My trip to the Dominican Republic is officially booked, and I'm literally bouncing off the walls. I have so many epic things planned that I can't control my excitement. What I'm really pumped about is being able to combine the luxury of a plush beach holiday, with plenty of adventures and exploring.
I do love a few hours of sunbathing, but after a while I get itchy feet, and feel like I should be out investigating. That's what I'm going to be doing in the Dominican Republic, investigating what there is on offer.
Uncovering destinations for what they really are and turning myths upside down
I'm on a mission to prove it's not just a rather beautiful beach destination, but somewhere where you can experience some culture, wildlife, action and an endless selection of heart pounding water sports.
My friends who have been to the Dominican Republic aren't seasoned travellers, and mostly enjoyed the five star hotels, so they missed out on seeing the real appeal of this destination. That's not going to happen to me, not when I have such a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of. I'm going to really get to the roots of this Caribbean nation by seeing as much of it as I can, and hopefully discovering a few stories along the way.
An ideal ladies holiday combo of sun, sand, sea and most importantly, adventure
I was originally going with my sister, as she's a kitesurfer and knows exactly how much of an ideal watersports destination the Dominican Republic is. She said it's pretty much one of the best places in the world for kitesurfing. I haven't tried it myself, but I do love watersports, especially water skiing, and I'm a bit of a water baby. Swimming in a really wavy sea is one of my all-time favourite things to do.
Anyway, unfortunately she couldn't make it in the end, so I have a friend coming with me instead. My friend is also up for lots of adventures, combined with lavish five star hotels, and we have planned the perfect trip. I can't wait to go on a luxurious girly holiday, whilst also going off the beaten track.
Making the most of my travel experiences
When I was younger I was happy enough to go to standard holiday destinations, as long as they had a beach and a pool. I would spend most of my days swimming in the sea and sunbathing, but, as I have got older, especially in my late twenties, I tend to go on holiday in search of something more. This is exactly the type of holiday that a lot people in their late twenties would enjoy, some time away that offers something more, something special.
I don't want to come back from holiday and only have memories of lazing around in nice hotels. I want to come back and have amazing adventures to tell my friends about. I want to tick things off my bucket list, and feel I am making the most of my time on this earth, but most of all, I want to really see the world and appreciate it for all its worth. So when it comes to the Dominican Republic, I will leave no stone unturned. Here's what I have got planned so far:
Swimming With Stingrays, Uncovering Caves, Visiting Chocolate Plantations, Epic Watersports and An Outback Safari
Looking at my itinerary, it's clear that the Dominican Republic offers some pretty impressive experiences. From swimming with stingrays and reef sharks to visiting chocolate plantations and climbing through caves, I'm going to have some truly unforgettable moments.
I'm spending my holiday in some fantastic five star hotels, spending 3 nights in the Iberostar Bavaro, and two nights in both the Iberostar Costa Dorada and Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus. All these hotels have fantastic reviews, so it will be interesting to see how their locations, facilities and rooms compare.
Arrive at hotel and relax
The flight is around nine hours from the UK to the Dominican, so we will probably spend our first evening checking out the hotel facilities, relaxing and getting ready for the next day.
Excursion to Scape park to visit Hoyo Azul Eco Adventure
Scape Park is a one million square metre natural theme park, with an abundance wildlife, natural wonders and spectacular scenery. I haven't yet had the pleasure of zooming down a zip wire, so I'm looking forward to giving it a go at Scape Park. I hear the views are absolutely jaw-dropping.
After the zip wire and hiking through the jungle, we will get to see the stunning Iguabonita Cave where we will go on a guided tour through the network of caves, and hopefully take a dip in the clear blue, cool waters of the world famous Hoyo Azul.
If we have time we can also go horseback riding and explore the park on a buggy. There's a few exciting options to choose from so we will have to see what takes our fancy on the day.
On day three we will be heading to Punta Cana Reef Explorer for a marine life experience. We will go via speed boat to a floating island in the middle of the sea, where we can choose from 11 different activities. This sounds like a relaxed day trip where you get to choose what you want to do.
As I mentioned earlier, I love the sea, but if I'm totally honest, I'm absolutely terrified of sharks. Thankfully the sharks here aren't dangerous and are very docile, albeit still very large. You can also enjoy a stingray encounter, which is a little more up my street and sounds amazing. I will definitely be getting some Instagram worthy photos, hopefully one of my holding a massive stingray. Who knows whether I will be brave enough to go near the sharks, we shall see!
Other activities include paddle boarding which I have done before in the UK and in Greece, a massage, snorkelling around the reef amongst the colourful marine life, kayaking and sunbathing on floating mats in the sea. There's also a bar with fresh fruit juices and snacks.
Travel from Bavaro to Puerto Plata
We will chill out for a while on day four after two rather busy days and then travel to the second hotel and settle in.
On day five, we have an outback safari planned, which will hopefully enable us to see the real side of the Dominican Republic and get involved in the local culture. I think it's really important to spend time getting to know the culture of each destination you visit, to understand more about its roots and also grow as a person.
On this trip we will get to do many things that will help give us an idea of local life in the Dominican. We will be visiting a school and a ranch with beautiful scenery and rich agriculture. I'm hoping to come face to face with iguanas, because I haven't yet met one in the wild.
We will also get the opportunity to buy some unique local products at local prices, watch a cigar rolling demonstration and tuck in to a traditional Dominican lunch. There's also the chance to visit a Dominican home and meet the family. There's a cocoa and coffee plantation behind the house, and we will get shown how the locals prepare chocolate right outside their home, then sample the concoction.
Finally, the outback safari ends with swim in one of the best beaches in the country, Macao beach, for some boogie boarding, which sounds like the perfect way to end the day.
Puerto Plata city tour with cable car
On day six we will be heading to Puerto Plata for a city tour that will show us all the main attractions. We will be visiting the San Felipe Fortress, Central Park and the Amber Museum. We will also embark on a trip up to the peak of Isabel de Torres mountain via cable car, where we can take in the impressive views and see the true character of the city from afar.
Picture white sandy beaches lined with palm trees and stunningly clear waters, and you might imagine your own personal paradise. This is roughly what Saona Island looks like. We will make our way to the eastern coast and arrive a fishing village called Bayahibe, and then board a speedboat and head out to Saona beach.
Apparently we will be able to stand in a natural swimming pool full of lots of starfish, which sounds pretty awesome. We will then spend the day on idyllic Saona Island, learning local dance, enjoying a local buffet lunch, playing volleyball and generally just unwinding in this beautiful setting. I think there's also an open bar where I will most certainly be sampling the local rum, just call me Captain Jack Sparrow.
The Dominican Republic has it all
So that's the plan! I think we've got a pretty busy week ahead of us, but there will be some time for relaxing too. I'm busy Googling unusual and unique things to do in the Dominican Republic because I want to make sure I have planned the best trip possible.
However, I only have a week, so no matter how many great things there are to do, sadly, I can't fit them all into my holiday. Even though my sister won't be coming with me, I will still try to squeeze in a visit to Cabarete beach to try the watersports and face the wind. Being quite active I would also have liked to visit the Damajaqua Cascades (27 Waterfalls), but there just isn't time.
We are off in a few short weeks at the end of June, watch this space for my post holiday report with loads of photos, stories and videos of our trip.