In the words of our Dominican tour guide (Francisco), during our recent trip to Republica Dominica…”Hola, Hola – Coca Cola”. A trip was not on our list of recent things to do, let alone a trip out of the country, but we came across a deal we couldn’t pass up. With the dates we given in order to take advantage of the special deal, we had about 60 days to figure out what sort of adventurous trip we could put together. Known for being the first place Christopher Columbus reached on his voyage west and the origin of the popular Hispanic dance – Merengue, there are quite a few excursions offered on this picturesque island.
Doing our internet research on TripAdvisor, as any well traveled couple does, we read several great reviews for a touring company – R.V. Private Tours & Taxi, owned and operated by the very friendly, very meticulous, and a very humbled René Robles. He emailed us a list, with cost, of several tours we could choose from…
A Tour of Puerta Plata
ATV & Buggy Adventures
White Water Rafting
Given our sense for adventure we got to customize our tours to get the best thrill ride we could and with only 5 full days on the island, we had to pack it all in. After some negotiations/compromises, we agreed we had to see Paradise Island, 27 Waterfalls, and sure why not – a tour of the city of Puerta Plata. The adventure started with René promptly picking us up at the airport and after loading our bags in his van, he offered us a rum & coke. Oh…this is going to be a good trip!!!
Day 1 – Paradise Island
It was an early morning (7:00a), but René explained to us that getting an early start would allow us the best experience. Needless to say, René was right on the money, as he was with all the other tours.
The morning started with a 90-minute ride along the coast to a small coastal town. René brought his friend and co-pilot (Francisco – remember him from earlier), who turned out to be quite the knowledgeable tour guide. We also picked up a family of 4 along the way. Once we reached the small town we were pleasantly surprised by the vibe we got….white sand beach, the clearest aqua-blue water, and a friendly crew of 3 to take us out in a small fishing boat to Paradise Island.
It was a quick 30-minute ride to the island, which is actually just a huge sandbar – about half a football field long and about 30 yards wide. The crew unpacked the gear (snorkeling equipment, fresh fruit (pineapple, cantaloupe, and coconut), and a cooler with water AND of course…rum & coke).
After we got settled, we grabbed our snorkeling gear and hit the clear, somewhat warm water. We got a bottle filled with bread and some bananas to feed the fish. Who knew they liked bread and bananas? The fish were not afraid to swim right up and start a bit of a feeding frenzy. We saw a puffer fish, a parrot fish, a few sea urchins, and schools and schools of other reef/coral fish.
It was a good 30-minute swim around the island. Back on land, they’d cut up all the fruit and offered us, surprise….a rum & coke. We grabbed few pictures, talked with the crew, and had a few more rum & cokes. After being out about hour and having the island to ourselves, we could see a few small boats heading our way. After another 30-minute swim with the fishes, we saw a huge catamaran heading why with about 30 people on it. This was our signal to pack things up. The boat ride back was a thrill ride itself, along the groves of mangroves, dodging in and out of coves and inches along the mangrove canopy.
On the way back to our resort, we stopped at a little touristy spot to see some of the natural plant-life (coffee beans, avocados, cocoa trees, bananas), had a few shots of the local favorite – Mama Juana, and got see cigars being hand-rolled. Of course we had to try rolling our own. I like to think I did better then Christie, but she’ll beg to differ. We grabbed a few souvenirs and of course a box of cigars, and heading back.
Remember when I mentioned René picking us up from the airport, offering us a rum & coke,and I said this is going to be a good trip? He has not disappointed us so far.
Stay posted for days 2 & 3.