Cascada El Limon

Dominican Republic
République Dominicaine
April 26th to May 3rd 2009

See map of trip



Santo Domingo Church Inside Cathedral Primada, Santo Domingo

Day 1: It was an 80 minute flight from St. Maarten to Dominican Republic (DR). The flight was very turbulent with air pockets, high winds at take off, and bad weather. I was surprised by the good service and punctuality of Insel Air on both of our flights. We landed in Las Americas airport in Santo Domingo and it took us more than 1.5 hours to leave the airport: security, immigration, luggage collection, luggage inspection, etc.

We took a 40$ cab ride to Santo Domingo (somewhat expensive for the 45 min. ride) and started our trip at Hotel Dona Elvita in zona colonial Santo Domingo. By then, it was pouring rain and passed 5pm, so we took a short walk into Calle Ponde for a bite and went to bed.

Sunset on Las Galleras beach1

Day 2: Alixe (our dauther) has a wake-up time between 6 and 7am, so our days always started early, but ended usually before 9pm.

My breakfast at the hotel (included in the room price) was absolutely great with fresh fruits, great freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs, toast, and great local DR coffee. Looking at the sun rising and shining over the inner yard of the hotel, I just couldn’t imagine a better place to be.

We visited zona colonial all day, visiting the Plaza Independancia, the amber museum, the fortress, the cigar museum, stopping every 3 hours for a cold cerveza. I don’t know if it is because they serve the beer very cold, but DR beers (especially Bohemia) are really good!

Day 3: We walked to Malecon which was supposed to be a ‘’pretty area’’, but traffic, vehicle exhaust and very little to see is what was waiting for us. We took a taxi to the national aquarium, and this was well worth it, especially with our daughter. There is an underwater tunnel that allows you to see sting rays, eels and rays from below.

We walked to the Mercado (market) near the China town, but the only thing we could find was more tourist souvenirs and more Haitian paintings. There are way too many paintings on sale in this country! The rain caught us and we ended our day eating pizza and the famous BON ice cream (as good as Hagen Daz).

Day 4: We rented a car and drove from Santo Domingo to Las Galleras (on La Samana peninsula -see map-) stopping for few hours in Samana. The drive on this new highway #7 opened in June 2008, was easy and scenic, passing palm trees plantations and driving through Los Haiteses National Park. The colored houses in Samana reminded me Tadoussac (a small city in Quebec)!

The road from Sanchez to Samana got bumpy and worst from Samana to Las Galeras with holes that could almost swallow our little Kia.
Nevertheless, we made it to Las Galeras by 4pm.

Hotel Dona Elvira Samana walking bridge
Mangroves, Los Haitises Ntl Park
Fortress, Santo Domingo DSC_0413

Sunset on Las Galleras beach2

Inner yard, Hotel Dona Elvira

Pope & cigars

Alixe resting in Santo Domingo

Day 5: We drove back to Samana (20km, 45 minutes) for a day trip to Los Haitises National Park. The sky was grey. As soon as we left mainland on a roofless boat, it rained like hell and we were completely soaked. It poured buckets of water on us most of the day… For 60$ per person, I can say that this is a little bit of a tourist trap. The park is probably nicer when sunny, but still not worth 60$/pers. You get a rum and coke, a boat ride, a visit of the caves and a meal before resting on Caya Layunando island (another BIG BIG tourist trap) where pina coladas are 5$...

All that being said, I am still very happy I visited the park, as the variety of birds is fascinating, the mangroves are beautiful and the dozens of pre-Columbus paintings in the caves are impressive.

Taking a salty hot shower never felt so good… AND this cold beer tasted so good!

Day 6: The sky was blue and the sun was out! I left for a hike with Alixe from Playita to Rincon beach. I have seen hundreds of beaches in my life, so it takes more than sand and blue water to impress me, but Playita had something very unique… The shallow pools created by reefs, the clear waters and the tall palms trees made really nice pictures!

I hiked for one hour (one way) to realize that Rincon is still miles away… We swam and came back. Tried to go for horse back riding in the afternoon, but impossible, so we swam at Playita, and then drank couple of cold beers at our cottage.

Day 7 was our biggest day of the trip. We woke up at 6:30am and left Las Galleras by 8:30am. We stopped along the way to see some ‘’boca del diablo’, rocky holes where water is pushed out with a fierce force. We stopped once again in Samana and walked on this bridge linking to islands. A nice, long pedestrian bridge having no real purpose except the enjoyment of tourists?! We drove to El Limon and went to see the 150m drop waterfall. There, we manage to get horses for 7$US each to walk to the waterfall and back. The waterfall was very impressive (it reminded me the waterfall in Laos), but the amount of tourists popping out of everywhere made the overall experience less enjoyable.

We stopped in Sanchez -see map- to eat a local meal (rice, beans & chicken) and continued our journey back to the south. We stopped at a viewpoint in Los Haitises National Park and the short 12 minute hike to the top was well worth it.

We decided to try and see Altos de Chavon in Romana (an Roman style amphitheatre), so we drove west instead of going back to Santo Domingo. This was somewhat of a mistake as we had no place to stay and Romana and ended up staying in a very basic hotel with rats, mosquitoes, noise & a dirty bed. A very local city, with no tourists in sight, but I guess it would have been more pleasant to drive back to Santo Domingo and see some of the sights we have missed at the beginning of our trip.

1000 A.D cave paintings

Playita, Las Galleras

Mouth of the Devil

Buying fruits!

DSC_0491 Santo Domingo Cerveza! Alixe at airport Acuario National

Day 8: We tried to find Altos de Chavon and got lost in fields of sugar canes. A beautiful sight that can become quickly stressful when your 2 year old daughter cries for some food… Anyway, after 300km on the road since Las Galleras, the dammed place was closed, so we made our way back to the airport and flew to St.Maarten in the afternoon.

DR was a nice change from St.Maarten in many ways: lots of space & fields & people still living in a traditional way. I wrote to my sister that night that ‘’it is always nice to see places where people are happy with a couple of chickens, and some freshly picked mangoes’’. After all, who really cares about this swine flu virus that was supposedly infecting all of North America???

Calle El Conde, Santo Domingo Las Galleras Crabs by water DSC_0423 Horse riding to fall

Los Haitises National Park