Dominican Repubublic.September 12 - 17

Jul 19th, 2010, 09:42 AM
  #1  
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Dominican Repubublic.September 12 - 17

I just started researching the DR for a vacation in September. North or South? My friend is not much into water sports; however, I would love to do some snorkeling.

I have heard Puerto Plata and Punta Cana are two to consider.

If staying on either North or South on the island are there jeep rentals where one can venture to the other side of the island for a day trip?

All inclusive is the way we usually go but I have heard otherwise for the DR due to the local fare.

Thanks in advance!!
redzin is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 10:08 AM
  #2  
 
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You can't drive from one side of the DR to the other on a day-trip. It's far too long a drive. While it's possible to avoid the AI experience in the DR (most easily in Cabarete along the North Coast or in the Samana Peninsula, where you really have to rent a jeep or car and do it on your own), the vast majority of people don't. Snorkeling is better on the south coast, around Isla Saona, which is easily accessible from the La Romana area or even from Punta Cana. But there is very little to do in Punta Cana outside of the resorts, and it's a long drive to get anywhere.

You say nothing about your budget, age, or interests (other than snorkeling), all of which I think are crucial for us to give you any useful advice.
doug_stallings is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 02:17 PM
  #3  
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Budget is $2,500 per person. Late 30's for both. Relaxing, reading, walking/hiking, spas, and cocktails!! This is sort of a spur of the moment, put-togther trip. We are really just going for fun in the sun. Thanks!
redzin is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 05:46 PM
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Oure better off at an all inclusive resort in that case. Go to Puerto Plata for mor proximity to clubs and nightlife, to Punta Cana for better beaches.
doug_stallings is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 07:06 PM
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Redzin, Doug is right on the money, except that I don't care for the all inclusives in Puerto Plata. They are mostly outdated, especially when compared to those in Punta Cana, hence the usual price difference. The food and entertainment are ok at best, IMHO. After a couple of days at an AI we tend to want to venture out and see something else! Punta Cana is WAAAAY out there to the east, though, and there is little to see outside of the resort areas. The only decent snorkeling is from a boat, and you can arrange that at Punta Cana Resort (we've gone diving with them). Isla Saona is a nice (albeit overpriced) excursion, but it is about 1.5 hours from Punta Cana, and it is not even an interesting drive. Having stayed in both the Punta Cana and Puerto Plata resort areas, we recently visited the D.R. and decided to avoid the all-inclusives, so after much research, we opted for Cabrera, on the north coast, just over an hour from the Punta Cana airport. We stayed at the Catalina Hotel and were blown away (lacatalina.com). The ocean views from this hotel, which sits up on a hill, are breathtaking. Each morning we had a great breakfast (included) on their terrace which overlooks the sea; a very relaxing way to start your day. There are a number of beach and non-beach related activities and excursions available. The Playa Grande golf course is the most beautiful in the Caribbean and sits right on the water. We went on a horseback riding excursion which had awesome ocean and mountain views the entire two hours; we liked it so much we went back for a three hour ride (ranchoparaisodr.com). This was one of the best excursions we've ever taken, as they really showed us the "real" D.R. Playa Grande and Playa Preciosa are two of the most beautiful beaches we've ever visited in all of our travels, and you can snorkel right from the beach at Playa Grande. In the evenings we would head up to the hotel's bar and finish the night off with a drink while watching the sun set over the ocean. And if you want a little more action, Cabarete is less than an hour away, on the way to Puerto Plata. That is a party town, as it is the kite boarding capital of the world, and is therefore much more touristy (as is Puerto Plata). From your description I think you can't go wrong with Cabrera, which by the way was very safe. The people are friendly and warm, and we were treated like royalty. Renting a vehicle will allow you to venture out on your own and see the many interesting sights that are a close drive away, such as the "27 charcos" or Samana, both easy day trips from Cabrera. Santiago is less than two hours away, as is Santo Domingo, which is easily accessed by a brand new highway. On the other hand, having a vehicle and venturing out while paying for an AI is a waste of money, as you are already paying for your meals at the resort! I hope this helps!
CaribbeanTraveler is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 12:39 AM
  #6  
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Goodness! Decisions, decisions! I had no idea the island was so spread out with the destinations. Sounds like I need to do a little more research and decide what we actually want to accomplish. I am okay at an AI for two, maybe three days, but after that I think I would have to venture from the resort.

