Trip Coach: December 19, 2006

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Ana Chavier Caamano, author of the new guidebook 'Moon Dominican Republic', answered your questions about the Dominican Republic.

Ana Chavier Caamano: Hi! My name is Ana Chavier Caamano. I'm glad you joined me. I'm ready to answer your questions and I hope I can be helpful.

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State College, PA: My family will be traveling to Dominican Republic in March 2007. We will be flying into Santiago but we will be staying in Puerto Plata. Is there a form of transportation we can take to get from Santiago to Puerto Plata? There will be 8 of us requiring transportation (5 adults and 3 children). We will be staying in Puerto Plata for 1 week and would like to take a mounatin bike tour. Can you recommend a tour or area near Puerto Plata that we could go moutain biking? Thank you.

Ana Chavier Caamano: Thanks for writing!
I have a few options for your transportation question: (1) If you are staying in one of the all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Plata, check to see if they have a transportation deal (those can be expensive but might be worth it for 8 people--less hassle). (2) If there is no such offer, for transportation from Santiago to Puerto Plata, you'll need to take a taxi from the Santiago airport to the Caribe Tours bus station in Santiago. One leaves every hour (on the half hour) and should cost about US$ 2.50-3.00 per person. Then you'll take a taxi from the Caribe Tours Puerto Plata station to your hotel. (3) Hire a shuttle taxi right outside the airport--like a minivan. You'll want to haggle for a fair price. They'll quote you a really high one (on purpose because they expect you to haggle), get them to go lower. Ask if it has air-conditioning (it sometimes costs extra to run it). I know that was a lot of info, but I hope that helped.

Mountain Biking: My favorite tour company to recommend is Iguana Mama and they are located in Cabarete (only 20 minutes from the Puerto Plata airport). They have a few different biking packages to chose from and they'll even arrange for pick up from your hotel if you want (at an extra cost). They do more than biking too.

You're going at a wonderful time of year, Have fun!

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Yonkers, NY: My wife and I will be celebrating our 40 anniversay in D.R. on 2/3/07 to 2/10/07. We will be staying in Punta Cana and friends have warned us to beware of food poisoning which they say is rampant. How do we protect ourselves and still enjoy our anniversary? We have been looking forward so much to this special time!

Ana Chavier Caamano: First, congratulations on your 40th anniversary!
Lots of people have asked me about stomach problems in general. So I'll try to help everyone in this:
To protect yourself from stomach problems ruining your otherwise fun vacation, drink lots and lots of bottled water! Don't drink the tap water. Many resorts and hotels have refrigerators that have bottled water. (Make sure first if you drink it, it is not an extra charge.) It's a very easy practice that many vacationers forget to do when they're on holiday surrounded by tropical fruity drinks (alcoholic or not), food plates brimming with delectable treats (familiar and new), all while toasting themselves in the sun for an unusual amount of time. It might not actually be food poisoning they're experiencing, but heat-stroke. Either way, water will help to flush out your system if it is a bug and hydrate you if alcohol and sun (sweating) have dried you out.
Concerning actual food poisoning; most resorts have a small medical clinic on site with a doctor and/or nurse on staff. Some of the larger complexes even have a small pharmacy in them. If you want to really play it safe, then at the buffet lines choose cooked food items. This is the safest route. As far as drinking goes, coffee, tea, canned and bottled beverages, carbonated drinks, beer and wine are usually safe. A step further, don't drink beverages with ice. Not a bad idea to pack an anti-diarrhea medication to take with you. They can be quite expensive there.
For more information on Traveler's Health go to cdc.gov/travel.

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Payson, AZ: Dear Ana Chavier, I have always wanted to go to the DR, but can't get my husband to commit. We are divers and it seems that the dive reports from others show spotty conditions at best. We also like to hike and he golfs. Having so many choices - Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata and La Romana, which one would you choose for these activities? Thank you! Alana

Ana Chavier Caamano: Hi Alana, thanks for writing.
You're absolutely right! There are a lot of choices both for what to do and where to go in the Dominican Republic. While the DR is not known as the world's leading diving hotspot, it is a great place to do all of the things you mentioned in one trip. It's small geographically and easy to get around in, which makes a variety-packed vacation possible. Here's a suggestion: fly into Santiago's International airport, hike near Jarabacoa in the Cordillera Central (there are many different hikes here), travel north toward Puerto Plata to stay and golf at one of the resorts, then go toward Sosúa (not far from Puerto Plata) to snorkel and dive. It totally depends on how much time you've got. Another option (and my choice but might require more time) fly in to Puerto Plata and make your way over to the Samaná Peninsula, take the hike to Salto El Limón where you'll be rewarded with a swim at the foot of the 52 meter waterfall and then dive Cabo Cabrón during the migration of the Humback whales. The Samaná Peninsula is one of my favorite areas.

