A Trip to Cabarete, Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has a well established tourism industry, and is big on golf and ecotourism. Part of the island of Hispaniola, the nation has its fair share of problems with government corruption, crime, drugs and environmental issues, but this does not deter a huge number of visitors enjoying the natural beauty of the coastline and interior.
If you’re looking for something different and a bit of action, a stay at Cabarete in the northern province of Puerto Plata should fit the bill. The beaches are of the palmed picture postcard variety that not only offer swimming and sunbathing, but also a whole lot more in the form of action sports. Surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, and particularly kitesurfing are all very popular. The scene is colourful and vibrant in a huge sandy bay with a reef break further offshore that kicks up some impressive waves in the right conditions.
Cabarate is very much a surf village, laidback and inhabited by friendly islanders, travellers, holidaymakers and surfers. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and supermarkets on the main street which has a bustle about it day and night. In fact, if you’re a light sleeper, choose your accommodation carefully, as the scooters buzz around through the night, as do many people staying up in the many bars and nightclubs. The beach areas too, are lined with bars, restaurants and equipment hire centres. A recommended pastime is to walk up and down the beach to check out the action on the water in the day, or in the evening to take in the Apre-Surf atmosphere.
In fact, Cabarete is so relaxed that many arrive for a two week holiday and end up staying for a few months, or longer. There is no hassle and the beach traders are welcome for a bit of friendly banter and might sell you a T-shirt or sumptuous coconut for next to nothing. It can get crowded in the main street during the day, so in your newly acquired laidback mindset, be on your guard for any petty crime such as pickpockets and watch out for the traffic, particularly the mopeds that tend to enjoy riding in the gutters on the wrong side of the road.
There are plenty of equipment hire and instructional centres along the beach and in the town if you’re interested in lessons or hiring gear for water sports. Doing your research prior to arrival is the key to getting a good deal, or if you’re staying longer, then engage with the locals, as purchase could be the better option. The standard of instruction is very high but also competitive in the limited beach space. Be careful if you’re taking kitesurfing lessons to ensure there is plenty of space, as it can be dangerous with out-of -control kites flying above your head from other groups.
Windsurfing is also good so long as there is enough wind, or you have access to a big enough sail. Surfing is excellent in the beautiful warm blue waters, and if you’re an expert, head to the more secluded beach of El Encuentro further northwest where the surf is impressive.
If you want a break from the water action, mountain biking is a wonderful experience that will take you out into the wilds, across rivers, and through tiny mountain farmsteads where little barefooted children will run out to give you a ‘high five’ as you ride by. The Iguana Mama company on the main street offer mountain biking tours that are very well organised to include bikes, equipment and transportation into the countryside. They also arrange a host of other extreme sports and horseback riding adventures that will take you to some stunning areas whilst getting the adrenaline pumping at the same time.
And after all that? Well, head back to town for a rest and to catch a beer in a beach bar – that’s what Cabarete is all about.