Boca Chica, Santo Domingo and Jarabacoa

fishking

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Nov 27, 2007
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Boca Chica, Santo Domingo and Jarabacoa
1-17-08 to 1-24-08

My wife and I spent a week at Oasis Hamaca in Boca Chic with side trips to Santo Domingo and Jarabacoa and had a great time. We are in our mid 50?s travel a fair amount to Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, but this was our first time at an all inclusive resort. I actually lived in the DR for a year in the 70s when I was in the Peace Corps this is my first time back. I do speak rusty, basic Spanish which surprisingly improved a lot with daily practice.

The trip down was easy getting the luggage, customs, transport to the resort and check in was a breeze. It was 8:00 PM when we arrived and we were the only ones checking in at the time.

Room-We were in Room 001 the first one on the ground floor beachfront on the Duarte St. side of the resort. It was a bit worn scratches on the furniture and some scuffs on the walls but big, comfortable and very clean. I loved the location of this room just walk out the sliding glass door and you were on the beach in 30 seconds. I also enjoyed sitting on the patio during the afternoon and evenings. The maid, like all the workers, was great I tipped her $5 a couple of times and there were lots of towels, water and the room was always meticulously cleaned.

Food ? Sometimes it was very good but always lots or choices and very adequate. I loved the Boca Chica fish in the Dominican you do have to deal with the bones but very tasty. The Italian was very good, great tenderloin one day, seafood the next the Tex Mex had good ribs. I never ate dinner in the buffet and ate at each restaurant twice and didn?t need reservations never waited more than 10 minutes but there is kind of a rush at about 8:30. For breakfast or lunch I either ate at the buffet or the place on the beach (Mangos?). During the main meal times they serve a smaller version of the buffet on the beach. Also if you want something you don?t see, ask and they will try and get it for you.

Beach- I enjoyed it a lot, a little crowded at times but fun. There was some (very) shallow water snorkeling that could be done right off the beach not fantastic but quite a few fish and some fan coral. They run a boat to the other side of the reef for $18 for better snorkeling each day at about noon. I brought my own mask and fins so I went off the beach every day and once with the snorkel trip.

Staff ? Universally great, friendly, courteous and if I asked for something they always tried to satisfy me whether it was food, towels, water, booze or music. The staff was a big part of why I enjoyed the resort.

The much complained about construction - no big deal. They were building the pool right in front of my room it was never dusty or dirty and only noisy a couple of times for a few minutes. I actually enjoyed talking to the workers building the pool had a couple of rums with them at the end of the day, very nice people.

Only complaint about the resort was the noise from the recreation staff at the beach I hate that techno/disco/ragatone or whatever it is but I'm kind of and old man give me Salsa and Meringue anytime and actually I wouldn?t mind some piece and quiet. This wasn?t a problem at night only during the day.


Boca Chica- Duarte St is fine during the day and enjoyable to walk. The Tourist Police were quite visible but that doesn?t mean the locals won?t be trying to sell you something you don?t need for 10 times what it worth. It does get pretty sleazy at night.

Boca Chica Public Beach- If you are there on a Sunday or holiday you have to walk the local beach it is a show unto itself, families, kids, old men playing Dominoes, music and salesmen. The Dominicans take there families, kitchens and living rooms and transport them to the beach for a party.

Fishing- I am a fishing nut so I brought a three piece travel saltwater rod and some tackle. There are a number of options for fishing. If you walk down Boca Chica beach there is a sports fishing pier, you can see it from the Hamaca Beach. There are a variety of charters available from full blown 30+foot Sports Fishermen for $500 to $800 for ? or full day to modified Yolas (the local open 16? to 20? fishing boats fitted with mono and wire trolling rods) $40 -$50 an hour. I really didn?t want to spend a lot of money or leave my wife for hours while I went fishing so I took another route. Almost every morning I was out early walking the beach casting I did catch some small jacks and a small barracuda. The second morning I was fishing off the pier of the Pelican restaurant and some local guys came by in a yola catching bait. I called them over and they were willing to take me out for $10 an hour. This was a basic boat, they fish with hand lines, didn?t speak any English and you supply your own tackle though the next day they did come back with fresh ballyhoo for bait, kind of an Old man and the Sea experience. I had fun with them they took me out to the point to the east and we caught big barracuda, spanish mackerel (that?s what I think they were) and jacks.

Side trips- We took two side trips during the week and probably would have done another trip to Boca de Yuma but do to a change of schedule I couldn?t arrange it.

