It also now has a USDA-certified organic farm, Villa Orgánica, with a stunning array of produce – star fruit, passion fruit, mustard greens, eggplant, mint, tarragon, sweet potato, amaranth, arugula, jackfruit, inca peanuts, lemongrass – and chickens, too. When the farmer, Carlos Juan Rodrigez, told me the workers execute pest control simply by picking caterpillars off by hand and then frying them up for lunch, I started laughing in disbelief, but he was serious! Three times a week they have a public market where they sell their produce, and once a month they have a Full Moon dinner party near the farm of about 30 people, which, for $20, tend to sell out.

EAT: Fresh Fresh – This smoothie and sandwich shop in Cabarete proper not only has delicious, healthy food for reasonable prices, it also has wifi and a covered outdoor area where you can work.

Street art Dominican Republic Cabarete

 

DO: Go dancing or partying – I didn’t have the time or energy to do this, after our whirlwind tour, but you can hit up many of the beach bars for some Latin music, or look for posters for a big expat dance party featuring global music.

DO: Learn to kite surf – Once you see the kites swooping back and forth in front of Kite Beach, you’ll have a hankering to try it, too. But warning: you need at least three days of the bunny hill (a.k.a. practicing with your feet in the sand on the beach) before you can even get in the water. So I would only try this if you have a week or more in Cabarete. If so, go to the Kite Club. In lieu of that, however…

DO: Surf – Head to Encuentro Beach early in the morning for a coffee, then hit up LG Surf Camp for some lessons. The owner, Luciano, is a Dominican and from what I was told by an acquaintance who used to live there, a super nice guy.

DO: 27 Waterfalls – Are you the kind of person to take the stairs or jump off the edge? Either way, you’ll enjoy this natural waterpark that winds its way through the jungle. It’s about 1.5 hours from Cabarete, and 45 minutes from Puerto Plata. You might do it first or last if you land or leave from Puerto Plata, on your way to or from Cabarete. We started by taking a short and completely manageable hike to waterfall 11 (you can choose to start at 27 and do them all), then floated, scrambled, climbed, and leapt off, over and around the waterfalls one by one. It was thrilling and gorgeous (walking through a high hallway carved by the water into stratified rock was the most breathtaking part for me, even more than the cliff jumping)  though after 12 waterfalls I was starting to get a bit chilled and was happy to take a short walk back to the main area for a buffet lunch of typical Dominican Food. Just make sure to go on a weekday and go early. On weekends, the locals come too, and it can apparently get crazy. The day we were there, we were behind a huge group from a cruise which meant my reverie was frequently interrupted by quibbling teenagers. (Cruises, ugh.)

SHOP: Bead It – The front of this store is deceiving, with typical tourist items. But in the back, there is locally-made jewelry, dreamcatchers, tie-dye pillows, local moringa oil and honey, natural mosquito repellant, and loose beads if you want to make your own jewelry. I found an incredible shell necklace– it was the only thing I bought the entire trip.

EAT: Clorofila – I didn’t have a chance to check this out, but it reportedly serves excellent vegan food.

Las Terrenas

STAY: Dominican Treehouse Resort – This eco-friendly, tropical rainforest resort is magical, with treehouses integrated lightly into the surrounding jungle. I would call it rustic, except the food is luxurious, there is hot water, the staff (comprised fully of locals) is wonderfully attentive, everything is clean, and the treehouses afford you so much privacy, with a backdrop of jungle noises. On the flip side, meals are communal, so you’ll make friends while you’re there. They’ll arrange all the tours and activities you could want, including a farm tour, bikes so you can go down o the secluded El Valle beach, and yoga in the jungle in their yoga dome. There’s no wifi (which is why our group of journalists and bloggers didn’t stay there) so be prepared to disconnect and fully immerse yourself in the moment.

The spa at Sublime Samana

STAY: Sublime Samaná – For those seeking a more luxurious experience, go in with your friends or family an airy bungalow at Sublime Samana, a privately-owned (not all-inclusive corporate!) cocoon of green lawns, tennis courts, and blue pools by the ocean. Enjoy yoga, Pilates, and meditation at the yoga temple, with a backdrop of crashing waves, and a massage with local, organically-grown herbs and fruits at the spa, and local coconut oil. They use all natural cleaning products, buy local art for the decor, and sell organic items in the gift shop. They’re in the process of putting in an organic garden, too. The seaside kitchen serves up a daily catch and fresh, local ingredients.

Other eco places to stay: Clave Verde

DO: Horseback riding to a waterfall – Hop on a horse, and be led by a local up a long path through the rainforest, across a stream, to a gorgeous view, before arriving to a waypoint and taking a quick hike down to a beautiful waterfall. It was an easy and pleasant ride, and the horses seem to be well cared for to my semi-trained eye. Our experience was provided by an outfit known as Ramona y Bracillio, who when you’re done, provide a delicious local lunch. They do not have a website, but if you ask with your resort or hotel, they can probably arrange it for you.

 

EAT: Mi Corazon – Hidden up a spiral staircase inside a nondescript building, inside you’ll find a romantic courtyard with two terraces, thoughtfully decorated in the Italian style with tile and chairs from Santiago, and stonework from the Limon area. All the food is local. We had a dreamy meal of goat cream cheese terrine from Dominican goats, local dorado (mahi-mahi) fillet, and an Austrian dessert, kaiserschmarrn. Save this for your fancy night out.

 

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