Dominican Republic - resort style

We headed off to the Dominican Republic on December 21st.
We had a simple enough schedule - up at the a$$ crack of dawn to head to our small, quick Savannah airport.  Then off to Houston for a layover and an arrival of 1-something pm.  In reality, we got to our room around 9pm.  United completely screwed our itinerary up.  Delays.  Lack of crew.  Plane maintenance.  You name it. (how do you not have crew?  Was the flight that I booked in July a surprise for you, United?)
Enjoying my first of many strolls in the sun!
When we finally made it to the airport in Punta Cana, we just needed to pick up our pre-arranged rental car.  Easy, right?  Hmmm.  He harassed me about being several hours late and then tried to charge us $400 for insurance (the car was only $150 for the whole week).  I have insurance, thank you.  He did, however, give us excellent details regarding the 45min drive to Bayahibe as well as info on the tolls we would have to pay using US $ since it was too late to convert any money.  The car was clean and perfect for the two of us and our backpacks.  And all of our scuba gear...

Packed for 8 days travel - we even came home with some clean clothes.  Not pictured here?  2 large suit cases filled with scuba gear...  
I had pre-planned a detailed route to the hotel before leaving the land of data.  Verizon likes to charge me insane amounts for data outside of the States, so I knew I needed a plan, as there was no guarantee of wifi at the airport.  And we turned off our data as we finally boarded the plane in Houston - not to be turned back on until we landed back in the States.  So how did I get around not being in a foreign country with no gps?  I pre-searched the route and then took screen shots of the step by step directions.  The queen of cheap.  You're welcome.

 The drive was easy enough as was the check-in at the resort.  We finally got to our room and were very impressed.  We have a history of renting rooms that require flip flops in the shower.  This was no flip-flop-shower sort of a room/resort.
A bit fuzzy, but you get the idea.  And that's only about half of it.
We were starving so made a dash for some food.  The resort (Dreams, La Romana) had several restaurants as well as a buffet.  We hit the buffet.  
Mark loves it when I make him pose for touristy pics.  But I wanted a pic of the flamingos.
The first couple of days the food was not great throughout the resort.  While the selection was amazing, the seasoning was very bland.  It was a little disappointing.  I have to assume the head chef was off before the big Christmas rush, because within two days the flavors improved dramatically.  We tried a couple of the restaurants - the Pizzeria was consistently delicious.  The appetizers at the other restaurants we tried were all delicious - and I would've made a meal of them if I'd known how bland the entree's were going to be.  We ended up eating most of our meals at the buffet due to the enormous selection of fruits and veggies.  We were both mostly vegetarian for the entire week.  While that's normal for me, it's new for Mark.  He obviously eats vegetarian meals at home, as that's what I cook most of the time - but he usually eats a considerable amount of meat away from home. We even ate our dinner Christmas night at the buffet.  Can you guess which Buche de Noel is the resort's and which one is mine...?

Mixed in with a LOT of napping poolside and endless rum drinks (very light on rum - don't think we didn't notice, sneaky resort), we snuck in some exploring and adventure each day.  Monday we hung out and got the lay of the land.  Gotta know the feeding schedule/plan of attack. We also walked all over the property and enjoyed the sand between our toes. 
Tuesday we walked 5 minutes up the beach to the fishing village of Bayahibe. We talked to 3 different dive shops and ended up booking with Casa Daniel for Christmas Eve.  We scheduled a 2 tank dive for Wednesday - which resulted in a dive with a special guest:  

The diving and snorkeling in the area is pretty great.  It's fairly shallow with lots of reefs and fish.  I, however, have a dive limit of 30 minutes.  My body has an internal clock that immediately shifts into "get me out of here" mode.  I get incredibly bored and am ready to head up for my safety stop.  You can only look at parrot fish for so long.  Sure enough, each dive I noted the boredom kicking in and checked my computer to verify that it was, in fact, the 30 minute mark.  I guess it's good to know your limits.  (I was also freezing by this time - particularly on the 2nd dive, even in 85F water and a full wetsuit...)
After booking our dives, we grabbed lunch at a local restaurant.  It was OK, but not great.  And the prices made it clear that we were obviously Gringos.  But we really didn't want to spend all of our time at the resort.  We wanted to get out and see what all was happening in the "real" DR.

The temps and breezes were amazing.

We could not have had better seats!
Thursday was Christmas Day and everything was closed.  We spent a quiet day poolside and had a great time. Surprisingly good people watching.   

Friday we were supposed to do another 2 tank dive.  We drove over to the shop but I'd noticed a bit of grumbling in my stomach.  By the time I had to make a decision to dive or not to dive, the cramps had become pretty extreme.  I had to bail on the dive, but Mark was able to head off for 2 wreck dives.  
While Mark headed off to enjoy his pre-stomach-cramp wreck dives, I walked it on back to the resort.  I looked for a SUP rental place I'd read about before heading down to the island, but didn't have any luck, as I'd not bothered to get an address or anything.  Since I knew I'd be visiting my room frequently, thanks to the grumbling/mystery contaminated buffet food, I went ahead and bought my $5 internet pass for the day and found/booked  SUP rentals for Saturday. 
I managed to sneak in beach aerobics, beach yoga and ocean Zumba...  ;)
Mark's dives were great on Friday, but when he got back it was clear that he, too, had eaten whatever I'd eaten the night before.

Friday afternoon we snuck in a quick hour on the resort's Hobie Cat.  We'd never sailed one before, and it was a blast.  I can see sailing these little sucker every chance we get!

