As the sun was rising, we began to see the breathtaking views of the Dominican Republic (DR or DomRep). Our first stop was Luperon. The bay here is stunning – picture the mountains of New England with a line of mangroves at the foothills that roll right into the water. Everything here is so lush and green. The bay is an ideal hurricane hole for boats of all sizes and the food and beverages are shockingly cheap. I can see why so many people end up moving here permanently. If it wasn’t for the poor water-quality (definitely no swimming!), we would have spent much longer here.
Luperon – Puerto Plata
I cannot say that it is easy to check in at this port of call. First of all, my Spanish es no bueno, or shall I say my Spanglish, so dealing with several different officials (whom speak/understand very little or no english) was a bit of a challenge.
Step one: The Marina Guerra (Coast Guard) will board your boat as soon as you are anchored or moored. No $ is required to give to them but be ready with copies of passports, vessel documentation, departure form from last port of call, and ice cold beers (yes, they absolutely will ask for beer!)
Step two: The Captain goes to shore with all of the same documents and tries to figure out which of the three rooms in a very hot, not air-conditioned trailer to go to first and what fees are actually due. The fees that are required to be paid are not clearly documented, so when you go to check-in by boat be sure to bring lots of pesos or USD. The cost for our 31-foot vessel with two adults and one dog was as follows (amounts in USD): Cruising Permit/Other Fee $60, Tourist Card- $10 per person, Harbor Charge $25 (for a 10-day stay)
Step Three: When you are ready to leave, you play a similar game in order to get your despacho (exit permit). However, no fees are required to leave.
We decided to make a day-trip to Damajaqua Cascades (27 waterfalls) with the crews of sv Sea Frog and sv Party of Five. So, trying to figure out how to get nine people there was a bit of a challenge. Travel choices in the DR are as follows: car rental, guagua*, donkey/horse, or motoconchos**.
*Guagua is a small car or van that is overstuffed with people (you will literally see people overflowing from the vehicle), far exceeding their recommended (safe) capacity.
**Motoconcho is a motorbike that is used for public transportation. You will see as many as four adults + children on one bike. You will also see furniture and other large items being moved on these bikes.
As we had a former local resident in our mix (thank you Darren!), he hooked us up with a rental….which turned out to be someone’s personal SUV (not the van that we were expecting)…thank god we were traveling with three skinny kids!
We spent another day touring Puerto Plata. We took in the sites, made & smoked cigars at the Cigar Factory, drank rum on the Brugal Rum Factory tour, ate chocolate on the tour at the Del Oro Chocolate Factory, and of course had beers on the beach.
After leaving Luperon, we stayed a couple nights in Samana in order to wait out weather before making our way across the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico.