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Cabarete, Dominican Republic - Part 2

Posted 1/16/2021

Continuing on with our trip to Cabarete, I would like to share a few of the experiences we had while visiting the beautiful Dominican Republic. Most of these experiences were amazing, a few were intimidating, one was a silly blunder, but all were educational! My hope is that you can learn a little about Cabarete, discover a few places to go, and find some things to do.

 

If you missed the first part of our adventure in Cabarete, find it here:

Cabarete, Dominican Republic - Part 1

 

Where We Shopped

 

We did not shop much as we did not spend much time in town. Instead we were out and about exploring and doing excursions. We did buy groceries since we made most of our meals ourselves, and we bought a couple souvenirs. 

Janet’s Supermarket - This grocery store was large and bright, and we found everything here we needed for the week. Locals and visitors alike were shopping. It was bustling inside and out and seemed an invaluable business for Cabarete. This is the place to go for all your grocery needs.

Local Vendors - We wandered the main street and visited many of the little local shops. Most are geared towards tourists as Cabarete is still a bit of a resort town. Unfortunately, in recent years, Punta Cana  has become the hot spot for people wishing to vacation in the DR and the Northern part of the country is suffering because of it. The evidence is in the many abandoned resorts and other buildings. The local vendors are struggling and are willing to deal for a sale. Although bargaining is part of the purchasing process, remember that they are bargaining to feed their families and try not to be stingy.

  

Our Favorite Expenses

 

Wilson's Jungle River TourWilson’s Bar and Restaurant in La Boca, Zoo, School/town

We booked two excursions with Wilson, a local guide who works with the Phoenix Spa and Resort. Our favourite of the two was the Jungle River Tour. It was nice to share the experience with the other guests who we were beginning to get to know. First, we drove in a van to Wilson's Zoo down the road. I have to say that I did not enjoy this part of the tour. I am not a fan of wild animals being kept in captivity for the viewing pleasure of tourists. I am conflicted in this view because this zoo is part of how Wilson makes a living and I do not like to judge other cultures because they are different from my own. I chose to stay in the shadows until this portion of the excursion was over. From there, we walked to a nearby private school and village area. The school was partially funded by international donations and was making a huge impact on the families living nearby. We learned a bit about Dominican homes and their lifestyle. All of the local people we met were friendly and accommodating. I wish we could have stayed and engaged with them more.

 

Centro de Aprendizaje y Desarrollo Integral "CADIN" (Center for Learning and Integral Development)Centro de Aprendizaje y Desarrollo Integral "CADIN" (Center for Learning and Integral Development)

 

A short walk to the river took us to Wilson's river boat on a tributary of the Rio Yasica. We boarded the boat, cast off, and were almost instantly transported to a different world. The slow moving, narrow, winding river was serene and beautiful.

 

Travelling down a tributary to the Rio YasicaTravelling down a tributary to the Rio Yasica

 

The boat was quiet and open and the perfect vessel to explore the waterway. Eventually, we joined the Rio Yasica and in due course came within sight of the ocean. This is the location of Wilson's Bar and Restaurant. (See Cabarete, Dominican Republic - Part 1) After an amazing lunch at Wilson's, we played in the ocean until it was time to board the boat for the trip back.

 

Just J and T where the Rio Yasica joins the ocean.Just J and T where the Rio Yasica joins the ocean.

 

We went on another of Wilson's excursions a few days later and enjoyed a day at Playa Grande and the Laguna Dudu Nature Preserve both in Cabrera. The Playa Grande beach is an amazing stretch of white sand set against the lush jungle. Laguna Dudu, also known as the Blue Lagoon, is a collection of freshwater pools surrounded by natural cliffs where you can swim, snorkel, or free dive. I would recommend trying any of Wilson's trips if you are able. His excursions are worth every penny.

 

A quiet street in Gaspar Hernandez. A stop on the way to Laguna DuduA quiet street in Gaspar Hernandez. A stop on the way to Laguna Dudu

 

Iguana Mama's Magic Mushroom Tour - Canyoning on the Rio Blanco

We booked a day with Iguana Mama, an adventure tourism operator, for their Magic Mushroom Canyoning Tour. We were fortunate enough to have only one other gentleman join us so with two guides, our group consisted of only five people. Canyoning involves waterfall rappelling, river cliff jumping, sliding, wading and swimming down the river.

