Photo Essay: Paddleboarding in Cabarete, Dominican Republic

in Adventure Travel / Dominican Republic / Photo Stories

In a slow, lilting, surfer’s voice, our paddleboarding guide John identifies each plant we see, sometimes tearing off a leaf and shoving it in his mouth. We’ve only known him for 5 minutes, but we scramble after John through a winding natural maze in his backyard leading down to a lagoon, pausing now and then to hear what he says about a certain tree or flower, the names of which we don’t recognize. Though Ryan and I are both nodding our heads as John talks.

Plucking a leafy green stem from a nearby plant, John urges me to eat it. “This stuff is the best thing for you,” he says. “Put it in your salad and you’ll live forever. Want some almonds?” And before I can say no, a smiling Dominican woman appears, takes out a knife and splits open a beige pod on a tree stump. She hands me two almond halves in their shells and I marvel at how little meat comes from such a fat, stubborn casing.

I’m not sure if it was the email exchange with John, in which he sold me on the paddleboarding tour including “a lunch of coconuts, almonds, sugar cane, and a 10-herb Noni tea, fresh from the garden,” but when Ryan and I turned up to the “Method Lodge” at 9 am, I truly expected our guide to be a local Dominican who’d been exploring this area since he was a toddler.

Instead, John turned out to be a nature-loving American who spent 15 years in Hawaii teaching surfing and kiteboarding until government bureaucracy drove his business elsewhere. And with the Dominican Republic being open to enterprise, and Cabarete being the Caribbean home of kiteboarding, John came to Kite Beach, built a new school, and started inviting people into his backyard to look at the plants, eat from the trees and tour his beloved lagoon by stand-up paddleboard.

As a result, this was not just your average paddleboarding trip led by some employee of a tour company. As you can see in this photo essay, our host John invited us into his home, fed us from his garden, introduced us to his family (and adorable dog) and taught us things about the wildlife and ecosystem of this Dominican lagoon, which only someone who lives, breathes and loves this place could teach us. Really, it wasn’t so much a tour as it was an experience.

Would you like to experience the Method Lodge tour? Email John Holzhall at He loves visitors and teaching his guests about Cabarete’s natural surroundings.

dominican puppy love

Upon arrival, we met the Method Lodge’s future guard dog.

method lodge cabarete lagoon

The lagoon tour starts in John’s backyard.

lagoon paddleboarding tour method lodge

John follows in the rear, giving us pointers on our paddleboarding technique.

turf to surf paddleboard

Though this is easy on flat waters, I wonder what paddleboarding is like on the ocean.

john holzhall method lodge cabarete

John shows us how to do “Hawaiian paddleboarding” on our knees.


turf to surf paddleboarding tour cabarete

Ryan takes a breather to enjoy the view.

john paddleboard guide cabarete

…Which is encouraged by our guide

cabarete lagoon dominican republic

After 2 hours, we push our way through the reeds to head back.

dominican sugar cane

Our lunch of sugar cane, coconut, almond and 10-herb tea from John’s garden, just as promised.

cabarete dominican puppy method lodge

Except I feed most of my goodies to this adorable dog.

john holzhall method lodge cabarete dr

We stay for another hour, listening to John’s stories about Hawaii

dominican puppy

“Can I take him home with me? Please?”

For more photos of Cabarete and the Dominican Republic, visit Turf to Surf’s Facebook Photo Albums.

0 Comments... Be the first to comment
  • Mid-Life Cruising! June 12, 2013, 10:45 am

    Wow, what a great backyard John has! Just goes to show the possibilities out there!

    • Tasha Hacker June 13, 2013, 10:31 pm

      It’s a great place and he’s a great guide 🙂

      • Misty July 18, 2016, 3:24 am

        Until I found this I thhogut I’d have to spend the day inside.

  • Julian June 12, 2013, 11:22 am

    I did the paddle in the lagoon. Such a lovely change from the hustle and bustle of kitebeach and Cabarete’s main drag. His backyard is pretty awesome!

  • Sarah June 24, 2013, 12:10 pm

    That puppy is adorable.

    Also, I really don’t think I have the balance for that paddle boarding at ALL.

    • Tasha Hacker June 24, 2013, 1:48 pm

      You’d be surprised! The paddle board is very stable. It doesn’t require much balance!

  • Justin Adam May 22, 2014, 3:35 am

    Really i love it. Pictures are so beautiful.

  • Gerry meyet September 9, 2017, 12:29 am

    John is my cousin, he is one of the best people in the world. His wife rosalba and daughter Dakota are super also. I enjoy keeping up with John, because he has been a friend and has been an influence on me. John has had me come to Hawaii when he was there. John is the bomb when teaching people how to do kite and windsurfing. (His cousin)Gerry

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