That’s her! Bávaro Beach is the most beautiful beach in the world according to UNESCO. It’s near the town of Punta Cana, where there is an airport used by European airlines.
Bavaro Beach, which is about 1.5 km long. It is surrounded by palm trees, white sand and azure ocean – truly beautiful. There are bars and a range of water activities, volleyball, there are plenty of sunbeds, which surprisingly we were able to lie on for free and they even added a table for us. So you could order a drink. We didn’t order anything and they continued to smile at us anyway.
We only spent 2 nights at Bavaro beach, mostly just walking the beach and sleeping, trying to adapt to the -5 hour time shift. The beachfront bars aren’t exactly the cheapest, it is a very touristy place after all. For a start to burn our pale skin nicely red, that was enough here.
3 nights in Las Terrenas may not have been enough. But my first impression was that it was too much and that 1 hour with a police escort would probably be enough. We lived in the center of a village where you run into a white man as often as you run into a black man in Olomouc. People were always watching us, sometimes they shouted something, but mostly it was something like, “Jesus, you’re tall!” and they’d laugh. However, the all-pervading poverty, the filth, the men with machetes, shotguns or rifles at their waists, the constant traffic of motorbikes, the constant street noise, all created an impression of terror and fear. We were not prepared for it. Mainly because our idea of the Dominican Republic consisted only of googled images of beautiful nature and beaches…
Our plan here was to visit the Limon waterfall and go on a whale watching trip from the fishing village of Samana. Unfortunately, our timing didn’t work out. It was late afternoon when we arrived in the village of Las Terrenas and it took us a long time to find our accommodation. Then we just walked through the village with our cheeks drawn up and went to bed all scared. We spent the next day at the beach, which was right at the end of the village. Which was a whole different world, the beach was clean, the bars were touristy, the buildings by the sea were mainly hotels of a class. There were very few local ones. This put our minds at ease a bit, we arranged a trip to the waterfall with one of the local tour agencies (French lady) who had the cheapest one ($30) explained what to do, had us pay and done. We can definitely recommend the trip, it was worth it. The whale watching trip was priced much higher, around $80 and up. I’m sure it would have been cheaper directly from the aforementioned fishing village, but we couldn’t find the time.
There are plenty of street shops in Las Terrenas, you can find ATMs and shops where you can exchange dollars for Dominican pesos. There is also one large supermarket where you can find everything you need, including an extensive selection of Dominican rum. We didn’t try the food from the street stalls, neither looked safe or appealing. The restaurants and bars on the beach mostly spoke English, if you chose the smaller bars here, they are usually manned by older ladies who don’t speak much English, but then again they smile all the more. Watch out for the prices. On the menu they usually have prices without extra charges (tax to the government + tax for being by the beach etc.) Sometimes it can be up to 30% extra to the original price.
The capital of the Dominican Republic.
We spent 5 nights here and it was too much. Santo Domingo itself doesn’t have much to offer. It has no beaches and the closest one that everyone will recommend is playa Boca Chica. Which is very touristy, full of bars but very nice.
Santo Domingo is by the ocean, but all the beaches are mostly full of trash. Sometimes to the point where instead of sand, the beach is just covered in trash, which just scares you. The most mysterious part in Santo Domingo is the historic part of town with one long boulevard street full of shops and street vendors.
An hour’s walk takes you to the Christopher Columbus monument (Cristobal Colon is his name in Spanish). We arrived there and were immediately caught by a police officer who said he saw us approaching on foot and that we were definitely coming from the historic center (where all the tourists are based) and to never do it on foot again. He then informed us that the monument was currently closed for maintenance. So we at least took a picture of it from the outside. On our way out, the policeman stopped us again and if we were leaving, we nodded yes. So he said he would arrange a taxi for us immediately. He disappeared for about 5 minutes, in the meantime another policeman came up to us and politely chatted with us about how we liked it. After a while, a car arrives, and a policeman gets out of it, saying that the taxi is ready. He tells us it will cost 200 DP. After getting into the taxi, I check with the driver and we speed back to the historic center. If the memorial was open, it would definitely be an experience to enter it. It’s a really big building and supposedly hides the remains of Columbus himself.
The next day we headed to the Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanico – read Chardyn Botaniko). Lots of palm trees, lots of plants and a gorgeous Japanese garden. Admission for tourists is of course more than double, about 120 DP per person, including a train ride and guide. There is apparently no version without the train and guide. The botanical garden is probably worth a visit just because there’s not much else to see in Santo Domingo. There is a zoo nearby, we walked there again, about 4-5 km. The closer we got to the zoo, the more our cheeks clenched again. The zoo is surrounded by a dangerous looking neighborhood, kind of like a favela in Rio de Janeiro. There, our throats were already tightening at the thought of someone jumping on us with a machete.