When I talked to people who had traveled to the Dominican Republic, I was bombarded with information about beach resorts, all-inclusive packages and group deals. It was exactly the kind of thing in which I was not interested. Although I wanted to go somewhere warm and tropical, I wanted to be able to see the culture and the people of the country I was visiting, not sit around in a hotel casino with other Americans on holiday. Club Med was not for me.
I started to research the DR with several objectives in mind; since our trip was only 5 days long, we wanted to visit an area not far from the capital, Santo Domingo (where we were flying in) with a low tourist quotient where we could lie happily on the beach. After reading through several guide books and spending hours on Google, I decided on the small town of Las Galeras on the Samana peninsula. It was about 3 hours from Santo Domingo, supposedly had some of the most beautiful beaches in the DR and had not yet been overtaken by the tourism industry.
I was certainly not disappointed with my choice. We arrived in Las Galeras late on a Saturday evening, after taking a roughly four-hour bus ride ($7.50 one way) north to Samana and then a 30 minute cab ride to Las Galeras ($20). Our hotel, Club Bonito, was exactly that â€“ pretty. It was large, with a swimming pool and bar, a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the sea and a very friendly staff. There were ponds with fish and birdcages lining the steps from the hotel to the beach, which was a mere 15 feet from Club Bonito.
I didn’t see much when we arrived though, as it was late and very dark. It wasn’t until the next morning when I awoke to the sun streaming in through our windows that I could see the sparkling Caribbean Sea so close to my doorstep. Within minutes (and without coffee!), I was in my bathing suit and on the beach. I couldn’t believe the beauty of the place â€“ it was better than what you would see on a postcard. Clear blue water curled up to the sandy shore, unfolded, frothed and retreated. Coconut trees leaned sideways above the white sand and the sky was clear. And the best part? I was the only person on the beach.
After my morning swim, I dried off and joined my boyfriend for breakfast. By midday, there were a few people on the beach â€“ one couple from Cuba and a Dominican family. I made sand castles with a few of the kids, speaking in broken Spanish and eating ice cream. It was just how I pictured a perfect holiday.
We were lucky enough to travel to the DR during its off-season. From December through September, I hear most areas are rather packed. I would recommend traveling when others don’t and visiting spots that are less popular â€“ trust me, they are no less beautiful. I had the opportunity to dance meringue at the local disco, eat fresh fish, drink rum and cokes and swim in the Caribbean Sea on a deserted beach. It was just what I wanted.