjoy the breeze of the ocean and the water at our feet. We were a stone’s throw from the local grocery store which definitely came in handy when we needed fast cash and water bottles that saved us during our water outage. There were plenty of restaurants up and down the coast that we frequented through our stay; our favorite was LAX, not only because they had Wifi and good food, but they also had salsa on Wednesday nights.
Similar to the flamenco night I attended in Barcelona, this was the first salsa night I had been to in a Spanish-speaking country and it was such a beautiful sight to see. Dance has always been so important in my life and I love seeing other people enjoying it in a non-sexual way because it is a form of communication and entertainment. There was also bachata and merengue–both of which originated in the Dominican Republic–and in my eyes, everyone was a pro. I really could have sat there all night and watched. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t been so shy to get on the dance floor and dance with a stranger!
We were also able to access a tourist information center where we booked our one big excursion: horseback riding. We were picked up at the grocery store and driven to a ranch about 20 minutes away to go on a two-hour tour in the beautiful mountains of the DR. Our tour guide, Tommy, was not only the nicest person ever, but he was also so knowledgeable about many different things on the island. Not to mention, he was multilingual, so that was pretty awesome to hear him switching between languages in our hours together. The ride itself was challenging as someone who is not familiar with horses, but I had a mild horse named Popcorn that I believe was well-suited for me. A sad fact he shared with us was that in all the years he has lived on the ranch and done the rides, it was his first time that day seeing the nearby creek dry. It really made us cognizant of what is going on with our climate, especially after experiencing the citywide water shutdown.
Our final activity of the trip was hopping on a motoconcho to the neighboring town of Sosua. Sosua is a larger town and their beaches were ideal for snorkeling. We were disappointed we hadn’t spent more time there, but we had a great day out by the beach while Ilse enjoyed the clear waters and I caught up on the final season of Jane the Virgin.
Ultimately, I had a very special experience in the Dominican Republic. It was far from pretty, but extremely humbling and something I will never forget. Though I would never classify my travels as glamorous, this was my first trip where I really got a local perspective and experienced their day-to-day life (excluding going out to eat all the time, of course). It was also one of my first trips where I almost completely off the grid which gave me a lot of time to reflect. I obviously can’t speak to the rest of the island as far as recommendations go, but I am very grateful for this trip I got to share with one of my best friends. ❤