 

Just J jumping a small waterfallJust J jumping a small waterfall

 

It was an exhilarating day! The trip down the river was slippery, steep, and through rushing rapids at times. As the day progressed, we dug down for courage to make the jumps, and energy to complete the rappels. It was unlike any trip down a river that I have ever taken. The Magic Mushroom waterfall was the highlight at 150 feet. It was beyond nerve wracking crossing through the pounding water across the top of the waterfall to get to the location to hook into the safety ropes. We descended the Mushroom with a rappel and zipline and then continued our travels down the river. At the end of the canyoning adventure, we climbed out of the valley and were driven to a little roadside restaurant where we were treated to some amazing stewed chicken and vegetables. What an awesome finish to an fantastic day! Iguana Mama has a number of tours to choose from. I am sure each one would be a great adventure.

 

T rappelling down a waterfall on the Rio Blanco T rappelling down a waterfall on the Rio Blanco

 

Painting - White Shawl

On our second excursion with Wilson, we stopped at a local roadside vendor in Gaspar Hernandez. I purchased a painting by a Dominican artist. It was my first real haggling experience and my first purchase from an authentic artisan. The canvas was 3 1/2 feet by 2 1/2 feet and had to be removed from the frame so it could fit in my suitcase. It was rolled up and wrapped with brown paper. This is still one of my favorite paintings and it always brings back fond memories of the Dominican Republic.

 

White Shawl PaintingWhite Shawl Painting

  

Other Memories

 

My story would not be complete without sharing the tale of our stolen backpack. The Phoenix was not located on the ocean. The beach was a ten-minute walk through the mostly abandoned roads of outer Cabarete. We actually did not make it to the beach on our first try as we chickened out walking past the haunting shells of uninhabited, overgrown resorts and vacant paths. We saw some locals in the odd occupied building, including a non-uniformed guard with a shotgun. (At the time we did not know he was a guard.) It was the first time we had experienced this type of impoverished neighbourhood, and we were unsure about the safety of it. After discussion with the resort management and other guests, we were less nervous and eventually made the trip a few times.

 

The walk to Cabarete BeachThe walk to Cabarete Beach

 

The beach itself was wild and private; the ocean was noisy and rough. We became too comfortable with the fact that we were alone and left our backpack unattended while we laughed and crashed with the waves. We left the bag high up on the shore, near the underbrush and under a palm so that it was in the shade. We really could not have made our bag more tempting and easier to steal! As could have happened anywhere in the world, our backpack was stolen. We lost way too many important items from that bag including both of our phones and our wallets full of all our important cards and other items. We have since learned to streamline the items that we pack and take on trips. We lost our extra clothing, books and even the resort keys! Thank goodness we had left our passports at the hotel. The resort was accommodating as we contacted home and made plans to have money transferred to us. This experience has not soured us on travel at all and we realize that whoever took advantage of our foolishness probably needed the items more than we did.

 

Cabarete BeachCabarete Beach

 

If you want to hear another interesting story, ask me sometime about our trip to the Cabarete Police Station where we had to report the crime! There is something about being taken deep into a jail in another country to give a statement to the Chief of Police in his office when you do not speak each other's language. I made T sign the Spanish statement written by the Chief. We do not fully know what he signed! It may have been a confession of some sort, but he has yet to be detained or refused entry to the DR since!

Our first trip to the Dominican Republic was eye opening, and sparked a huge interest in travel for our whole family. We have been to the DR four times now and will go again, I am sure. We have been to Cabarete, Costambar, and Las Terrenas. We have not been to Punta Cana. I am looking forward to the end of the Covid-19 pandemic and to a time where we can once again travel abroad. If you find yourself looking for a different sort of holiday, try the Northern coast of the Dominican Republic. You will not be disappointed!

 

Cabarete Beach, March 2016Cabarete Beach, March 2016

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