Dominican Republic North Shore on a Small BudgetDominican Republic on a Small Budget (North Shore)
There are a lot of options for affordable accommodations in the Dominican Republic on the north shore. Generally renting by the month is cheaper than renting by the week or day. Most places will have smaller budget hotels.
I have found it cheapest and the best experience for us, to take a walk in a local barrio and find places for rent and ask how much. If you don’t speak Spanish you can always ask someone that does to call for you. You will be surprised at how much cheaper it is than the hotel. We rented a 2 bedroom house in the poorest barrio in the city of Puerto Plata for $100 Canadian per month and never once felt that we were in danger or uncomfortable. Our neighbours were wonderful people. We met some great friends and everyone looked out for us. By doing this I had a babysitter if needed. When I was sick, neighbour’s made sure my kids were cared for and that I was ok. The best was that my kids played with the local kids and made friends with neighbourhood kids and learned to speak Spanish without ever attending a language school. Some of our fondest memories are from living in that barrio.
There is a great little hotel on the beach in Río San Juan called the Bahia Blanca. They have deals if you stay a week. The hotel is not new or big or flashy but it is right on the beach and the views are spectacular.
Bahia Blanca Hotel, Río San Juan
In Samana, we were able to find a decent budget hotel for $12US dollars per night. The room was big enough for 4 of us. There was a kitchen to cook your own meals and laundry facilities.
In Santo Domingo we spent the night in a Cabaña (hotel by the hour) as it was cheaper than a hotel.
A lot of the local food is fried. As well the locals use a lot of salt and oil in the preparation of the food. MSG is used a lot as well. Be careful if this is an issue for you. Your best bet to is frequent restaurants in Cabarete and Sosua or along the Malecon in Puerto Plata that cater to foreigners and speak English if you have special dietary needs.
Tropicoco Buffet (in Cabarete on Saturday nights) is a little more pricey than most places we go but so worth the cost. The food is very high end and well presented. The buffet is an American style buffet that is truly all you can eat. The Domincans haven’t grasped the concept of an all you can eat buffet yet. This place sometimes has guest chefs that do a buffet as well. The Thai buffet was amazingly good. The cost is about 600 pesos per person plus the cost of your drinks. Cocktails will run you 100-200 pesos per drink.
Fresh Fresh in Cabarete is a great place to hang out and eat. They offer a variety of sandwiches, smoothies and vegetarian fare at a decent price comparable to North American prices. English is spoken here.
Rotisserie chicken is a great deal and can be found all over Puerto Plata. Expect to pay about 200-300 pesos per whole chicken. We’ve made a meal out of a whole chicken for the entire family.
San Jorge on the main road of Puerto Plata has the best pizza in the city. There is a downtown location that sells pizza by the slice. The main location on the main road has a bakery that sells bread and other baked goods. Try the lasagne it is the best and a great price at 150 pesos for the large portion you get.
Pica Pollo (fried chicken) is a staple in all of the Dominican Republic. It is available all over the island. Most places will give you a large portion of chicken with fried platano for about 150 pesos. The better places have long line ups!
Majuma and yaroa will thrill anyone that loves French fries, meat and cheese. For Canadians it is a little like Poutine. They are both pretty much the same. French fries with either beef or chicken layered on top and topped with shredded cheese. I always ask for it without ketchup and mayo otherwise it is drowning in the condiments. The Dominicans slather ketchup and mayo on everything!
Riki is a sandwich with ground beef in a tomato sauce with shredded cabbage and avacado. It’s usually sold at mobile street vendors on the street. The best place to get it in Puerto Plata is down the main road at the bottom at the entrance to Padre Las Casa (there is a walkway over the road for pedestrians only here). Coming from the top of the hill take a right at this intersection. On the side of the road you will find this vendor along the side of a big wall for a school enclosure. He sells fresh made juice and Riki. Go early because he leaves at noon.
It should be noted that wheel chair accessibility is near non existent in the Dominican Republic. There may be a wheel chair ramp to enter the facility but then stairs later on. Often times the ramp is very uneven or not wide enough for a wheel chair. Sidewalks are often very narrow and uneven or broken. Service dogs are not well known here as well.
