pequeño refugio, hostel, las galeras, writing on the wall View More

  At a Glance: Price:    $$$ Sleep:     Staff:     Feel:       Price range: $0-$10: $ $10-$25: $$ $25-$50: $$$ $50-$100: $$$$ $100-up: $$$$$ While traveling in the DR, we mostly stayed in cheap little “motel” run for local travelers, for locals. But from time to time we decided to hang out with the tourist and chill in some cool little hostels. Out of all of them, our favorite has to be El Pequeño Refugio. It’s where to stay in Las Galeras… …hands down. This little hostel is oh so cozy. Run by a couple, originally from Bulgaria, every detail was taken into consideration when decorating. Sure, this isn’t a 5 star, no it’s way better. It’s not cold and impersonal like a 5 star, it’s special. No two rooms are alike, and everything is decorated with special finds, specially selected for that room. Lea has a special touch, everything here makes you feel at home. The towels are thick, the sheets heavy, the pieces of scrap fabric covering the windows are sweet, and the rooms are cleaned everyday, with love. Here, have a look for yourself. The main area serves as a restaurant, bar, garden, and art gallery. At night, the bistro downstairs fills up with regulars and tourists, a perpetual meet and greet, bubbling with the excitement of new adventures. The food is absolutely delicious. We’d share the menu with you, but there is none. Each day is a new concoction, specially prepared according to the day’s mood. Indeed, Las Galeras is a fun little town. It’s a very tiny and quiet town, mostly full of divers and hikers. It’s out of the way, and the people who make it all the way to the end of the road of the Samaná peninsula seem to be a little more adventurous than others. Here you’ll see locals and tourists mingling, and people wandering the lazy streets in the evening. The air is warm and still. I imagine Cabarete was like this 30 years ago. Life is chill and lazy, and when something goes wrong, you make the best of it until it’s fixed. Besides beautiful diving, in the area you’ll also find some of the most pristine beaches in the Dominican, such as the beautiful… Continue Reading

laguna del diablo, dominican republic, escape, hike, adventure, fog, layers View More

When we were in el El Valle we saw a great big house at the top of the hill. That, and a rumor of a lake called “Laguna del Diablo” got us searching for a road, which we eventually found close to Playa Rincon. We started up that road but eventually it got really bad, too bad for our car Izzy to keep going up without some major damage, so we took a break to open a coconut, and that’s when a pick-up truck full of workers came down the hill after the end of their shift. As I moved the car out of the way, Gabriel made small talk with them, asking if they knew where the lake was, etc.. Within a few minutes, we had the number of one of the workers who was going to take us on a personally guided hike to the lake the next day. WOOHOO! So we came back up and Victor and his son took us on a hike through what’s yet to be the most virgin part of the Dominican Republic I’ve seen so far. There are some roads up there, but most of them are pretty new, including the Ruta de Jengibre, which you’ll find on google as “Carretera La Loma Atravesada” as the project is to eventually connect Playa Rincon to Playa El Valle. So far though, what you’ll find up there are mostly local farmers who live off the land and rarely need to go anywhere. The land is farmed in part, and completely virgin in others. It’s paradise. We got there very early in the morning and when we finally had a view of the lake, it was covered in fog (pictured above) But as we got closer to it, and the sun came up over the hills, the fog burned off to reveal a rather large and beautiful lake. We were alone, Gabriel, Victor, his son, and I, save for a few fisherman trying to catch their sunday lunch. Our voices echoed on the walls of the hills opposite us, carried by the reflective stillness of the lake. The birds chirping away. Of course, we’d come a long way, and it was warm, so a swim was inevitable. But Gaby had to take it a step… Continue Reading

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The Bridges of Samaná are three bridges built between two small islands in the bay of Samaná, and the mainland just outside of the town of Samaná (also, but less commonly knows as Santa Bàrbara) Where Do the Bridges of Samana Go? There are multiple theories as to how they got there, some believe it has to do with drug cartels, but the most widely accepted theory has to do with Joaquín Balaguer, president for most of the 60’s and 70’s  investing in the area hoping for it to be the next tourism hub on the island. It seems the plan was to have pedestrian bridges connecting the islands, and leading to a restaurant on the last one. Only the shell of the restaurant remains: While it’s a great spot for gazing across the beautiful bay over at the North shore of the south side of the island…. not much of Balaguer’s plan still stands. It seems none of the construction has been touched since his presidential term ended in ’78, and it doesn’t really seem like it was ever finished either. Samaná, in fact, never took off as a tourism hub. Not that the area is lacking in eye candy, quite on the contrary, the nature surrounding the area is some of the most gorgeous that can be found around the island, AND it’s centrally located as far as the rest of the Samaná peninsula goes… The real mystery behind the bridges of Samaná isn’t where they go, it’s why they don’t go anywhere. Why is there nothing on those islands? Why is Samaná so “boring?” Well, there is this one all inclusive resort, Bahia Principe – through which you have to walk if you’d like to get to the bridges – and it kind of sucks up all the tourism. All-inclusive tourists are brought, through SAFE transportation to SAFE (and very disingenuous) parts of town, where they can buy SAFE (and tacky) souvenirs, before being SAFELY transported back to their SAFE haven for that evening’s game of poolside bingo. I’m not even joking, about any of this. There’s a sign at the entrance of the bridges advising tourists that the resort takes no responsibility for what happens beyond this point, if they BRAVELY choose to venture out to the desert… Continue Reading