Adventuring in the Dominican Republic

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of June 18-24, 1998
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Adventuring in the Dominican Republic
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Adventuring in the Dominican Republic
Question: I will be visiting a resort in the Dominican Republic near Puerto Plata and I’m hoping to see something more than just the usual tropical collage of multicolored fish and rum-based drinks. Can you suggest any adventurous outings I might undertake, preferably ones that won’t cost a bundle to enjoy? Thanks.

David Pelesko
Roselle, New Jersey

Palm trees grow abundantly
on the Samana Peninsula

Adventure Adviser: Considering the Dominican Republic’s wealth of activities, that shouldn’t be too hard of a quest. Since you’ll be staying on the Amber coast, it’ll be easiest and cheapest for you to stick to adventures around that part of the island, which is best known for its watersports. There are numerous reef systems off the island’s northern Atlantic coast, so the snorkeling is first-rate, as are the diving and windsurfing. The deep-sea fishing is also excellent around Puerto Plata. Any of the following should keep you away from too many rum drinks and colored fish. Use your resort’s network to book tours or rent a car.

If you’re a windsurfer, you couldn’t be in a better place. And if you’re not, well, here’s your opportunity to learn. Nearby Cabarete is blessed with relentless trade winds (summer is the calmest season). You can rent a board for $40/day, not including lessons. Check in with the Windsurfing Club at 809-571-0848.

For some terra firma adventuring, how about renting a horse from Gipsy Ranch and cantering along the beach? Or pick up a mountain bike from Iguana Mama (809-571-0606), which also offers organized river rafting and trekking expeditions. Exploring the Gri-Gri Lagoon in Rio San Juan is a do-able day outing.

For a longer adventure—and a glimpse of this coast’s allure before the developers and international jet set arrive—rent a car in Puerto Playa and head west. Seventy miles and several beautiful beaches later, you’ll reach Monte Cristi, near the Haitian boarder. Once you’re past Luperon (touristed but still a peaceful oasis), there’s little but rolling coastal plains and an extensive off-shore reef system. The Cayos Siete Hermanos, a string of islets off of Monte Cristi, are ideal for diving, though I suggest going with a group. And to see some local wildlife, stop in at Parque Nacional El Morro, known for its wonderful bird and marine life.

Be sure to plan a trip out to the coconut palm-studded Samana peninsula, definitely one of the Dominican Republic’s most beautiful—and wild— spots. It’s about 120 miles from where you’re staying, a four-hour drive along a gorgeous stretch of coastal highway. You can rent a car in Puerto Plata or else go with an organized tour. The Samana’s limestone cliffs are shrouded in thick rainforest (this area receives the most rainfall on the island), and the peninsula is surrounded by shallow waters, ideal for fishing. There are also lots of small lakes to explore. The Silver Bank whales, however, are the real spectacle, and the Samana Peninsula is touted as having the best whale watching n the Caribbean. You can contact any of the numerous outfitters via your resort. Victoria Marine whale watching (809-538-2588) is one reputable choice. Consider combining a trip to Samana with a visit to the Parque Nacional Los Haitises, just south of the peninsula. Here you’ll find some excellent hikes through the park’s limestone terraces and caves. Call the National Parks Administration (809-221-5340) for details.

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