Teleferico (Cable car) : The cable car will take you to the top of the mountain. Once there you can enjoy botanical gardens. Numerous paths are around the top of the mountain. There are now directional signs. The view is phenomenal from up here. Go early as often it clouds over and makes seeing the view difficult.
You can easily get here by taking public transit. Ask the public car or guagua driver to let you off at Teliferico. If you don’t speak Spanish just keep saying “May boy a telly ferry co” They will let you off on the side of the road. You can either take a motorcycle taxi to the entrance or walk (it’s about 4 blocks to walk)
27 Waterfalls: You can get here via public transit easily. Find your way to Javilla (Say “ha- bee-ah”) Tours station. Tell someone working there “bainty see-et-ay cascada” They will drop you off on the side of the high way. You will need to walk in about a km to the entrance of the falls. Be prepared to get wet. Unless you bring a gopro type camera you won’t be able to take pictures. Your bag can be stored behind the desk with the staff. It’s about 500 pesos for the day. This includes your guide. Be prepared to walk and then jump/slide down various waterfalls to the bottom.
Malecon: The Malecon comes to life on Saturday and Sunday nights. Music and dancing in the streets. Vendors selling food and drink and glow in the dark toys. During the day it’s a quiet place to hang out and spend time on the beach or just sit under the shade of one of the many almond trees lining the malecon. There are several small “casitas” along the malecon that serve drinks and sometimes food. Be aware that there are no washrooms in the casitas. There are public washrooms located along the malecon but you must pay 10 pesos to use the facilities. Part way down the malecon on the other side of the road is La Sirena. This big department store has everything. There is a Dominos Pizza inside here. We like to order a pizza and eat it on the malecon or beach. If you come in February, the malecon is Busy almost daily! Every weekend is crazy with excitement. There are free concerts on stages along the malecon. This is for Carnival. The big celebration is on February 27 but there are things happening all month long on the malecon.
This marine park is no better than others. We went for Christmas one year. I wouldn’t go more than once. The snorkel reef was a hit with my preteen and teen. The Tiger Grotto where you can swim in the same pool as a tiger (with glass between you) was freezing cold but the kids enjoyed seeing the tiger. There is a private beach here, a bird habitat that allows you to interact with the birds, sea lion and dolphin shows. My kids did swimming with dolphins and the shark and sting ray encounter. Prices vary. They sometimes have offers online.
Monkey jungle is a zip lining tour. It is cheaper if you find your own way to the site than book a tour. They are located just out of Cabarete. The zip lining is the only one that is certified on the island. There are monkeys that you can interact with.
La Pulga (flea market) operates every Tuesday and Wednesday. Any moto taxi will be able to take you. There are numerous motos sitting outside the entrance ready to take you anywhere. Make sure you agree on a price before you get on the moto or inside a taxi. For a moto taxi I wouldn’t pay more than 50 pesos anywhere in the city limits. For a taxi it will be more. Public cars have a set fee. Within Puerto Plata they are 25 pesos per person. They pack the cars very full. You can pay for 2 spots to give you more room. Children under 5 are free but must ride on a knee. There are no seat belts of child safety seats.
El Choco Caves is a national park just outside of Cabarete. There is a small fee to enter the park which also gives you a mandatory guide. The guide will show you local flora and fauna and take you into the caves. You are allowed to swim in a couple of the caves. The water is very deep and very cold. Small children should be monitored closely.
Free things to do:
Malecon for a walk and beach time during the day.
Downtown Puerto Plata
Parque Central is the local gathering place during the day. It is located in the city centre. Feeding the pigeons is a favorite of ours. Night time here is more popular than mid afternoon.
If you are looking for snorkel gear, a beach wrap or anything else Casa Nelson is the place to head. Located across the street from Parque Central. Beach warps can be found here for 250 pesos, while on the beach they are 1000. Snorkelling mask and snorkel is a bargain here as well in comparison to in a gift shop. While you are downtown do some window shopping. If you like 70’s and 80’s style clothing you will be in heaven. It’s fun to see the styles available!
