The Dominican Republic: An Indie Travel Paradise

in Adventure Travel / Dominican Republic / Overland Travel
11 Comments
travel in the dominican republic turf to surf

Independent travel in the Dominican Republic couldn’t be easier. Which is why I’m confused by the droves of tourists who come to the D.R. to stay at the many fenced-in all-inclusive resorts, the sterile havens that offer all-you-can-eat buffets, watered-down cocktails and organized family activities in a “secure environment.” Which is tourism-speak for  “complete isolation from real Dominican life.”

Is that really what people want these days? Or has the tourism industry managed to convince everyone that travel is dangerous outside an organized tour?

These last three months in the Dominican Republic, our goal has been to get off the boat, recharge our batteries and get in serious shape for the next chapter of our adventures: the Clipper Round the World Race. And though I’m packing up my life and getting ready to leave the D.R., I’m already thinking of all the things I want to do and see when I return. Because, even after three months, I can’t get enough of this island.

And every time I spot a group of pale, sunburnt tourists wearing matching wristbands, I think “They have no idea what they’re missing.”

Driving along the coast on a motorbike, eating cheap fish dinners by the roadside, jumping off cliffs to go swimming, playing in the streets with Haitians kids, befriending the local banana vendor, playing soccer with Dominicans, learning to make morir soñandos from fresh mangos, hitchhiking, laughing with Dominicans as 20 people squeeze into a guagua for 6 passengers and finding an unnamed bar where locals dance Bachata until sunrise. These are the experiences I will remember of my travels on the north Dominican coast.

And when we return from our fun, stressful adventures racing yachts to Brazil and Australia, I have no doubt we’ll be ready to explore what the south coast of the Dominican Republic has to offer.

I just wish I could convince the rest of the traveling world that the Dominican Republic is a safe, friendly country to explore independently. Made even friendlier for those not tethered to a sun-blistered herd of vacationers with newly braided corn-rows.

But to get to know the real Dominican Republic, you have to get away from the all-inclusive resorts and step out into the unknown. Speak some bad Spanish, get lost, eat four-dollar meals, take the wrong bus, dance with old ladies and drink too much rum with a guy named Felix who tells gruesome stories about Trujillo’s reign of terror.

You might regret the hangover. But, trust me, you’ll never regret the experience.

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Photographic evidence of how great travel in the Dominican Republic is:

luperon travel in the dominican republic

From the minute we stepped off the boat, we felt welcomed in the D.R.

travel in the dominican republic imber

Right away, we made friends to explore the countryside with

pork travel in the dominican republic

We ate some strange and delicious things…

lovebirds travel in the dominican republic

Met some interesting animals…

brugal travel in the dominican republic

Drank some Brugal…

kiteboarding cabarete travel in the dominican republic

And headed for Cabarete to check out the kiteboarding scene.

cabarete travel in the dominican republic

We fell in love with Cabarete and decided to make it our home base for 3 months.

crossfit travel in the dominican republic

Where I trained every day at a local gym for surfers…

cross-fit dominican republic

And worked my body into shape for the upcoming Clipper Race.

millennium hotel travel in the dominican republic

But independent travel has its luxuries too – like this one at $5/day.

paddleboard travel in the dominican republic

Or you can book your own private tour without the throng of tourists.

motorbike travel in the dominican republic

Or, better yet, just take off on the open road when you choose…

playa caleton travel in the dominican republic

…to find serene places like this.

dudu travel in the dominican republic

Or thrilling experiences like this.

boat travel in the dominican republic

But you have to get off the boat. And away from the all-inclusive resorts.

To see more photos of Turf to Surf’s travels in the Dominican Republic, visit our Facebook Photo Albums.

11 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Marguerite Svendsen July 18, 2013, 7:06 am

    I also hate all-inclusives, and that’s coming from someone with a husband in the hotel industry! BUT… I have to say I’ve become more understanding of them since having a kid. Scooting around on motorcycles and cramming onto buses becomes a lot harder with a little one. Kids’ clubs and easy meal choices make your holiday infinitely easier if you have a large family, and that’s really the resorts’ market anyway. I still avoid the all-inclusives for other reasons, but I do understand the appeal for some people if they just want to relax in the sunshine and don’t care so much about anything else.

