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Old 10-15-2011   #1 (permalink)
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Dominican Republic: Bachata,Rum and Beach , lo tiene todo!!

My question in the forum:
Beautiful island , with not mass of tourism and the most important , budget. Is there such a thing in the Caribbean? With picture perfect beaches like the ones I see in the postal cards , with white sand beaches and countless coco palms which I adore!
Oh , and did I mention budget? Or as we all know , paradise comes at a price?
Do I have a chance to find my inexpensive paradise?
Instead of an answer I receive a picture that makes my jaw drop!


OMG! This is exactly what I want…I need details...where is this beach located? On which island? Can i rent a car and drive around the island?

A guy from the USA replies it’s on the north coast of the DR , but there is not an international airport near. Self drive is not the easiest thing to do here..Do I speak Spanish? Do I plan to stay at AI hotel in Punta cana like most of tourists do?
I reply that the hardest to get there , the better. No I don’t speak Spanish (I didn’t then) , but I like the Spanish-speaking people and I smile a lot..it seems the same as if I spoke Spanish to me. And I don’t like the all inclusives , i always travel independently. Can he give me some tips?
A few days and tips later I realized that the USA guy had a deep love for the north coast of the island. And from the very first time I set my foot there loved it too!!

Last edited by go2dbeach; 10-15-2011 at 10:34 AM..
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Old 10-18-2011   #2 (permalink)
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A big dominican smile and a sunny day welcome us at the airport and the man who came to pick us up , is helping us to load our luggage on the small golden cabriolet. He makes a big detour to show us Boca chica and gives tips on where to eat , where to go dancing , and here you see this , and there is the beach , but I’m so tired , there is no chance to remember anything the next day!

Boca chica is a gulf with shallow waters, the biggest depth is 1,5 meter and so the sea is very warm. It is called `the biggest bathtub in the world'. It was one of the first areas that developed for the tourists due to it’s proximity to the capital Santo Domingo and the international airport `Las Americas' located only 10 min away. Today Boca chica is a busy coastal resort that maintains however it’s genuine local color.

The main street ‘calle Duarte’ that goes parallel with the beach is full of restaurants, bars , tiny shops that sell souvenirs , and everywhere on the pavements you can see colorful handmade paintings showing exotic landscapes. Two of them flew back home with me!
The endless white sandy beach is dotted with coco palms and among them there are wooden bars with shady palapas and sun beds. The color you mostly see is turquoise and in the open sea the white lace from the breaking waves implies the existence of a coral reef. Two islets, Los Pinos and La Matica appear in the distance they say that the second is reachable by foot in low tide. Some tourists were paddling their canoes to the islets.
The beach is lined with restaurants that serve mainly fish and the bars remove pastel chairs precisely in the sea, where you can drink your cocktail with your feet wet. The best way to begin your day is an ice coffee under a coco palm.
All day long Boca chica is full of life , color and music! Locals and foreigners mix together , swim or have a drink at the bars. Wandering musicians go up and down the beach and play merengue filling with melodies the air , while tricycles selling fresh coconuts or other tropical fruits pass next to your sun bed.
Endless choices for food , drinks and dancing on the beach or on calle Duarte and if you want to discover other parts of the island , tour agencies book daily trips to the most popular parts of the island.
The upper road , calle Duarte , unlike the 5th avenue we all know and love , isn’t pedestrianized. It is a busy street!

Gua-guas come and go to/from Santo Domingo hardly a 15 minutes distance, while motoconchos (motor bike taxis) deliver the more brave tourists to near distances.
Motoconcheros move like maniacs in between the traffic and one hand is always blowing the horn! The locals seem to prefer them as they are cheaper and faster and it was a frequent picture , 3,4 and sometimes 6! persons on a motoconcho , although everything in Boca is within walking distance.

I had booked a hotel for our first two days here to get a first feeling of the island and when we were ready to explore , we decided to rent a car and drive ourselves around.
Boca chica is not the best part of the island , but it is convenient to stay for the first days of your trip if you fly to Las Americas. And no matter what I had heard before my trip , I would say that they is not dangerous by no means if you use the common sense. This is one of the most touristy parts of island with the positive and the negatives that come along with the tourism and the growth.

Of course and it is a touristy beach. Of course it becomes chaotic , especially on weekends when it floods with the capital’s residents. Plastic chairs and local kids everywhere. Yes the beach vendors are a bit pressing and they grab you from your first step on the sand – there is a reason why they call boca ‘shopping beach’- although usually a ‘no thanks’ is enough to leave you alone.
Despite the negatives i appreciated the authentic atmosphere and the locals that spontaneously started to dance on the sandy beach. This moreover is the Dominican Republic you don’t see staying at an All inclusive resort..

