Posts from the ‘Dominican Republic’ category

Kite surfing Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic

By Jacob Aldridge

OK, so loads of people come to Punta Cana, on the edge of the Dominican Republic in the middle of the Caribbean, to stay in an all-inclusive resort. This means they don’t have to pay for drinks, or dinner, or think about activities or (really) think about anything at all.

We know that sometimes, that’s exactly the blissful holiday you want. And after the recent news, you have every reason to go for a resort as opposed to a cruise ship!

BUT… we want to make choices, we want to be in control, and today, in Punta Cana … we want to go kite surfing!

This is how Kite-surfing Punta Cana Dominican Republic feels in those moments when it all comes together.

This is how Kitesurfing feels in those moments when it all comes together. Photo by Swell Surf School, CC License.

Today’s Experience

Kite Club Punta Cana offers beginner kitesurfing lessons, ranging from the group session we’ll be taking (two hours after breakfast, and two more hours after lunch) to private courses that can spread across multiple days and all levels of kitesurfing experience. Punta Cana isn’t Tarifa, Spain, or any of the Brazilian beaches where kite surfing is the main event – we’re hoping that makes it easy for us grommits (does that newbie term apply to kiteboards like it does to surfboards?).

We’re starting on the beach (as we did when we learnt to surf in Byron Bay, Australia) with a training kite … and HOLY WOW, there’s some strength in that wind. Ever wondered what whips the kite surfers across the water at such a rapid rate? It’s the power in that wind, and we can see why it’s crucial that we get the feel for it on dry land.

Laugh now as I fall over and eat a faceful of sand! I promise I’ll be more co-ordinated when we get wet.

(OK – maybe that’s me being optimistic. Thankfully, the one thing I can handle easily is the international hand signals every kite surfer needs to know before hitting the water).

Before we get wet, there’s time for lunch. Given the speed that wind can generate, we’re treating this like our last meal.

Somehow, we don't think this sign for Walmart is legitimate.

Somehow, we don’t think this is legitimate. Photo by Ted Murphy, CC License.

So we’ve ordered the Bandera – a traditional Dominican Republic meal, and it’s almost as surprising as that first gust of wind. After a couple of weeks tripping across central and south america, we weren’t surprised to see the rice, beans, and meat combination … the fried bananas, however, we didn’t see coming, and the sweetness cuts through the other flavours just right – you’ll be putting the second spoonful in your mouth before you’ve even fully registered the flavour.

We’ve put another Dominican delicacy, the Habichuelas con dulce (a sweet dessert), on hold – think of it as a reward for when we return from the afternoon’s kite surfing.

How can we describe the experience of using the kite to surf across the waves of the Caribbean? Wet. Wet really sums it up!

There are the exhilarating moments when the wind and the waves combine in the right direction and at the right time. The pure joy when we feel ourselves being held aloft by the equipment, when we have foresight and control over this combination of board, leash, kites, and mother nature herself.

These moments are short-lived as a beginner! More often than not, mother nature responds to our feelings of control by kinking the kite, or compelling us to shift our weight on the kiteboard just too much in one direction. And then SPLASH! We’re in the drink.

THIS is how Kitesurfing feels for most beginners. Still awesome!

THIS is how Kitesurfing feels for most beginners. Photo by Swell Surf School, CC License.

Still – absolutely sensational. Kitesurfing is undoubtedly an uplifting experience!

Thinking of visiting Haiti?

When it came to planning this trip through the Caribbean, the opportunity to visit both the Dominican Republic and its neighbour Haiti was top of the list. Having researched it thoroughly, however, we cannot in good conscience recommend Haiti as a tourist destination again just yet.

You may remember the earthquake devastation in Christchurch, which remains a pop-up city two years later. New Zealand is a wealthy western nation – Haiti (for fascinating and tragic reasons dating back 200 years – this Guardian article is amazing) is an impoverished nation, and was hit by an earthquake that released ten times as much energy as Christchurch’s. As a sad result, 3 years later, the country still carries risks of violence and disease (in particular cholera).

More importantly – even though it is possible to be patient and make the drive across the border, remember that your involvement in the country will likely take away scarce resources. Even today, humanitarian volunteers are still being told that their money, not their food-and-water-consuming presence, is required.