We did not let frequent bathroom breaks stop us from our SUP'ing on Saturday morning - and we had a great 2 hours on the water.  Mark even fed the fish.  I highly recommend the local Bayahibe SUP.  (Leave your wallet in your trunk*.)The owner was very nice and had good boards and a great map that showed us reefs to watch out for, etc.  She even offers lessons and tours. It's the perfect way to see the 2 bays.  We even paddled over to the snorkel area that boats were charging $30/person to snorkel from. (it was about a 5 minute paddle from shore.  If you had snorkel gear, you could just swim out there and snorkel for free...)  We strapped our board leashes to the bouys surrounding the snorkel area and checked out the sites.  More parrot fish.  Also some really cool neon blue and black polka dotted fish that I was completely intrigued by.  I may or may not have stalked the same fish for about 15 minutes...

Saturday afternoon we loaded up the car and headed into La Romana.  We'd already explored the fishing village by foot and car and were ready for some bigger city exploring.  And some gas for the car since we had to return it the next day.

La Romana is the reason that I, a non-resort going traveler, would recommend a resort if you want to go to La Romana. I imagine there are good hotels in Bayahibe, which is much smaller and easier to navigate.  (I can't speak for any other part of the island, and am excited to return and explore other parts by boat one day.)  The poverty is obvious.  But it's obvious in many places we've visited and has never hindered our travel. I expect it and know that it exists everywhere. The difference was the people.  I can only speak for our experience, but the people we encountered struck me with a sense of deviousness.  There was an apparent suspicion of us and an attempt to get something out of us with every single encounter.  It was a bit disappointing, even if it is understandable.  I was fortunate enough to read up on the culture before going, but even understanding some of the political upheaval that has been prevalent in the DR, I was still surprised by the constant manner in which I was uncomfortable.  I've roamed the streets of multiple villages in multiple countries and never had the feelings I had there - even walking alone without knowing the language.  I'm not explaining it very well - but it was not pleasant.  We never found a place to park and didn't see anything we wanted to explore even if we had found parking.  That is due in large part to my lack of planning.  We generally just go explore.  Plan-less, avoiding as many tourist traps as possible.  But that did not work in La Romana - and perhaps I would've known where to head if I'd put in some effort.  We did get some fuel in the car.  That was an experience that strongly reinforced our need to learn Spanish.  To really learn Spanish.  I was able to whip out some basic spanish/convo in order to clear up the bill, but we still managed to get charged for more gallons than we actually got.  We've gone back to our evening studies via Rosetta Stone and Youtube and are progressing.  But we need to do more. The clock is ticking.  We can't really experience the parts of the world that we want to explore if we can't speak the language.  What good is travel if you only see the sights and don't interact with the people?  Ok, well, it's pretty amazing. But how much more amazing would it be to strike up a conversation on those gorgeous beaches?!?  

At the end of the day, the trip was excellent.  And of course, even at 8 days, it was too short.  Had we been in Luna Sea, we would've pulled anchor and mosied over to another bay - but we wouldn't have been ready to sail away altogether.  

We head to different islands each trip in order to add them to the Potential List of places to settle down one day or to eliminate them all together.  While I'm in no way ready to strike the D.R. from our list, since we have so much more to explore, it definitely did not give us the warm, fuzzy feeling that some other places have given us.  And that's ok.  Have you ever been?  Have you had similar gut reactions to places?  It was certainly a great trip and a needed break before heading into this last semester of school while simultaneously prepping for/moving onto the boat full time.  Happy Holidays - and thanks for following along!

*Regardless of your location, you should be smart and lock up your wallet.  We ended up with a mystery charge on our Amex that day. We could've grabbed our dry bag and taken our stuff with us.  We could've put our bag in the trunk of the car.  We could've taken just enough cash with us to pay for the rental and left everything else in the room.  We know better.  We got lazy and complacent after so many secure days on the "compound" where we didn't have to think twice about our surroundings.  We were in a country with a devastatingly poor population.  The charge was only $45 (just under the $50 limit that will flag your card) and was apparently used to pay a cell phone bill.  We were required to cancel the card that afternoon.  We did not even use the card the rest of the trip - so this was the only time it was unsecured.  Learn from our laziness and take precautions any time you travel.  I did not contact the owner - who we knew was leaving the location during our rental period. I don't have concrete proof and do not want to risk someone's job without that concrete proof.  I would not hesitate to use this same board rental company again. I feel the fault is purely on our shoulders.


  1. The pictures are BEAUTIFUL and ya'll look like you are having a good time and you got to be together, peacefully for DAYS, sorry you had some difficulties but glad you got to go......AND VERY GLAD you got home safe and sound ! ! ! ! HAPPY NEW YEAR ! ! ! ! ! LOVE YOU, MOM/candy :)

  2. So jealous! We're stuck in the Canadian winter! We loved the DR but visited Puerto Plata and Samana. I think you guys would really like Samana, more of a cruiser community and less of a resort one, also where the majority of humpback whales are born! Where to next?

    1. Samana is definitely on my list for our boat visit! And Luperon. We were just wondering the other day what you guys were up to! Next trip will likely involve Mark's dive instructor training, so maybe south Florida?

  3. Sounds like a pretty good trip overall! I'm with you on wearing the full wet suit in tropical waters and still getting cold....maybe a hood would help....might look rediculous, but might help ;) I hope you soaked up some sun for me! ~Jackie

    1. We really did enjoy the trip! I think it came off negative in the post, but I wanted to be sure and log all the random stuff that happened - particularly the stuff where we know better! The weather was amazing. I think it's time to move to south Florida at the very least - until it's time to sail away... :) Stay warm up there!


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