We booked the Jungle Eco tour at the last minute, just a day before, and they were very accommodating to include us in their group of 20. Although it is suggested that you book them in advance, may be 3 or 4 days before the trip. Seavis tours, which is a family run tour operator in Bayahibe, totally exceeded our expectations. They are so helpful and well organized.
We were staying at Viva Wyndham Dominicus Palace resort and luckily their office is just a 5 minute walk. We did not have to pay anything in advance, by phone or online payment, but we did make our payment the morning of the tour. The shuttle bus picked a few other tourists from other resorts and we were taken to their main office, from where we started the tour. The jungle of the National Park del Este and its surroundings is an awesome place for nature lovers, where you get to visit freshwater springs secluded inside the caves. We descended into the cave Cueva de Chicho, which is a large cave at the bottom a stunning underground lake. This park tour lets you experience the various parts of the Park: the dense dry jungle, the fauna and flora and the - very special- story of the people who lived in the area, before the park was inaugurated.
Next stop was a ride on a traditional boat and cruise stream up through the gorge of River Chavon. The tour guide, ecologist Kirsten Tilanus, has phenomenal knowledge and patience. She was explaining things in Spanish and English with a great clarity and passion. They own a small piece of land around River Chavon where we had a chance to eat traditional Domincan cuisine, which included chicken wings, traditional Dominican rice, 'batata', platanos and various salads. You can taste the small dishes prepared in the traditional Taino way.
After lunch you can relax in a jacuzzi high above the river or test one of the hammocks or try your luck with fishing from the fishing platform. We did the amazing canoe adventure in river Chavon, where we went deeper into the jungle, navigating through hanging lians and around fallen trees.
The next stop is in the village of Benerito (10 minutes from Bayahibe) and in particular the 'Campo Padre Nuestro'. This is the new settlement were the inhabitants of the National Park were relocated when the park got inaugurated. It shows a vibrant and colorful community. We got to visit a jewelry project sponsored by the USAID that helps
women to earn an income and from where we were taken back to our individual resorts.
This tour operator is doing such an amazing good job at letting tourists see the amazing Dominican culture at the same time being eco friendly and creating jobs in the community. Plus, the youngest member of the family, Kirsten, who is an ecologist, is so well-informed and passionate about nature, that the whole vibe rubs on you. You must take this tour if you are in Bayahibe, you will not regret it!
Over 4,000 workers making some of the world's most highly regarded Dominican cigars! Definitely one of the best experiences and most entertaining two hours I've spent on a tour. The staff is very friendly and helpful when picking from dozens of different cigars.
Only a cab ride away from Punta Cana, located in nearby La Romana. Several trip formats available, I took the 120 minute VIP tour and tasted a Seijas Signature cigar. Wonderful!!
When you're in the south of the island, visit Altos de Chavón. This picture is taken at the Rio Chavón.
Altos de Chavón is an artist village situated hight above the Chavón River. It has a tradition of arts and crafts and there are lots of art galleries. It looks very old with its cobblestoned paths, but in fact it's fairly recent.
La Romana has a very nicely kept park in the city centre, the perfect place to rest your legs and sit down.
There are lots of different tropical plants growing there, sometimes obviously some performances like theatre, music etc.
In La Romana there are two cigar factorys. One is somewhere in the town, the other near the harbour. We tried to visit the bigger one at the harbour first but couldn't. They only do tours if it's organised before. Then we tryed the second one.
This factory is only very small but you can look at it. The cigars are rolled by hand. If you want you can buy some cigars after the visit (but you need to ask to, they don't ask you!!!).
The visit was quite fascinating, one of the employees welcomed us with a cigar (my first cigar ever..) and showed us around. Then we could wander around and look over the shoulders of the working people. It was no problem to take pictures. You can see some in the cigar t-logue on this page
Tha factory is open until 16.30.
La Romana is somehow a very confusing town. Streets go everywhere, people, cars and motorbikes are everywhere but no street looks alike. On the way to a shop we lost track of the streets and landed somewhere totaly different as planned...
There are thousands of little shops, lots of churches and colourfull houses to be seen.
One landmark helps you orientate: The chimneys of the sugar factory spitting out lots of smoke. In some places you could smell the sweet sugary smoke.
In La Romana there is a market, a real musst see. On the Market you can buy all different kind of things, fruit, vegetables, spices, meat, cloathes and much more. The Market is very colorfull and loaded with more or less nice smells.
There is absolutly no problem just wandering around and looking at the different stalls without buying anything. We weren't bothered with penetrant sellers, a simple "no gracias" would do to stop them trying.
From the old harbour of La Romana sail the boats that reach Isla Catalina. This is a private desert island where you can find wild beaches and snorkel over the coral reef. Anyway yoy can't go there by yourselves, but with organized tours.
Don't leave the beach too early in the afternoon, otherwise you'll miss beautiful sunsets. At this time the beach is full of people who are trying to get the fleeting moment taking pictures or just watching in silence the superb sight of the nature.
Go for a trip to Isla Saona. Here you'll can find beautiful wild beaches, visit a little fisherman's village and meet nice people, see big starfhishes walking under your boat while the pelicans are plunging into the sea searching some fish. Here you'll can pass a beautiful day at a seaside where there is the Caribbean you have always dreamed.
For more informations, please go to my Isla Saona page!
Go ti visit Altos de Chavon. It's a village built in the 70' as an European village of 16th century. It's situated on a high ground overlooking the Rio Chavon. In the village live local artists and Dominican people who are studing as painters, sculptors and craftsmen.
Anyway I didn't visit it. I don't like artificial places. I just regret I couldn't see the local artists works of art. If you have been there, please, let me know if I missed something worth seeing!
while in the area of juan dolio, the town of Boca Chica is a good day trip. Lots of beach bars and shopping the beach is also very nice in Boca Chica.
The water in boca chica is various shades of blue and the inlet type area makes for very calm waters for wadeing in.
Go on the outback safari, you spend the day going into the countryside. There are many things to see from sugarcane fields being harvested to a typical dominican family house we got to visit. There is also a river trip, and a lunch in the country. Horseback riding or in a wagon if you can't ride.
It gets you away from the city and the beach which can become boring after a while.
This is the Altos de Chavon, really ancient amphitheatre. It is known to be the place of many great concerts and performances, such as Juan Luis Guerra!
It has an amazing river flowing in between. The whole 'town' is covered in this rock-type material: the stairs, buildings, etc.
When you visit La Romana, you can also visit 'Las Islas Catalinas', south of La Romana. They're little islands, just a boat ride away from La Romana. I really recommend it. You'll feel like those people on Survivor! (except for the rats and the gruesome acts! )