We made a decision to visit Dominican Republic back in April 2017 when Fly4Free, polish portal specialized in finding good travel deals shared a nice one: flight from Barcelona to Punta Cana for less than 200 euro per person, round trip. We quickly shared an idea with a friend and decided for a 2+2 10-days holidays in February 2018. The only snag were the tickets not including any baggage other than two small pieces of hand luggage. Of course there was also a possibility to buy regular luggage but considering we wanted to fly from Berlin to Barcelona with cheap airlines and would have to get one there too, the prices got ridiculously high comparing to the price of the ticket itself. Thus, 10 days-holidays with a hand luggage only – sounds like a challenge!
Dominican Republic with a hand luggage
To prepare myself for the trip I checked dimensions of hang luggage in both airlines we were about to travel with – Iberia for Barcelona-Punta Cana flight and Ryanair for Berlin–Barcelona one – and then bought a suitcase kind of backpack almost maximum size allowed. Then – surprise surprise! – I fit in without any problems.
You can find this specific luggage on Amazon under this link.
Initially we planned to spend 1 night in Barcelona and then do some sightseeing before leaving to Punta Cana next evening. Unfortunately after we booked a hotel, the airline changed the schedule twice and the flight was moved from Saturday evening to early morning thus exploring Barcelona still stays on my To-Do list.
We left to Punta Cana on 17th of February 2018 in the morning, only having an initial plan of what we’d like to see there and first 2 nights booked in a hotel at Bavaro Beach. Hello adventure!
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
At the Punta Cana airport we’ve been welcomed by the dance group from Coco Bongo Dance Club performing the loud dance show advertising the club. Pretty funny view in between of luggage carousels and control points.
From the airport we took a taxi to Bavaro Beach and enjoyed our ride accompanied by the rhytms of Rasputin song – to be heard many times more during our stay in Dominican Republic ;)
Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana
For the first 2 night we stayed in Las Buganvillas Punta Cana apartments in Bavaro Beach. For 140 USD / 4 people / 1 night we were offered big, nicely arranged flat with living room, kitchen and two bedrooms with separate bathrooms. The guests could use outside pool and the place was located only 5-10 minutes walk from the Bavaro Beach, as well as the main area of restaurants and shops.
After refreshing a bit we followed recommendations of our host and went to the Citrus Restaurant where after lengthy waiting time we could enjoy the tasty dinner. As we were quite tired after the journey, we only managed to have a walk along Bavaro Beach after (check these views!) and ended up drinking beer at our hotels outdoor pool.
The next day we started with breakfast at Kats Corner – number 1 for breakfast in Bavaro Beach according to Tripadvisor, didn’t amaze us though. Then we spent whole day enjoying ourselves at beautiful Bavaro Beach, drinking Pina Cola directly from pineapple.
In the evening we had a dinned in Pastrata Mexican Restaurant. We enjoyed our meals so much we visited the place once again last evening of our holidays.
As the next day we wanted to go to the capital of Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, we asked around what is the best option to get there and decided for a bus from the Bavaro Express Bus Station. To Bavaro Express Bus Station you can get walking or by taxi. Please keep in mind you have to come to the bus station at least 1 hour before the bus departure as tickets are sold out quickly. The cost of the ticket for one person from Bavaro to Santo Domingo is 400 dominican pesos (around 6,5 euro).
The bus was quite nice and comfortable and after 3 hours we’ve been to the Dominican capital. Fun fact: it’s apparently a common practice that taxi drivers from a nearby taxi stand jump into the bus on penultimate bus stop and encourage tourists to leave now so they can take them to the final destination with a taxi:) We got by bus to the last stop and then walked around 5 minutes to the Island Life Backpackers Hostel.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
The Island Life Backpackers Hostel offers small rooms with private or shared bathroom. They are not of highest standard but the hostel area itself is a cool place to chill, hangout with friends or other tourists.
We only stayed 1 day & night in Santo Domingo as our main focus during this trip were beaches and nature in the broad sense. We spent the day roaming the streets, did a bit of sightseeing and had a dinner in a kind of art gallery restaurant but nothing that we saw that day appeared especially worth recommending.
In the evening we had some drinks at the hostel and then went to the Merengue Club – nice and quite empty on Monday club run by friendly Johnny where you can try drinks strong as hell and dance to Dominican rhytms.
We started the next day with a nice breakfast at our hostel. Island Life Backpackers offers some basic options that are included in the room price as well as more fency ones for extra charge. We spent some time discussing the next travel destination and decided to spend some days at Samana Peninsula located at the eastern part of the island. To be independent from the public transport we decided to rent a car and drop it 3 days later at La Romana, since we already knew we’d like to go south next.
Los Tres Ojos, Santo Domingo
Before leaving Santo Domingo we visited Los Tres Ojos – small national park with natural lakes hidden in the underground caves. We really enjoyed the place and agreed that it was the main highlight of Santo Domingo. The tickets were 200 dominican pesos + 50 pesos for extra raft ride inside of the biggest cave.
Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic
The next point on our travel map was Las Galeras, area known for beautiful sandy beaches. We didn’t stay exactly in the city but decided for The Cove Apartments located in El Frances, almost in the middle of nowhere. We stayed 3 nights there.
Personally, I found The Cove Apartments the best place we stayed during the whole trip. We rented ground floor of condominium owned by nice American guy and paid 100 euro / 4 persons / 1 night. Excellent views, outdoor swimming pool, small beach for the inhabitants use and washing machine – so useful when you travel with hand luggage – included! Can you ask for more ?!
Just look at the view that greeted as next morning:
Coffee never tasted so good!
During the day our small group decided to split: me and Wojtek went to Playa Rincon known for its picturesque views and our friends decided for hiking to beautiful but well-hidden Playa Fronton.
Playa Rincon, Samana Peninsula
Playa Rincon is quite wide, very long and much less crowded than Bavaro Beach, tourists’ first destination in Dominican Republic. We enjoyed the sun, beach, views as well as climbing the palm trees a lot! The weather was quite moody that day: during 4-hours stay the rain caught us 3 times but each time it only lasted for 5 minutes before sun came out behind the clouds again.
If you get hungry while chilling out on Playa Rincon, there are two spots where you can order basic dinner like fish with rice. Make sure you order pina colada or coco-loco drink – they are very tasty and come served in pineapple or coconut shell!
The next day we spent mostly relaxing at The Cove Apartments’ beach and swimming pool, reading, eating and drinking – I really needed that time. Unfortunately during the day our rented car broke down which delayed our departure to Las Terrenas, another spot in Samana Peninsula where we had a horse-riding trip already booked …
Want to know what happens next? Check my next post: Dominican Republic part 2: Las Terrenas, Bayahibe, Saona Island.