Two weekends ago, S and I decided it was time to try out the “locals” beach. Yes, I said locals, not local, because everyone HAD to inform us we would come in contact with the locals if we went here. Unfortunately, because of the neighborhood we live in many people tend to thumb their noses at anything that isn’t touristy. Yes, I am talking about Dominicans, themselves. Money here really encourages a “them vs. us” mentality between the classes, it’s pretty upsetting.
Anyway, we grew tired of seeing great pictures and not having anyone to take us, and it suddenly struck me that this is NOT our first rodeo. We have absolutely travelled in the past to foreign places not knowing the language, so who were we waiting for? We picked up this past Saturday and just went. Boy, were we happy we did 🙂
First, we decided to take Uber, an app that works extremely well in major cities, but has not made it all over the country yet. It took 3 minutes to get someone to pick us up at our house and drive us. Because of the amount of traffic, a 20 minute drive became 40. We paid USD $24.00 to get there which really isn’t bad for the amount of time we spent. Local transportation is certainly an option but we left pretty early in the morning and felt as though we wanted to spend the money to have a private ride. You can make the trip on a local bus for USD$ 4.00 if you wanted to. We have used the public transportation before and laughed our heads off, it was a great experience. That is neither here nor there, so back to the topic at hand.
We were given advice that the best place to lay our towels would be at Bocana Beach Club and Restaurant. It really is more of a restaurant than anything else and welcomes all people. We got dropped off at a dead end, made our way to the restaurant and walked up to this:
I actually got teary-eyed by the view. We sat at a table a couple feet from the water and began our day!
Are there vendors who will try to sell you anything from food (even though you’re at a restaurant) to massages to phone cases? Yes. But it is not nearly as annoying as people claim. If you politely say “No, gracias” that is the end of the conversation. There is no pressure, no pushiness, and who the hell cares about someone making an honest buck when you are looking at that view? The place was practically empty the entire day and it was the first time I actually felt like I was in the Caribbean! From the locals to the music, the innate joy of the islands filled my heart and lifted my spirits right into the salty sweet air. We had the sweetest waiter of all time, Joserito, who watched our bags so S and I could swim together. People were so dedicated to making this a “safe space” for tourists that we had no fear for losing our belongings or being ripped off. The vendors all have badges and pay money for a permit to sell. I am still way too nervous to oblige but you can get full massages and pedicures on the beach for less than USD$ 10! Where does that happen??
My favorite part of the day was when the thunderstorm rolled in. We took some great pictures and then were brought inside the restaurant under the pavilion to eat. Look how GORGEOUS this storm was on its way in!
Bocana is an awesome restaurant. Even indoors, you are right on the beach. The wait staff is incredible and the locals are definitely the best part. I felt like I was in paradise. Drinks and food are so reasonably priced, we paid less than we did for dinner in the capital. And if you know us at all, you know WE ATE. Eight drinks, 2 meals, and 2 appetizers cost us USD$80. Expensive? Look what we got:
Yep, that is fresh-caught seafood and delicious tostones. Not pictured: drinks because I don’t post that kind of thing and calamari because we ate it WAY too quickly lol.
There were several schools there that brought students to do trash clean-up service projects. It was so fun to see students from around the city who didn’t all look like mine. At the end of their project they were all allowed to jump in the water and play, it was so sweet!
I have no understanding of how this works or what it is, but women with light or white skin tones often have reactions to the citrus in drinks and food here over time. So as you can imagine, having spent the whole day here I got my first reaction. These rashes occur primarily on the stomach and ribs. I had to change the coloring of this picture to exaggerate where the rash was to make it visible on the computer. For some reason I couldn’t get it with my camera in the lighting we were in. So again, my stomach was NOT this red, but I exaggerated the coloring so you could see where the rash showed up. Look at the dark coloring. It’s a lot! It went away after a couple of hours though.
Overall, we had a fantastic time. We loved interacting with the local people, making observations about the lifestyles and culture of the non-Westernized, and obviously eating. We have since made a vow to go to the beach at least twice a month for the rest of our time here. It is a small sacrifice for this walking on air feeling that lasts the rest of the week 🙂
We headed to Samana this past weekend which is easily the most beautiful place on this planet. I can’t count the number of times I lost my breath looking at the expanse of the water against the backdrop of mountains. If you are okay with spending a fraction of what you spend at the all-inclusives of Punta Cana and can read an English menu, you will never go back to Punta Cana again. Stay tuned for that post!
Despite how incredible our weekends have felt, there is absolutely a piece of us missing without the fall, football season, and crisp smell of the Jersey air. You have no idea how many moments a day I can almost taste home, and how many times my heart has dropped into my stomach remembering how far away I really am. Until next time, thank you for reading!