Río San Juan is worth the trip. A secluded little beach in town that feels like your own private beach. The public beach just outside of town is a great place to spend the day. Snorkelling is phenomenal here. You can see the bottom even when you are quite far out. The water is very calm, being within a quiet bay. There are a few vendors selling food but this is not a tourist beach at all. The Gua Gua from Puerto Plata can be caught just up the road from the hospital. You will see a line of white vans parked on the side of the road. This is the “parada” for the gua gua (bus) to Sosua, Cabarete and Río San Juan. Going to Río San Juan will run you about 150 pesos each. Be sure to get water from one of the vendors at the parada as the ride can be hot in the gua gua.
Cabarete is the beach to go to for water sports. The water is really rough for swimming. We like to sit on the beach in a rented beach chair (100 pesos for the day) and watch the kite surfers do their stunts. Moto taxis in Cabarete have a flat fee of 25 pesos per person for anywhere within town.
There are numerous bars along the beach that offer seating on the beach with food and drinks. Taking a walk along the beach you will find all kinds of fare to choose from. Fresh seafood, burgers and pizza. Most places have daily drink specials.
Kite surfing schools are all up and down the beach to try your hand at kite surfing. Prices vary so shop around. Off season is easier to get a good deals as most of the instructors are looking to make a few dollars during the off season. Vela Hotel on the beach offers water sport equipment rentals. There is a really cool little shop in Cabarete that sells all handmade up cycled items. Bags made from old kite surfing parachutes, coffee packages and tetra boxes.
Sosua is the beach to go to for swimming and playing in the water. The water is calm and clear. Along the public beaches are numerous beach bars and gift shops. There is a colmado (small store) at the far end of the beach toward the cliffs on the left when you are facing the beach. You have to walk up a small hill and pass thru a gate to get to the store. They have soda pop for local prices (15 pesos) as opposed to the stores down on the beach (50 pesos). They will also sell you a 2L bottle of soda pop and plastic cups. The local brand of soda is called Kola Real and it is significantly cheaper than American brands. We like this brand.
There is a glass bottom boat and banana boat rides on the beach for a fee
Within the town of Sosua there are numerous bars and shops to check out. A trip to the Jolly Roger restaurant and bar is a must. They have 150 peso fish and chips on Wednesdays and a Merchants Faire on Sunday’s. They also do bingo one afternoon a week. Kids love the pirate decor.
Long Beach is located along the malecon in Puerto Plata. It isn’t as clean as some of the other beaches and can be dirty from locals using the area. There aren’t Any garbage cans along the beach so it gets dirty.
Pueblito Beach is located just outside of Puerto Plata just before the Playa Dorada Resort entrance. Any public car, gua gua or moto taxi will take you there. This is a clean little beach area. There are some apartments and shops but it is not usually busy, except occasionally on weekends and during the week of Semana Santa when every beach is packed. There is a bar on the beach that isn’t bad. Francois’s Restaurant on the beach has good food in a great setting for a nice evening out.
If you go to Santo Domingo a visit to La Cava De la Meson is a restaurant you can’t miss. Unique in that it’s inside a coral cave. The food is divine and well presented. Prices are similar to American prices for a restaurant of this level. A little pricey but worth the visit. Check out the entire location as there is a beautiful patio area with water and other caves to explore.
China town and the flea markets in Santo Domingo are an experience in their own. Expect crowds and lots of noise.
There is a zoo and an aquarium.
Littles are sure to enjoy feeding the pigeons in Central Park. There is a children’s museum nearby but it wasn’t anything special. Not many activities for the kids.
Las Colinas Mall in Santiago has a vast variety of shops. There is also a cinema with about 6 movies playing per day. At least one is usually shown in English.
In the basement of the mall is the Jumbo department store. It has a little of everyone. Just outside the Jumbo store is a little train that kids ride around the mall for 60 pesos per person. This is a high light for the littles.