This article details my time in the magnificent and stunning south of the Dominican Republic; including Punta Cana, Barahona, Las Aguilas, the border at Haiti and more.
30.03.2017 - 20.04.2017
The north and south of the DR are dramatically different, especially in terms of terrain. The north is lush and mountainous, whereas the south is pretty dry and desert like in some parts.
The sea patterns also differ greatly coast to coast. The north has big waves fit for surfing and sports and the south is where you see the picture perfect, absolutely still, crystal blue water and bright white sand.
Punta Cana is the DR's most famous area, and is jam packed with resorts.
All of the beaches are incredible however Bavaro beach really takes the cake.
It's absolutely breathtaking - no wonder there are a myriad of high end all inclusive resorts here.
Whilst Punta Cana is amazing, finding Dominican culture requires stepping out of the resorts and going to where local people actually live.
I stayed at MT; an Italian run small hotel away from the beach, which was the best decision I made for the region.
I got to meet and hang out with local folks who work at the big hotels, and also went to the crazy, raucous clubs where the real parties are.
Drink Point in Bavaro is one of my favourite spots in the world to have fun.
The vibe is loud, boisterous and unpretentionous in true Dominican spirit, and the drinks are pretty cheap.
The dancefloor is active!! No point being shy here.
When Drink Point closes, the party continues at Legacy until well after sunrise.
I met people from all over the world, including a crazy bunch from St Martin and Guadalupe, who inpired me to travel more in the undiscovered Caribbean.
Whilst the beaches are overcomercialised, and the area is devoid of any real Dominican culture, I still had a great time in Punta Cana.
I haven't been to Cancun but many people say Punta Cana has the same vibe - there is even a Coco Bongo here.
Whithout doubt Punta Cana is gorgeous, and great if you want to just switch off.
The DR is so big and varied it would be a shame not to check out the other places written about here too.
Bayahibe is a tiny little village with an amazing beach and the gateway to Isla Saona.
There are a tons of dive shops here with dive masters and staff from all over the world - so it's a very mixed vibe where everyone knows eachother. Integrating as a visitor is easy. The whole town congregates at the local colmado where there is loud music and flowing conversation and Presidentes (local beer).
I did several awesome dives in the area.
The visibility was outstanding in these waters.... you can literally see for miles, and there is plenty of coal and oceanlife.
Isla Saona is something to behold... it's simply stunning.
This is a MUST stop in the DR and likely to be a bucket list item for acquatic folks.
There are many companies that ferry people out to the island from Bayahibe (staying on the island is forbidden) on party or luxury boats and usually include packages for lunch and stopping at snorkelling sites on the way back.
As you get further away from Punta Cana towards Santo Domingo, things get a lot more local.
La Romana is a busy industrial city with not much to offer the visitor.
However if you are here to meet locals and experience real Dominican culture, you can blend in and have a blast.
The cab driver who ferried me around, took me out one night with his mates.
In the DR, people party at car washes after hours.... where almost anything goes.
San Pedro de Macoris
This is the only city, that I don't recommend unless you have your own car, speak fluent spanish and look Dominican.
That's not to say it isn't safe (it probably isn't though) - but it gets dark and shady at night, and even during the day, it's a bit worn out and ropey.
Sadly, it seems infrastructure and government spending favours tourist areas, whilst the others battle along, neglected.
There is only one hotel in town!!
The only other real option for tourists is a big apartment block that rents out apartments per day.
I took the plunge there and it turned out to be awesome!! Very well appointed and really comfy.
Two nights was much more than enough though.
On a brighter note, San Pedro de Macoris produces more professional A Leaguel baseball players per capita than anywhere else on earth.... and interestingly they also play cricket here!
Boca Chica is the closest big beach to Santo Domingo.
The beach itself is quite nice, however the water doesn't get any deeper than waiste height.
On weekends the town is PACKED. Great if you want to experience Dominicans in all out party and holiday mode.
Many German and Italian fellows have moved here, opening restaurants and guest houses - plenty of pizza and schnitzel options wherever you look, not to mention great coffee.
Perdenales and Haitian Border
This was a little bit of a sad/eye opening part of the trip, at the Haitin Border. Even at the border, the contrast between Haitian and Dominican quality of life is both real and very jarring. Haitian kids cross to the Dominican side to hustle up a few pesos to take home.
Security is pretty tight, but everything was pretty calm.
The DR and Haiti have a complicated relationship, though as a developing country itself, the DR does what it can to help Haiti. Haitians can pass to, and work fairly freely in the DR. I'd recommend visiting here if you want to see the contrast, and to remind yourself of how lucky you are in life.
EVERYONE who I met in the DR said the same thing to me.... "You have to visit Barahona and Las Aguilas (the beach close by). It is the most beautiful part of the country.
Well, I have to agree. It's just stunning!!
Because of it's tricky location and lack of direct transport options... and no surrounding hotels (it's all national park), it's relatively quiet, with few-to-no foreign tourists.
Barahona town itself is very small, very nice, and caters to Dominican tourists - so expect great Dominican food, loud Bachata and Dem Bo music and BIG groups.
Dominicans love to socialise and when they go out, the entire extended family/neighbourhood is in on the fun.
It is kinda difficult to get to. You have to drive to Barahona first, and then take a chartered boat to the beach.... but even the boat journey on the way to the beach is spectacular... and when you arrive.... well it's magnificent.
The beach is very quiet, with perfect white sand and calm blue waters. It's the stunning and quiet antithesis to Punta Cana.
This was essentially my last stop in the DR and a gorgeous way to finish.
Stay tuned for my write up on the Caribbean Capital, Santo Domingo...