January-February 2022, January-February 2023
Latin America meets Caribbean.
The Dominican Republic is stunningly beautiful, like an enormous Hawaii - except everyone here speaks Spanish. It's also filled with limestone areas. The reason we came, twice, to this fascinating country was for exploration of caves and descents of canyoneering routes. We've made several visits.
When not on rope, we travelled extensively in the DR. We rented a car, as public transport is cumbersome and we were carrying ample gear. In general, the country has plenty of ugly, ruined, overdeveloped areas. Once-beautiful beaches are now filled with decaying concrete, stray dogs, and decaying homes. Trash is literally everywhere in the DR, as is broken glass. Dominicans are sadly some of the most unapologetic people on earth when it comes to trash. They love throwing it everywhere, and many residents litter in their own backyards. Children play in fields of plastic wrappers and dog poop. So many beaches are littered with broken glass, as are parking areas for any type of place. The country has trash pick-up service all over, but the trucks simply dump it in the jungle. What's worse is that Dominicans throw their litter wherever they are at the moment. It's saddening to arrive at a national park where the rangers throw their own styrofoam lunch containers in the bushes, or a beach where big parties of Dominican men smash their beer bottles on the pebbles where the sea churns.
We met some nice people, but in general found Dominicans to be frustratingly lacking in respect of, well, anything. Music is horribly loud throughout the country - it's played outside by bars, cars with speakers, or people's homes. Every day of the week, often until 5 AM, Dominicans play their music so loud it can be heard from blocks away. We slept with earplugs every night.
Driving here is also a nightmare, without any road rules. The government is trying to paint lines in the road, and install stop signs, but no one obeys them. Drivers, especially motos, cut each other off, speed incredibly fast, pull wheelies on the highway, and don't stop at urban intersections sometimes. The traffic police basically don't exist. To back this all up, it's a statistic that the DR has the most dangerous roads in the world. Google that.
Finally, we found the country to be extremely macho. Even in the current days of a globally connected world, where values such as equality seem to be reaching even the most remote corners of Latin America to some degree, the DR is dominated by men. Groups of men roam the streets like dogs, drinking beer and carrying boom boxes. So many businesses seem to be run by men. Beaches have parties of all men. Gyms are often only men. Everywhere is men. Where are the women? We asked many men, and some women, who all said: They're at home in the kitchen, where they want to be, they told us. Sad.
That said, if you can overlook the dirty society and the backwards people, the DR is a gorgeous island with lots of adventure potential. Millions of tourists come each year, but the vast majority only stay in the confines of their hotels in Punta Cana. There are few independent travelers in this tropical nation.