Travel

My Action Packed, Rum Filled, Luxurious Break In Paradise – Presenting The Dominican Republic

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It’s taken me quite a while to write this article, because I simply just don’t know where to begin. When you get given an amazing opportunity, you need to seize it and make damn sure you give it everything you have got.

That’s what I did on my recent work trip to the Dominican Republic, I threw myself into everything and fully immersed myself in the experience.

Travel really is special, it can be life changing, and you can have lightbulb moments and epic realisations. For once in my life I felt proud of myself, and I want to share my experience in great detail, so that you guys have an accurate idea of what to expect from the Dominican Republic.

I want to thank The Holiday Place for making this trip possible, everything was very well organised and went according to plan. Plus, Amstar, the excursion company that looked after us while we were out there were excellent, I can’t recommend them enough. There will be an even more detailed post about my trip on The Holiday Place blog, so watch this space.

Located in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic has around 10 million inhabitants and has a Spanish Colonial history spanning 500 years.  It’s also home to the Caribbean’s tallest mountain. Here’s an interesting fact, it was first discovered by none other than Christopher Columbus!

They speak Spanish in the Dominican Republic, and neighbouring Haiti speaks French and Haitian Creole French. In contrast to the Dominican Republic, Haiti is very poor and far less modernised, a lot of the Haitians come to the Dominion to work.

I have never been anywhere in the Caribbean before, so I didn’t exactly know what to expect, other than the most Instagram-worthy tropical paradise beaches. I wasn’t disappointed with the reality, in fact, the Dominican Republic has so much more to offer than idyllic beaches.

We planned a very busy, active trip, because I wanted to investigate a wide range of activities and excursions in order to reflect what there is to do. We spent a week there in total (I would recommend going for a little longer), and stayed at three different five star Iberostar hotels, each with its own unique character.

Check out my overall video of our trip below (FYI I am not a pro video blogger, so it’s not going to be award-winning quality!).

Here’s what we got up to and my impressions of this vibrant, beautiful country.

Scape Park

This was probably our favourite excursion, although there were some close competitors. I think we enjoyed this day so much because of the staff, and also because of the variety that the park offers. There’s around ten different activities to choose from, so you can tailor your day to your tastes. You do things like go zip lining, horseback riding, on top buggies and caving.

Scape Park is a natural theme park encompassing a surface of more than 1 million square meters. The landscape here is very striking and unique, you can see caves, caverns, and cenotes (natural lagoons).

We had a private tour guide take us to the blue hole, which is a natural lagoon and cave with the brightest blue water you have ever seen. There was a little turtle swimming around, I tried to film it but it managed to keep evading us. Diving into the water in the middle of the jungle was a magical experience I will never forget.

Next we went zip lining, which was a little nerve wracking but brilliant fun. It’s not just one zip line, you zoom down nine zip lines, with a really long, steep one at the end. It’s a great way to see the views of the whole nature reserve, the views from the top are breath-taking.

We also went into an underground cave and explored an underground network of chambers and tunnels. Lastly, we finished off the day by going on a sunshine cruise, which was so relaxing and so much fun! They take you to a gorgeous marina where you board a boat and sail off out to sea for a few hours.

We drank lots of rum, some from a floating bar in the sea, which was a pretty cool experience. I even joined in the traditional dancing and might have embarrassed myself a little, but it was a right laugh.

We finished our first day thinking wow, how can we top that?! Check out my video of Scape Park below. 

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caves, caving in dominican republic cave excursion

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Reef Explorer

Next up we had the Reef Explorer trip. This was just what we needed after an action packed day at Scape Park. It’s a bit more of a chilled excursion, but you still get to do cool stuff and be active if you want. You catch a speedboat from a gorgeous beach out to a floating area in the sea. First off we went snorkelling in the sea amongst all the fish, after that you can pretty much do what you want.

You can choose from kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkelling, sun bathing, a massage (I had a lovely foot massage) and marine life encounters. There’s a section where you can go swimming with sharks, yes, sharks. Reef sharks to be exact (apparently not dangerous).

I was terrified, but when I got in the water, instead of swimming for my life, I felt myself appreciating how impressive these creatures are. They didn’t move that much and generally stayed in groups on the seabed. I also got to hold and touch a stingray, which was pretty special.

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Cable car and Puerto Plata City Tour

This wasn’t our favourite tour, but the cable car over the city was obviously spectacular and well worth doing. Check out the views in the video filmed on my GoPro.

We were taken to a rum tasting factory at 9am in the morning, which was quite early to be doing shots of rum, or not, depends on your drinking habits!

Overall it was a nice, interesting tour, it was just in an odd order and there were some unnecessary parts. 

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view of puerto plata

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Outback Safari

We thoroughly enjoyed the outback safari. The guide was excellent and we did lots of interesting things, from sampling coffee and chocolate made by the locals and visiting a traditional Dominican home, to wandering through the jungle, swimming in a natural lake and body boarding in the waves.

This excursion really gave us the chance to see the country’s natural scenery including mountains, fields, jungle and farmland. The landscape was a lush green colour and full of palm trees and rich grasslands. This tour was very informative and it was fascinating learning about the local way of life. Click here to find out more. 

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Saona Island

On our last full day in the Dominican, we got to go to an idyllic Caribbean island. Whilst drinking rum and sunbathing on a catamaran, I was thinking, this is the life. This is my personal heaven. The sea was passing by under the nets and we could see the palm trees dotted along the island in the distance.

I also got to hold a bright orange star fish, which was really cool. The guy just got off the boat and went diving to collect some for us to hold under the water. The sea was so clear you could see the white sandy sea bed easily, and the bright star fish really stood out.

They played music on the boat and even got people up doing a bit of salsa and traditional Dominican dancing, as you can see in the video!

The pictures don’t really do it justice, unfortunately the weather that day wasn’t great. Although experiencing a thunder storm on a tropical beach was an interesting experience.

We had BBQ meat and fish for lunch including fresh lobster! It was the perfect meal to enjoy whilst sitting in a beach bar on a Caribbean island.

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The people

Of all the places I have been, the people here are by far the friendliest. In fact, they are more than just friendly, they have this infectious positive and happy spirit that you just can’t help absorb.

We saw some of the local people who live a very modest life and don’t have much, but you could see they were happy and stress free, which is something a lot of us could learn from. Oh, and they like rum, and now, so do I.

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The hotels

We stayed in three different Iberostar hotels, all of which were five star. Our favourite was the last hotel we stayed in, the Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus, because the food was much better here, the beach was breath-taking, it had the best pool of the three hotels and generally the grounds felt the most luxurious.

All the rooms we stayed in at every hotel were of a high standard, and they all had great facilities such as a spa, plenty of bars, enormous pools and lots of entertainment. The staff at all the hotels were very friendly and helpful. For more info on each specific hotel, check out my article for The Holiday Place.

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The beaches

If you want world class beaches then the Dominican Republic is the perfect place to go. Literally all of the beaches are like a little slice of paradise. They are so visually stunning that when you are walking along the water’s edge, it almost doesn’t feel real.

You think to yourself, this is so beautiful, it can’t possibly be real. The fine white sand is so soft beneath your feat, and the sea is the perfect temperature for a refreshing dip. Check out some of these beauties below.

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