Adventure travel previously did not remind me of the Dominican Republic. I had never been, knew little about the country other than it was home to David Ortiz and was located in the Caribbean. When I was invited on a press trip with 4 other bloggers to experience some adventure, I of course said yes but had no idea what to expect. Full disclosure, while I was not compensated, travel expenses were covered by the DR ministry of tourism.
I arrived in Puerto Plata, DR on Thursday afternoon. Anne and I arrived at our hotel Casa Colonial a little after 6:30pm, which is ranked at the #1 hotel in Puerto Plata. After a quick and friendly check in, I discovered my gorgeous room with fresh fruit bowl. We immediately got changed and went for a fast 6 mile run as part of my marathon training plan. It was technically 5:30 pm back at home. Without a buddy, I would surely have skipped the workout in the dark. The hotel is located in a gated community along with a few other hotels. We stayed inside the gates due to our unfamiliarity with the area.
Since our flight from Miami was delayed, we missed our group dinner. Instead, we ate at the hotel just the two of us after a quick dip in the pool. I had no idea what to expect but the food was delicious. Excited to crawl into bed right after dinner, I opted for a light meal ordering the ceviche and a large caesar salad with grilled shrimp since the only greens I had for the day came from juice.
Casa Colonial was the first hotel on our itinerary. We had 3 sleeping arrangements and Casa Colonial was the honeymoon pick in my opinion, not budget but not over the top unaffordable luxury. With a spa, gym, pool and beach, what more could you want? With only 52 rooms, mine was the smallest they come making it also perfect for families who want a separate room for their kids.
The next morning, I ordered breakfast to my room which came at no extra charge. I ordered th American breakfast because I’m wicked adventurous. Two eggs over easy, ham, a plantain cake, tropical fruit and coffee. Perfection for a busy and action packed day.
We started by heading to Cabarete to check out the Master of The Ocean competition taking place. After watching a few amazingly talented surfers show off their best stuff, Anne, me, Gina and AJ (one of the two PR gals who organized the trip) tried to take a jab at it ourselves.
Master of the Ocean and 321 Take Off
I have wanted to try surfing for a while but always thought I wouldn’t be able to get up. Our instructors made me feel like the blonde chick from Blue Crush. I got up pretty easily with the help of a “push” and foam board. Who knows if I would be able to get up in the ocean on a real board without their help but I left feeling accomplished and athletic… until I saw pictures. Why did I think I needed to be in a full squat or maintain strong Warrior II arms?!?!
We took lessons from 321 Take Off which is owned by the same guy that founded Masters of the Ocean, Marcus. Everyone spoke English and the location was perfect. It was not touristy and the waves were perfect for learning how to surf. The temperature of the water was refreshing. I could have stayed in all day!
Just call me the pale version of Anne Marie Chadwick (aka Kate Bosworth’s character from Blue Crush).
We headed to Wilson’s Bar for lunch on a 30-minute boat ride through the Islabon Lagoon in Cabarete for some authentic Dominican BBQ. This is how to got there. No life jackets required.
Group Selfie: Gina, Anne, Prudy (our tour guide), AJ, Me and Annie (the other PR gal who organized the trip with AJ)
Lunch at Wilson’s Bar
Wilson’s Bar is a gem. It doesn’t get more authentic than this. Off the beaten path, Wilson serves fresh fish for lucky guests who know of its existence. You literally have to take a boat to get here. We started with Pina Coladas served in hollowed out pineapples. They give you the insides to eat as well which was a bonus!
For lunch, we enjoyed grilled baby lobsters, shrimp, fried fish and chicken with cabbage salad and rice. I never saw a menu and I think you pay per person but this experience was like nothing I have had before. The food was delicious and ridiculously fresh. I’m pretty sure Anthony Bourdain would love this place.
I am not a Caribbean BBQ expert, but this lunch was legit. Full of flavor, the meat fell off the shells and tasted of smokey and garlic goodness.
We left Wilson’s happy, full and exhausted, ready to enjoy the the picturesque roof top pool at Casa Colonial and rest. The fourth blogger, Taralynn, also finally joined us after her flight got cancelled on Thursday.
Dinner at La Casita de Papi
The surprise of the day was dinner in downtown Cabarete which was adorable and reminded me of South Beach, Miami without the cheesiness.
Restaurants line the beach front but unlike South Beach, there is no side walk, you literally walk on sand. The restaurants’ tables are directly on the beach and the food is very good and reasonably priced. We ate at La Casita di Papi. The menu was small but it had what we wanted, more Dominican cuisine and seafood.
Served family style, we ordered baby shrimp and lobsters with ceviche, rice, beans and a few salads. This seemed to be on most menus. In New England, we are rarely served shrimp with heads or lagostinos. These tasted buttery and fresh yet I have no idea what the spices were. It looked like a tomato cream sauce but it didn’t taste like one.
Cabarete does not feel like tourist central. Yes, the number one industry in the DR is tourism but you don’t feel like it’s the Disney World version of the Caribbean in Cabarete. It actually feels like the damn Caribbean! I joked that most of the trip was “hash tag gluten free” because they eat rice with most of their meals instead of pasta or bread. As a preferred pescatarian, I was in heaven most of the time despite having no idea what was going to be on my plate.
After a long day, we were all exhausted and retired early to bed for an action packed Saturday… coming soon. I know adventure travel is not for everyone but my perfect vacation includes a little bit of sweat, good food and relaxation. Friday was perfect.