Wanderings: Isla Saona

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The highlight of our trip to the Dominican Republic was definitely our visit to Isla Saona, a small tropical island off the south-eastern coast of the mainland.  Conjure an image in your mind of a tropical island and it would likely mirror Saona’s white sand beaches and clear green waters.  Saona is a protected national park, which is evident by the pristine beaches, dotted only with a few thatched cabanas and day-trippers who have been dropped off by speedboats and catamarans.

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Sailing on a catamaran

Sailing on a catamaran

To get to Saona, we were driven from our resort to nearby Bayahibe, a small sea-side town.  At Bayahibe we were taken by motor boat out to a large catamaran which would take us and a large group of very enthusiastic Canadians to Saona.  Sailing on the catamaran was great fun.  Sometimes we’d lounge on the netting that spanned the boat’s hulls, soaking in the sun, and sometimes we’d relax in the shade and enjoy the dance party the Canadians were engaged in on the catamaran’s deck.  The rum was flowing freely and there was A LOT of dancing.

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Once we approached Saona, small motorboats took us from the catamaran to the shore, where plentiful beach chairs were spread out and a Dominican barbeque was being prepared.

The waters were mesmerizing; clear and warm and green as any I’ve ever seen.  It was tempting to doze off in one of the hammocks that dotted the sandy white beaches, but I was too enchanted with the sea and could hardly pull myself away from it.  We floated along the sandbars, found conch shells, and made friends with more Canadians (both Québécois and Torontonian, who, upon meeting, immediately engaged in a rum-fueled debate over which part of Canada was superior).

When it was time to go, we piled onto two long thin speedboats, which dropped us off into the shallow waters of a natural sandbar, some distance away.  We waded around in water that felt much too far from shore but only came up waist high, drank more rum, and marveled at the huge starfish that lived on the sand in those shallows.  As the light began to fade, we piled back into the speedboats and proceeded to race each other across the ocean, cheering and taunting the other boat, and nearly bouncing out of our seats with every wave we hit—a pretty exhilarating way to end an amazing day.

Look at those green, green waters

Look at those green, green waters

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Racing speedboats back to the mainland

Racing speedboats back to the mainland

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Wanderings: Horseback riding in the Dominican Republic

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Though we spent most of our time in the Dominican Republic lazing around the beach, we were able to see a little more of the La Romana area via horseback.  Our resort helped us set up a horseback riding trip that meandered through the lush countryside and along the beaches.

It was a lovely way to spend a balmy, breezy morning, and our guides were warm, easy-going and fun to chat with. One of them spoke four languages fluently, several more languages proficiently, and seemed to have lived a dozen lifetimes.  The two older men declared that the youngest guide had pretty much been born on a horse and was the best horseman of the three.

Cowboy Mister

Cowboy Mister

Hibiscus flower on horseback

A gift: Hibiscus flower on horseback

Guides and rides

Guides and rides

After our ride, we explored a Dominican cigar factory, ventured to a grocery store where we happened to meet former baseball all-star Julio Franco, and stopped at a small lunch counter to pick up food that ended up being the best meal we ate our entire time in the D.R.

Local catch

Local catch

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Bananas

Bananas

Sampling the local coconuts

Sampling the local coconuts

Cigar maker

Cigar maker

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Amazing local food

Amazing local food

Wanderings: The Dominican Republic

Beach

Beach

We’re well into winter now and I’m starting to feel the chill in my bones.  We have a lot of traveling to do later this year, so a warm weather getaway isn’t in the cards right now.  Instead I’ve been curling up under a fuzzy blanket with a stiff drink and browsing through photos of warmer days.  Right now, I’m loving these photos from last winter, when the Mister and I snuck away for a few lazy, sun-soaked days in the Dominican Republic.

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Typically when we travel we try to find an apartment in an interesting place and explore a new country on our own.  This time, however, we were worn out from a tough year of work and politics, and we decided to book an all-inclusive trip through CheapCaribbean.com.  It came highly recommended by a colleague who grew in the Virgin Islands, and it’s my new favorite travel site.   We found so many great rates on all inclusive package deals and our trip was wonderful and stress-free.

Poolside cabana

Poolside cabana

For five perfect days, we stayed at the Grand Bahia Principe resort in La Romana, Dominican Republic.  The resort arranged to have us picked up at the airport and from that moment on we had no logistics to worry about.  Food was readily available at the resort, excursions were just a matter of flipping through a colorful booklet, and cocktails were included and plentiful.  Wireless internet was only available in the resort lobby, which made it very easy to disconnect.  There were plenty of chairs available at the beach or by the pool.  As all good resorts should, there was a bar in the pool, and we quickly became it’s little satellites, never straying too far.

Pier gazebo

Pier gazebo

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Wonderful open air lobby

Lobby

The perfect place to shelter from the once-a-day 15 minute downpours

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Lush, lovely greenery around our balcony

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Gardens from the balcony

Gardens from the balcony

Dominican sunset

Dominican sunset

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