Life after the Bahamas

in Adventure Travel / Dominican Republic / Overland Travel
20 Comments
little inagua bahamas turf to surf sailing blog

Sometimes it takes a drastic change of scenery to refresh your perspective on a place. Which is exactly what happened when we arrived to the lush, tropical expanse of the Dominican Republic after 3 months in the quiet, secluded, picture-perfect islands of the Bahamas.

I was thrilled to have arrived to the D.R. after deciding to head south for hurricane season, and not just because the journey there was long and rough and lacked a working auto-pilot. As soon as we stepped foot in Luperón, I was smacked in the senses by loud, Latin music; lively Spanish chatter; jagged mountains begging to be climbed; motorbikes whizzing past carrying women and babies; the smell of overripe mangoes; cheerful, aimless dogs; and delicious food so cheap you could eat out three times a day and barely graze the bank.

20_cabarete

We fell in love with active towns like Cabarete in the D.R. (Photo credit: La Novia del Atlantico)

It was such an ecstatic contrast to the last three months of tranquility in the Bahamas that it brought on a surprising revelation: as stunning and picturesque as the water and beaches of the Bahamas were, I had gotten bored of them.

Now, if you are a land-lubber or soon-to-be-cruiser, you’re probably thinking, “Boo hoo. It must be torture to spend 3 months on beautiful beaches. Cry me a river.”

I get it. First world problems. I should just shut up. (Except I won’t ‘cause this is my blog.)

Or maybe you agree with “Rum Trouble” (which is his real name, no doubt), who commented on a post I wrote about how little there was to do on Warderick Wells Cay:

rum trouble comment

I get him, too. How dare a faux sailor like myself talk smack about everyone’s favorite cruising destination?

But before you and my Rum Trouble fan club start throwing virtual tomatoes at me for calling the Bahamas “boring,” let me first explain where I’m coming from.

The Bahamas is an absolute boating paradise. You can anchor anywhere, near any island, and everything you could care to see is within walking or dinghying distance from your boat. And you’re always guaranteed a white-sand-and-crystal-blue-water view from your cockpit while you sip sundowners and eat home-cooked meals made with canned goods from Florida. Never mind that you stocked 6 months’ worth of canned beans and tomato paste because the price of eating out in the Bahamas rivals New York City. It’s still lovely to enjoy drinks and preserved food onboard as the sun sets over your private island paradise.

But, as much as I love the tranquility and sense of self-reliance that comes with traveling by sea, not to mention the stunning, secluded anchorages, I felt there was something missing from my travels in the Bahamas that I couldn’t put my finger on at the time.

Then we arrived to Luperón and, suddenly, my beautiful, barren, bird-less surroundings were replaced by deliciously gritty, musical streets full of Dominicans chattering and hanging their laundry from brightly-painted cinder walls, motoconcho drivers shouting offers to take me places, and more animal life in one neighborhood than I’d seen in the whole of the Bahamas. It was sensory overload, and I was so energized by it, I practically squealed with delight as I kicked off my deck shoes, threw my charts overboard and started running for the hills. Well, not really, since we need our charts… and I don’t wear deck shoes. But I did trade my flip flops for sneakers as soon as I discovered how many hundreds of miles there were to explore by car, foot, Guagua (local bus) and motorbike.

luperon dominican republic turf to surf

The hills of Luperon were a sight for sore eyes

After all, we were making up for three months of lost activity in the Bahamas. So as soon as we’d had our fill of Luperon, we hit the road and headed for towns like Cabarete, where Dominicans and expats from all over the world come to go surfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, mountain climbing, paddleboarding and motorbiking into the heart of rural towns to chat with Dominicans over cold Presidentes and the soundtrack of Salsa, Bachata, and Merengue. Which, of course, explains why everyone we’ve met looks they belong on the cover of an athletic wear catalog.

