The Dominican Republic: An Indie Travel Paradise

Independent travel in the Dominican Republic couldn’t be easier. Which is why I’m confused by the droves of tourists who come to the D.R. to stay at the many fenced-in all-inclusive resorts, the sterile havens that offer all-you-can-eat buffets, watered-down cocktails and organized family activities in a “secure environment.” Which is tourism-speak for  “complete isolation from real Dominican life.”

Is that really what people want these days? Or has the tourism industry managed to convince everyone that travel is dangerous outside an organized tour?

These last three months in the Dominican Republic, our goal has been to get off the boat, recharge our batteries and get in serious shape for the next chapter of our adventures: the Clipper Round the World Race. And though I’m packing up my life and getting ready to leave the D.R., I’m already thinking of all the things I want to do and see when I return. Because, even after three months, I can’t get enough of this island.

And every time I spot a group of pale, sunburnt tourists wearing matching wristbands, I think “They have no idea what they’re missing.”

Driving along the coast on a motorbike, eating cheap fish dinners by the roadside, jumping off cliffs to go swimming, playing in the streets with Haitians kids, befriending the local banana vendor, playing soccer with Dominicans, learning to make morir soñandos from fresh mangos, hitchhiking, laughing with Dominicans as 20 people squeeze into a guagua for 6 passengers and finding an unnamed bar where locals dance Bachata until sunrise. These are the experiences I will remember of my travels on the north Dominican coast.

And when we return from our fun, stressful adventures racing yachts to Brazil and Australia, I have no doubt we’ll be ready to explore what the south coast of the Dominican Republic has to offer.

I just wish I could convince the rest of the traveling world that the Dominican Republic is a safe, friendly country to explore independently. Made even friendlier for those not tethered to a sun-blistered herd of vacationers with newly braided corn-rows.

But to get to know the real Dominican Republic, you have to get away from the all-inclusive resorts and step out into the unknown. Speak some bad Spanish, get lost, eat four-dollar meals, take the wrong bus, dance with old ladies and drink too much rum with a guy named Felix who tells gruesome stories about Trujillo’s reign of terror.

You might regret the hangover. But, trust me, you’ll never regret the experience.

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Photographic evidence of how great travel in the Dominican Republic is:

luperon travel in the dominican republic

From the minute we stepped off the boat, we felt welcomed in the D.R.

travel in the dominican republic imber

Right away, we made friends to explore the countryside with

pork travel in the dominican republic

We ate some strange and delicious things…

lovebirds travel in the dominican republic

Met some interesting animals…

brugal travel in the dominican republic

Drank some Brugal…

kiteboarding cabarete travel in the dominican republic

And headed for Cabarete to check out the kiteboarding scene.

cabarete travel in the dominican republic

We fell in love with Cabarete and decided to make it our home base for 3 months.

crossfit travel in the dominican republic

Where I trained every day at a local gym for surfers…

cross-fit dominican republic

And worked my body into shape for the upcoming Clipper Race.

millennium hotel travel in the dominican republic

But independent travel has its luxuries too – like this one at $5/day.

paddleboard travel in the dominican republic

Or you can book your own private tour without the throng of tourists.

motorbike travel in the dominican republic

Or, better yet, just take off on the open road when you choose…

playa caleton travel in the dominican republic

…to find serene places like this.

dudu travel in the dominican republic

Or thrilling experiences like this.

boat travel in the dominican republic

But you have to get off the boat. And away from the all-inclusive resorts.

To see more photos of Turf to Surf’s travels in the Dominican Republic, visit our Facebook Photo Albums.