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SHORT GETAWAY TO THE CARRIBEAN: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Discover the secluded beaches of the Dominican Republic, beyond the touristy spots


couple on a beach

Dominican Republic was never on our bucket list, being so touristic. But getting the chance to explore this island, by a fortunate coincidence, turned up to be a nice getaway to the Carribean.

We only spent there 5 days, out of which 2 were in a 5 star resort and the rest on Saona island, which was the best decision we could take.

The main island, called Isla Hispaniola, is shared between Haiti and Dominican republic. The island itself is not very spectacular, but it is the place were most hotels are.


How to get there


First things first. Being a touristic destination, there are many flights landing there, especially charter flights. We found some decent tickets from Madrid and Brussels, but more expensive than expected.



Visa


It obviously depends on your nationality, so please check your own country`s ministry of exterior. However, even you do not need a visa, like we didn`t, you still need to fill out an E-TICKET, on this link.


carribean beach

Useful facts


Before moving on, here are some things which might be interesting before you go:


  1. Dominican Republic is actually an expensive country if you want European/ American standards. The accomodations, in general, can be cheap, as long as you can accept a basic B&B. However, anything that is above that, will be few hundreds of $ a night.

  2. Hotels can trick you a lot - ALWAYS read the reviews, wherever you go. Even the super expensive ones had some reviews such as the sink and shower were clogged etc.

  3. UBER is working on the whole island, along with taxis. However, it can be quite expensive. Like 120$ for 60 km.

  4. The clicheistic best Carribean beaches are actually not on the main island: you need to go to Saona or Catalina for that.

  5. The best way to explore Saona is actually staying on it, although it is not that popular. The other small islands do not have accommodations

Safety


Contrary to all the rumours, we didn`t feel that unsafe anywhere. But take some basic precautions, anyway. Don`t walk alone at night, don`t carry too much money with you, don`t wear things that might attract attention, these kind of stuff.

Saona, where we stayed, being a small island, felt completely safe. we reccommend it 100%.


Payments


Usually you can pay in pesos and dollars and you can also find plenty of ATMs in towns.


couple on a tropical beach

Getting around


We only used UBER and taxis, arranged by the hosts. Although expensive, felt the best way.


Our itinerary and accommodations


We spent the first 2 nights in a 5 start adults only resort, in the northern part of the island. Not our preference, necessarily, but is was part of the circumstance of getting there.

Although not exactly our style, felt quite nice for these two days.

The resort is called Live Aqua and you can find it here.


Afterwards, we took a taxi to Bayahibe and spent the night there. Byahibe is a small town in the south east of the island and is the point where all the boats towards Saona island leave.


Officially, there are also public boats that go to Mano Juan, the only village that is on Saona. In the end, our host in Mano Juan, offered to take us and this turned out to be a better option. They stopped also in the mangroves reserve and Piscina Natural on the way to Saona.


Now, the story regarding the accommodation on Saona island is like this. Saona is a beautiful but small island which has only one fishing village where you can find a place to stay. This village is called Mano Juan, as mentioned above.

The place is really remote and all the accommodations are very basic. However, few of them are nice and clean and provide the basic necesities whereas some are extremely bad. Please read all the reviews on Booking.com and Google Maps before booking something.

We struggled quite a lot to find a decent stay, to be honest. But, after reading many reviews we found this Dominican - Switzerland couple that has a homestay and which offered a very clean room with shared bathroom, pick up and drop off from Bayahibe and 2 bikes to go around the island. They even cooked for us, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner, wherever we needed.

We highly reccommend them. The place is called Casa Mano Juan. We booked it via Booking.com but afterwards we communicated via whatsapp on this number: +41764944592. We only spoke to them in Spanish.

Other ones that had good reviews were Casa Rosada and Saona Lodge, but the last one cancelled our booking due to some paperwork issue. Try to avoid Casa Rural El Paraiso de Saona, due to bad reviews.


woman in white bathsuit
The balcony in Live Aqua Resort

drone view of beach
However, the beach on the Atlantic side was not the best

carribean palm tree beach
Mostly when compared to the amazing beaches on Saona

Beaches


We will do a decreasing top of all the beaches we`ve seen. As a general tip, on Saona island, people tend to take day trips and they come after 10 am and leave by 15 pm. So, if you are already on the island, if you go outside of those times, there are hight changes you`ll have the entire beach for yourself.


  1. Canto de la Playa - by far, the best beach on the island. The water is the clearest and the colour is the best. The only downside is that it is also very popular and there are more people than on the other beaches, even outside the interval mentioned above. How to get there: it is aproximately 3-4 km from Mano Juan, by bike ideally but you can also walk ( there are locals renting bike in the village, as well )



crystal clear water beach

2. Playa El Toro - has amazing turquoise water, however is not as clear as the first one. The good side of this one is that you can actually be alone early morning and in the afternoon, as everybody tends to leave.

How to get there: about 3 km from the village,both walking and biking will do


carribean beach

3. Playa del Gato - a bit more popular with some facilities around such as sunbeds, toilets and even some restaurants, apparently. However, it was pretty deserted when we got there. Not sure of it was because we arrived after 14:00 or that`s the usual.

The downside is that it is the furthest away from Mano Juan. Usually people come here by boat, with the tour.

How to get there: it is approximately 8 km from Mano Juan but the road is made out of reef rock and it is really bad; we first attempted to go by bike but it was so bad that we turned back and rented a scooter from the village ( it is still bad with the scooter by at least it was faster and efort less )


white sand beach

4. The beach in front of Live Aqua resort, doesn`t have a name. However, we walked quite a lot in the area and it all looks pretty much the same. Not bad, not great either. The sand is kind of golden but the water is cold and sometimes there are big waves.


yellow sand beach

Next, more images shot on our old Sony A7III ( mostly 35 mm and 85 mm ) and DJI Mavic 3 Classic.


white sand carribean beach
Playa del Toro

palm trees on a beach
Playa del Gato

couple on a tropical beach
Playa del Gato again

couple on a beach
Canto de la Playa

couple on a tropical beach
Another side of Canto de la Playa

man on a beach
The picnic tables on Canto de la Playa and Ion :)

portraits of dominican kids
Local kids in Mano Juan

tropical beach
Canto de la Playa, our favorite

atlantic beach
Atlantic shore on the northern side of the main island

woman on a beach
Atlantic shore again, not the bluest water

palm trees over clear water
Typical Carribean image: Playa del Gato again

tropical beach
Canto de la Playa

woman on a beach
The beach in front of Live Aqua

white sand beach
Ground view of Playa del Toro

boats and acrribean beach
The beach in front of Mano Juan village

mangroves
The mangroves on the way to Saona island

sunset and houses
Evenings in Mano Juan

sunset and ocean
Last sunset in Mano Juan

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