It has been a year that we did not go to the Dominican Republic. I actually wonder why? As it's the perfect getaway to a Caribbean civilization without so much pollution, dirt, garbage, and a good infrastructure. We renewed our car insurance for the DR at the beginning of January which gave us the perfect pretext to go for a visit.
Friday early afternoon we took off and drove 4,5 hours south-east. As soon as you get through the Haitian-Dominican border procedures (filling out forms and giving 10$ visa money), the difference between the two countries becomes more than apparent. Even though the west of the DR is the poorest and the aridest part of the country, it's still in so much better shape than the Haitian side: The streets are asphalted and in very good shape (bye bye dirt road), the houses are small, yes, but finished and colorfully painted, there are sidewalks, people have electricity, the central squares are well taken care of with flowers and playgrounds, there are sport fields for the youth, there are trees and bushes (on the Haitian side, deforestation is everywhere) and so many other small things that you notice.
We arrived around 5pm (Dominican time, they are 1 hour ahead) and checked in at our hotel (Hotel Guarocuya) which had a nice view over the harbor, a clean room with ocean view, AC, bathroom with shower and towels, fast wifi, and great breakfast. Compared to Haitian hotels, the price was really cheap (40$ a night for 2 adults and 1 child). You could tell that this was once a great hotel and that nowadays it's definitely one of the older ones but the staff, location and breakfast made it worthwhile, especially for a short weekend stay. The only downside was the pool which was not clean (but green with algae).
For dinner, we first checked out the bars close to the ocean front but most of them were too loud (music way too loud as the Dominicans seem to like it). So we chose to eat in the quiet seafood restaurant close to our hotel (we just needed to cross the street). The waiter was nice and patient with our broken Spanish, the food was good (nothing extraordinary) but unfortunately, a bit pricey for Dominican standards (we paid 60 bucks for 3 adults and 1 child).
Saturday - The perfect beach and hiking day
After a good breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, sausages and juices (the brown one is tamarindo juice - kind of weird to taste) we took off to discover the southwestern coastline of Barahona.
As I mentioned, the coastal road is in good shape and you get some stunning views of turquoise water and long beaches (here is the view of la Playa de San Rafael 26km south of Barahona):
FIRST STOP: HIKE UP THE CASCADE
On the other side of the street of this beach, you can follow the path of the cascade and hike a bit. We followed a hiking path on the right and thought that this might lead up the cascade but unfortunately, it went in the opposite direction. We hiked up for an hour, luckily in the shade as there are so many bushes, trees, and plants.
After having tackled 500 meters of altitude difference and only spotting the cliffs in between the bushes, we went back and met some locals on their donkey AND some of these impressive centipedes:
At the end of our hike, I was happy to put my feet into the refreshing cascade river:
Another interesting event - and I'm sure that would not happen in Haiti - was that the old guy who watched our car, came up to see us after 1,5 hours as he was afraid that something might have happened to us. We really appreciated his gesture and care!
I'm sure there are some other cool trails to be explored - which we'll certainly do next time!
NEXT STOP: Lunch at the beach
17km further south we stopped at Los Patos (the ducks). On the left hand side at the entry of the village, you can find the Balneario de Los Patos. There's another cascade coming down the mountains leading to a small and shallow freshwater lake bordering the beach.
Right next to it in the shade, there is a fairly new boardwalk to have access to the beach as well as some small restaurant huts facing the lake and tables to sit down:
The fish and the chicken we ordered was delicious and not expensive (300 DOP) and more we could eat. From time to time, some people stopped to sell us something (either some larimar jewelry, jam or nut snacks) but they are not as pushy as in Haiti and you don't have to negotiate. I got my coconut for 30 DOP and was more than happy with the price (and the Haitian guy who sold it, too). Afterwards, we went to the beach right next door but it was pretty dangerous to go into the Caribbean Sea, even for adults, as the tide was so strong and there is a hole right at the beginning (carved out by the waves):
NEXT STOP: Seeing something that seems to be out of place
After lunch and some chilling time, we drove further south just to see something that reminds me so much of my home region in Germany and which cannot be found in Haiti: a wind farm with plenty of wind turbines in the midst of agricultural fields. This is the first wind park that has been built in the DR, El Parque Eolico de Los Cocos (6km south of Enriquillo). For me, it was just so weird to see something so European (for me) in the Caribbean, a sign of progress in such a poor country.
Last stop: Another beach to discover
On our way back to Barahona, we stopped again at the Playa San Rafael to have a closer look. As we had heard good things about it :-). The Caribbean Sea is supposed to be pretty strong here, too, that's why people have constructed these freshwater basins out of the cascade water coming from the mountains.
Around these basins and along the beach, there are tables everywhere and during the day you can eat and have a coconut:
Later that night we went to a different restaurant in Barahona called Brisas del Caribe, not too far from our hotel away but we still took the car as one young boy told us the night before that we should better not venture through the darker side of the harbor streets. The food was good and during the day you have a nice view over the bay.
DEPARTURE DAY - BEFORE YOU GO BACK TO HAITI
Make sure to check out a bit of the city center to see one or some of the parks before you leave. For instance, close to the Parque Central you have also two supermarkets, Jacobo and Ana Isabel Supermercado, where you can buy stuff (from toilet paper, to rice, drinks, etc.) which is much cheaper in the DR than in Haiti:
Closer to the Haitian border we decided to take a different way back by the street in the north of Lake Enriquillo to see something different and the road via Neyba and La Descubierta was actually quite nice:
I'm sure we'll be back soon to check out all the beaches and hiking trails we couldn't see in one day - and maybe also one of the larimar mines close to Paraíso :-). Stay tuned!
Have you ever been to the Dominican Republic? If so, what part did you visit and how did you like it? I would love to hear about it in the comments (below).
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