How we turned our Dominican Republic all-inclusive holiday to an active vacation and adventure

We are about 10 000 meters above the West part of the Atlantic Ocean and we are heads home at top speed. However, we are still wondering what home actually is?

Is it the place where a person has been born and raised, the place, where they have spent most of their lives, the place, filled with friends and family…

Or is it the place that makes you happy for no reason, the place that can’t let you go and you have no doubt you’d stay there…

Yes, maybe home can’t always be defined by artificial pseudo-patriotic clichés, societal stereotypes, or lease payments.

Home is something flexible, home is you and your beloved in all the places you forget easily all the dimensions and definitions of the terms “home” and “happiness” and just let yourselves feel them.

Those are the thoughts that pass through your head when you feel yourself flying away from the paradise, which charmed and enchanted you just hours ago. Paradise in our case has a name – the Dominican Republic. What experiences did we have in paradise?

traveling to Sosua in Dominican Republic

Most people love the Caribbean, especially the Dominican Republic because of the incredible waters – turquoise, bright blue, green, even golden, because of the tropical atmosphere, because of the merengue and bachata, because of the sweet cocktails with rum and other local alcoholic products. All the enumerated things are conducive to laziness and relaxation. We are not inclined to laziness but that doesn’t mean we are not going to enjoy it thoroughly.  Aimlessly or not, now we are here, on the Northern coast of Hispaniola island in the Dominican Republic.

The all-inclusive offers are not for everyone

It is hard to wander outside the hotel complex without something bad happening to you. At least that is what the tour operators are trying to install in your brain. We’ve been about 24 hours in Sosua (a town, maybe a village) and we went out twice. Once we went to take a night stroll and nobody ate us. Sports bars and hot discos attract the public while we are jet-lagged and stick to drinking a cocktail or two while the view towards the crashing waves lulls us to sleep…

Exploring beyond the hotel – charismatic Sosua

Let’s go back to getting acquainted with the local situation.

We wanted to see what we could see beyond the walls of the hotel because the area is too interesting to stay inside. The Dominican Republic is big and we don’t have much time. We went around, asked, and compared offers and prices. The competition is a lot. Everywhere you are told, “Don’t leave the hotel.”

However, it is just a regular town outside. There is a supermarket to buy rum to take home. There are bus stations (we are not going to use only taxis at high prices!). We’ve chosen several tours from local agencies, who offered good prices. We decided on visiting several beaches. We talk to everybody and we learn new things about the area, the locals show us the ropes. It could be a chambermaid, a street vendor, a stranger on the beach, everyone is happy to share their experience. It’s very hard to laze about with so many sources of information, when will we have the time?

Don’t forget to enjoy the all-inclusive vibe

Today the ocean is calmer and the snorkels are everywhere.

We take a series of jumpies. This is the party vibe that permeates everywhere – nice music, people are lying around: on the edge of the Jacuzzi, near the reefs, under an exotic tree of unknown species. Colorful birds sing to us. 20 meters away from us bachata is playing and there the President (the local beer) awaits us. We shouldn’t overdo the cocktails because we risk diarrhea.

At least that’s what we are told are the dangers of too much lactose. The important thing is that you don’t need to get to the medical center because the bartenders know a trick – la Bomba. It is a bombastic name for the solution to the stomach problems and it can be whipped up in no time – soda, lemongrass, and a secret ingredient. You drink it in one gulp and you are good as new. How little a person needs to continue their vacation in full force!

Leaving the hotel complex to do for a crazy ATV ride

And here we go – to our first outside-the-hotel activity – a quad bike (ATV) tour. We’ll pass villages, roads, we’ll go splashing in ponds and drifting on the beach. Who’s in?

Dominican Republic, ATV tour

Damajagua Waterfalls and truck safari

The Damajagua Waterfalls seem familiar from the Latin American part of the show The Аmazing Race. We weren’t expecting to see them live so soon, but apparently we were lucky. Today is going to be full of places, people, emotions, and head-wind.

