When I decided to visit the Dominican Republic, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Most of the articles I read were centered around trips or itineraries in and or around Punta Cana which is known as the resort town of this island nation. I didn’t what to limit my experience to a resort and neither did I want to walk down the proverbial beaten path so when I stumbled on the blog Dominican Abroad and saw they had more detailed itineraries and unique places in DR, I knew I had found a good guide to planning my trip and their articles on DR helped me plan and connected me with Pablo who served as my driver and guide. Following some of their recommendations I was able to craft the perfect 5 day itinerary of the Dominican Republic.
Renting a car was the best way to have an immersive experience and visit all the places I wanted to go so I booked a car through Expedia and though I thought I had booked from a reputable company, when I arrived at the airport I realized I had made a rookie, traveler mistake; I had not paid close attention to the company Expedia had linked me with and didn’t research them. The first red flag was when at the airport the other rental companies didn’t know this company. They had a guy waiting for me at the exit with my name on a placard who took me to the rental place, four minutes drive away (not too bad). The workers were nice and one spoke english so I didn’t have to break out my Spanish dictionary lol. Trouble started when they asked what insurance coverage I wanted and I declined because I had purchased travelers insurance that covered car rentals. They told me, if I declined their insurance then I had to put a five thousand USD hold on my car and I said fine. The final blow came when they said, I had to now pay them an additional one hundred USD in taxes for declining their insurance, at this point I saw red. This is a common scam in The dominican Republic, Central American and South America countries; where the price you are quoted online is never what you pay on arrival. When I googled the company: Zezgo and it had nothing but bad reviews. In the DR it is registered under Moderca Rent a car. Steer clear of them. I requested they cancel my reservation but they said they couldn’t and only I could and if I did, I knew I’ll be billed the full amount. So I gave in and purchased their insurance for one hundred and thirty dollars extra. The workers were nice and professional but my frustration was with the company and its policies. After all the wranglings, I got the SUV I wanted and left to pick up my guide Pablo. I’ll tell you this, driving in Santo Domingo is crazy and you have to stay vigilant and rush hour can be brutal. I met up with Pablo and we set out for Barahona.
Waking up at three in the morning to catch my six o’clock flight into Santo Domingo, was brutal and just before the city lights faded off, fatigue set in . We stopped for some BBQ port, yuca and sweet corn at a fast food joint and this was one of the best yucca and sweet corn I have had in a long time. Pedro took over driving and I swiftly feel asleep after stuffing my face with all the food. I slept most of the two and a half hour drive to Barahona and woke up refreshed when we arrived at our hotel in the center of Barahona. We were ushered into our hotel by Merengue and Bachata from a nearby bar that I beelined to after checking in for a cold Presidente (National beer) while watching some locals swaw to the rhythm. After breakfast the next morning we hit the road, Barahona has very unique Beaches and if you ever visit you are sure to find a calendar or some memorabilia with a picture from one of its iconic view points.
The most fascinating thing about this region are, the beaches. They are not made of sand, but are lined with beautiful, pebbles of various sizes , shapes and colors. I had so much fun skipping rocks into the sea . The Barahona beach wasn’t much to write home about but the other two beaches : Playa Quemaito and Playa St Raphael are highly recommended. Most people prefer Playa St Raphael because it has a river (St Raphael River) running down to the sea and is sectioned into a cascade of multiple, swimming pools. This beach has tables and small cabanas were you can sit and order delicious, fresh, seafood from the local eating spots. If you’re and adventurous eater, I recommend trying the Dominican Pizza (street food).
A short drive from Playa Raphael is the Los Patos beach and river another place frequented by the locals .The Los Patos river is a short but great for swimming. There are food cabanas here as well and sitting a little off to the side is Katy’s Spot and I can’t rave enough on how delicious her food was. If there is one place I highly recommend for food in the DR it’s this spot nestled on the beach, cool air from the sea blowing through the shack.
From Los Patos, we drove North – West to Pedernales, three hours away. Because I wanted to visit Bahia Las Aquilas, I stayed at a Glamping lodge which is the closest accomodation to this beach. Many people visit this area because they want to visit Bahia Las Aquilas but if you asked me, the —- beach located next to the Glamping lodge is an even more gorgeous, but unvalued beach.
You can reach the beach either by car (4×4 only) or boat which you can reserve through the Glamping lodge or you could hire a local next door. It costs about $35USD PP for the fifteen minutes ride. Packing food and drinks is recommended as there are no facilities on the beach, an unspoilt section of the globe.
LOS POZOS DE ROMEO
The other attraction worth visiting in Pedernales are the open caves called Los Pozos de Romeo. Located fifteen minutes drive from the Glamping lodge on the way to Barahona these fresh water pools are great for spending an hour or so jumping into them. Two are located next to the main road while two others are further inland , five minutes walk from the road. I’ll recommend wearing closed toe ,hard sole shoes and covering clothing because the rocks here are very sharp and the shrubs thorny.
Did you know that there are sand dunes in the Dominican Republic? Neither did I till I was planning this trip. Bani is known for its delicious mangoes but you should definitely visit the sand dunes as well as the salt flats in this town.
No visit to DR will be complete without spending time in the city of Santo Domingo and roaming the streets of the historic district. Other attractions here are the Tres Ojos caves, and the funicular.