So Much to Do in the Dominican Republic, by Travel Writers

By Victor Block

People often imagine the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic as a place of golden-sand beaches and inviting all-inclusive resorts. Although there are many such settings, I had other things in mind during my visit. I was intrigued by a long selection of activities that allowed me to explore largely unspoiled countryside, interact with local residents, visit villages little affected by tourism, and enjoy encounters with Mother Nature. .

I followed the voyage of Christopher Columbus who, in 1492, spotted the island that the Dominican Republic shares today with the country of Haiti. A colony was established there 10 years later.

Among the reminders of the Spanish colonial era is a stone fort, Fuerte de San Filipe (Fort of Saint Philip), which still faces the northern shore. Its massive walls house a small historical museum that tells the story of the Dominican Republic’s struggle for independence, which it finally achieved in 1821.

Today, many visitors head to the Puerto Plata vacation resort, which is well located for trips to nearby towns and beaches. Playa Cabarete (Cabarete Beach) is popular among locals and tourists. Its semi-circular stretch of golden sand is surrounded by restaurants and bars.

Sosua is another favorite beach for Dominicans. In the past, it was a peaceful fishing village. Over the past few years, it has grown into a bustling little trading community. Small shops and restaurants line the beach, and vendors stroll along the sand selling snacks and trinkets to sunbathers. When I looked for a change from visiting beaches and tourist attractions, the challenge became choosing from an inviting array of alternatives.

I decided to focus on new experiences and found the perfect solution. After asking around, I was directed to Iguana Mama, an outdoor tour operator that offers a wide range of tempting activities, such as cascading waterfalls, ziplining, canyoning, tubing river and riding in all-terrain vehicles. I selected two options that seemed to offer enough of a challenge, but not too much. One was a bike ride on dirt roads that cut through neighborhoods of modest homes. I waved at kids playing in the streets while riding to avoid bike-eating potholes and dust-scratching chickens.

Then, after loading the rented bike onto a ramshackle speedboat, I enjoyed a ride down the Yasica River, passing cows grazing in the fields and fishermen casting their nets. Back on land, I sipped a cold drink of coconut water from the shell, then cycled back to my starting point.

Another day, another outing. This time it was a hike in El Choco National Park, named after the chocolate (choco) color of the earth. It included exploring many of the over 100 limestone caves, many of which are connected by underground rivers which added a whole new dimension to the usual walk through the woods.

An attractive bonus was an encounter in the forest with an elderly man who invited me to his little hut made of wood and palm fronds and offered me a snack of hot yucca. This gesture of hospitality embodied every experience with the Dominicans I met. They were always friendly and courteous.

The people I meet while traveling have a lot to do with how much I enjoy a destination. Add beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes and small towns, and a long list of both familiar and lesser-known activities, and the Dominican Republic has plenty to offer those looking for active days, hours to relax. lounging on the sand or close encounters of the best kind.

WHEN YOU GO

For more information on visiting the Dominican Republic: www.godominicanrepublic.com

A visitor to Fuerte de San Felipe in the Dominican Republic surveys the landscape. Photo courtesy of Victor Block.

(SET CAPTION2) People like these girls in a village in the Dominican Republic are always welcoming to visitors. Photo courtesy of Victor Block. END CAPTION 2)

    Fishermen on the Yasica River in the Dominican Republic cast their nets.  Photo courtesy of Victor Block.

Fishermen on the Yasica River in the Dominican Republic cast their nets. Photo courtesy of Victor Block.

Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read articles by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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