Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
12.03.2011 - 17.03.2011
During our spring break, with three friends, I visited Dominican Republic. Although a more trendy location to travel would have been Punta Cana, we chose to go to Puerto Plata for a relaxing holiday and booked the reservations at the local branch of Barcelo hotel chain. We had friends who had been to DR before and they gave us the number of a local driver, Pablo, whom picked us from the Santiago airport in Santiago De Los Caballeros and facilitated all the rest of the transportation from then on.
The elections were close and all the streets had posters of various candidates running for presidency. We drove through a mountainous road, eventually reaching to Puerto Plata.
Barcelo hotel was located by the Playa Dorada or the Golden Beach. The beach is not special. But because there are no limitations as to where it ends, one day we walked along the beach for more than 1.5 hours, which was so relaxing. Barcelo hotel is adjacent to Casa Colonial Beach and Spa. In case you are visiting Casa Colonial, although Casa Colonial is significantly more expensive than Barcelo, do not expect to find a private beach. On the other hand, we wanted to see Casa Colonial and it is a small luxury hotel with a fancy lobby. Barcelo is more of a chain family resort with 3-4 restaurant options and animateurs at night.
Another beach we visited was Sosua Beach. The beach itself is way better than Playa Dorada, both with regards to sea & sand, and to the general atmosphere. There are little shops around if you are looking to find souvenirs. We rented umbrellas and sunbeds, and ordered coctails served in pineapples and coconuts. Incredibly touristy and extremely delightful. (Jonathan Safran Foer anyone?)
I think the highlight of the trip was Damajaqua Cascades (27 Waterfalls). They are a distinctive natural beauty of Dominican Republic. There are three options: You can do 7 or 12 or all 27 waterfalls. Here is the link to their website: http://www.27charcos.com/index.php
I am not the most athletic person, but I don't turn down a challenge. They basically provide you with a helmet and a life jacket at the entrance. Then, you get a guide who will be in charge of your safety and will help you climb the waterfalls and convince you to jump whenever it is necessary. As a side note, I would like give credit to our guide, Bernie, for being the hottest Dominican guy that I have seen throughout the trip. We chose to do 12 waterfalls since 7 sounded too safe and 27 too many. I had a waterproof camera with me the whole time and that just was not a smart idea with all the climbing and sliding, but at least I have proof that I endured.
Some of the waterfalls were significantly tougher to climb. At one point there was one guide pushing my right feet from below, rope in my right hand for support to climb, my left feet was trying to find the rock, and another guide ready to catch my left hand the moment I get to push myself upwards, while fighting against the water running against me. I just made it sound so complicated, but that was just one waterfall out of the twelve that really frustrated me. However, there are many groups with many guides, so they help you all the way. No need to stress about anything unless you are morbidly obese or 70 years old. Safety-wise, our guide told us there have been only one incident in his 5+ years of experience.
After the climbing, going back and sliding and jumping is sooooo much fun. You just let go and slide from these beautiful natural holes. We also awarded ourselves with local Presidente beers at the end, not missing out any opportunities to sip on a drink.
Besides these places, we spent an afternoon visiting the Catholic Church in the town center and the fort. It was nice to walk around inside the town for a while. I am glad to have seen these places while I was there. It does not take up much time at all. Afterwards, due the ratings given online, we devoured some steaks at La Parillada Steak House. (http://www.laparrilladasteakhouse.com/)
Some of the other things we could have done at Puerto Plata were to visit a Brugal factory, to take the teleferique and to visit a cigar factory. I believe that we consumed enough Brugal, Dominican rum, to make up for the factory visit. Because our plane also departed from Santiago, we chose to go to La Aurora cigar factory, the oldest cigar factory in DR, located in Santiago. We ended up just visiting the rolling room and buying cigars. DR is famous for its cigars such as Fuente and some of Davidoff cigars.
Now, few side notes on the downsides of the visit. Firstly, we visited DR following the earthquake in Haiti. We were informed that there was a cholera outbreak in Haiti. Dominican Republic is not a rich country, but tourism is helpful. We had several inside discussions whether the ladies that just did not fit into the atmosphere of Sosua were prostitutes or not. When we consulted to Pablo following a heated conversation, he filled us in about the rich details of prostitution in DR while confirming our suspicions. Pablo took us to a poorer district of Puerto Plata upon our request. Apparently in that part of the town, one can find a prostitute for as low as $1-2, while for the most part one can find a hooker for a price range up to $300-400. We did not leave the car, but for example, Pablo did not want us to take pictures with windows down so that nobody can just grab the camera and run. While on our way to Ocean View water park (which I did not mention because it was closed and frankly looked deserted), Pablo also pointed out cheap motel-like places on the both sides of the road, which are commonly known to be used for prostitution.
Perhaps this is not what American students ask for in their spring break. I still know that I had an amazing time, because I was in DR with great friends. It was a break and exactly what I needed at the time.