Antonio and I were still learning how to travel in 2007. We knew we wanted to travel the world, and we already had a feeling that we were not huge fans of hotels, even "luxury" ones. This was our first attempt at renting a vacation property. We were bringing our mothers and knew we'd need a large place with a minimum of two bedrooms. We also wanted to have a kitchen. We got a lot more than that.
We did quite a bit of searching online and finally settled on Cabarete Beach Houses. The property is very nice. They offer daily maids to clean your house (convenient when you cook like we do) and there are security guards throughout the property (this is pretty important in the area). The property has some pretty sweet amenities, it is on the beach (which can get a little rough sometimes), a pool & jacuzzi, tennis courts (too hot for us to use when we went), airport pick up (super convenient). Nanny estates even did some shopping for us so that our fridges would be full when we arrived. They have since added more perks such as nannys, massages, etc...At the time we paid $608 US dollars for a 7 day stay. Not bad at all. Our house had three floors, and was incredibly comfortable.
Cabarete has its ups and downs.
The Ups: The beaches are marked by white sands and blue waters. There are caves for you to go spelunking (I thought it was a great idea until I stepped on a red ant hill and was unable to walk for 2 days). There is a strip with restaurants that offer everything from Italian, to Thai, to Dominican. You'll be sitting on the beach catching some rays when suddenly a bunch of horses will stroll happily in front of you. If you kite surf...you're going to love this place. At dinner time, trios will sing you boleros for just a few bucks making a Summer night magical.
The Downs: There is quite a bit of poverty. Every day you will get sad looking children either trying to sell you something you don't need (like a child asking to shine your sneakers), or those who beg...and then run over to an adult to give them their money. There are starving animals and stray dogs everywhere as soon as you walk past anywhere that is commercial.
There is definitely a bitter sweet feeling to Cabarete (and DR in general). We drove to the next town over to check out a night club with our moms and it turned out to be a brothel...if you ever meet me in person, remind me to tell you the story.
Would I go back to Cabarete? Yes, you are probably wondering why.
- The country is growing. Sure, there's some pretty obvious poverty, but the majority of people work really hard to show the best they have to offer. They are friendly and sweet.
- The food is fantastic. Sancocho, mangu, tostones, arroz con habichuelas, concon...I could go on...
- Nature - beaches, caves, national parks...serious nature here
- Price - DR is still a steal, maybe not as cheap as when I last went, but if you're on a tight budget, you can still have a lovely time.
***What not to do: Do not stay in one of those crappy all inclusive resorts. That's boring and safe. Be a traveler, not a tourist. If you just want to hang out with a bunch of Americans and Germans in the pool, do yourself a favor and stay in the US. If you go to DR, find a place to stay and meet some people. You will be surprised at how willing they are to open their doors and homes to you. Suddenly you'll have an abuela inviting you over for dinner and cooking you her specialty. She may not have much to share, but she will share her work and family heritage. This is where travel becomes lovely. If you've never done this, give it a try. You will shed your tourist skin and become a traveler forever.
How to get there: Fly to Puerto Plata airport. It takes about 3 1/2 hours from NYC if you go non stop and if you do your research you can get some pretty affordable flights. Once you arrive, you will have to pay $10 to get in. You can take a taxi, but I recommend that wherever you are staying has someone come to get you. If you do take a taxi, it will cost you about $35 for the trip and be in Cabarete in roughly 20 minutes.
How to get around: Do not take public transportation. This is you begging to have your things stolen. Rent a car (I recommend a Jeep or something sturdy). Cabarete itself is quite small, so you can walk. I took the beach route on a daily basis. I recommend you do not walk alone at night.
Stuff to do
- El Choco Caves - A great experience for everyone but me (as mentioned above I was attacked by evil red ants). There are some easy caves to explore. The moms & Antonio loved the caves. They even got to swim in fresh cool cave water when they were done. To get there you walk through El Choco National park where there is plenty of nature.
- Beaches: Cabarete beach is lovely. You can definitely swim in the water, it is not too rough. It is quite popular with wind surfers (so much fun to watch). As you saw in the pictures above, there are wild horses and tons of unexpected surprises on the beach.
- Restaurants: There are tons of restaurants right on Cabarete beach. They are all next to one another, making it easy for you to find a place to eat. Most of them were pretty good. Celina's and Onno were my favorites.
- Casinos: I don't gamble. I do "when in Rome", but I think it a waste of money. That being said, if you go to the local casino, instead of free drinks, you get free sancocho...and it is good. Totally worth a little gambling for this delicious soup. The Casino is kinda ghetto, but whatevs, great soup.
- Sports: I'm not the most sporty person out there, but if you are, Cabarete is a perfect spot for you. Wind surfing, cascading, hiking, horseback riding, canyoning, mountain biking, they've got it all.