In essence, the Dominican Republic is everything the Bahamas is not. It’s dynamic, loud, sporty, tropical and cheap. So cheap you can go out every night, take Spanish classes and kiteboarding lessons and not break the bank. Which also explains why everyone here is so young. It’s the perfect place to come if you love beaches, sports and parties and you don’t have a lot of money behind you.

kiteboarding cabarete turf to surf

This is the kind of stuff I was missing in the Bahamas. Call me crazy.

Don’t get me wrong (and put down those rotten tomatoes, please); I loved the Bahamas and I fully understand why it is such a popular cruising area. What sailor wouldn’t love a playground  of endless beautiful anchorages? And if you’re a water lover, there is enough fishing, diving, snorkeling and reef exploring in the islands to satisfy a mermaid.

But if you love getting off the boat and pushing your body, mind and senses to their limits by diving into the lifestyle of a different culture or taking on a new and foreign sport, then the Dominican Republic wins.

To see the places this country has to offer, though, you have to spend a fair bit of time away from your boat, which isn’t very cruiser-like. But if I’m being totally honest here, after 6 months of living in a closet-sized space with Ryan and our two cats, I am more than thrilled to get off the boat and explore land to my heart’s content.

So, in that sense, perhaps Mr. Rum Trouble’s criticism of me is accurate. As he said, “I would hardly consider you a seasoned sailor.” And though I never claimed I was, I can truthfully say I’m not content with life on the boat alone, which probably means I’m not really a cruiser at heart. Maybe I’m just a traveler who happens to have a boat.

And I’m okay with that. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to combine my love of travel with the new-found skill of sailing. It’s broadened my view of where I can go and how I can get to places that might be difficult for the average traveler to reach. And the Dominican Republic is just the kind of place where I could stay for a while, sink myself wholly into a new challenge like kiteboarding or surfing, and camouflage myself in the fabric of a new and interesting culture.

It has everything I was missing in the Bahamas.

So, if you still want to throw those tomatoes, I’ll understand. Go ahead and let ‘em rip.

27 Charcos Damajagua DR Turf to Surf

We loved the “27 Waterfalls” of Damajagua so much we went twice.

cruisers in the dominican republic turf to surf

This is what happens when you travel the countryside with crazy cruisers you meet in Luperon

cabarete beach at night turf to surf

The nightlife in Cabarete makes a visit well worthwhile

motorbike dominican republic turf to surf

Ryan took to the Dominican “moto” like a pro

To see more photos of the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, visit Turf to Surf’s Photo Albums on Facebook.

20 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • ParadiseParrot May 10, 2013, 1:05 am

    If every place was the same then their would be no point in travelling.
    Enjoy each place for itself. Peace Love and Coconuts!

    • Tasha May 10, 2013, 6:37 am

      Absolutely!

  • svborada May 10, 2013, 9:12 am

    A breath of fresh air. I think this is what cruising is really all about, experiencing life.

    • Tasha May 12, 2013, 11:59 pm

      Thanks! I couldn’t agree more.

  • Ana Martinez May 10, 2013, 9:21 am

    I’ve been to the Bahamas and I agree with you 100% the Bahamas is simply boring. I went for vacation and I literary wanted my vacation to be over (I must be the first person to wish their VACATION to be over). Otherwise, when I go to the Dominican Republic I wish I could stay there. Everything is just seen to be so nice!!! The beaches are beautiful, the people wonderful!! And yes everything is so cheap! I cannot simply wait to go this coming June. And I love every time you post something new.

    Just for the record, I’m saying that Dominican Republic is better than the Bahamas NOT because I’m Dominican. It’s the way I felt. I went to Cancun, Mexico and I loved it!!! So, after the experience of Cancun, Mexico and Dominican Republic, the Bahamas is simply boring!!!

    • Tasha May 13, 2013, 12:00 am

      Ana,
      It’s so nice to hear from you! Your country is a gorgeous place with incredibly lovely people. I can’t say enough good things about the D.R.!
      xx
      Tasha

  • Mid-Life Cruising! May 10, 2013, 11:06 am

    While we can’t wait to spend a while in the Bahamas, we wouldn’t want to stay there our entire cruising time. The Dominican Republic looks like the perfect contrast! Glad to hear it’s a lot cheaper there too.