Thanks so much for the extensive info......looking forward to visiting this beautiful island, whichever part we decide on!
redzin is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 05:10 AM
  #7  
 
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The fact that you're staying in an AI doesn't mean you can't venture out from the resort. It's just that from Punta Cana there aren't very many places you can get to easily, even by car, without driving for more than 2 hours. It's a very isolated area, which is why I recommended the Puerto Plata area.

Here's a different kind of recommendation. Take a look at Natura Cabanas in Cabarete. This is a really nice, small, family-run place on a beach. It has one major drawback, no a/c (all rooms do have fans, but this is just not enough for all Americans). But if you can get past that, it's a very special place and very cheap. And the location and set-up would encourage you to get out and explore since it's not right in town.

If you don't need the AI experience, there are actually a lot of newer, upscale hotels along the north shore, so you don't have to give up creature comforts to stay there. And not all the hotels there are AI.

Puntacana Resort is also not an AI, but it's isolated location makes it difficult to get out to off-resort restaurants.

There are also smaller bungalow-type accommodations in Samana, but you'd have to make an initial 3-hour drive to get there. There are also AI resorts there (fairly new ones), though you'd likely be one of the few native speakers of English since the area draws primarily European tourists.

If you can afford to fly into the La Romana airport, you could also stay at either Casa de Campo or one of the nice AI resorts in the La Romana area.

There are also a lot of beautiful condos for rent in Juan Dolio, which is on the south coast closer to Santo Domingo. Whatever you do, avoid Boca Chica. It's not going to be appealing to you.
doug_stallings is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 12:45 PM
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If you want more of an authentic experience, but don't have time or don't know where to start when it comes to planning, check out www.antitourdr.com

They create personalized adventures in the D.R. and take a more responsible approach to travel compared to all-inclusives, which actually have a lot of negative effects on the local economy and environment.

Good luck! No matter what you will have a great time. The D.R. is an amazing place.
drfan is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 03:16 PM
  #9  
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I did forget to mention that golf will be included at least one day. It appears they have a couple of amazing courses. Can we play for under $300/person?

I believe Puerto Plata would be a better choice; however, the "windy" beaches might be a deterrant. A day trip from here to Samana sounds fun. I am assuming taxis are available? or buses/shuttles?
redzin is offline  
Jul 20th, 2010, 06:17 PM
  #10  
 
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Playa Grande Golf Course is known as "The Pebble Beach of the Caribbean", and rightfully so. It is an amazing course. I think that something like 12 of the 18 holes overlook the ocean! And a day trip from Puerto Plata to Samana is POSSIBLE, but quite a trek, as it is about 3+ hours each way, so much of your time is spent on the road, and you will not have much time left to see Samana. In that case you'd want to make it an overnight thing in Samana. If you decide on Cabrera or Rio San Juan, you're about half way between Puerto Plata and Samana, and less than an hour from Cabarete.
CaribbeanTraveler is offline  
Jul 21st, 2010, 05:41 AM
  #11  
 
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redzin, again, I think you underestimate the amount of driving required to get from one area of the DR to another. Samana is a 3-hour drive from Santo Domingo, not Puerto Plata, and it's only a 3-hour drive now because of a new highway. The drive to Puerto Plata would probably be more like 4 hours each way. In order to do it in that amount of time, you'd have to rent a car and drive yourself.

If golf is a primary reason for the trip, you can certainly play for $300 per person. The best courses are in Punta Cana (at Puntacana Resort), in Casa de Campo, and near Puerto Plata at Playa Dorada.

There is another excellent golf course on the north coast more than an hour east of Puerta Plata in Cabrera (the Playa Grande course); there was a plan to completely privatize the course, but I don't think it's happened yet. This is a really nice area to stay in, not as isolated as Samana but not busy at all, and the beach here is beautiful. Perhaps this would be the best compromise. There are a couple of non-AI hotels and lots of villas (fully staffed). Companies organize golf and tourist trips to the region and even supply van transport. Nothing in Cabrera is AI, and it's not really a major tourist area, so it might offer you the local atmosphere you are looking for with proximity to tourist stuff.

There is no golf course in Samana, so I guess this isn't a good option.
doug_stallings is offline  
Jul 21st, 2010, 01:22 PM
  #12  
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We have narrowed down our search to the Cabrera/Cabareta area and La Romana. Although leaning strongly to Cabrera.

Also looking into villas instead of AI. Are there grocery and liquor stores available to stock kitchen for lunch and breakfast? I have read reviews on restaurants in the area we would like to try.

Lastly, are the waters as clear and aquamarine on the North side as the South? I would assume so but wanted verification.

