This article summarises the first of three awesome months spent in the Dominican Republic. Beaches, bachata, dancing, nighlife and trekking...plus warm boisterous culture and more.
10.01.2017 - 15.03.2017
Welcome to the DR....
Here's my favourite Dominican salsero and his classic from last year; as heard blasting in every bar, colmado, store, loungeroom and car in the DR.
Stay tuned for more articles about the Caribbean and music; because really no region on Earth has produced such a wide variety of strong musical influence across the world- from Salsa, Bachata and Merengue to Calypso and Reggae - it all came from the Caribbean islands via ancestral African influence.
Knowing little about the DR I had originally planned to just pass through for two weeks, but before I knew it three months had passed, (and I wasn't ready to leave then).
The DR is the oldest country in the new world.
Columbus plotted world conquest from here, and the first batch of slaves were dragged to Puerto Plata.
Santo Domingo is one of my favourite cities in the world. It has an underground metro (the only one in the Caribbean islands), awesome malls, great nightlife, incredible restaurants.... and for long termers - apartment blocks that rival even my home town in Melbourne.
Dominicans are friendly, welcoming, stylish, jovial, outgoing, cheeky and incredibly smooth, suave cats.
Santo Domingo marks what Havana could have become. The US colonised for a while and the SD is still the city of choice for US companies to set up shop in the Caribbean.
I'll write a separate article on Santo Domingo (where I spent most of my time) later also.
Anyway here are some notes specofocally on the north where I spent the first 6 weeks.
Santiago is the second largest city in the country, but noticeably smaller, quieter and more manageable than Santo Domingo.
There are great parks and a few small malls to keep shoppers busy, and incredible nightlife.
Dominicans know how to party and have fun. There are a myriad of clubs and outdoor bars here.
People get around in collectivo taxis which are safe and fine to use.
Uber also operates here, which is highly recommended.
Uber drivers here are very serious about their work and keep their cars in top nic. Maintaining solid reviews is important to them.
Santiago is great for a few days.
It's notable here that during World War 2 the DR government granted asylum and safe passage to all Jews facing persecution. Most of those Jews came to Sosua. There is an interesting Jewish museum here outlining this interesting piece of history and with information about the DR's Jewish community.
Sosua was once also known as the Pattaya of Latin America/Caribbean. A wild west of naughty clubs where big white wales would fly down from the US and Canada for "golfing holidays" and spend time with holiday girlfriends.
The DR government has since cleaned the place up in view of making the areas more family friendly.
Otherwise it's a great little town with a fantastic beach (note enormous waves), and an interesting walking street along the coast with restaurants, cafes and bars.
The town is interesting because it caters to both families and (still to) North American single men. Hotels have all of the sports/movie channels and you can choose from finer dining, American style burgers n fries, and traditional Dominican food.
Literally 20 minutes down the road is the kitesurfing capital of the world, Cabarete. It is very, very different to Sosua.
Rather than the lads on tour, Cabarete has the young sports nut adventure seekers.
The beach is lined with kitesurfing/surfing/sailing schools, and there are a few "Sports Resorts" that offer yoga, cross-fit, acrobatics, skateboarding and much more.
At night, many of the restaurants on the beach become clubs, and i have to say it's fantastic.
Get your merengue and bachata moves on with tourists and locals alike.
Dominicans are very proud of their music and will gladly help you dance to it.
The accommodation in Cabarete is incredible and affordable. I rented a beachside apartment within a five star condo/complex with pools/restaurant, etc. for US$50
As it's more of a town for sporty folks, the cuisine offerings are decidedly healthy with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.
I had a great week here, and left feeling lighter, stronger, healthier with better dance moves in toe.
This is a gorgeous little town with an extremely large European expat population. Many sea-changers came here and did the area a favour by opening quality bakeries and restaurants.
I did a great mountain bike excursion with the German fellow who owned a bike shop and his Spanish mate. Both guys in their 50's and fitter than me. We traversed the huge mountains in the area and across the amazing beaches. They also schooled me about Dominican girls. Invaluable info.
Las Haitises National Park is close by and a tour is absolutely recommended. We took a boat out across the gorgeous Samana bay and hiked through some of the incredible caves and alongside the mangroves.
Las Terrenas is THE place to learn any kind of Spanish Caribbean dancing. There are large number of schools teaching LA and Cuban style Salsa and of course Bachata and Merengue. I noticed a large number of European ladies living here long term for the dancing.
There are great hotels and guest houses here.
I stayed at a nice beachside resort for a while, but really enjoyed my time at an Airbnb apartment owned by a local family who really took the time to show me Dominican culture.
The nightlife here is very much geared towards dancing. All of the schools have instructors in the clubs as a bit of promotion and to help tourists and locals alike improve their moves.
Playa Bonita, close to town is absolutely incredible!
I did some surf lessons with the local school, which I highly recommend.
Located the the remove east end of the coast, Las Galeras is very laid back, with stunning beachside hotels.
My pals and I took a boat from the pier outside of our hotel to the gorgeous Playa Rincon
Whales congregate in the area during mating season.
We joined a boat trip, and saw a LOT of whale activity... whales were breaching and rolling around.
It was fantastic.
The north side of the DR is very laid back, tourist friendly with great surf, incredible terrain and pretty decent nightlife.
When (not if) I go back to the DR, I'll definitely stay in Santiago for a long while.
The sputh of the country is just as awesome, but so very different, so stay tuned!!
I'll leave you with the other Dominican salsa hit of last year... highlighting the jovial and cheeky side of Dominican culture.. again blasting everywhere.
Until next time....