Three years ago, my husband and I took our first trip to Porta Plata, Dominican Republic. Let me just say I had no idea what to expect, however, I found it to be a wonderful experience. Our vacation resort was in a gated community. We were told not to leave unless we were escorted on a bus tour or in a cab. Our hotel gave us handouts explaining they were not responsible for any harm that may come to us if we left the community without an escort. Another consumer at the resort explained to us that he has been there many times and the locals will definitely kidnap women and children and kill them for their personal items. The economy is so bad that only 55% of the children are lucky enough to attend school to the 8th grade. Only 16% of the students attend College and only a few of them, ever leave the Island.
I was told before I booked my trip, that the Country was very poor that I would be very disappointed. However, I know several people who travel regularly to the Dominican Republic and love it here, I had to find out for myself.
We left no sand stuck between our toes while visiting here. I am the sun worshipper in the family and my husband is the adventurer. We always find a happy medium to keep both of our needs satisfied. In the mornings I choose to lounge on the beach while my husband took a scuba diving course. After three mornings of classes he was a certified scuba diver. It challenged the adventurer in him and gave me beach time. Unfortunately those three days went by too fast. The fourth day we were off on a ground tour. After a 40 minute ride through a beautiful mountain paradise we came to our first stop. We took a long walk through a heavily used jungle pathway to a waterfall. Not just any waterfall, but one of the most visited waterfalls in the Dominican Republic. When you arrive, you are greeted by the locals with a special pair of slip resistant shoes for your feet. You won’t understand this until you start the tour. There are 28 levels to this water fall and with a guide you may venture up to the first seven flights. The one catch is you must swim each level and then climb rocks or stairs. To me it was very frightening. My husband was having a field day watching me, but in the end I completed the tour easily and had the last laugh. After the first seven flights you are told it is entirely too dangerous for anyone to go further, and you swim back and climb down the same way you got there. I’ll bet the locals have been past the first seven levels. If this were a tourist site in the United States, in order to protect the tour company or owners, you would be required to sign all kinds of legal documents before you could proceed. The Dominican Republic has very little money and everything they can get from tourists goes to help keep the local economy flowing, they can not afford this type of procedure.
The Second stop was at a Coffee plantation. It was the most remote place I believe I have ever been. It took us another 40 minutes to get there and once we were there we were happy to get off the Jeep. I believe we were riding through bumpy fields better than half of the ride and my behind was sore. Just thinking of the return trip made makes me hurt. I’m sure with the economy in the Dominican Republic, putting roads up to the plantation would not be a feasible expenditure for them. Not being a coffee drinker, I can only say that those who were, gave the coffee high marks.
The last stop was at a country side restaurant, if you want to call it that. We were seated under a roof in a open building. There was jungle all around us, I felt like Jane from Tarzan and Jane. The food was great. We had a bowl full of locally grown fruit, a tray full of corn on the cob, freshly captured and cooked chicken and fresh turtle soup. Now this doesn’t sound all that exciting, but after sampling everything, I must say it was extremely tasty. One things for sure, this financially poor Country does not let their food palates suffer.
One of the Dominican Republics most famous products is Dominican Rum. Of course we made a trip to the Rum factory. The number one tourist attraction of the Country. Several varieties of Rum are available for purchase and sampling. If you leave the factory sober, it is your own fault. It is a shame if you leave the Country without at least one bottle of Rum. You can bring two bottles per person across the boarder without paying taxes.
On our way through the Country we observed that all banks, schools, hospitals, and government offices had chain link fences and armed guards surrounding them. In a Country seriously struggling financially, I can’t understand how they can afford to do this and why there is such a need to protect these particular building? One thing for sure is, they don’t take unnecessary chances.
Our week flew by and when it came time to leave, I knew more Spanish then when I arrived. I had only good things to say. The natives were kind and when you tipped them, they were very humble. I will return someday and hope my next experience is as good as the first.