When you read a lot of travel posts, you can often spot when they are biased or unoriginal. You just can't beat going somewhere and actually experiencing somewhere for yourself. It enables you to describe destinations in a far more colourful and captivating way.
I'm a seasoned travel writer, so I thought it might be interesting to take a normal holidaymaker (my friend, who came with me on my recent trip to the Dominican Republic) and ask her a few gritty, helpful questions.
I feel like she has filled in a few gaps that I missed, and given a really refreshing, honest account of our time there. You can read my post about our experiences in Dom Rep here if you want a full account of what we did, but if you have some burning questions about the Dominican Republic, they just might be answered below. Read Hannah's refreshing insights and comments on this magical Caribbean country.
What were your impressions of the Dominican Republic before you went?
I was expecting there to be beautiful beaches, turquoise sea, sunny weather, sunbathing, cocktails and just chilling out. Until I found out what we were doing I pictured relaxing recuperation type holiday, with maybe a few excursions.
What your ideal holiday?
My ideal holiday is a mixture of chilling and adventure, activities and a bit of culture. Which is why it was a perfect trip.
What about the Dominican Republic appealed to you?
For me it was the activities we had planned. I was really excited to go to Scape Park because it ticks every box of what I enjoy doing in terms of exploring a country in an active way.
Did your expectations match the reality?
It definitely exceeded my expectations massively. I never really expected it to be chilled out even though we were doing so much. I didn't expect the country itself to be so green and varied in landscape.
Although you presume the seas will be beautiful you never it expect it to actually look so amazing, so it's a bit of a shock when you actually see it. I expected it to be a bit touristy and for some of the excursions to be a bit OTT, but they weren't at all, I enjoyed them all and they were so well run.
What were your first impressions when you arrived?
It hadn't quite sunk in that we were away, it didn't seem like we were away until I got to the hotel and took in our surroundings. Then when reality hit, when we ran out onto the beach. It was the perfect temperature water and whilst walking on the smooth sand, I was like, yeah, we are definitely in the Caribbean now.
What are your three favourite memories?
- When it thunder stormed on Saona Island, it was such a surreal and odd experience. The contrast of being on a sunny tropical island and then it just storming over the sea, it was a completely different view but also very magical and peaceful in a strange way.
- When we were on the top deck of the sunshine cruise boat and were sailing out of the port, and I looked around and saw 360 degrees of turquoise water and we passed the palm tree filled stunning beaches.
- Getting in the water on the reef explorer tour with sharks and actually digesting that I was swimming with real sharks. I was terrified but it was pretty epic.
Who would you recommend the Dominican Republic to?
Definitely our age group (25 to 30), people of our age range who are able to go on a luxury girls' holiday and afford it. It's such a good combination of being able to chill out in a more luxurious environment, but have the activities and the culture too.
Having everything organised before we went was really helpful because then there's no arguments over what to do when you are there, you can just sit back and enjoy your holiday.
It would also work well as a couple's holiday or even as a family destination, as the hotels are well catered towards families. However it would be quite difficult to do all the amazing excursions that we did with little ones, unless you have older children.
What didn't you like?
I think we needed longer there, maybe ten days or two weeks. If you wanted to do all the activities we did, I would suggest going for longer, because for the average person it's a bit full on, you need a couple of chill out days in between.
We were so busy we didn't have much time to be able to fully explore and make the most of the hotels and their facilities such as the spa, pool bars and spend more time on the beaches to do water sports etc.However, what we did was incredible so I obviously don't regret that, I just wanted more time in such a wonderful country.
If you went back again, what would you do?
I would definitely try and do Scape Park again and try some of the other activities they offer. I would also do a few boat trips because you really get to know their people well and it shows the Caribbean vibe and their attitude. It's the best way of experiencing the Caribbean Sea.
One thing I would have liked to do a bit more is to explore their food a little bit more, as the hotels offered international cuisine and I expected more local delicacies. That's because I'm a foodie, but it's a shame if you are going to a country not to experience their food.
What did you think of the people in Dom Rep?
All the staff we came across had a very professional attitude but also a friendly manner. They seemed carefree and to embrace life. Their lives seemed free from stress and their happiness is infectious. I really loved spending time with the locals and the excursion staff.
Which was your favourite excursion and why?
My favourite excursions had to be Scape Park for its variety. It was so well organised and we had so much fun. You see a bit of culture, you learn about the plants, environment and wildlife, and then you go off and do something exciting such as zip lining and caving, and then chilling out on the sunshine cruise. It couldn't have been more perfect.
It was great in that you have the opportunity to tailor it to what you want to do. The landscape and scenery was also incredible, you are experiencing so much more than an adventure, it's like you are getting a piece of the Dominican.
Was there anything that surprised you about the country?
How different the terrain was in each area we went to. The fact that we were able to drive across the country really showed us the variation from the really wet tropical regions to the dryer areas.
I expected it to be more samey and beachy, when really there's a lot more to offer than that. If you went on a holiday to the Dominican the likelihood is that you would just go to one area, but we were lucky that we didn't have to make a choice, it was great seeing so many different places.
What travel tips would you give people visiting Dominican Republic?
I would say, I think one of the best things that we took with us was the GoPro, because it's such a fab way of showing where you have been on holiday. A lot of people have said it's such a brilliant way to show what you experience after watching our video we made.
You need a good practical bikini because a lot of the excursions we did activities then went to the beach afterwards. So you need a bikini that can last the day and is comfortable but still looks fab at the beach.
On the whole, we didn't really have too many problems with the mosquitos but we did really cover ourselves in the insect repellent. You really need a practical bag for the excursions.
My final thoughts
As you can see, Hannah obviously had the holiday of a lifetime (and not just because she was travelling with me!). We will always remember our trip with great fondness, and have stories and funny memories to share together and reminisce about.
We both want to say a huge thank you to The Holiday Place, Amstar and everyone who helped make our holiday such a brilliant success. I hope that between us, we have answered all your questions about the Dominican Republic, and given you a good idea about whether it's the kind of place you would enjoy. However, if you do have any questions feel free to send them my way! I have a few more articles to write, so keep an eye out for more Dominican adventures.