Some secrets to reaching special places for demanding visitors – and many more opportunities to explore. The Dominican Republic (DR) has a special place in my heart. Perhaps it comes from spending almost two years of my life in the country, first in 2006 and later in 2009 – or maybe I spent so much time there just because the country is so special.
Living in the Caribbean Of course, living in a Caribbean country is not what you would experience in an all-inclusive holiday (not my thing) or what your see on vacation commercials for Punta Cana. There’s much more to it: a lot of life in its pure essence, paradisiacal beaches abound with an unlimited amount of creatures crawling up and down (and sometimes over you). Driving on idyllic highways can be an adrenalin rush and any “jeepeta” (SUV) with a sound system can convert a peaceful afternoon on the beach into a ¨bachata¨ (local music) party. Playa Bonita, Las Terrenas What’s special about this country is the diversity of nature and the unique little places. My favourite in the DR is, or at least it was, Las Terrenas. A new highway makes it more accessible to mainstream tourism and it has lost a bit of its essence. But for years it was a refuge for European travellers escaping from the principal tourist trails. It´s a place with no rules apart from the ones of the community living there, an alternative lifestyle and an escape from Babylon. Las Terrenas was difficult to reach: the alternatives were either a five-hour winding road or a bumpy flight in a “mini with wings,” as one of my friends would say. The flight on a small airplane coming over ¨Los Haitises¨ mountains to the open ocean in front of you and then over the paradisiacal beaches before landing in the local airport is a must, if you can afford it. A very special beach there is Playa Bonita, where my favourite hotel was the Hotel Acaya which has a French colonial design and a Surf School at the entrance. If you want something very distinctive, you could go to The Peninsula House, an exquisite plantation-style boutique hotel, chosen several time as the best in the Caribbean by the Conde Nast Traveller Magazine readers’ choice awards. The Peninsula has its own separate restaurant, the Beach on Playa Coson, a natural wild unpopulated beach near Playa Bonita. If you have lunch there, ask Thomas for a melon mojito; after a day of surfing in Coson, it´s something to remember. For dinner in Las Terrenas La Terrasse a restaurant serving Dominican-French cuisine in ¨El pueblo de los pescadores,” is another of my recommendations. The road to Bahía de las Aguilas Another incredible location is Bahia de las Aguilas, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, due to its unique natural environment. It´s located inside the Jaragua National Park, designated a Biosphere reserve by UNESCO and therefore protected from civilisation. I recommend getting there first thing in the morning. When I first went, you could hire a local fisherman to take you there on a small boat. Leaving at dawn and arriving with the sun coming up is another must. On the way, you could stay in Casa Bonita, a tropical lodge on a hillside with and incredible view of the ocean and a breathtaking infinity pool. The last stretch of road from Santo Domingo to Bahía de las Aguilas is really beautiful; from Bayahibe onwards you stroll along the free-spirited Caribbean coast.
“La Zona Colonial” Even Santo Domingo, the capital, has its little places. My favourite is the ¨Zona Colonial,” the old quarter of the city, which maintains the essence of the first foreign visitors to the island. I lived in a small, rehabilitated colonial condominium, designed as a small village. I´ll keep its name a secret, but I would describe it as the most beautiful apartment in the DR – not the biggest, not the flashiest, but the one with most ¨encanto.” Near there I liked to eat at Segafredo´s, a ¨Dominicanised¨ Italian restaurant, just right for a casual night out, or at Pat´e Palo for a more sophisticated, trendy Dominican dinner. And these are only some of the special little places the Dominican Republic has to offer. From the winter experience of the Jarabacoa mountains to the undiscovered Samana beaches, the country offers demanding travellers a wide array of incredible locations, with a special, decidedly local taste.Alexi Fernandez CEO Worldfolio