    • Tasha Hacker July 18, 2013, 4:35 pm

      I could see the kids creating a lean towards the all-inclusive resorts… you want to be pampered now and then, I get it. But we rented a whole house (housing is cheap in the D.R.) with a cleaner in Cabarete in a complex with lots of families with kids. And they made their own schedules, took their kids to the local beaches and pools. Just sayin’, you can still do the slow travel with kids and have a great time outside the all-inclusives 🙂

      I get the urge people have for a “no hassle” vacation when their lives are stressful and they only get two weeks off a year to relax…I just wouldn’t enjoy that kind of vacation myself for more than two days.

  • Deana July 18, 2013, 9:09 am

    Troy and I spent two summers exploring The Dominican Republic. We fell in love with the island and the friendly people. We bought a motorcycle and explored the island, tried our best to learn Spanish, ate the fresh fruits and vegetables, rode the guaguas and even stayed in the all inclusive resort.

    Normally we would never vacation at an all inclusive resort – it’s just not our style. But the Luperon cruisers taught us about the 12 dollars per person, per day specials at the Lifestyles Resort in Puerto Plata. How can a cruiser that has been baking in the summer heat resist the A/C and endless showers, not to mention food and drink for such a “value centered” price? It was a not so guilty pleasure for us.

    I will always treasure our time on that wonderful island and always remember the great friends we made there. I hope we get to return someday.

    • Tasha Hacker July 18, 2013, 4:53 pm

      That is SO interesting, Deana. $12?! I would’ve paid that!

      When WE were at Ocean World Marina we got “invited” over to tour the Lifestyles Resort in Puerto Plata, and they told us to bring our swimsuits to hang out by the pool. It sounded awesome and we took them up on it. But when we got there, we got the HARD sell from 9 am to 4 pm and the sales guys wouldn’t let us roam for a second without them. They wouldn’t even let us go to the pool until we’d agreed to put down a deposit for a share in the resort. And at one point, the sales guy tried to trick me into signing a contract saying I would pay a $10,000 deposit up front, except he said verbally it was just a formality so I could go use their facilities. I almost signed and then caught the numbers at the bottom of the page and crossed them all out. The look on the sales guy’s face was that of someone who’d just had his dinner yanked out from under his fork and knife. And then I realize what he was trying to do. It was weird and crazy obnoxious. I felt like I was in a prison with palm trees and I had to be suspicious of everyone. Let’s just say it was a learning experience.

  • Sarah July 18, 2013, 4:14 pm

    The Tasha Yar! 😀

    I know there’s more to comment on, but that made my day.

    • Tasha Hacker July 18, 2013, 4:30 pm

      Lol. I was so excited when I found that dinghy. That couple just arrived as we were motoring by in our dinghy and I begged Ryan to turn around so I could go sit in their dinghy. They may have thought that was a weird way to welcome them to Luperon.

  • Craig July 19, 2013, 6:36 pm

    Nice post! Very nice.

  • Michel Guay July 20, 2013, 8:34 am

    It’s wonderful to see that there are other travelers out there who don’t hold an itinerary, explore what they wish and best of all tell the world that its possible for anyone to do. Keep up the great journal, it is inspiring.
    ps interesting dinghy photo, next stop deep space?

    • Tasha Hacker July 24, 2013, 7:47 am

      Thanks for the compliments, Mike! And absolutely… once Richard Branson brings the price of space travel down to earth, I’d be happy to take a ride to the moon!

  • WaterWays Surf Travel July 26, 2013, 2:05 pm

    Looks like you guys had a great trip to the DR! Did you score any surf during your time there?

    • Tasha Hacker July 26, 2013, 6:57 pm

      LOVED LOVED LOVED the D.R. And I”m so happy we left our boat there so I can return in February and do some surfing. We did kiteboarding this last time. Surfing will be next 🙂

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