We discovered that around Boca chica there are some other beaches that only locals go , like the spectacular Playa Caribbe (or Embassy beach).

Under the tall palms, there were several plastic chairs and tables scattered on the sand and the atmosphere had a sense of familiarity , as if everybody knew each other.
Somebody drove his car the closest to the tables he could with the back door opened and the music playing at the maximum volume and that’s it! Let the party start!
We stayed there speechless to watch the Dominicans dancing incredibly that rhythm
and making jokes to one another and soon we were a part of their company. The atmosphere was amazing and full of energy! The rhythms changed from traditional merengue - the fastest rhythm of the Caribbean - to melancholic rhythmical melodies Bachata that made me feel emotional , even though I did not understand a word! But the couples danced just perfectly!
The youth of beach showed explicit preference in reggaeton , a modern music that is danced with particularly sensual way and it made the elders shaking the head , as a sign of rejection.

Last edited by go2dbeach; 11-04-2011 at 04:46 AM..
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Old 10-21-2011   #3 (permalink)
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Loving it! More please...
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Old 10-21-2011   #4 (permalink)
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So , you are my one and only reader!
There's more to come from this wonderful island. Thank you for reading
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Old 10-21-2011   #5 (permalink)
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Santo Domingo:
I do not know what kind of roads the USA guy was used to drive on , but I found out that all his alerts about self driving proved to be unfounded.
Santo Domingo was like Athens when it comes to traffic , but with much less cars and much more motorcycles making maneuvres in between the cars , not stopping always when the lights turned red , but having the Athens’ experience we drove everywhere with comfort and safety.
With population roughly 2,5 millions , the basic harbor of the country boasts that it is also the older city of New world.
We drove along the malecon, the coastal avenue where takes place each summertime the festival of merengue and attracts above 100.000 people tourists and locals from the all regions of island and the party starts with a big parade along the malecon. I would love to be here this time of the year because no matter what beach , hotel , street you are staying on the island , there will be a live band playing merengue and people dancing everywhere!

Avenida George Washington, offers beautiful pictures to whoever strolls down the malecon , with the city on one side and the spectacular Caribbean sea on the other. For those being in a romantic mood , there are carriages offering rides to tour this avenue and take in the view of the city, enjoying the breeze of the Caribbean sea.
From every stretch of the malecon is visible the obelisk of Santo Domingo. "El Macho" was bult in order to celebrate the the renaming of the capital city Santo Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo, where Trujillo is the dictator that pestered for 30 years the island. When he was killed the city got it’s old name back.

Zona colonial, has been declared a World heritage and is the most pleasant – according to many visitors – part of the city to visit.
There are plenty of parks , plazas , coffee shops and many
historical buildings, remnants of colonialism. Myself appreciated more the open air markets with the stalls clustering under uneven bridges , with the colors and the smells in the air. And the madness where people , bunches of bananas , papayas, passion fruits, small hills of pineapples , and motorcycles were mixed enchantingly under the sounds of merengue , just outside of my car’s window…

The colonial zone is built on the western banks of river Osama and from the top of the Torre del Omenahe that reminds medieval castle I imagined that I was Spanish officer that supervising the departure of my fleet for the conquest of new colonies of America.
Only that now from the fortress tally between the canons I could see the harbor with the cruise ships , yachts and boats carrying products.

Walking on the cobblestone Calle las Damas is like diving into the colonial era of the city. There are many historic sites with the most impressive being the Alkazar de Colon , Colombus palace , and the museum of Royal residences where you get a precise picture of the history of the city , from the indigenous Tainos to the arrival of Colombus ,the colonization, the plantations, the slavery…


There’s plenty to see and if you are interested for such style of tour, you’ll need at least two days in the capital and comfortable shoes. But as you can imagine from my nickname, I'm a beach lover, so enough with the historical sites.…time to go2dbeach!
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Old 10-29-2011   #6 (permalink)
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A video i've made from Boca chica:

