We just returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic, it was a fun adventure and lovely Island to visit rich in history and agriculture and of course famous Caribbean beaches. When we were planning this trip, we knew we wanted to hire a car and drive to explore the Island and then spend the last few days at a resort over Christmas. Mostly for the kids, the beach access and pools are a plus. However we really aren't resort people I found it to be overwhelming with so many people and truly having the car and being able to leave and drive around was magic for me. I can see the appeal and also understand why others don't venture out of them much it takes guts. We drove all around Jamaica when we visited, also Puerto Rico. I asked a few locals about the plan but to be honest I am not sure they wanted to encourage us to drive around and really the beaches are what most folks go for or organized tours to sight see.
Like most of the Caribbean Islands alot of the population live in poverty especially in rural areas and live in simple houses, crime is an issue, traffic can be bad in the cities and you have to keep your wits about you. But having said that I don't think many of the Islands are as dangerous as people feel they are and the fear factor is a benefit to the resorts to keep folks on them.
To truly experience the culture and meet locals exploring is priceless in my opinion.
We landed in Punta Cana, one of the hubs of the beaches and Tourism and took a car, we then drove to Santo Domingo as we had a hotel booked in the Colonial district. We stopped for dinner on the way in a coastal town - La Romana the food was good then we continued the 2 1/2 drive sadly it was dark which is never a good idea in a new country. The National highways are toll roads and its cheaper to pay in the local peso, the roads are good, well paved and signed.
As we entered Santo Domingo our hearts sank as we ended up in an area full of traffic, dirt and trash I think they had maybe had a street market, it didn't feel safe either we took our phone off airplane mode and made a call to our hotel that was literally round the corner and as we entered the historic area things improved. The hotel was a small hotel dating from the 1800's with a central courtyard.
Sugar cane field on route, there were acres and acres of it, near Punta Cana
Shrimp in a creole sauce with plantains
in La Romana
the scene as we entered Santo Domingo
The hotel - Palacio
lovely fresh tropical fruit, this was truly a perk on the Island. We visited Turks and Caicos last year, while its beaches were amazing probably my favorite in the Caribbean so far. The islands very rocky soils and lack of vegetation means very little can grow there, so the Dominican republic was wonderful.
Zona Colonial, I enjoyed the old town my hubby was so so about it but I would say its worth a morning or a day just for the experience and history. Christopher Columbus first arrived on this Island and started the Spanish Colony in the Caribbean sadly slowly wiping out the Taino Indians.
The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor started in 1512 is the oldest church in the Caribbean its truly amazing and well worth a visit.
An avocado seller, this reminded me of India In fact much of the Caribbean does
We spend a morning taking in the old town, we then had a great lunch in a small cafe and drove through lots of traffic north and towards the mountain town of Jarabacoa.
Santo Domingo Street art
Stay tuned for a post from the Dominican republic mountains and some scenes from our drive across the country and a look at all the amazing food the Island grows.