Dominican Republic: Travel Diary
Our collaborator, Jaice went on quite the journey to the Dominican Republic, as you will read for yourself. She describes the peaks and pits of her trip, and also reveals some lesson she learned on this journey. Get ready for a wild adventure to this Caribbean island.
So recently I went on a trip to the Dominican Republic and stayed in Samana with Melissa, who’s an Eidon adventurer! I’m going to give you the day in the life story from my perspective of the trip. The trip started at 5pm for me on a Wednesday, I drove down south a few hours to meet Melissa to leave out of South Florida. The plane took off somewhere around 1:00am and landed in the Dominican around 3:00am. Customs surprisingly goes by quickly that early in the morning, I guess a lot of people hate red eyes. We finally got the rental car after multiple missteps in the planning process and we were off. It’s around 4:30am now and we found a cute little hotel on the outskirts on Santiago.
The next morning we stopped at a market, picked up some food and made the long drive all the way out to Samana. Driving there is no joke though, they have street “laws” that all the locals know and understand but really, it’s just how to move fastest without having to stop. It’s a chaotic harmony, the cars and motorcycles flew by, there were no lines to the roads, and only general common sense can be used. Also it took 12 HOURS from the time we landed to find a speed limit sign! However, most of the day was spent listening to music, laughing, and having slight anxiety attacks from the roads. We stopped at a fresh water spring on our way to the Airbnb. Dudu is in San Juan and there is a zip line/bar that you can hang from and drop about 12 meters down into one of the springs. If you’re brave enough to do it, it costs $1 USD. I do a lot of crazy stunts but I was afraid I would let go of the bar before reaching the “Drop zone”. We got to the Airbnb around 10pm, which was a maze to find but it was a cute little shack on the beach side, and we settled in for the night.
Friday, we visited some of the beaches around Las Galeras, where there’s a hidden beach called Playa Madama. We talked to the locals to find it since there isn’t a true road to it, but it’s worth the hike down the beach, I promise. All of the beaches around Las Galeras are stunning though, littered with green palm trees and crystal clear water. Everything you would imagine paradise to be. While in Las Galeras, we stopped at La Marseillaise, a cute bakery owned by a French woman and the breakfast food was delicious. She had fresh croissants, other pastries, fresh breads; it was the perfect beach side bakery.
Saturday, we went to the walking bridges of Samana, it’s near Bahia Principe (the super prestigious all-inclusive resort in the area), and to get to the bridges you drive on a dirt road to the side. The bridges here are so cool, they connect the little islands that jut off into the bay. When you go to the last island, take the bridges and follow the shoreline around, you’ll have your own private beach and all the sea glass you could ever dream of. From there we drove around an hour and a half to go to Las Terrenas… Imagine California coastline, mixed with a bit of Hawaii, a bit of Zion, and a bit of Bali. Basically, the coastline here was stunning, red rock cliffs faced over the ocean, palm trees littered the mountain sides, everything about Las Terrenas felt magical. We found our way onto a beach that was run by the military, we had to give them our license to enter and they returned them when we left. But while down there we ran into a group of horses grazing underneath the palm trees, again Las Terrenas proved it was full of magic. Later that night we stopped at a market for fruit and stopped in the Samana’s city center for some live music.
So I know traveling is supposed to be this all amazing, spectacular, wonderful time... and it is, but there is another side to it as well that most people try hide. The second night we got back and our Airbnb, we had no electricity with no hope of it coming back on that night and also no running water, yes that means even the toilet. We survived that night and left the next morning, our host said he had someone coming to fix everything and was quite apologetic. Now that you’re caught up, we got back Saturday night from the concert and our Airbnb was flooded, still with no electricity, and our host honestly didn’t seem that concerned. We made the decision to leave the Airbnb at 11:30pm and look for a hotel since we only had two nights left before we left the Dominican, and this Airbnb obviously was not working out. We met a local guy working at one of the resorts and he got us a room at his parent’s hotel, not far from where the Airbnb was.
So wake up in a different bed, fresh breakfast was made, and we were ready to start another adventure. Oh, and by the way, the hotel was newly finished and we were the first guests, as their opening date was set for two weeks later. After breakfast, we jumped in the pool with the two Belgians, the hotel was owned by a Belgian man and his Dominican wife, and his son and the sons friend were there on vacation at the time too. After the pool we all hopped in a car and headed out to Playa Rincón. This was somewhere I knew I wanted to go since the start, it was known as a tourist hotspot for snorkeling the coral reefs and relaxing on the long white sand beach. This beach did not disappoint! But surprisingly it wasn’t crowded, it was like the tourist hotspot became a more secluded area on the island and the tourists switched areas. The lagoon behind the beach was fed by a fresh water spring and it mixed with the ocean water creating a refreshing dip for the mid day heat. The water is crystal clear and you can see the bottom no matter where you were. We saw EVERYTHING, tropical reef fish, spiny sea urchins and beautiful corals and sponges. The Belgians were so amazed at the life beneath their feet when we gave them our masks. We returned to the hotel for dinner and afterwards I convinced the local Dominican son to take me on a motorcycle ride. If there’s one thing you do while on this island, ride a motorcycle! It was beautiful and so freeing. The roads have the perfect twists and turns for a fun ride.
At this point Melissa decided to turn in for the night and do some editing and I ended up going to one of the bars on the side of the road in Las Galeras with the 4 guys (Belgian father, son + friend, and the Dominican son). This was one of the best nights I had in a long time. Partying with the locals was a blast, the “club” across the street was so much fun, we danced salsa and bachata until it was so packed you couldn’t move. We sat outside the bar and I was introduced to all of their local friends. Really the bar is just a shack on the side of the road, serves cerveza and el diablos. We got back around 1:00am and ended up crashing on the couch cove that was by the pool. The stars at night there are incredible, combined with the sea breeze, and the sound of the waves crashing on shore made this pure heaven.
We woke up and today was our last day. I went up to the room to shower and change while Melissa was still asleep, but by the time I was done she was awake. We were going to the waterfall that day, El Salto del Limón. It’s a cascading waterfall that you can get to by horseback or hiking. We went by horse but immediately regretted that decision. The terrain is rough on the horses and let’s be honest, we have two feet that are made for walking. But we got to the waterfall and it was magnificent, the water was so refreshing and was beyond stunning. While you’re there you HAVE TO JUMP!!!! You can climb up the side of the falls, yes, it’s a little scary, and but it’s 100% worth it. Jumping the 10+ meters into the waterfalls pool was a blast. I must have jumped 10 times. Some of the locals will do back flips and gainers but I’m generally clumsy and I’d rather not get hurt in a foreign country so I just jumped. This was the end to our journey though, we finished the drive back to Santiago for our 3am flight back to Florida.
Overall this was one of the most eye opening trips I have ever taken, I learned a lot and I had a blast even with all of the negatives. The island reminded me of the magic that runs within nature, within other people, and within myself. Life may not be perfect, but the closest thing to perfect for me is freedom, and this island reminded me of that. The Dominican is nothing short of magic and I will definitely be returning. Follow all of Jaice’s adventures on Instagram (@jaicenicole)