September 14, 2016
Duration: 10 days
Starting point: Los Angeles, CA
Countries: Dominican Republic
Budget for 2 people: $3220 ($1150 flight, $450 hotels, $220 car, $100 gas, $300 food, $700 kitesurfing, $100 surfing, $200 other)
- Day 1: flight from Los Angeles to Santo Domingo via Mexico City
- Day 2: drive from Santo Domingo International Airport to Cabarete (150 mi, 4 h)
- Days 3 - 9: enjoy beaches, kitesurfing, surfing, caves, food and drinks!
- Day 9: drive from Cabarete to Santo Domingo International Airport (150 mi, 4 h)
- Day 10: flight from Santo Domingo to Los Angeles via Mexico City
Where to Stay:
There is a huge variety of different hotels and rental homes for different budgets. Most people choose to stay in Cabarete closer to all restaurants. As our main objective was to kitesurf, we chose to stay in Agualina Kite Resort on the Kite beach. We were able to observe kite conditions from our balcony. That hotel is also closer to the surf beach Playa Encuentro. It is 20-30 min nice walk along the ocean to Cabarete center.
Places to Eat:
All places we’ve been to are really good, and cocktails are delicious and cheap! We picked the following places for our regular visits:
- Fresh Fresh Cafe - awesome breakfasts, wraps and coffee
- Gordito - cheap Mexican food (California style)
- Mojito Bar - obviously great mojitos :)
- Lazy Dog - sandwiches and very good mojito / pina colada
Here are also some pictures from the beach, taken on our way from the Kite beach to Cabarete center:
Activities: Kitesurfing, Surfing, Places to Visit
We started our mornings from going to Playa Encuentro to catch some waves in a very warm ocean. We were lucky to have several days of good waves. Note that there are reefs so special shoes are required. Advantage of this beach is that it is shallow so beginners can walk to the waves breaking point. There are several surf schools around and they are trying to offer the same prices ($20 for all day rental), however, you need to negotiate the price, we got a very good deal :)
Of course the best part of our trip was kitesurfing! Surprisingly after several years break our bodies remembered the moves and we were able to ride immediately :) Unfortunately we didn’t have wind every day, but we got an opportunity to enjoy kitesurfing during several windy days. There are multiple schools offering lessons and rentals. We took supervision from GokiteCabarete. After this trip we definitely got enough motivation to explore our local kitesurfing spots :) I strongly believe that kitesurfing is one of the best sports ever and I’m soooo glad we had an opportunity to practice it in great conditions and warm ocean!
During one of the rainy days we went zip lining in the Monkey Jungle. It's a lot of fun for $50 even though it was raining. I like that all the money go to charity and support of the local hospital. The only downside is terrible road leading to the place, but we made it on our small car with no issues.
Another fun place to visit is El Choco National Park. A guided tour cost $20 and takes approximately 1.5 hours. During that time a guide explains how the park was formed, shows different plants, and takes you to 2 caves. In the first cave you can jump into the pool with quite warm water! Where else would you be able to do that? Second cave has amazing hanging stalactites and rising stalagmites formed by millions of years of moisture. At the end of the tour you'll come to a deep water hole inside a cave and you can jump into it from ~4 m hight. Tour guide will show you specific spot where you need to jump to not break your legs :) Or they will tell you that you can take a ladder to go down if you're a small child :)
Here are some pictures from El Choco National Park taken on our GoPro:
We couldn't make it this time to the to Damajaqua Cascades (27 Waterfalls), but we would definitely go there next time. In that place at first you hike up along the river, and on the way back you walk in the water, jumping from the waterfall cliffs.
Our final destination was Cabarete, not far from Puerto Plata. However, the cheapest flights were to Santo Domingo and we decided to get to Cabarete from there. We considered several options: taxi ($200 one way), local bus (3 buses to get to our destination), and rental car. We planned to surf on a different beach and visit local attractions thus we picked a rental car. Be aware that there are no traffic rules in Dominican Republic. People drive very fast even in small towns. There are many motorcycles on the roads without mirrors and lights. No one checks the road prior to making a right turn. Always check your mirror when slowing down or stopping, one car hit us when we stopped to pay a toll fee! Luckily there was no car damage, but be sure you have good car insurance if you decide to rent a car.
One of expats there said that driving in Dominican Republic is like playing a video game: you need to drive fast among motorcycles avoiding other hazards and not being an obstacle for other drivers :) Also, smaller roads are generally very bad, with huge bumps and holes. It is very easy to puncture a tire on one of those roads.
During this trip we discovered Mexican Airlines - Aeromexico. This was the cheapest option that we could find, offering flights to Santo Domingo for ~$450 if booked in advance. We were late with our booking and still managed to get tickets for $550 even though we purchased 2 weeks prior to our flight. There are several important points related to these airlines though:
- When you purchase tickets online be sure that your transaction is complete. Even though I entered all credit card details and thought that I purchased our tickets, I got an email saying that this is a reservation only and I need to call to make a payment. That text is small and I didn’t notice it. Luckily when I didn’t see transaction on my bank account I decided to call them and confirm my purchase. Airlines representative explained to me that payment didn’t come through and helped me to buy new tickets (luckily they offered the same price while it was more expensive on skyscanner at that point of time).
- We had connection flight in Mexico City, but we didn’t know that when we arrive there we would need to exit the airport, go through all different controls (passport, customs, luggage), collect our luggage, put our luggage to special belt for connection flights, then go through more controls (passport, security). On our flight to Dominican Republic it wasn’t an issue as we had 5 hours and there were no crowds in the evening. However, on our return flight we had only 2 hours during the lunch time. And it was a very stressful and unwanted experience! There were crowds of people at all controls and airport employees refused to help us to get through those lines faster. Because we arrived from Dominican Republic we had to go through a separate luggage control with much bigger crowd. Airport employees also confused us several times by sending to incorrect queues. Finally we found one person who took us to the correct line and helped to get in front of other people. Our learning for the next time is to travel with carry-on luggage only and plan for more time on connection flights in Mexico.
As a conclusion, the more we stayed there the more we enjoyed the place. It takes some time to adjust to local rules, but warm water, hot air, delicious food and drinks, friendly people and great atmosphere are absolutely worth another visit :)