Santo Domingo- We took the public bus into town and it was easy cheap and interesting. We caught the bus in Boca Chica, it leaves from the north side of the park but if you walk down the street that runs parallel to Duarte they seem to be running all the time in the morning and will pick you up along the way. You change buses in Andres (a 10 minute ride) the people on the Boca Chica bus made sure we got on the right bus. On the second bus they change you 50 pesos about $1.20. (first bus is free). The people on the bus were thrilled to have some gringos on board and were very friendly. The last stop is very near to Independence Park and once I let them know where I wanted to go one of the passenger made sure we got off there and walked us to the park. We spent a little time in the park and walked through the gate to Conde St and had some coffee and a cuban sandwich at the corner caf? where I used to hang out at 30 years ago. There we met some American expats that were also hanging out and we spoke to them for a while. We walked up Conde to the Cathedral then negotiated with a taxi driver for a tour of the city for $12/hour. We went to the Columbus house, the waterfront, and we walked around the old city a bit. I will say I was a little disappointed with at least what I did in Santa Domingo I?m only so big on historical stuff, I hate to shop, it was pretty hot, and the guys hassling us hire them as a tour guide got old fast. Also I guess I remember but I was shocked by the trash/pollution on the waterfront and it takes a bit to shock me. We went to the Amber museum and my wife bought some Laminar, I probably should have bargained more vigorously but she liked the pieces. We went out to Thres Ojos which was OK. I?ve seen similar caves in Puerto Rico and Mexico but here I did get taken by a tigre for $25 for a tour that should have cost $5 at most. We then took the taxi back to Boca Chica for $30.

Jarabacoa- This was a fantastic day trip that made the whole vacation worthwhile. Through the website DR1 I found a driver Andre Broeders (ers@hotmail.com) a great Dutch guy that speaks good English and Spanish he picked us up in the morning at 7:30 drove to Jarabacoa was very patient driving us around as I relived my youth and dropped us off at 6:30 back at the hotel for a very reasonable rate. Jarabacoa is a very different place in the DR it is up in the mountains with pine trees, coffee plantations, very green tropical vegetation, raging rivers and beautiful green hills and it is not a tourist trap. I lived outside of Jarabacoa in Pinar Quamado in 1976 and part of my quest was to find the little house in the country where I lived, which has since that time become a mythical piece of paradise in my mind. With patience from Andre and my wife I did find the house which was semi abandoned but it still did look like paradise. This is the Campo where you can encounter the true heart of the Dominican people, friendly open people with a natural hospitality that is hard to match. The house was next to the Yaque Norte River a beautiful ranging river I used to swim in daily. I saw a house across the river and small homemade suspension foot bridge, think Tarzan movies but not quite. I used to know a family that lived across the river so we decided to see if anybody remembered me. I and Andre both big guys crossed the river and went up the trail to the house with my wife trailing behind intimidated by the bridge. There was a woman with two small kids at the house instead of feeling threatened or scared by two strange men she immediately invited us to sit on her porch which had an unbelievable view of the mountains. When my wife arrived she hugged her and offered us coffee. Once we had coffee she showed us around her very simple, very clean home basically a three room shack. She also showed us around her little farm which she was very proud of, lots of beans, lettuce, potatoes and tomatoes in a meticulously maintained garden. She was drying her own hand picked coffee beans, which she roasted and ground by hand. Once the tour was done she insisted we have lunch. Just simple rice, guandules and salad but delicious which we shared with her and as it tuned out her 7 year old son and 18 month old granddaughter. Luckily in her purse my wife found some small regalos for our hostess a small flashlight, some gum and a keychain. When we left it was like old friend parting with hugs, and an escort across the river from the son. We drove further down the road along the river to the Grazarids, a little settlement on the river with that is focused on swimming and I think rafting. There was a more substantial suspension bridge over the river that led to a large swimming area, bar, dancehall and restaurant complex. There were people around but from what they said all the establishments are much more active in the summer but it was a nice place to have a couple of beers and enjoy the scenery. We drove down the road a little further but there were washouts from the last set of tropical storms so we turned around. This is the road to Pico Duarte and we did get glimpses of it from the road. On the way back we stopped in Jarabacoa at the quite attractive central park and had some helados. This area has developed a lot in the last 30 years but still stunningly beautiful. Both ways we got stuck in traffic in Santo Domingo which is huge but actually even stuck in traffic pretty interesting. This was a great trip made possible by Andre the driver and the wonderful Dominican people.

General Impressions
This was a very enjoyable trip and I?m not quite sure why I didn?t go back sooner. The country has changed quite a bit in 30 years. Some probably for the better but the emphasis on tourism while I?m sure benefits the local population can distort the local culture but that's the way of the world. I will not do the all inclusive route again until I?m to old to fend for myself though I enjoyed parts of it and it was easy I like to get out more, talk to locals and wander around. I was surprised how well my Spanish can back over the week which was a great benefit and made the trip that more enjoyable. Again I can?t emphasize how much I enjoyed the Dominican people. Next year I?m looking at the North Coast and staying up at Jarabacoa for at least one night.
 
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bob saunders

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Jan 1, 2002
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Good trip report. It is always good to see Jarabacoa through someone elses eyes. Glad to see it the same way I do.
 
Jarabacoa- This was a fantastic day trip that made the whole vacation worthwhile. Through the website DR1 I found a driver Andre Broeders (ers@hotmail.com) a great Dutch guy that speaks good English and Spanish he picked us up in the morning at 7:30 drove to Jarabacoa was very patient driving us around as I relived my youth and dropped us off at 6:30 back at the hotel for a very reasonable rate.
Yes I was his tourguide