Thanks again, Doug and Car. Trav for the helpful advice!
redzin is offline  
Jul 21st, 2010, 01:23 PM
  #13  
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Yet another question......is there an issue with people trying to sell you tokens/items/etc on the beaches?
redzin is offline  
Jul 21st, 2010, 04:49 PM
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You rarely have problems with vendors at the AI resorts. I can't say about others, but Cabrera is pretty isolated. If you rent a fully staffed villa, the staff will do the provisioning. If there is no chef then you stop at a supermercado. Yes, they exist, but get directions from the villa manager if you plan on doing this on your own. Just to be clear, the waters of the DR are not uniformly clear, and it depends on the beach. Clear water requires bright white sand, which is not as prevalent on the north coast, where the sand is more golden.
doug_stallings is offline  
Jul 21st, 2010, 06:35 PM
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Redzin, you can easily stock up on groceries (and liquor) in Cabrera or Rio San Juan. If you don't want to deal with cooking at all you can stay at a hotel, such as La Catalina (see above), or at a villa, as mentioned by Doug, and you'll find plenty of cheap eats in both of those towns. One AWESOME villa is The Palace at Playa Grande (thepalacedr.com). It is a multi-million-dollar MANSION, but the nice thing about it is that you can rent the entire place or just one of the rooms...and they treat you like royalty. Check out the pictures online and you'll be blown away. And the place is literally right next door to Playa Grande Golf Course, (mentioned by Doug and myself, above). It has a 1,000' private beach right at your doorstep (with no vendors, of course), or Playa Grande and Playa Preciosa are less than 5 minutes away, and you will find almost no vendors at all, and the few you MAY find are not the least bit persistent. BTW, Playa Grande has been voted one of the world's top 10 beaches by Conde Naste Traveler. You can also find many other, less expensive, villas in the Cabrera area. The less expensive ones do NOT come with a chef or full-time staff, but do provide housekeeping services. And finally, I'm 100% with Doug on the driving distances in the D.R. It is a BIG island. That is one of the reasons we enjoyed staying in Cabrera on our last trip, as we were able to jump over to Cabareta in just under an hour, and we took a day trip to Samana, which was less than 2 hours away. As noted in Doug's comment above, it is quite a drive to get to anywhere from Punta Cana. I wish you the best on your planning!
CaribbeanTraveler is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2010, 07:31 PM
  #16  
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Looks like we will stay at a condo at the Ocean Dream Resort. Very reasonable and close to everything.

I did find a lovely villa in Cabrera that is idyllic but believe it's a bit far from what we are wanting to experience our first trip to the DR.

Do the crowds (kite boarders/vacationers) decline in September as compared to the summer months?

What restaurants do you recommend? We enjoy all types of foods but especially love seafood. Any authentic DR places we must dine? Price can range from moderate to expensive.

Thanks!
redzin is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2010, 04:34 AM
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Gotta eat on the beach at Playa Grande. Since you'll be in Cabarete, one nice outing would be golf in the morning at the Playa Grande Golf Course, and a late lunch/early dinner on the beach at Playa Grande, right next door. This is not a fancy meal, by any stretch of the imagination, but the food is good, priced around $10usd, and you can't beat the view. They serve your meal right on the beach, just feet from the water. If you ask the guys who will be serving you, they will set up your table toward the western part of the beach where you will have it all to yourselves. Also, breakfast up at the Catalina Hotel is hard to beat. Their breakfast is very good, priced at around $5-$6usd, and the view of the ocean is just amazing, as you can sit on the terrace, and the hotel is up on a hill. Very peaceful, very romantic, very beautiful. One morning we had an early breakfast followed by a horseback riding tour that picked us up right at the hotel (they can help you with the horseback riding reservation or you can do it yourself at ranchoparaisodr.com . It turned out to be one of the best vacation days we've ever had. These two suggestions, I think, will allow you to see a little more of the country (the horseback riding was an excellent cultural experience), enjoy a good meal with awesome views, and are less than an hour from Cabarete. Hope this helps!
CaribbeanTraveler is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2010, 04:38 AM
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By the way, if you decide to eat at Playa Grande, ask for Wilson. He was recommended to us by a guy from Colorado who we met (and lives) in Cabrera. His food was great and reliable. A suggestion on eating in the D.R.: as a general rule, it is advised you stay away from uncooked salads, particularly lettuce and cabbage, unless it is a restaurant that has heavy tourist traffic. Just a heads up!
CaribbeanTraveler is offline  
Jul 25th, 2010, 09:25 PM
  #19  
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Thanks so much, Caribbean Traveler. SO looking forward to the trip!!
redzin is offline  
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