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The Dominican Republic Bekons

“Where can I go in the Caribbean that is nice yet affordable?” “I want to go somewhere that is relaxing but cultural… I want the experience of a pampered resort, but I don’t want to feel like I’m in the U.S. transplanted somewhere else, surrounded by buffet-loving tourists.” These are the questions and comments I keep hearing from friends searching for beauty and relaxation with an authentic, cultural component. It’s exciting to see travel trends moving toward interactive and immersive experiences.

Lately, when I hear this question, my first suggestion is always the Dominican Republic. I’ve never been, so that’s probably a strange answer, you might say. I guess I keep recommending it because I’m heading there for the first time this week, and I’ve definitely done my homework.

Based on everything I’ve learned, the DR has it all. If you want exclusive, all-inclusive resorts, Punta Cana is your oyster. Interested in history and culture? Make your way to Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial, the oldest colonial city in the “New World.” Palm-fringed, pristine beaches suited for indie-travel calling your name? Then Samaná Peninsula is the place for you.

The itinerary

Dominican Republic

El Beaterio

The first two days in Santo Domingo, I’ll be staying at El Beaterio in Zona Colonial. Then I head to Punta Cana for a few days at Paradisus Punta Cana, a vacation package I won (first and only time I’ve ever won anything!) from Expedia, followed by a night in a rental apartment. Heading back to Santo Domingo for a night, I’ll be hosted by The Mercure Hotel, an Accor Hotels property. For the final leg, I’ll drive to Las Terrenas on the Samaná Peninsula and stay at a property I booked through Flip Key. Finally, I’ll return for one last night in Santo Domingo at the Mercure.

While in Santo Domingo

I plan on exploring Zona Colonial, the first colonial city in the new world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The origin of the New World, Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial holds some of Europe’s colonial “firsts” in the Western Hemisphere. There’s the oldest operating cathedral, the oldest surviving European fortress, the first nunnery, the first paved road, and the first hospital in the New World, to name a few.

Dominican Republic

Oldest operating cathedral in the New World

While in Punta Cana

Relaxation is the name of the game. Sun, sand and food will be my main concerns while in the Southeastern region of the Dominican Republic. Taking the opportunity to relax in Punta Cana’s dramatic seascape, where pristine beaches meet the cerulean sea, I’ll allow myself to be pampered at the all-inclusive Paradisus Resort. I’m looking forward to trying many of the ten restaurants available and hanging out on the beach with my youngest sister, who will be joining me on my babymoon.

Dominican Republic

Photo via Paradisus Punta Cana

While in Las Terrenas/Samaná Peninsula

I plan on logging some serious beach time at  Playa Casa Bianca, Playa Las Terrenas, and maybe even Playa Bonita. A half day trip to Cascada El Limon (waterfall) is the only “ambition” on my radar.

The town of Las Terrenas has transformed in to somewhat of a French colony (with plenty of Italians also representing). I’ve read about the stylish European women in designer sunglasses toting fresh baguettes on their ATVs. The pull between local and expat supposedly delivers an interesting social and stylistic mix. Sounds intriguing.

We’ll also be relaxing at our Flipkey rental house a good bit. My sister-in-law and niece join me for this leg of the journey! Pregnant lady and mom with a babe

dominican republic

Our adorable Caribbean cottage. Photo via Flipkey

If you want to follow along, I’ll be covering the trip live via my Facebook, G+, and Instagram channels.

Do you have any question you’d like answered about the places I’m visiting in the DR? Ask away, and I’ll see what I can do!

Disclosure: certain nights’ accommodations on this itinerary will be complimentary, which I will fully disclose. Everything I write about the trip will my honest and genuine opinion.

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21 Responses to The Dominican Republic Bekons

  1. Dennis Kopp April 28, 2014 at 12:12 PM #

    Lindsay, Santo Domingo really is a beautiful place to explore. There is nothing better than taking the time to wander through the alleys of Zonal Colonial to see all the colonial houses, find little squares and trace the old city wall. But take care when you venture at night, it’s the only place I ever got mugged during all my travels… :/

    • Lindsay April 28, 2014 at 5:50 PM #

      Thanks for the tip, Dennis! I haven’t really ventured out at night yet! Saving nights for working (doing early dinners). I have heard to be watchful, though. I agree, there are so many neat nooks and crannies to explore! I did a Lonely Planet recommended walking tour, but sometimes it’s fun to just get lost and stumble upon beautiful colonial treasures.

  2. Jessica April 28, 2014 at 2:52 PM #

    What a cute cabin! I have been seeing so much about DR and it is definitely moving up the list.

    • Lindsay April 28, 2014 at 5:47 PM #

      I love the cute, atmospheric Caribbean cottages for rent on Flip Key! I found a few that I liked, but this one was close to the beach and the price was right!

  3. globalmouse April 28, 2014 at 4:13 PM #

    I love the look of El Beaterio! This whole trip looks heavenly – I haven’t considered the Dominican Republic to be honest but it certainly does look like it has it all.

    • Lindsay April 28, 2014 at 5:45 PM #

      I loved the El Beaterio! If I came back, I would definitely stay there again. The location is amazing, too. There really is so much to do in the DR. You could spend weeks here, easily! When I come back, I’d like to check out the mountainous center of the island (4 or the 5 highest peaks in the Caribbean) and the north shore. There’s also a desert in the southwest area!

