Emily: One of my best friends lives in Arlington, Virginia, so I don’t see her very often. We met in college and have been friends ever since. The first (and last) time we took a vacation together was to Barcelona, Spain in 2007.
I thought it would be super fun to celebrate my 30th birthday with her in the Dominican Republic. So we planned a trip to 3 locations, including Santo Domingo, Bayahibe, and Bavaro (near Punta Cana) over the course of one week.
Emily’s Birthday Trip to the Dominican Republic Index:
- Trip to the Dominican Republic — Introduction and Planning
- Santo Domingo Hotel – Sofitel Nicolas de Ovando
- Activities in Santo Domingo – Zona Colonial and Latin Dancing
- Activities in Santo Domingo – Casa de Orientacion y Desarrollo Real (CODR)
- Eating in Santo Domingo
- Bayahibe – Isla Saona and Hotel Bayahibe
- Bavaro Hotel – Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
- Activities in and Around Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
- Eating in and Around Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
- Return Delta Flight from Punta Cana
- Conclusion and Blog Giveaway
Emily: I originally booked a rental car, but since I’ve never driven outside the US, my friend Hardy was worried that it would be unsafe for me to drive. So I cancelled my reservation and instead opted for Hardy and a friend of his to drive us.
The drive was only about ~2 hours from Santo Domingo.
I tested the GPS on my cell phone which did not work. Driving was a little dangerous, and the roads were not very well marked. Tour groups come to Bayahibe often, especially from nearby Punta Cana and Bavaro.
Once we arrived in Bayahibe, Hardy had a friend which ran catamaran tours, and we went on their boat.
We paid $26 for our tour, which included free drinks, lunch, and a 6 hour cruise.
There are lots of tours available, and you can go around to different ones to see what they offer. Some feature lobster lunches with quiet, relaxing cruises, and some feature the party environment. There are also boats that you can charter privately, but they were pretty expensive!
Kristen: The catamaran was a real treat with a delightful breeze, reggae and Latin music, and free beverages. Hardy, Kristen, and I loved being on the catamaran.
The boat was lots of fun and the weather was perfect. Isla Saona, part of a protected park, was beautiful!
The island, while I probably did not step more than a few meters away from the beach, was about as picturesque as it gets with deserted island retreats.
The waves were minimal, but there were some pesky rocks just below the surface in the few parts of the beach I passed through. There was also some seaweed near the shore, but every few feet it was clear.
Kristen: Soon after we arrived on the island, lunch was served.
Lunch wasn’t the tastiest, but the whole trip was only $26, so no complaints! Lunch was a buffet with spaghetti, fish, chicken and beef…
and fruit salad.
Emily ate some protein bars in lieu of the risk associated with a reaction to fish.
Emily: After a couple of hours, we took a speedboat to a “natural swimming pool.” The pool is a large lagoon with shallow white sand about 4 feet deep.
After wading in the lagoon for about 20 to 30 minutes, we took the 20 minute ride back to the bay to snorkel, which lasted only about 10 minutes.
One of the guides spread white bread throughout the water and soon we were swimming with barracuda, giant schools of small fish, and even a few jellyfish, which kept their distance.
Kristen: Right off the bat I saw a few jellyfish, several large schools of fish and quite a bit of healthy coral. Emily said it was the best snorkeling she’s seen, and she’s been to Thailand and Brazil for snorkeling. It’s also supposed to be good for scuba diving.
Many of the catamaran tours don’t stop for snorkeling, so this was an added treat.
We got back to town and checked into our hotel, Hotel Bayahibe. I paid $60 for a Standard Twin Room which included free internet and breakfast which I booked online.
Here’s a video of our room!
The room was basic, but it was clean and a 3 minute walk to the beach.
There was a communal living area with artwork
…and a view of the beach.
We went to Captain Kidd, a pirate themed Italian restaurant around the corner from the Bayahibe Hotel, for dinner. I was worried about my fish allergy and the chef assured me a fish-free dinner. We sat outside by the sea.
There was also indoor seating. The menu had a good selection of different types of Italian food.
We ordered a margarita pizza…
and a fungi pizza and had melon and pineapple juice.
On our way out, we couldn’t resist a pirate themed picture.
The next morning, we had a wonderful (free) breakfast at Restaurant Dona Clara, which was right beside the sea.
We sat on the restaurant’s outdoor seating.
We were given a menu from which we could choose what we wanted.
We had fresh fruit…
toast, and omelets served with mashed potatoes and sausage.
The highlight was the freshly made coffee that was velvety smooth. We asked what kind it was and found out it was Café de Santo Domingo.
Besides the tours, there is not much to do in Bayahibe. So, we went to Bavaro (near Punta Cana) for our resort stay.
We took a cab directly from the hotel to our resort, but we could have taken a taxi to the bus station for around 5 dollars, the bus from La Romana to Bavaro, and then from Bavaro to the hotel.
We would have saved about $50 by taking the bus, but I was concerned about losing precious time (that route would have taken 2-2.5 hours), and we had our luggage with us. Taking the cab was still cheaper than a car rental.
I tested the GPS on my phone to see if it worked, but it didn’t.
The taxi ride was only 1 hour to our resort, Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe.