Hi lovelies, thank you for stopping by to read my journal about this wonderful tropical island!
Will and I had the pleasure of being on this island for 12 days - and boy, did we take advantage of what this island has to offer! I had absolutely NO idea how large this island was, until we landed and was asked to look at Google maps!
Fortunately. we planned our Dominican experience with 'Getaway Dominican Republic', who were incredible and cannot recommend highly enough. Arianna and Sophia, the co-owners of Getaway, were beyond helpful in making our time on the island the best experience.
After a slightly rough and disheveled journey to Dominican Republic, we rented a car from Punta Cana and drove onto Samana to start our trip in the jungle!
Dominican Tree House Village
DAY 1 - 4
When we arrived to our Ego-lodge, which was set amongst a back drop of beautiful lush trees, we initially felt overwhelmed by the beauty this place had to offer.
The tree houses are connected by rope bridges and jungle paths that are all designed to make you feel immersed and at one with nature; an experience that has to be had. A place like this, really brings you down to earth, and teaches you to value the daily treats we take for granted. Will and I bought local sim cards which cost 200pesos ($3US) - which to us, was a no brainer. We had unlimited data for 5 days, and then when it ran out, we topped up. However, please note that there is NO service at Dominican Tree House Village. I initially found this quite hard to deal with (yes addicted to my phone), but by day two stopped moaning and started to embrace the once in a lifetime experience without technology.
One of our initial thoughts to sleeping in a tree house cabin was 'are we going to get bitten alive?' but surprisingly, the Tree Houses cabins are relatively mosquito/bug free! The cabins are also breezy, offering a cool air throughout the day and night. Due to this being an Eco-lodge, the water in the en-suite bathrooms runs cold, however there are communal showers with hot water. I find cold showers unbelievably refreshing, so rarely had a hot one! The electricity ran from 6am - 9am in the morning and 5-10pm at night. We were very rarely in your tree house throughout the day, so we didn't notice this.
The project has various winding garden paths, that lead you to the pool, yoga studio, hammocks and an outside fire they light and play music around at night. The Dominican Tree House Village really offers you that 'ZEN' feeling. Everyone that works on the project is incredibly accommodating and kind and make it there top priority to make you feel at home in their jungle oasis.
This project is located in the heart of the Samaná Peninsula, which is considered to be one of the safest and most beautiful places in all of the Dominican Republic. Samaná is surrounded by lush green mountainous landscapes, waterfalls and beaches, which remarkably seem quite untouched by tourists.
The Tree House Village actually boasts from a waterfall on their property, quite literally a 2 minute walk from our cabin! Even though there is a pool on site, we found the water fall a perfect place to go for a cool afternoon swim.
Having rented a car, it really gave us the freedom to leave Domincian Tree House village and to explore Samaná.
I highly advise having cash on you - US dollar or Pesos at all times. There are lots of toll's on the highways and they can be up to $15 to pass though. We quickly realised there were very few cash machines around, so it's better to feel safe having it on you, or you'll have problems driving around. We had one 'police' experience whilst on the road, a police car pulled us over and said it was his 'bosses' birthday and could we give him money. We thought best not to argue with a copper, so we gave the officer $5. It's unfortunate that this happened, but it's not the only country I can think of where this has happened to me before. It's better to just give a little, and drive on. Although I'm sure they wouldn't have pursued if we'd said no, but we didn't want to find out!
El Limon - waterfall
Getaway Dominican Republic organised ALL of our excursions, and our first one was up to El Limon waterfall by horseback with their local partner Parada La Manzana. We were greeted by our local guides, Oscar and Miguel - who gave us wellies, helmet and a horse. Mine was called Cappachino and Will's horse was called Pampelon.
The ride up to El Limon waterfall was 45 minutes and then a further 20 minute walk. I rode as a child, so am use to horses - however I have never ridden up such a rough and steep track before. The experience wasn't overly comfortable, and the conditions these horses have to walk up, isn't great - however they only do it once a day and get fed and watered once up at the top. Parada La Manzana really look after their horses, they're groomed and well fed, so I didn't feel distressed about the conditions of their everyday living. After our final climb, we reached the top of the waterfall and were blown away by how beautiful and big it was! It was relatively busy, and it did take a while to get that perfect shot, but, as I always say - it's worth waiting!