A big truck took us bouncing on the roads of the Dominican Republic towards Santiago. Children came out of shabby houses in the middle of nowhere to cheer at us and rejoice at the things people gave them from the truck. It looks degrading to throw sweets at kids behind the truck, but their joy is genuine. We climbed up and saw more and more peaks and paths while the shore and the sea were fading in the distance.

On the way there we replenished our strength with Dominican petrol – Cuba Libre (rum and Coca Cola) and Cuba Santos (rum and Sprite). We stopped for lunch in one backwater restaurant and of course, it was very tasty.

The Brugal family is the owner of the most precious things in the country – the № 1 rum factory, the eucalyptus forests along with the adjacent factories, and the rock mines. Children and adults work in the mines. They are all members of the association of carpenters and miners, which should protect their human rights. Over 200 families are fed by the rock mining industry, which, as is the case with everything done by hand, is sold at higher prices and should attract with better quality. We didn’t stay long enough to see how often they take a break. They were extremely concentrated on their work.

In the next village we made coffee and cigarettes and watched legal cock fight.

We had no way of knowing what was the most important part of making coffee – that’s the singing of a special song. We saw for the first time a Larimar, a unique bright blue stone which is claimed to be found only in the Dominican Republic.

To reach the 27 waterfalls you have to cover the distance through the forests and the streams on foot. It takes about 30-40 minutes. Some of the cascades are enough to wring you thoroughly. The climbing, diving, and all kinds of adventurer’s skills are tested.

A day so far away – Isla Paradiso, beach hopping, natural wonders and immersing in the local culture

One that very day we could say we totally forget that we’re on an all-inclusive vacation – we just hopped on a minivan (and later to a mini-boat) to explore the Paradise island, along with two more amazing beaches, the Blue Lagoon, waterfalls in holes, local plantations and mini zoos. What an eventful day it was!

Paradise Island, Dominican Republic

Puerto Plata – city escape

Taking into account the knowledge we gathered during the previous days we couldn’t force ourselves to pay 35-50 dollars for a city tour of Puerto Plata. Our self-organized stroll passed normally, pleasantly, and without a hitch.

We went to the main road from Sosúa to Puerto Plata. There we had to catch a bus or transporte (the local improved version of taxis – the itinerary is fixed and there is no upper limit to the number of passengers). We saw a transporte and quickly negotiated to hire it only for 4 times a lower fee than that of a taxi. There was room for further lowering of the price but we decided not to push our luck. After all, we were about to occupy the whole car, when normally it took 7 to 8 passengers.

We had no problem finding our way in the city – the Amber Museum, the central square with the cathedral.

Several local guides surrounded us, how come we are walking around on our own? We were easy prey when they spotted the bracelets from the hotel. We put up a heroic fight and a hundred pictures later it is time to head towards the beach lane and the fortress. The fortress has withstood several complete destructions of the city and now stands proudly by the sea and the meadow behind it is a joy to the eye. At the same time, it is next to the oil tanks, but what is more beautiful than the mix of history and modern reality. People tend to underestimated cities when visiting tropical islands, but there are actually tons of stuff to experience and learn there. These are just two dozens of cool things to do in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic’s capital.

When looking towards the shore you can glimpse the statue of Jesus from time to time. This mountaintop is our next stop.

After a bit of haggling and some walking, we find the moto-taxis at an acceptable price. We whirr to the first station of El Teleferico (a cable car) that is about to take us to Loma Isabel de Torres. In no time we find ourselves in a real tropical forest, hidden above the clouds. The view below is hidden by a white curtain. We wait patiently and we are in luck – it lifts and we are greeted by the view of the whole city and the beach. The best present for my birthday!

So this is the story of how we turned our Dominican Republic all-inclusive holiday into active vacation and adventure! We love the fact that we managed to combine the perks of an all-inclusive hotel with some adventure outdoors, exploration of the Dominican’s natural wonders, and immersion in the local culture!

One-week vacation in the Dominican Republic
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One Response

  1. Awesome!! I love that you guys left the all inclusive to experience some of DR beyond the resorts. I’ve never been to damajagua but it looks amazing. So glad you enjoyed DR 🙂 😀 woohoo

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