The Dominican Republic is an island nation best enjoyed slowly and with ample time to explore the amazing natural surroundings.
We, admittedly, did not have the luxury of time on this particular trip. When one of you is a teacher, trips abroad are limited to the length of a school vacation for as long as school is in session. The limited time we had to spend in the Dominican Republic was just enough to tell us that we need to return in the future to explore and learn even more!
Before arriving we studied all we could absorb on the history of the island (which the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti), the awful period of Trujillo, and the state of the country’s natural resources. We read fiction by Dominican authors, including In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, and pumped bachata through our iPods while riding the subway to work in the morning. Of course, nothing prepares you for the actual act of travel! Once we arrived, we traveled from busy Santiago, to peaceful Rio San Juan, on to the beautiful Samana area, and back again. The kindness of the people, the beauty of our surroundings, and the sound of bachata streaming from speakers left us with a lingering sense of warmth as we left a gorgeous island, headed back to the cold weather in Brooklyn.
As always, photos simply cannot do justice to our experiences but here are a few to give you an idea of what awaits you should you choose to explore the Dominican Republic for yourself.
Cows abound throughout the Dominican Republic.
The mangroves in Laguna Gri Gri. You can take a boat along the length of the lagoon but it is an expensive adventure. If you want to save money, take a walk along the path that goes around the lagoon to see the mangroves and birds without the hefty fee.
Bahia Blanca in Rio San Juan is a gem of hotel. Located directly on the ocean, Bahia Blanca boasts ocean view rooms, open air balconies on every floor, a decent restaurant, and two beaches just steps away…. and two more (Playa Caleton and Playa Grande) just a bit further. All this for about $35 a night.
Playa Grande is an 11km ride from Rio San Juan. For a closer and quieter beach, check out playa Caleton. A 20 minute walk (or 5 minute ride) from Bahia Blanca in Rio San Juan.
The water is so warm and so blue that you can easily have fun for hours.
There are no shortages of opportunities to relax and soak up the sun along the coast of the Dominican Republic.
Order fish for lunch and you will often be given the option of choosing the exact fish you would liked cooked for you.
You can find fruit vendors in most areas who will peel the edge off an orange, leaving the white portion as a shell, and slice it in half for you to enjoy as you walk and explore.
The people in the Dominican Republic will charm you with their warmth and kindness. The children are, as always, some of the friendliest people you will encounter.
Traveling is a great way to meet new people all over the world. Making friends in the Dominican Republic is easy.
Swim from sun-up to sun-down.
Sunsets in Rio San Juan are as beautiful as you might imagine.
Gua guas come in many forms in the Dominican Republic. You may hop into a van, a small bus, or (in this case) the back of a truck! Our ride up the mountains to Las Galeras was all the more exciting as we looked over the roof of the truck at the view and the towns we passed through.
The gorgeous entry-way to La Hacienda, our eco-friendly hostel near Las Galeras beach. Stay tuned for a full review on this fabulous hostel!
Horses near Las Galeras mostly walk free in this quiet and relaxed area.
Walking amongst horses along the beach is a simple but beautiful experience.
The horses are generally uninterested in any humans passing by as they are on a never-ending search for grass.
If you are up for it, you can cliff jump into the turquoise waters below El Cabito near Las Galeras. (We were NOT up for it!)
You can hire a boat in Las Galeras for a day of beach hopping. If it is the right time of year, you might even see some whales along the way!
Look closely…. there is a whale in that water! The month of February is high season for the whales that come to visit the Samana area (Las Galeras included) to mate and have babies. This whale (and a few others!) were seen just off the coast of Playa Fronton.
Playa Fronton is one of the beaches near La Hacienda and Las Galeras. It is a stunning view to behold as you boat pulls up to the beach.
There are few things better than time spent thinking and enjoying the view on Playa Fronton.
Do you know what a puffer fish looks like when it is not puffed up? Neither did we! We found out just off the coast of Las Galeras.
Snorkeling is just one activity that can be enjoyed in Las Galeras.
The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country. Our favorite place, if we had to pick one, was the area around Las Galeras. Las Galeras beach is something of a small tourist area (nothing like nearby Samana!) but getting just 5 minutes away from the beach offers a look at rural, and authentic, Dominican life. Stay tuned for a complete review on our stay at La Hacienda, a hidden gem of a hostel that offers an eco-friendly stay in one of the most peaceful places we have ever been!
What else would you like to know about our stay in the Dominican Republic?
All underwater photos for this post (and some of the others) were taken with the Olympus TG-1iHS 12 MP Waterproof Digital Camera with 4x Optical Zoom. This camera is the fastest underwater camera I have ever used! Well worth it for capturing low-light or fast moving underwater images.