After our riding excursion, we made our way to the restaurant at Parada La Manzana and had time to rest and enjoy a warm buffet lunch. I can't personally rave about the food in Dominican Republic, I would say it's JUST average. Most days the choice would be fish or chicken with rice and vegetables. If you're a vegetarian or even vegan, I think you may struggle, as a lot of places don't cater to dietary requirements.
Los Haitises National Park Excursion & Cayo Levantado - organised by Getaway Dominican Republic
On our fourth day, we had a day trip to Los Haitises National Park and then went on for lunch at a beach called Cayo Levantodo beach.
Haitises - which means "mountainous land" in Taino (Indian language), the Park feeds one of the few remaining tropical forests of the islands and is one of the main ecological attractions of the Dominican Republic.
The park constitutes of forests, ancient caves (which include Taino pictographs and are from pre-Columbian era) secluded beaches and untouched mangrove forests which stretch a vast 1,600 square kilometers. The park is also home to over a hundreds different species of birds, many of them endemic!
Untouched mangroves, beautiful caves and incredible birds.
I found the caves particularly fascinating, and it was incredible to see such old tribe images carved into the rocks.
The face of a suffering child was carved into this rock
Cayo Levantado - organised by Getaway Dominican Republic
After Haitises, we took an ongoing boat to a small Island called Cayo Levantado - which hosts only one hotel on called 'Luxury Bahia Principe'. This island was unbelievably picturesque however, packed with boat loads of tourists (we were one of them). The white sand, blue water and cute market stalls were all divine, and it was lovely to spend a few hours on the beach, drinking beers and people watching.
Whale Watching - Organised by Getaway Dominican Republic
Fortunately for us, it was whale season, so when Arianna and Sophia from Getaway asked if we wanted to see some whales, we were jumping with excitement.
We boarded a large boat with a local tour company and set out in search for Humpback Whales. We were on the water for 2-3 hours, I can't remember the exact time frame, but it was quite a long time. There was no guarantee that we were going to see any, however 1h30 minutes into the trip we fortunately saw 2-3 (they could have actually been the same ones) but at one point we had two whales swimming alongside one another, which was beyond incredible.
I honestly never imagined how hard it would be to take photos of whales! They're not only really far away (had my telephoto lens on me), but you have NO idea when they might pop out. Every moment I put the camera down, a whale would spurt water and I would raise the camera in haste, but the whale would disappear. Not only that, the ocean was quite rough that day and the boat rocked - Will, had to hold me still whilst clutching the rail.
This was an unforgettable experience, these creatures are mind-blowinly large. I really hope everyone sees a while in it's natural habitat, once in their lifetime!
Santo Domingo, Colonial Experience - Oraganised by Getaway Dominican Republic
Will and I drove from Samana to Santo Domingo, which took 2h45 minutes. We decided, due to the long drive, that we would spend a night in the Colonial zone inside Santo Domingo.
Visiting the Colonial Zone, of Santo Domingo was definitely one of the highlights for me. However much I love beaches and jungles - I absolutely adore architecture and street life. Every corner of the colonial zone was photogenic - it was fortunately in full bloom too!
Will and I met Arianna and Sophia from Getaway, which was lovely - putting a faces to their names after so long of planning our trip. They took us on a tour around the zone, visiting some unbelievably unique and ancient museums.
We visited a handful of museums and monuments and were given an audio guide on admission, which took you through each room. I highly recommend using the audio guide, as most signs inside the museums are in Spanish.
Alcázar de Colón
Alcázar de Colón is the oldest Viceregal residence in America. The Gothic-Mudéjar transitional style, was built in the early-16th-century residence for Christopher Columbus’ son, Diego, and his wife, Doña María de Toledo.
Museo de Las Casas Reales
(Museum of the Royal Houses) is one of the important cultural monuments built during the colonial era in Hispaniola (16th Century), now called the Dominican Republic. This building was the seat of Spanish authority for the Caribbean region, housing the governor’s office and the powerful Audiencia Real (Royal Court).
Cathedral Primada de Las Americas
This beautiful Cathedral is dedicated to St. Mary of the Incarnation. It is the oldest cathedral in the Americas, which begun in 1512 and completed in 1540. It's absolutely stunning inside. I am not a religious person, however I am always intrigued by the inside of church. The beauty of this cathedral blew me away, it's not to be missed!
