Green and Yellow! Green and Yellow! That is what the bartender was shouting most of the evening our first night on vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. My brother-in-law was wearing a Packer hat, which helped us to not only be tagged as Green Bay Packer fans, but also became a magnet to our fellow Wisconsinites staying at the same resort as us on vacation. Seven days in paradise surrounded by white sand beaches, palm trees, and “pretty blue water” (as my husband calls it).
|View of Now Larimar Resort taken from the beach|
|My husband, Jason and me on in front of the "pretty blue" Caribbean Sea on beach of our resort|
Just a few tips for any travelers contemplating a vacation to the Dominican:
Dress for tropical weather even if you are flying out of Wisconsin. The Punta Cana airport is an open-air concept (as are most of the buildings in the Dominican.) You will be standing in line for a long time in the heat to go through the very inefficient process of obtaining a tourist card. First you will wait in a long line to get to a booth where you pay $10 per person to obtain a “tourist card.” That person will hand you a receipt. You will then go to another line and hand that receipt to another person, who will hand you another sort of ticket. Then you will go up to a booth and show your passport and that ticket (and some paperwork the airline crew won’t quite be sure about how you should fill out – no worries, the person at the booth barely looks at it). Then they will give you the ticket thing and your passport back. You can probably toss that ticket in the garbage at that point, because despite it being so important that you had to go through all those steps to get it, no one will ever look at it again.
Don’t expect the food to be what you are used to at home. We always assume hot food will be hot and cold food will be cold. Not really the case there. Remember they are catering to people not only from the U.S., but also from France, Russia, Canada, Poland, Germany, etc. etc. The buffet is scattered with foods that you won’t understand and you won’t really know what goes with what. The longer you are there, the better it will get, though it is probably just the fact that you are getting used to it. The Dominican people are SO nice, but they really want you to get service with class, which means they want you to have it the way THEY want you to have it, which is not necessarily the way YOU want it! You aren’t at Burger King, so quit whining about it, and appreciate the fact that you are eating your lunch surrounded by palm trees in paradise. Order the cocktail of the day and EVERYTHING will taste better! Men, BRING closed toe shoes, because the dinner restaurants will not let you in without them. Although our newfound friend from Appleton found a way around that by wearing slippers from the room… AND he got in, no problem. The beer will be a local beer. Our resort featured Presidente, which was not exactly “excellentay,” but again you get used to it and the scenery doesn’t hurt.
Get to know the entertainment committee at your resort. These guys are non-stop FUN. They work from sun-up until the wee hours of the morning and make you laugh the entire time. On our first morning at the resort, we were approached by Fabio Star (pretty sure that is not his real name) who asked us to go to a special lunch at the Japanese restaurant. Of course, being suspicious Americans, we wondered what the catch was? We were convinced he was trying to rope us into buying a condo. Fortunately, we were wrong, it was simply a way to get a diverse group of guests together to have a lunch and also get to know the entertainment committee. By the end of our stay we were fast friends with the whole crew. Our mornings spent watching Smiley run around the beach, teach Zumba, convince people to join a volleyball game, the whole time singing and yelling, “I love my job!” Poor Smiley even roped the boys into a game of water polo, which resulted in one of my brother-in-law Larry’s “near death experiences”, possibly caused by using muscles he didn’t know he had, or maybe it was all of the Bailey’s on ice he drank earlier that day!
|My brother-in-law Larry coerced into a St. Patty's day beer drinking contest by Fabio Star (we are still convinced the guy sitting next to him was Dale Earnhardt, Jr.)|
Go on excursions!!! We took a 2-hour bus ride to get on a Catamaran to drink and dance for another 30 minutes until we landed on a beautiful island just south of the main island. Saona Island is a National Park in the Dominican, where some scenes from the 80’s movie “Blue Lagoon” were filmed. The only people who live on the island are those who work for the Park. It is on a coral reef, so you have to be careful when you step off of the beach into the water; however, you can see beautiful tropical fish everywhere. We were served a barbeque lunch and as I was eating, I started crying because I felt so blessed to be there. Raymond, our tour guide on the bus, was so entertaining that the bus ride did not even seem that long. He pointed out many things along the way, including the fact that the car washes all have a bar attached to them, which we found interesting. One of the things I wish I had gotten a photo of was a farm field full of cows, which looked like it could be in Wisconsin, except that there was a PALM TREE in the middle of the field. We also took a snorkeling excursion to swim with nurse sharks and hold stingrays in a penned in area. The crew on the boat was a blast, although at one point I was worried that Jason, my husband, who is an avid swimmer and lover of marine life, was never going to return to the boat!
|Larry, my sister Kim, Jason and me on the Catamaran that took us to Saona Island.|
|The sun shining through the top of a palm tree - Saona Island|
|Jason and me getting ready to get on the boat for our snorkeling adventure.|
|Oh look! Here is a photo of my husband and me. You see me, now if you look right underneath my left armpit, you can see a glimpse of him still snorkeling. I thought the boat would leave him behind!|
Get up early and watch the sunrise over the beach. It is a beautiful sight, and will set the tone of your mood for the day. My dear sister, who was stressing about the sale of her home back home and where her family would live until their new house was built, asked my husband and I one morning at breakfast how we could always be in such and upbeat cheery mood every morning. I just said, “Look at where you are. Remember on that long bus ride when we were traveling through poorer parts of the country and Raymond told us that some of the poorest people lived there, but they were some of the happiest people you’d ever meet? Take a look around you and you will figure out why.”