Last edited by go2dbeach; 12-21-2013 at 07:48 AM..
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Old 10-29-2011   #7 (permalink)
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Sitting on the bench in the garden of ‘Los Pinos’ hotel, Mr.go2dbeach is studying the country’s map that he’s never seen before and asks where we are heading this morning. I’m pointing at Costa del coco , the eastern end of the island and he’s laughing! Thank God the island does not extend farther east , he says. But it does extend to the north , I say , but I’m saving that exploration for another day..
The red Honda welcomes us in it’s cool cabin and my first move being in the country of music , is to turn on the radio. The speaker is talking and it’s all Greek to me , but the cheerful music and his melodic pronunciation puts a permanent smile on my face.
We leave behind Boca chica and drive along the south coastline towards Juan Dolio. Juan Dolio wants to be a seaside resort and up to a point it is. The coastal road is full of speed bumps and shops playing music at maximum volume. There is no caribean sign and there is not a sign of the small fish village that Juan Dolio used to be. The beach is nice , the hotels and restaurants cozy and generally the area is more upscale than Boca chica.
Next is La Romana , the sugar town.
The name comes from “balanza romana” , a roman scale used to weigh the sugar. Today La Romana is the capital of the province and one of the most important areas worldwide producing sugar canes.
The traffic got heavier with many cars in both lines barely fitting between the two storey homes ,always painted with brilliant colors and clustered together fronting Avenida Libertad.
It is a common picture that suddenly a car un- parks and gets into the traffic in front of you , gua-guas will stop anywhere , no flash , no warning , so the existence of so many multicolored car bodies has an explanation.
The central plaza of the town was full of children with wooden shoe shine boxes waiting for a customer or asking for money from the cars being stopped at the traffic lights.

Outside of the town the road crosses a valley full of sugar canes swaying under the wind’s touch ,lazy cows pasture in the fields and the characteristic pastel-colored houses , creating a picture like the ones lined on the sidewalks of Boca chica. We pass by green hillsides and over big or smaller bridges as every village is build next to a river that follows south direction towards the caribean coast. And of course every respectable village has an outdoor, wooden amphitheater or a make-shift ring where sports such as cock fighting are held. Because the big passion of the Dominicans is Baseball , but their secret one is the cock fighting.
Here we are in Altos de Chavon a replica of an Italian village of the 16th century with a Grecian-style amphitheater, where occasional concerts are held. You can visit the village on a day tour from Boca chica or Punta cana and you really get an idea of a European-mediterranean village with the cobblestone streets , the gallery , the small shops selling local crafts , the archaeological museum and some good restaurants overlooking the Chavón River. But the prices are very high for the country’s standards.

After a few stops and detours on the way – to check if there was a beach worth to talk about – we are about to reach Higuey when we see a local restaurant. I told Mr.go2 we’d better have lunch here because our destination , Punta cana has nothing but all inclusive resorts. The smells of the roasted chicken and pork convinced him. Scattered plastic tables and chairs , no walls and in the middle a round dance floor. Merengue was playing and several companies had their lunch. A Dominican came to us , said something and I replied the only phrase I knew in Spanish: No español senior!
The man laughed , grabbed my arm and leaded me to the roasted and said: self service senorita! Ok , I got this..we had a great lunch , ate as much as we could and whatever we wanted and the man came with a piece of paper written the money we should pay. Great food and very cheap! I just realized that I should have learned a few phrases in Spanish..

Higuey is the last town before the famous Coconut coast located 50 klm away. Coconut is the most beautiful coastline in the whole country , especially the area of Punta cana , according to the tourist offices. Well , allow me to disagree..
When I left Punta cana , I thought that no one could describe the area better than the humorous USA guy that helped me with this trip. He had told me that Punta cana is perfect for 'newly weds or nearly deads'.

Well..he had a point!
If you are a beach lover , this is one of the best beaches for sure. 60 klm of white sand and a very beautiful landscape reminding the movie set of Blue lagoon.
But the independent traveler will be in trouble , first of all for finding the public access to the beach , as the resorts are built wall to wall. I found one dirt road in El Cortecito area and went to the beach. The setting was fantastic! The fine sand with the coco palms on the background adding an exotic touch to the decoration looked like sinking in the lagoon with the lovely and warm water! But something was missing..the soundtrack , the groups playing music in Boca chica , the boys and girls of playa Caribe swaying to the rhythm..The local bars and restaurants where it is you to choose where you'll have dinner tonight , and not the bracelet on your wrist.
This paradise is dotted with All inclusive resorts one next to the other and the majority of their customers never get out of the resort , or if they do , it will be for a day trip payed two and three times up than the normal. Don't get me wrong..of course there are people who prefer this way for their holidays and they have a great time.
But the adventurous type like me will feel trapped in a golden cage that almost all the amenities are provided to the customer except what his soul really needs.
The local atmosphere is completely absent , the only locals you may see are the ones working in the resort , you forget eating food off the street and the international-style restaurants and karaoke bars is the only alternative.