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Atarazana Resturant. This was a buffet lunch, with live entertainement. We weren't overly impressed with the food, once again chicken or fish but the atmosphere and entertainment was brilliant. It's definitely worth a visit, even for a drink and some dancing.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering, visiting a local chocolate shop, stopped at a beautiful square called Maria de Toledo and then Will and I decided to rent some bicycles from Zona Bici for a further tour around the Colonia Zone. I highly recommend doing this if you're staying in Santo Domingo - we had the bicycles for an hour and loved cruising around the little streets taking photographs.
Sanoa Island - Organised by Getaway Dominican Republic
Our last excursion with Getaway was to Sanoa Island - an exotic island we were incredibly excited to see! This island is one of the largest islands, and it takes part of the Eastern National Park and serves as a sanctuary for several species of migratory birds.
We took a large catamaran along with many other tourists to the island. The boat was more or less a party boat, with all inclusive drinks, live music and dancing and took 1h30 from Bayahibe Port.
Once we arrived at the island, I truly felt that feeling of 'oh YUS. This is true Caribbean style, right here.' Coconuts, palm trees in the water, white sand, Bob Marley playing in the background, hammocks - it had it ALL.
The island is quite big, so it's definitely work an explore - Will and I found some epic palm trees to climb. Unfortunately, many had been damaged by the hurricane - however some had fallen but were still growing.
We had lunch on the island, I'm sure you can guess what it was ;) and then we explored, sunbathed and swam. The afternoon went very quickly as we soon boarded a smaller but faster boat back to mainland. En route back, we stopped at nature reserve to see GIANT starfishes. Unfortunately we weren't allowed out of the boat where the star fishes were, so I didn't get any photos. They were however, beautiful!
This was one of my favourite excursions and I definitely think you should add to your itinerary if you're visiting the DR.
After our busy day, we drove to Punta Cana, which is a 2h30 minute drive from Santo Domingo.
Secrets Royal Beach - Punta Cana
On our last few days in DR, we had the pleasure of staying at one of the Secrets resorts in Punta Cana - honestly, TAKE ME BACK NOW! This resort is all inclusive, as most hotels seem to be in the Caribbean. I haven't spent too much time in all inclusive, but I have to say - it's FABULOUS.
You never have to think about how much money you'll need for your night, because it's all included.
Will and I were over moon with excitement about the restaurants inside the hotel. After eating only chicken and fish for the last week, we couldn't wait for some vegetables and salads!
Secrets Royal Beach boasts of 6 gourmet restaurants, which serve first class food!
Himitsu - Asian infused food (my cuisine)!
La Riviera - International buffet. Very good selection of food.
Oceana - Seafood
Portofino - Italian
Seaside Grill - Grilled specialties
Wine Cellar - Private dining only
We had been booked onto the Unlimited Luxury package and had a lovely Junior Suite Tropical View bedroom with a balcony, large bathroom, and sitting area. However, we rarely had much time in our room - the views outside were too good to be inside!
The hotel is surround by pools, linked by paths and bridges - and there is a vast amount of choice when it comes to choosing a sunbed! You do however get those holiday goers that bagsy the prime spots at 6am, but seriously... who can be bothered to do that (apologies if you do... )!?
There is a convenient swim-up pool bar, a long white sandy beach which caters for hundreds of people, perfect VIP cabana's which you can hire for the day (this is a must) and full on catered service everywhere you go.
We were kindly given a cabana for the day, which was divine. Lunch and champagne on the beach in our own little wooden cube - what more could I ask for!?
That evening, we went back to our cabana for a romantic meal up on the top platform, where we had the most an insane view of the sunset, setting over the ocean.
The dinner included a 3 course set menu and champagne, which was served to us by our own private waiter. We spent nearly 3 hours at our table that evening, and it was honestly one of the most romantic settings Will and I had ever seen!
That now brings me to the end of our time in Dominican Republic, so I hope you've enjoyed reading - and if you're planning on visiting, this will hopefully give you an insightful view of what you can do on this island.
I just want to end, by sending a HUGE thanks to Dominican Tree House Village,
Getaway Dominican Republic and Secrets Royal for working with us in Dominican Republic. We shared a memorable trip, and utterly adored your beautiful Caribbean country.
The Wondering Dreamer x