Fear versus wanderlust
Amid a storm of media-stoked fear about traveling to this small Caribbean nation, we dug through the negative news and looked at the facts. What we found about the safety of visiting the Dominican Republic was equal parts reassuring and maddening. The statistics tell a pretty solid story, and data from the US State Department straight-up confirmed that no, tourists to the Dominican Republic were not in fact dying at an alarming or even anomalous rate in the first half of 2019.
The maddening part? Rather than educate travelers and put recent events into concrete context, news outlets jumped on the bandwagon of xenophobia-tinged fear. *Fear-based media, it's what drives the masses, amirite? *
Heads up! This post is fresh, but I've previously published some of the photos on my travel blog as well as my social media profiles.
Wanderlust (and fact-checking) wins
With airlines like JetBlue and Delta waiving change fees for previously booked trips to the Dominican Republic, flight prices dropped and for weeks held steady at unheard-of rates for peak summer travel.
With our research in hand and international travel safety knowledge firmly in mind, we booked our trip. I chose the family-friendly Iberostar Dominicana and selected a Star Prestige upgrade for the adjoining junior suites we booked as a family of five.
We stayed for less than a week, and so opted to stay at the resort for most of our time in the country.
The people? Friendly and helpful! The beach? Gorgeous. The booze? I definitely didn't go out of my way to get buzzed, but the Presidente was fresh and, thanks to the heavy presence of Brazilian tourists, the caipirinhas absolutely perfected. The food? With the exception of the chocolate croissants found throughout the resort's restaurants, nothing to write home about. But hey, that's all-inclusive for ya'.
Bávaro Beach, et. al
Bavaro Beach is lovely, and even with the ever-present sargassum problem that plagues much of the Caribbean, the resorts along the coast do a great job clearing their beachfronts for guests. The beach goes on forever, the sand is oh-so-soft, and the water is divine.
Vendors roam the beach, selling everything from trinkets and hair braiding to excursions directly on the shore and beyond. We found them to be friendly and courteous, moving on with no issue when politely declined. While we didn't leave the resort premises on the mainland, we ended up booking two short excursions on the shore: a banana boat ride and a quick parasailing trip— both at way lower rates than if we'd booked online or at the resort.
- Pros: you save money and get some #yolo feels from setting up your excursions on-the fly.
- Cons: Booking from a transient beach vendor means that there's no TripAdvisor entry for praise (or gripes!) post-excursion. And while we came away with good vibes and great memories, there was for sure that niggling feeling saying, "hey so... who do I sue if this paracord breaks?!" I kid. Or do I?
On our last full day, we did take some time for a surprisingly delightful trip to Mundo Autentico. While not the most authentic cultural experience, it's as good a place as any to kill a few hours. If you're staying at a resort, you'll likely be able to book transfers to this tiny shopping village completely free of charge, via your hotel's on-site concierge.
Be forewarned— this place is
a bit of a tourist trap, with authentic handmade trinkets commingled with cheap tchotchkes, and priced for that less-than-discerning tourist riding that vacation high. Just chill out, accept the experience for what it is, and you'll enjoy your completely gratis, pressure-free samples of cigars, coffee, rum, and chocolates. We considered the option to buy merch and souvenirs to bring home a bonus, with the prices on par with or lower than those at the on-site shops back at the resort.
|chocolate factory||fresh vs roasted coffee beans||cigar factory|
During our trip, we received a STEP notification warning us of possible demonstrations in the capital city. Why? Election season is underway, which means increased political tensions. While we had no plans for visiting Santo Domingo, it's comforting to know the notification system works. Thanks, federal tax dollars!
By the way— during our stay in the D.R., this was happening in neighboring Puerto Rico.
Are you a US resident? Make sure you enroll your trip in STEP before any international trip.
Would we go back to the Dominican Republic?
Short Answer: Yes.
Longer Answer: Oh hell yes. The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country, and we barely scratched the surface, having only visited one resort in Punta Cana, and none of the historic districts! There's so much nature, culture, and history to explore in this beautiful nation, and as long as you stay informed and travel smart, a vacation in the Dominican Republic is no more dangerous than a visit to nearly any big city or tourist hotspot. Do your destination research, and avoid resorts with questionable responses to guest incidents and concerns. The statistics say, "Buddy, you'll be fine."
- GoPro Hero5, Sony A7II, iPhone X
- Adobe Lightroom CC, Adobe Lightroom Classic