There’s still time after kite-surfing for us to hit some sand. And here in Punta Cana, we have a choice.

There’s the obvious – miles of perfect beaches, begging us for an afternoon walk along the sand or an hour spent lying on the beach and listening to the waves.

Can you picture yourself in the Dominican Republic?

Can you picture yourself in the Dominican Republic? Photo by Ted Murphy, CC License.

There’s also the alternative, resort way to spend time in the sand, and that’s at any of the nearby golf courses. Here, the idea is to avoid the sand and the water … we’re going to blame the workout kitesurfing does on our upper body for the … multiple … wayward shots. Good thing we chose to only play 9 holes!

The Golf Course - the only place on a Punta Cana beach holiday you want to avoid the sand and water.

The Golf Course – the only place on a beach holiday you want to avoid the sand and water. Photo by Corey Ann, CC License.

Over the past few weeks we’ve pointed out how some great travel destinations (especially those off the beaten track) share names, from Antigua (volcanoes v beaches) to Trinidad (reggae v Jesuit priests). Possibly the most confusing is Dominica v the Domincan Republic (tiny Caribbean island v small Caribbean island). So if you’re looking for tips on visiting the Dominican Republic, here’s tip #1 – check everything to make sure you haven’t accidentally booked transport, accommodation or an amazing tour … on another island 500 miles away!

(And if you think it’s a mistake nobody would make, check out this genuinely (normally) great travel blogger – his list of top 5 things to do in the Dominican Republic includes the Boiling Lake in Dominica. If it can happen to him, it can definitely happen to you!).

All that really tells us … is just how amazing and wonderful this world is when you head out there and travel through it. So thank you for being part of the Every Daydream Holiday experience, and with particular thanks to those readers who have signed up for our daily email stories and who have shared our website on their blog or on Facebook and Twitter. See you tomorrow when we we depart Punta Cana for … well, you’ll just have to find out!

Punta Cana Rainbow - our everydaydream holiday gift to you.

Punta Cana Rainbow – our everydaydream gift to you. Photo by Jim Crocker, CC License.

Want to go? Need to know!

  • Because of its appeal to “all-inclusive” resort vacations, Punta Cana also has a reputation for … um … not quite honest resort marketing. In fact, several Punta Cana resorts are mentioned in this article about not trusting hotel photographs.
  • If you’re looking for some Kite Surfing Dominican Republic spots away from the resorts, you can head out to Cabarete or Las Terrenas and hit the waves at all levels.
  • The Punta Cana resort and club has 45 holes over two courses. It’s a peaceful way to spend an afternoon … or at least, it can be.
  • Seize your wanderlust travel bug and never let go with our free daily travel newsletter.

Would you rather be kitesurfing, golfing … or lying on a beach somewhere peaceful? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Little Dune Buggy, in the Punta Cana Sand

By Jacob Aldridge

Think Caribbean island, and you’ll think fabulous beaches and luxury resorts. Flying into the Dominican Republic last night, that was exactly what this chain of islands looked like peeking their sandy beaches out from the greenery.

Flying into the Dominican Republic. Photographs from airplanes are hard to take - a beach holiday in Punta Cana is much easier to take.

Flying into the Dominican Republic. Photo by Krawiec, CC License.

But Punta Cana, on the very eastern edge of the Dominican Republic, is definitely not a poor man’s substitute for Barbados, or Richard Branson’s private island. Nope – this is the adventure capital of the Caribbean, and we’re here to rip it up!

Today’s Experience

The sun rises over the ocean in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

The sun rises over the ocean in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Photo by Dave Bezaire & Susi Havens-Bezaire, CC License.

Don’t worry – you won’t be expected to jump off a bridge (again) today. In fact, we’ve got a quiet drive from our hotel to the beautifully named Lemon Lagoon Bay.

Assuming a 4WD Dune Buggy fanging it off road could ever be considered quiet!

Little Dune Buggy is a song by POTUSA (Presidents of the USA) - and it seems appropriate for this photo!

Little Dune Buggy, in the Sand; Little blue dune buggy, in my hands! Photo by Raleigh Woman, CC License.

Yeee Haaaaa! It’s the only thing we can think to say as we finally get the hang of these controls, and open up the throttle.

Can you smell the sea air as it whistles through the open cabin of the dune buggy? Our destination is Laguna del Limon, to the north of the island. It’s an amazing, 90km journey – plenty of chances for everyone (who wants, and can handle a manual stick shift) to have a drive, and also loads of time to stop and explore the island – and the ocean that surrounds it!

Our first stop is Uvero Alto, a beach resort town. Wide sandy beaches fringed by palm trees – this is the tropical island lifestyle; we’ve arrived too late in the year to be bothered by Hurricanes, and early enough in the day to beat the ‘crowds’.

The beach at Uvero Alto, Dominican Republic. Peaceful and not crowded, perfect for a beach holiday.

The beach at Uvero Alto, Dominican Republic. Photo by Jaime W, CC License.

That’s a sign of a good holiday destination, by the way. At the really crowded beaches on the French Riviera or the Caribbean, tourists are out before breakfast to claim their preferred spot. When you find a beach mid-morning that’s not full of towels, you know it’s unlikely to be full of people later in the day. If you’ve had enough of a buggy joyride for today, you can probably siesta on a sunbed here and we’ll collect you on the way home. But you’ll be missing out on…

…the inland experience, as we swing through Nissibon. There are workers in the fields (it is Monday, after all!), and most don’t even look up as we coast by. Crazy tourists in dune buggies are obviously a regular thing in the Dominican Republic!

Dune Buggy Tour, from Punta Cana to Laguna del Limon via Uvero Alto and Nissibon, Dominican Republic.

Dune Buggy Tour, from Punta Cana to Laguna del Limon, Dominican Republic. Photo by Rob Wiss, CC License.

Our final stretch takes us back to the coast, along the Playa La Vacama and 15 kilometres (9 miles) of beach driving. If you thought Uvero Alto was quiet, then you’ll reckon this place is a silent monastery. Sure, there’s the low rumble of our various engines, but it barely resonates above the sound of waves lapping onto the shore. The hum of the wind in our ears and the wheels on the sand creates a trance-like state. You want to scream some more yaaa-hoooos to break things up – and before you know it they’re echoed by the passengers in the other buggies.

Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!!! What a way to feel alive!

Lunch is served at the Hotel Limon, next to the Laguna del Limon. We’ve got plenty of time to experience the freshwater lagoon … by kayak, as we move ourselves around the inland body of water and observe the variety of birds feeding and nesting among the mangroves.

There’s a moment as we find ourselves in the middle of the lake where civilization feels like a work of fiction. The great cities of the world are calling to us, appealing to our traveller and cultural instincts, but right here, right now … it’s hard to believe anyone ever chose to leave their waterside community and go build a skyscraper. Who in their right mind would trade a kayak for the subway?

A bird takes to the air, mangroves and a sunset in the background of this Dominican Republic wildlife photograph.

A bird takes to the air, mangroves and a sunset in the background. Photo by Barbara Walsh, CC License. If you love this photo, visit Barbara Walsh’s photography site and buy a copy for yourself.

No doubt we’ll see some of them on our return dune buggy drive to Punta Cana. Those tourists at the end of their travel, heading back to the grind. Tomorrow, we’ll be at the beach and they’ll be in the office – hopefully they’ll do what all good travel lovers do, which is subscribe to Every Daydream Holiday and enjoy everyday with their morning coffee break.

For now – wherever you may be reading this – let out a few more loud yahoos, to let the world know you’re alive!

A beach sunset in the Dominican Republic. Beach sunsets are easier to photograph than beach sunrises.

A beach sunset in the Dominican Republic. Photo by JDN, CC License.

Want to go? Need to know!

  • Remarkably, it’s possible to organise this whole experience for about $150 each – and half day tours are also available.
  • Punta Cana is best known as an all-inclusive resort destination – as we’ll discover tomorrow, that’s missing half the story!
  • We craft these experiences every day so that travel lovers who might be stuck at work or on their daily commute have a chance to escape – even just for ten minutes. Are you receiving your daily dose of travel escape? It’s free, click here.

What travel experiences have made you feel alive? Share them with the world in the comments below or on our Facebook page.