Today is May 12th, 2018. I am currently traveling through the Dominican Republic as I pursue my goal to travel the world.
My first few days in Cabarete have been both exciting and busy which is why I haven’t had much time to update my journal. It didn’t take me long to figure out that Cabarete was your prototypical tourist town as I paid $600 DPO ($12 USD) on my first night when I decided to eat at a modern restaurant in the center of town. The funny thing was that $600 DPO ($12 USD) was on the LOW end of prices for food. Despite the sticker shock, I could describe Cabarete as being busy enough without going overboard. The beach itself was picturesque and there was plenty to do in order to stay entertained. Getting around the area didn’t prove to be much of a hassle as there were two possible methods. For shorter trips, I could negotiate with moto drivers and pay between $20-50 DPO (.40 cents-$1 USD). For longer trips, such as to Sosua, I could catch a gua-gua for $30 DPO (.60 cents).
On May 10th, I decided to catch a gua-gua to Sosua to both check out the town and find the bus terminal, so I would know where to go when it was time to leave. Sosua was about 10km north of Cabarete along the main highway. There was a few private resorts and bars scattered in-between, but it was evident when I arrived in Sosua as it was about 3 times the size of Cabarete. I was dropped off next to a Texaco in the center of town and wondered around aimlessly for about 15 minutes. It was by complete accident that I discovered the entrance to the boardwalk along Playa Sosua. While it certainly wasn’t as clean as the beach in Cabarete, it was busier, and prices seemed to be cheaper in the restaurants. It had the resemblance of a flea market as local venders were selling everything from mural paintings to Dominican Republic themed shot glasses. It took me about 15 minutes to complete the walk along the beach and I was rewarded with arriving at the Caribe Tours bus terminal just outside the exit. The terminal itself was small but I was able to obtain plenty of useful information about the buses. Given my next destination is Punta Cana, I will have to take a bus back to Santo Domingo and transfer over. It turns out that there are about 12 buses that leave for Santo Domingo daily for about $325 DPO ($7 USD). After completing my recon, I walked back to the point where I was originally dropped off. On my way, I actually found a modern gym that was above a casino which would have charged me $600 DPO ($12 USD) to work out for the week. I also stumbled upon a grocery store called El Supermarcado Playero which turned out to be similar to a Safeway or Albertson’s back in the United States. I ended up returning to Sosua later that night for dinner and paid $200 DPO ($4 USD) for chicken, rice, beans, and salad at a nice comedor on the beach.
Yesterday, I did something that I normally don’t like doing……. I booked a reservation for a guided tour. I have travelled enough to know that these “excursions” are basically attempts to solicit as much money from European and American tourists as possible whether it is through sympathy or constant sales pitches when passing through several local gift shops. Nevertheless, I ended up paying around $80 USD online through Viator for an 8-hour tour that was advertised as getting to explore the local Dominican country side. It included hotel pick-up and lunch and I thought it would be a worthy investment for getting to learn more about the country. The company was called Outback Adventures, and it turns out I had already seen several of there tour trucks when I was on the Samana Peninsula. I was picked up at exactly 8:45 am, and after picking up an American couple in Sosua we ended linking up with the main truck at a resort compound near Playa Dorada. As we were driving through the compound, I was amazed by how much people pay to NOT take in the local experience as everything was very modern and there was basically everything someone would need within walking distance of a given resort. There were about twenty people on the tour. However, I was the only single person and also the only one who could speak Spanish. Most of the others were cool, but there were a few stereotypical American tourists (the kind that talked to the locals in a loud tone because they can’t speak the language) which kind of annoyed me from the start.
My favorite part of the tour was actually the beginning as our tour guide Manny gave us a lot of useful information about the Dominican Republic as we drove out to the country side. First, we stopped at a “typical Dominican home” that also had a fruit garden. We walked inside the home which was nothing more than two small shacks (one for cooking and one for sleeping). The fruit garden was very interesting as it not only had fruits such as bananas, pumpkins, and pineapples but also had the plants that were used to make spices such as cinnamon, cilantro, and oregano. We got to try the various fruits and smell the various plants. From there we learned how both Dominican coffee and cocoa was made which ended in more free samples. Of course, we also ran into the first sales pitch of the day as they were selling bags of the “best coffee in the Dominican Republic” for $15 USD. It was after this, that something happened that I was not expecting, they start offering us free alcohol. The choices were beer, rum, or rum and coke. I don’t drink alcohol but many of the other tourists decided 10 am was an ideal time to partake in such activity. We ended up at a Dominican school, which I immediately could tell was nothing more than a sympathy tactic used to sell more company merchandise. According to the guide, “some” of the profits from certain company apparel were used to fund the school. The children basically were pawns in convincing people to buy baseball caps and t-shirts which it worked because several people did it. We then went to a river to swim. I didn’t read the actual tour description and forgot my swimming trunks, so I had to settle for putting my feet in the water. After about an hour, we went to the company headquarters and had lunch. Many of the guest were amazed by the Dominican cuisine of rice, beans, and fried chicken failing to realize that it’s the same food available for $4 USD at any local comedor. For what it was worth, the food was actually really good.
Throughout the day I had wondered why the tour guides seemed hyper aggressive when it came offering people alcohol. I got my answer after lunch as we went to the official company gift shop where they were selling that same alcohol. After taking a shot of pineapple wine, the floodgates were open. I have to give it to them, it turned out to be a genius business strategy as people were spending hundreds of dollars on stuff that probably won’t make it past customs. Frankly, it was pretty sad seeing how these people were being played. Regardless, it’s their money so I don’t judge. For our last activity, we visited a private beach where I once again regretted not bringing a swimsuit. I was able to get a quick massage that had been included in the tour package. We stayed at the beach for about an hour and then were shuttled back to our hotels. Overall, the tour was a mix bag. While it turned out to be one giant sales pitch, I did learn some interesting things about the Dominican Republic and kept myself busy for a few hours. From here on out, it’s relaxing on the beach for free.