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Washington, DC: Hi, My husband and I are going to Puerto Plata on January 19-28 and my 21 year old daughter has decided to go with us. We will be staying at Allegro Playa Dorada. I want to know what we can expect to do while there, besides swimming, and if there is some special place we should visit. My daughter gets bored easily and I want to make sure we do things that will keep her interested. Josie

Ana Chavier Caamano: Hi Josie.
I've stayed in Occindental resorts before (and many other mega resorts). What they are good at is catering to the vacationer who is easily bored. If you check at the activities desk, they'll show you a calendar of events and offerings (some free, some extra cost) going on each day. Examples (aside from swimming) are: beach volleyball, salsa or merengue dance classes, tennis clinics or tournaments, horseback riding, SCUBA diving clinic, kayaking, windsurfing, nighttime entertainment, a disco, etc. The list is really long. Playa Dorada is a resort complex that is situated very near the town of Puerto Plata where you can spend a nice afternoon. There you will see a very charming town square lined with old Victorian homes and storefronts, you can go to the The Dominican Amber Museum (it's a good tour and the jewelry is first-rate here as well, a good gift to take home), you can see the Fuerte San Felipe (built in the latter half of the 1500's), and you can take a tram up the Isabel de Torres Mountainside to a botanical garden for a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. If you desire something a little more amusement park-like, there is always Ocean World in Playa Cofresi. It is an aquarium located about 5 km west of Puerto Plata. You can swim with dolphins, feed sharks and stingrays and swim with tigers! For more information on Ocean World visit oceanworld.net/html_site/oce_home.html.

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Arlington, VA: My fiancee and I would like to get away from the crowds, (we have already done a mega-resort in La Romana), the Samana peninsula looks intriquing, any suggestions, and what is the fastest way to get to the peninsula? Thanks, Irwin

Ana Chavier Caamano: The Samana Peninsula is a wonderful place. A lot less tourist jammed and this is partially due to the fact that it is harder to get to. But it is SO worth it if you want to get away from all the crowds.
Even though there is a brand new shiny international airport on the peninsula (elcatey.com) they have yet to offer US flights. Rumor has it they will begin offering those sometime in 2007. Meanwhile, if you fly in to Puerto Plata, the town of Santa Barbara de Samana (a.k.a. Samana) is about a 4-hour trip. It is probably the shortest route there.

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Boulder, CO: I would like to know good resorts - All inclusive for couples in their 60s . We have been to many All inclusive resorts in the Riviera maya and want to experience a new place. We want a really nice beach - swimmable and good food and nice beds. Doesn't need to be "top of the line" but any ideas would help. What area of the island is nicest beach wise. And is it safe to go out from the resort areas? thanks

Ana Chavier Caamano: Hi. If you're looking for resorts that don't allow children, I can suggest the Allegro Playa Dorada in Playa Dorada (North shore). But if that is not the case, then Casa de Campo in La Romana on the Caribbean Coast (this one is considered top of the line by many), is a wonderful place for all ages and is very comfortable. There you're more likely to get that good food in my opinion. They have a built a new Marina back in 2005 that added many top of the line restaurants to their already restaurant-filled complex.

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Washington, DC: I'm a 29 year old female. I grew up in St. Croix, USVI, and currently reside in Washington, DC. My father has dominican roots, although I haven't visited since I was a little girl. I'd love to visit our family in the Dominican Republic. They live in Santo Domingo. I speak SOME spanish...I can get by, but am hardly fluent. Any suggestions on where to stay, what to see, and the best time of the year to visit?

Ana Chavier Caamano: Hola! You should go to Santo Domingo!! Feel the vibe of the city, speak to the locals, get to know your family again and get your language skills flowing. If you can't stay with family (ha ha), then stay in one of the hotels in the Ciudad Colonial (The old, Colonial City). It's near all the great history that you should see while you're there anyway, (i.e. The fort, museums, El Conde street, etc.). Go dancing at night! My favorite time of year to visit was always Christmas time because it was the best time in the city, lots of festivities. But weather-wise, I really like February - March. Take some day trips into the mountains. If you go during Carnaval (in February) go to the celebration in La Vega (in the central mountain range) for sure. Good Luck to you!

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Plantation, FL: Have 4 and 12 year old boys. We live in Ft. Lauderdale. We're thinking of an inexpensive yet luxurious trip to DR. What's best place to stay with gourmet and local food plus activites for kids 9 years apart?

Ana Chavier Caamano: Perhaps you should consider staying on the Caribbean coast. Think: Juan Dolio or Guayacanes. That way you can have the affordable luxury of a resort that offers plenty of activities for the kids but in a less trodden area (unlike the Punta Cana and Puerto Plata areas that can get overloaded with tourists and therefore driving prices way up). From here, you can easily do day trips to the capital city of Santo Domingo and get that gourmet and local food you want, plus sneak in some great historical tours! (maybe even some shopping for yourself). P.S. there is a wonderful restaurant in Juan Dolio called Aura Beach House that Santo Domingo locals will drive all the way from the capital to because of the ambience and the food.

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Washington, DC: Right now, my friends and I (3 females, all over 50), plan to visit the Dominican Republic in July or August 2007. Since we don't speak Spanish, I was wondering will the language barrier be a problem for us if venture off the resort grounds? We generally like to get out and about to see the "real" island or place we're visiting. Thanks.

Ana Chavier Caamano: Good for you three! You are going to see a beautiful country. Dominicans are very welcoming and hospitable people. If you make an effort to speak Spanish (take along a phrasebook) they will meet you the other half of the way gladly and work with you to figure out what you need.

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Wellsville, KS: How safe is it traveling to the Dominican Republic? What is the best resort area to take kids?

Ana Chavier Caamano: Family-centered resorts have made the Dominican Republic a prime family vacation destination in recent years and the country in general is quite safe. Try resorts like Casa de Campo in La Romana, The Barcelo complex in Punta Cana, or Iberostar in Playa Bavaro. The three I've mentioned are along the Caribbean and/or Southeastern coasts. These types of resorts are all-inclusive and do a good job at having multiple games and activities to keep the little ones busy and their parents relaxed.

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Ana Chavier Caamano: I'm so sorry I couldn't get to every question. I hope you all decide to go to the Dominican Republic. You'll have a great time! Happy Travels and thank you for joining me! Ana

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