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Trip Report Travel to the Dominican Republic

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My wife and I spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic during January. We rented a car and stayed in Boca Chica for 3 nights, drove to Cabarete and stayed for 5 days and then returned to Boca Chica for 2 more nights. We drove over 600 miles staying in the eastern part of the DR as well as along the northern coast. In Boca Chica we stayed at the Hotel Zapata which is an excellent small hotel on the beach. In Cabarete, we stayed at Casablanca which is a small hotel a couple of buildings away from Janet’s supermercado and a short distance from the beach.

From Boca Chica, we visited a variety of places in Santo Domingo. We also drove to Hato Mayor going through San Pedro de Macarois. In Hato Mayor, we took a day “Tour de Chocolate” which was delightful and we recommend it to anyone interested in really seeing how cacao is grown, harvested and processed. All the groups involved were either involved with fair trade or with groups designed to help local people. A women’s group produced some unusual chocolate products including a 17% alcohol wine. We never went to the far eastern area near Punta Cana as we were trying to avoid areas near the all inclusive resorts.

From Cabarete, we went west to Puerto Plata and would have gone further but the weather did not cooperate. We also went west to the town of Monte Llano (near Sosua) and then drove on a marginal road to a town called Esperanza (hope). We had brought 2 suitcases of school supplies and clothes for children in this village. The owners of the Casablanca hotel had indicated such gifts would be appreciated. We normally travel light and had plenty of weight allowance available for the gifts. At the village, we met a group of enthusiastic children and some very interesting poor but intelligent people. Bringing such supplies is something that most any traveler can do if they do a little checking ahead of time.

We also took a tour via a Guagua (minivan) to Rió San Juan and on to Playa Grande. Only one tourist trap stop was included in the trip and even that had parts where local people were working for other than the tourists. Rió San Juan is the location of Laguna GriGri which was worth the trip. We had read that the Laguna was dirty and smelly but found this not to be true.

This was an excellent way to explore a portion of the DR. To explore more of the island would require 10 + more days which we could not afford either in time or money. We are a retired couple who are in good health and like to go to places on our own. We feel we picked wisely by using Boca Chica and Cabarete as focus points. Besides, traveling up the new (opened in late 2008) autopista (toll road) from Santo Domingo to near Sanchez was delightful. We went through coconut plantations, rice fields and mountains. Delightful views on an excellent road!

We never felt unsafe. I am not fluent but speak a bit of Spanish. I had no trouble asking locals for directions and were taken to our destinations by motoconchistas (motorbike drivers). We had no trouble finding very tasty food at reasonable prices. (Ask for traditional Dominican dishes and have a Dominican beer.) We met fascinating people. Be aware that not all roads are good and signing is in short supply. Night driving would be difficult unless you know exactly where you are going. However, if you are willing to try things and are a bit adventuresome, drive around in the DR.

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