    • Tasha May 12, 2013, 11:59 pm

      It’s amazing. And “cheap as chips,” as my British husband would say. 🙂

  • Craig May 11, 2013, 10:02 am

    What a great post! Very interesting and it completely makes sense to me. The best part of being a cruiser is that you can just move on.

    • Tasha May 13, 2013, 12:01 am

      That’s true! Getting bored? Set sail for the next port!

  • somanybeaches May 11, 2013, 11:07 am

    Yup, the water in The Bahamas is bee-u-tiful . . . because there is no soil to silt them up. No soil = no trees = no agriculture = no fresh fruit and veg (which I inhale like oxygen). Jamaica was our DR in the sense of the bounties of produce at the local markets, but DR seems way more friendly. We’d love to visit. BTW, are y’all planning on keeping the boat in Luperon for hurricane season? Just curious . . .

    • Tasha May 13, 2013, 12:02 am

      I can’t wait to get to Jamaica. I’m sure it’s amazing! Yes, we will be keeping our boat in Luperon for hurricane season. Stay tuned for our plans, as they change almost daily!
      xx
      Tasha

  • Grace Arnison May 11, 2013, 11:27 am

    This might be my favorite blog post so far! You really expressed yourself perfectly here Tash – I came away completely understanding your perspective. DR sounds awesome and JUST what you two need right now, you both have such a zest for life and it was a lot to offer right now. Enjoy and maybe we will get to experience a little with you!!!!!!!

    • Tasha May 13, 2013, 12:02 am

      Awww. Thanks, Grace! The DR is AWESOME. I really hope you guys are able to get down here and hang out with us for a bit!
      xx
      Tasha

  • Leigh May 13, 2013, 2:48 pm

    BOO on Rum Trouble and his kind. You are inspiring because you have created the life that YOU want, in order to pursue what interests YOU. Keep it up! (And the writing as well, because your blog is one of my absolute favorites.)

    • Tasha May 13, 2013, 2:53 pm

      Awww, thanks Leigh! I really appreciate the comments and your correspondence!
      Tasha

  • David Mozingo May 22, 2013, 12:16 am

    Great blog! Please keep it up. Bahamas is wonderful… Dominican is as well. Just different. Different strokes for different folks…. Varity is fun! If you like Dominican, try to visit St Vincent some day. It is where they filmed Pirates of the carribean.

    • tashahacker May 22, 2013, 12:19 am

      Yes, every place has its own quality and sometimes you need different kinds of places at different times. I would LOVE to visit St. Vincent! Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Andy May 22, 2016, 5:14 am

    We spent 2 weeks holiday in the Bahamas. Weather perfect, hotel amazing, beautiful beaches. But…should have made it a week. Bored after that. Not a lot to see and do. Should have got the hint when the taxi driver who picked us up from the airport said ‘2 weeks?!?’ With a sense of surprise. Nassau was a bit grubby and uninspiring. The guidebooks talk up every little thing as if it’s as amazing as Stonehenge, Carcassonne or some other amazing wonder of the world. Which really, it won’t be. We missed the Pirates cave 3 times as from the description in the guidebook we thought that little hole in the rock by the roadside just couldn’t be it! Straw market? Bore market! Still and all, boat trips, island hopping, drinks by pool, super beaches, diving all amaaazing…for a week or so. Third week of holiday was in NYC thanks heavens.
    Andy recently posted…Our slice of peaceMy Profile

  • Becca September 25, 2016, 11:29 pm

    Great post Tasha! It’s all about balance and experiencing each place for what it has to offer. When you’re ready for something different, you move on. That’s something I can’t wait to experience with cruising. Oh, and way to take Mr. Rum Troubles head on. Everyone has their own opinion dude, chill out.

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