Thanksgiving in the DRby david daly on 12/01/10
This was my second Thanksgiving trip to the DR and it looks like it is going to become an annual tradition. Of course I feel guilty about missing out on the big feast with my family in Long Island, but after a few Pina Coladas while floating in the 84 degree turquoise Caribbean Sea, the DR seems to be exactly what the Pilgrims needed after that harsh trip across the Atlantic. And with flights over the Turkey holiday as low as $350 r/t, it is an economical choice for spending the 4 day weekend compared to $650 flights to Florida to see Uncle Lester and Aunt Helga.
The purpose of this trip was to scout out some new all-inclusive properties in the DR. Many people have their preconceived notions about the DR and do not think it is a destination that can meet their travel needs, for whatever reason. However, if you are looking for sun + beautiful beaches + prices so cheap it doesn’t seem mathematically possible to turn a profit- then you are silly to overlook the DR.
After a few days in the Capital staying with some locals and indulging in their yacht club, tennis club, and family feast gatherings- I headed up to the Samana peninsula in the north east. A new highway was recently completed that cut down the driving time from 5 to 2.5 hours on a well maintained paved toll road. It is rumored that jetBlue is going to begin the first international service to the Samana airport from the US, so I wanted to discover this highly recommended Gem before the masses do.
My first site to check out in Samana was a beautiful waterfall called El Limon. The only way to get there is to pay a local guide $15 to take you over the steep hills by horseback to the national park entrance. There you descend down a steep rocky staircase to the Falls- where you can take a swim, jump off the rocks, or just take hundreds of photos. Please note- when you point to your Marc Jacobs flip flops and ask the guide if they are ok for the journey and he says “yes”, what he really means is “yes, if you want to look like an idiot.” I ended up descending the muddy rock stairs barefoot- slipping several times- while kicking myself for being too lazy to change into the hiking sneakers I had in the back of the car. Somehow I survived without twisting and ankle or throwing out my back, and the Falls proved to be an impressive and worthwhile sight.
Next stop was my hotel- the Bahia Principe Cayacoa on a steep clip peninsula just west of the main town overlooking the Samana sound. The hotel claims to be a 5 star, but most travel reviews deem it a 4 star at best, though at $99 a night for all-you-can-drink and all-you-can-eat with a beautiful cliff-top pool and spectacular beach- it was heaven for me no matter what the rating. I think about 90 seconds separated my check- in from my first splash into the pool, just in time to join the crowd at the swim up bar for a late afternoon Presidente beer.
As I started to scope out the crowd and listen in on conversations, I realized that I was not surrounded by the loud, obese Americans that I had expected at such a resort. Instead, the pool area was full of British and Canadian accents, although it did seem that a particular group from Toronto could give any loudmouth Americans a run for their money. After 2 deep breaths I was far out of earshot on the other side of the pool, taking in the warm sun and beautiful scenery while sipping my free beer, reminding myself that for $99 I could definitely put up with one or two loud Canadians and maybe a few Jenny Craig dropouts.
Day 2 in Samana had just one plan: Go to Cayo Lenentau! The small islands that dot the Samana coastline are called “Cayos” and one in particular located about 2 miles offshore was home to the nicest resort in Samana (well beyond my budget at $600/night) as well as a beautiful white sand beach that could be visited through a day tour. I hoped into a boat on the beach in front of my hotel at 9:00am, and for $25 we were off for a full day on the tiny tropical cayo. If there is one thing I never get bored of it is floating on a beautiful sunny beach. Before I knew it, 5 hours had passed and it was time to catch the boat back to the hotel before the lunch restaurants closed. I ended up returning to Cayo Leventau again two days later to repeat the indulgence in paradise. It is definitely a main attraction for Samana!
After 5 days it was time to make the drive back to the capital and return home. I was able to squeeze in one last hurrah sunset at the Marina Chica restaurant in Boca Chica near the Hamaca Hotel. In a relaxing white-cushioned seat on the sea I enjoyed a delicious mojito while snacking on some local grilled octopus- a favorite among the Spanish descendants in the DR but considered nothing more than “bait” among the finicky locals. Then it was back to NYC on a Continental flight (they still serve meals btw!) and back to the damp cold of the winter in the Northeast with only a golden brown tan to remind me of my spectacular Thanksgiving trip.