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Cabarete, Dominican Republic - Part 1

Posted 1/9/2021

I consider our trip to Cabarete as our introduction to travelling. We had previously been to a few places in the United States and Mexico, and had spent a day in the Bahamas during a short cruise, but those trips felt more like vacations; we had not stepped out of our comfort zone. In the Dominican Republic, we started to learn that people in other countries might live a little differently than we do.

The 5 W's

 

Who Travelled – T and I

What Was Different – This was our first holiday outside of mainland North America

Where Did We Go – Cabarete, Dominican Republic

When Were We There – Saturday, March 5-Saturday, March 12, 2016

Why Did We Choose This Location – Inexpensive time-share exchange

  

Map

 

Cabarete, Dominican RepublicCabarete, Dominican Republic

 

The Dominican Republic is located on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean region. The DR is the larger of two countries that make up Hispaniola, the smaller being Haiti. Punta Cana, located on the eastern coast of the DR, is a popular tourist destination with a number of luxury resorts. We chose to travel to Cabarete, a town on the north end of the country.

  

How We Got There


We flew into the Gregorio Luperon International Airport, which is also popularly referred to as the Puerto Plata International Airport, and landed in the evening after dark. We exited the airport and stood wide-eyed as we were bombarded by taxi drivers and other people calling to us, offering various services, with some trying to pick up our luggage and carry it for us. All the offers were shouted in Spanish, none of which we understood. We looked at the various signs being waved our way, hoping to see our hotel name on one of them, like you would expect to see on an all-inclusive vacation. Unfortunately, we had made the mistake of not arranging transport to the hotel ahead of time. Thankfully, we were able to contact the hotel manager, Rudy, for help and he was gracious in overlooking our lack of preparation. After some scrambling on his part, a ride was found and sent to pick us up at the airport.

This would be our introduction to Dominican driving. It was a white-knuckled experience in a large black Suburban on unlit, narrow, and very rough roads. If there are traffic laws in the DR, I am not aware of them, and it seems like the drivers do not follow them anyway! On any given day, there are trucks, cars, scooters, bikes, and livestock on the roads battling for position, and the air is filled with the sound of horns honking, engines revving, and people yelling.

We passed through Cabarete and as the weak lights of town faded away, the area became less populated. We passed many abandoned and overgrown buildings. The roads, houses and fences seemed to be in disrepair and garbage was strewn about the ditches. We started feeling apprehensive. Where was our driver taking us? Was this really how to get to our resort? We have travelled much more since then and have come to understand that this is a common environment in the non-urban areas of many developing countries. Our fears were relieved when we arrived at the Phoenix Spa and Resort and were welcomed through the gate, we were not being kidnapped after all!

 

An abandoned resort in CabareteAn abandoned resort in Cabarete

  

Where We Stayed


Phoenix Spa and Resort (also called Le Blanc Spa and Resort) is located on the outskirts of the town of Cabarete. Do not be fooled by the name. The resort was more like a small apartment building with maybe fifteen rooms, and there was definitely no spa! The beach is an easy fifteen-minute walk away. (Be sure to read Cabarete, Dominican Republic - Part 2 to learn more about Cabarete Beach and our 'rookie' beach mistake and consequences!) The staff were mainly locals with limited to no English, although the manager Rudy, and his wife Chantel, both spoke English fluently. Our room was spacious and bright and very clean. The linens did not match, neither did the kitchenware and there were a few items that did not work or were missing. But all the necessities were there and most were functioning, and the staff addressed any concerns we had, which were few.

There were bottled water jug dispensers available just outside the rooms for drinking. We were on the main floor and only steps away from the small pool; the restaurant and bar were almost as close. The food was good, even if we had to wait at times. The restaurant was not busy, they were just on 'island time' (Which we have come to love and embrace!). The drinks were cold and plentiful. Because the resort was small, we were able to meet fellow travelers and make some good friends; a few of whom I am still in contact with today.

 

T and I with fellow travelers and friendsT and I with fellow travelers and friends

 

It was a quaint and secure accommodation, and I would not hesitate to stay there again in the future. It is worth noting that the Phoenix has since expanded and the new section is modern and contains a larger pool, new restaurant, and private Jacuzzis, but we would request the older building for its charm and peacefulness.

 

The courtyard of the Phoenix Spa and ResortThe courtyard of the Phoenix Spa and Resort

  

Local Transit

 

We never used any other forms of transport during our stay except the Phoenix shuttle van. The shuttle ran into Cabarete every day, and to the town of Sosua, with its beautiful beaches, twice a week. We had a full schedule on this holiday and only used the shuttle once to visit Cabarete. There are many transportation options in the Dominican Republic including motoconchos (motorcycle taxis), taxis, and public bus. The availability will depend on where you are.

  

Currency 

 

We used American currency for most purchases on this trip. We were given Dominican Pesos for change. Both currencies are acceptable. At the time of posting, one Canadian dollar is equal to approximately 45 Dominican pesos.

  

Notable Food

 

Wilson’s Bar and Restaurant, La Boca - fried fish, fresh avocado, rice and beans

We stopped for lunch midway through our Jungle River Trip (see Cabarete, Dominican Republic - Part 2) at Wilson’s Bar and Restaurant. This little BBQ shack is accessible only by boat. You can drive a vehicle up to the Rio Yasica on the opposite side from the river and flag down a restaurant employee who will boat across to get you, or you can arrive in your own boat. The menu is simple and delicious; choose from the various seafood or chicken (we chose the pescado frito or fried fish), and the dish will be served with rice and beans, plantains, and a fresh salad including avocado, tomatoes, and cucumber. The food is cooked over a wood-burning open flame stove that is still used by some local people as there only cooking source. I have been to the DR three more times since and frequented many local and authentic restaurants, and have yet to find a meal as delectable as what we received at Wilson's. Be prepared for the rustic and yet stunning atmosphere. The bathroom facilities consisted of a toilet in a crude tin shack with a barrel and ladle to flush. But the view of the river meeting the ocean from your table is breathtaking!

 

Wilson and his restaurantWilson and his restaurant

 

Lazy Dog Beach Bar and Grill, Cabarete – nachos, beer

On the day we visited Cabarete to do a little grocery and souvenir shopping, we stopped at the Lazy Dog for a beer and snack. The beer was cold and the nachos hot. This was an expat-run restaurant that was popular with other expats and tourists. The most memorable part for me was that it was the first time I ate 'in' a restaurant while digging my toes into the sand. We rarely eat at restaurants that serve American-style food anymore when we travel but I will always remember the Lazy Dog as my first beach eatery. As of 2020, the Lazy Dog has closed its doors.

 

Beach eating area at the Lazy DogBeach eating area at the Lazy Dog

  

Next Saturday: Cabarete, Dominican Republic - Part 2

 

Be sure to read about our Jungle River Tour, Magic Mushroom Tour, and our Cabarete Beach mishap in Cabarete, Dominican Republic - Part 2.

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