  4. The Crowded Planet April 28, 2014 at 4:32 PM #

    I have wanted to visit the DR ever since reading Junot Diaz’s books, and now… I want to go NOW! Will sure be following your trip!

    • Lindsay April 28, 2014 at 5:40 PM #

      I’ll have to check out Mr. Diaz’s books! I’ve been enjoying reading and learning about the history and culture of the Dominican Republic. I didn’t realize there was such a long period of political turmoil and so many shifts in colonial, occupational and dictatorial rules here!

  5. Hannah April 28, 2014 at 5:14 PM #

    Love the Dominican! I spent a week in Punta Cana a couple years ago and it was fablous. Wish I had the chance to explore a little more of the island but no complaints about the sunny warm beaches! You have to make sure you try mamajuana- the local drink. Sounds weird but its actually yummy!

    • Lindsay April 28, 2014 at 5:29 PM #

      Hey Hannah! OK, I will be on the lookout for mamajuana! Actually, since I’m pregnant, maybe I can convince my sis-in-law to get one and taste hers 🙂 Punta Cana was nice. The beaches were beautiful.I’m looking forward to exploring Samaná next!

  6. Tim April 28, 2014 at 5:53 PM #

    I have heard mixed reports about the Dominican Republic centered mainly around the fact that if you stay at an all-inclusive you see none of the real country (no surprise there) but if you leave the grounds what you see is a country in dire straits. I have not been so I cannot really comment. What I am looking forward to is reading your thoughts. Thanks, Tim

    • Lindsay April 28, 2014 at 10:30 PM #

      Tim, that’s spot on about the all-inclusives. I had the overwhelming feeling while in Punta Cana we were in America, just transplanted to a tropical island. It might be beautiful, relaxing, etc. but I’m more interested in experiencing a place and it’s people authentically. I’ve read about the abject poverty and political corruption. I’m just starting to learn a bit about this island nation, so definitely can not claim to be any sort of expert. I do feel a sense of frustration from some of the locals. I’m looking forward to getting out more in the countryside tomorrow and getting a better understanding of the DR.

  7. Sarah Ebner April 30, 2014 at 8:11 AM #

    Had never thought of the Dominican Republic, but you make it sound like a terrific destination

    • Lindsay May 3, 2014 at 8:54 AM #

      It is a pretty neat place to visit, Sarah, because for a Caribbean island nation, it is very diverse. I’ve been to three different areas so far, an I feel like it’s almost three separate countries!

  8. racheldenning May 2, 2014 at 10:32 PM #

    We lived in Las Galeras on the Samaná Peninsula for three months… it was heaven. One of our favorite places in the world. Puerto Plata/Sosua is also incredible, we were there for another three months. What a great country!!

    • Lindsay May 3, 2014 at 9:22 AM #

      Amazing! We really wanted to get to Playa Rincón, but I heard it was a full day trip from Terrenas, and we just didn’t have the time. I would like to come back and visit the north coast (Puerto Plata), spend more time on Samaná (Rincón, Haitises, El Limón waterfall), and maybe even explore the central highlands a little!

  9. Frank May 4, 2014 at 2:59 PM #

    Hey Lindsay! I’m a big fan of the DR, been there 6 times, twice backpacking around the country.
    Santo Domingo is interesting, overlooked as a colonial city – you may find yourself being the only tourist visiting a museum or fort. The Zona Colonial is quite impressive. Punta Cana is ok, you could be anywhere, on almost any beach. Nothing here except for beach life and the actual countryside probably the least attractive of anywhere in the country. But the beaches are great :).
    Las Terrenas and the whole Samana Peninsula fantastic, actually the most attractive area in the DR in my opinion. If you can, rent a motorcycle and do the entire Sanchez – Las Galeras route.
    More if you need:
    Hope you enjoy your time in this fabulous country!
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Lindsay May 5, 2014 at 11:27 PM #

      Awesome, Frank! So, I have a rule that I usually don’t go back to a place (or want to) unless I really under-covered it the first time (i.e. I would rather check out some place new). As soon as I got to Las Terrenas, I knew I wanted to come back to the DR, and soon! I kept meeting people who would tell me other places I needed to check out on Samaná Peninsula and elsewhere in the country. It’s such a big island! There’s so much to do and see! I couldn’t agree more that Punta Cana could be anywhere USA with a beach. The beaches are nice, yes, but I tend to travel for cultural interactions and special experiences. That said, I may be going back to Punta Cana for another 3 day stay (?)- it is enticing to think about escaping the miserable winter in February for the beach! But I would want to have a week to ten days again, like I did this last time, to see and do more!

  10. Elena Sonnino (@ElenaSonnino) May 4, 2014 at 5:31 PM #

    I have never been to the DR but my parents traveled to Samaná and loved it. Definitely on the list of places to see.

    • Lindsay May 5, 2014 at 11:28 PM #

      The more I talk to folks, the more I hear that Samaná is the place to be on the island! I can’t wait to go back!


  1. Punta Cana and the All-Inclusive Debate - The Traveluster - May 13, 2014

    […] latter, although I don’t feel the need to be travel-snobby or judgmental about it. So, when I won a three night stay from Expedia at one such all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana a year ago, I was excited about the […]

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