Before this trip a couple of tourist offices here in my country , told me to stay in Punta cana and don't get out of the resort so I wouldn't risk to be infected by the poor locals living behind the high fences. Thank God I didn't listen to them!
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Old 10-30-2011   #8 (permalink)
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Hey I found this today!! Great start and I like your attitude! Please continue!
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Old 11-01-2011   #9 (permalink)
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Thank you syl
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Old 11-01-2011   #10 (permalink)
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I am reading too...Keep it coming, great start!
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Old 11-01-2011   #11 (permalink)
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Enjoying your trip report!! Awaiting more ......
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Old 11-02-2011   #12 (permalink)
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I'm glad you enjoy it There will be more soon..
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Old 11-02-2011   #13 (permalink)
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I love your trip reports! The way you describe what you see and experience makes it very real to me. The video is super! I nearly spit out my sip of hot tea though when you said, "it was all Greek to me!". Love your sense of adventure and sense of humor. Thanks you for these beautiful trip reports!
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Old 11-02-2011   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SharonD View Post
I nearly spit out my sip of hot tea though when you said, "it was all Greek to me!".
In Greece we say ''it's all Chinese to me''.
I'm so glad you like the report and the video. Although for me the pictures are upstaged by the song.
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Old 11-02-2011   #15 (permalink)
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We enjoyed the beautiful beach of Punta cana until the late afternoon.

But we had to leave just before sunset. We were located at the other side of the island and I wanted to make a detour to the fish village of Bayahibe. I had planed a day trip to Saona island for tomorrow so I should see if there was a timetable for the boats.
I told Mr.go2dbeach that we could have dinner here as I knew it’s not a touristy place , there are two local taverns serving delicious plates by the sea. What I didn’t thought is in what language I would ask for the boat’s timetable. And even worse how am I going to order food!

In one of the two fish-taverns the waitress is trying to remain calm and not kill me as the only I know to say in Spanish is agua.
She brings the water and puts on the table the menu - written in perfect Spanish too! No English , and no self service here , so what can we do now?
I suggested to have just water for tonight’s dinner , but Mr.go2 rejected my brilliant idea.
He suggested that I could cackle like a hen so the waitress would understand that we want chicken , but I rejected it!
Maybe we can point at two things in the menu by luck and eat it no matter what it is…Snakes and iguanas are not popular dishes in the Caribbean as far as I know.
Oh my! The angry waitress is coming towards us again? No , she’s going to another table where I see several locals and… a blonde guy?
He is not Dominican and he’s our last chance to eat! I go to that table and ask him if he speaks English.
As if it was my mother tongue , he said , I’m from the USA.
If you don’t come to our table , I said , two Greeks will starve tonight! He laughed out loud and came with us. I made a signal to the waitress who must said something like #@#$%* secretly.
But it worked! Mr.go2 said his order to me in Greek , i to the USA guy in English , and he to the waitress in Spanish! Funny situation! We had ‘Ropa vieja’ –meaning old clothes- a local speciallity with fried beef , rice , tomato and avocado. The plate is popular in some other Caribbean islands and originally was made of leftovers. It was delicious!

We send two presidente beers to the USA guy’s table and he came to tell me that there is no timetable for isla Saona. The boats leave when there are enough tourists to do the trip. He said it was not a good idea to travel to a Spanish-speaking country independently without knowing a few Spanish phrases.. English is only spoken in the very touristy areas of the island. He also gave us a few Spanish lessons with Mr.go2 trying to remember the most important words , like pan y cerveza.
The next morning , me being seated at the same table , I would see what Bayahibe looks like bathed into the bright sunlight..

The last night’s waitress stared at me in horror , but I just pointed at two juices without talking at all. I left Mr.go2 to enjoy his juice and I went to the boats being parked on the sand. The boat men spoke english and someone asked me a price for the day trip. The USA guy had advised me that the boatmen ask whatever they want and not to agree a price with the first who approaches me..

On the beach locals prepared their boats , simple or speedy ones , waiting for the tourists to come , the majority from the Punta cana resorts. The truth is that coming here on your own like us , you can bargain and achieve much less prices. So another boat man approached me and the day trip’s price fell sharply.
A jeep parked next to us and two women got of and asked me if I was looking for a boat to Saona island. They suggested me to join them on a catamaran with half the price I was asked.
Both the women have been coming to the DR for several years and lots of times to Saona and they were friends with the guys organizing the trip with the catamaran.
We had plenty of time and a nice bbq on the island , our return would be on a speedboat and we had a stop at the natural pool. Let’s go then! Oh, wait I have a husband waiting there..
So , you have a company? The woman asked.
Yes , I brought him from Greece , I replied. What about you? You are traveling alone?
Of course we are alone , they said both! There are plenty of handsome men on the island! They made a couple of comments about it and their laughs were heard all over the fish village. And we hadn’t drink not a drop yet!
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