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Columbus dropped anchor here in 1494, and Puerto Rican fishermen founded the town in the middle of the 19th century. Now many of the local fishermen either moonlight or have totally given up their poles and nets to skipper the speedboats that bring tourists back from Isla Saona. The small fishing village has flourished in modern times by embracing tourism, and in town Italian immigrants have opened gelato stands and seafood restaurants. Some vestiges remain from earlier times, including the green wooden church on the waterfront, constructed in 1925. It is from this church that a picture of the Virgin Divine Shepherdess, patron saint of Bayahibe, is carried at the front of the annual marine procession. Between the church and the nearby school, an archaeological dig is underway, uncovering artifacts from pre-Taino dwellers, who were potters, as well as an old circular house.
Nearby is the Bamboo Beach Bar, owned by a French woman who flies her country's colors. Crêpes anyone? Tour buses roll in and park near the jam of souvenir shops and Haitian art vendors. On a side street, on the way to the new Bayahibe (a sprawl of attractive, low-rise apartments and duplexes rented by hotel executives and long-term snowbirds), is the Clinica Rural Bayahibe that the Dreams La Romana resort "adopted" by cleaning, painting, and stocking it with medical supplies. And so Bayahibe village grows, an old-fashioned colmado (grocery) next door to a dive shop, a small hotel here and there. In late 2009 the entire main street was paved with small pink tiles. Now there is a restaurant with a wood-burning pizza oven, next to a café and repasteria selling pastries and sweets. High-speed Internet has come to town, and so has 24-hour electricity, city water, and even Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, at a new boutique owned by an Italian woman. Still, you'll see young men on horseback and others selling pots, with their wares attached to their bodies.
Bayahibe at a Glance
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