On our recent trip to the Dominican republic we hired a car and visited a lovely mountain town called Jarabacoa popular with the locals as a mountain retreat and I am sure loved by folks from Santo Domingo for weekends to escape the heat and the hustle and bustle of the city. Its about 2 1/2 hours north of Santo Domingo but really pretty far from Punta Cana where many US flights enter the Island probably 4-5 hours. We don't mind one long drive on a trip as truly it allows you to experience the culture and often without longer journeys we miss gems like this. We stayed at Gran Jimena, a small resort style hotel situated next to a rushing river. The sound was so soothing. The restaurant over looked the river and served good food. There was a pool and you can take some horse rides from the hotel, the kids loved this. Its a rural area and felt safe and we enjoyed wandering about the country roads seeing local farms, cows and chickens.
On the map below you can see its location, Punta Cana is the far right side of the Island if we ever return I hear Samana in the North is lovely and would be an easier drive from Punta Cana.
One of my favorite things about the Caribbean islands is the roadside fruit and food stands.
In the mountains we found grapes and strawberries in season.
A local butcher shop, it doesn't look so appealing to us but I am sure its fresh in many countries including India live animals like chickens are kept at butcher shops and killed as you buy them.
Banana trees the banana's are great on the Island
coffee with a view and of course The Dominican republic grows coffee :) in fact the plantations aren't far from this region
The hotel had a fun wooden bridge to walk over :-)
Breakfast we so enjoyed all the fresh fruits and the poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce were great this is another dish I may have to try and re create
The horses :-)
On our journey back to the coast they were selling this cornbread like cake so we stopped and got some, pretty good very moist and flavored with cinnamon I think, they also had arepa a kind of fried corn chip.
My favorite although tiring day of the trip was the drive back from the mountains to the coast it took 4-5 hours and my hubby bravely navigated the small villages the Spanish navigation system helped a lot it would be easy to get lost here and very few people spoke English. I was probably the only white girl for miles :)
This is a paddy field
We did get lost slightly but it took us to the Cacao growing area, the little pods that later make chocolate I have seen this previously when we stayed at the Green Castle Estate in Jamaica.
I stopped the car by the side of the road and took a few minutes to walk into a grove. It was cool, damp and very shaded, similar conditions to how coffee grows, if you look very carefully you can see Cacao blossoms whats amazing is that these are pollinated by a little midge or no see em what we think of as an annoying tiny, biting insect helps give us the gift of chocolate.
On the topic of chocolate I encourage you to buy special chocolate from small producers who give farmers a fair price its better to nibble and savor a few squares of a quality dark chocolate with a story behind it than over consume mass produced cheap chocolate that may have involved exploiting farmers in Africa, many of whom can't even afford a bar of the chocolate they work so hard to help produce.
This lovely field was five minutes outside of the resort in Punta Cana I found the resort nice but overwhelming too many people and I needed to escape the car was a Godsend for me :-)
Hope you enjoyed a little insight into the beautiful and agricultural diverse Island of the Dominican Republic :-)