Dominican Republic

Where nature reveals it's secrets
Don’t have time to read? We got you covered. Check out our video from our trip to Dominican Republic instead.
To add a bit of diversity to our Cuba trip, we decided to spend a week in the Dominican Republic. It’s close enough we thought, and it’s sort of like seeing both sides of the tale, one stuck in the 60-ties, while the other kept up with the times. And we decided to have that week in the middle of our Cuba trip, as a break in case we get overwhelmed by the experience there. And boy, were we happy that we did.

Getting there

Two short flights from Havana through Panama we get to Santo Domingo.

Copa airlines were surprisingly good. Staff was very nice, good meals and we got  special treatment from the captain of the plane. He called Luka, our youngest when boarding the plane and he gave him his pilot seat and hat as he proceeded to light up the control board. It was unforgettable experience for Luka. Or captain Luka as we now call him.

 

Hey kid, want to fly the plane?

They call me Captain Luka!

Airport logistics

There’s a tourist card/tax for entering DR ($10) and it should be purchased before the immigration desk. The line is big and you can avoid it if you use the self service machine, which works with small bills, so come prepared. If you don’t have any change, you have to get in line.

The exchange rate at the airport bank counters is not as good compared to the banks in Santo Domingo, so we recommend changing money in town. There is also a departure tax ($20) but it is usually included in your airfare, at least it was with our tickets with Copa airlines.

Going to the Dominican Republic after Cuba was like discovering a treasure land.

Staying in Santo Domingo

A driver was waiting for us at the airport, arraigned by our AirBnB host. The ride from the airport to the Colonial district was around 25 minutes. Our apartment was located at a condominium in the center of the Colonial District. It was by far the best apartment we had. Reconstructing an old part of the city, while keeping the original architecture intact, but adding a bit of a modern touch we felt like living at Sevilla’s’ Alcazar, with private security, fast internet, and a shared swimming pool.  

The first good thing in Dominican Republic was that people spoke English, very good English. We were stuck with our spanglish in Cuba so this was a relief. The second good thing was our visit to the supermarket. A real, big, full of everything Supermarket. I felt like Dorothy in the land of Oz. If you read our post for Cuba you can guess what I bought first: eggs. There was no issue  buying food or anything else here.

My precious!

Colonial District

Ognen was in the Dominican Republic in 2007. He immediately saw the changes they went through during this past 10 years. The Colonial district seemed very well maintained, renovated and clean.

There were a lot of police officers around for which we learned that belong to special tourist police department. We felt safe during the entire stay in this part of SD.

This old district in SD is a real history example of colonial architecture. You can feel the way of life when the first colonists inhabited the city. Tour guides wearing certified tourist info badges offer a walkable tour of the colonial district for a certain negotiable price. But even if you just walk around the small labyrinth streets you can easily find all the sights.

The main sigh is Alcazar de Colon, with the main square, and the set of restaurants / cafes right across from it. This whole area is a giant museum of colonial architecture. Walking around and getting lost is a wonderful experience. See the churches, museums, squares, and sit down to enjoy a cafe or lunch.

Cocoa!

If you are a cocoa and chocolate lover then this is the place where you can buy organic pure cocoa (find Kaw kow the famous DR cocoa brand store). They also offer an amazing lesson on how to make chocolate, and sell some home made chocolate as well.

The store is also located on the first street, in the first house built in the Americas, and is preserved accordingly. 

Los Tres Ojos

The Columbus lighthouse doesn’t light up any more. It is just a big building with not so much to offer. But we realized that we have visited all of the towns where the Columbus remains may be kept. The house was deemed by a tour guide as a big waste of money from the government and nothing special to see.

Very near the Columbus lighthouse there is a park with a hidden gem inside, the Three Eyes (Los Tres Ojos). They consist of three indoor cave pools and one outdoor cave pool. Very beautiful nature around, birds, turtles and fishes in the lake, stalactites and stalagmite formations. There is an entry fee and an extra boat fee for the visit to the fourth lake that’s not connected to the rest of the lakes, but worth seeing. Local guides will approach you at the entrance offering a private tour but we found it expensive and just read everything about the cave on the internet. That way we had more time to just wander around at our pace. Amazing photo opportunities abound. The lakes are magical and definitely worth visiting.

Los Tres Ojos

Useful information:

Uber is present and active in DR and it is as efficient and cheaper than a taxi.

There are no dangerous animals around that can ruin your holiday, and you can also see some interesting species around.

We had two small lizards living in our front yard in our AirBnB place to keep us company.

Flying cockroaches can be found here as well and we still can’t get used to them.