Cabarete is the a kite-surfing mecca for those interested in the sport. If you kite-surf, there is always wind and high stoke among the (mostly male) crowd of humans waiting their turn to get into the water.
If you don’t kite-surf, it’s an awesome place to do nothing, which is one of my most favorite activities to do on holiday. I’m really good at it.
However, one does not simply spend two weeks drinking out of pineapples and sunning their butts. That’s not what this dame is all about.
Cabarete is a great place to base yourself in the Dominican, as there are a lot of cool things to do nearby, but you get the laidback vibe of a beach town instead of a city.
The North coast sees a lot fewer tourists than it used to, so now is an awesome time to visit and do things cheaper, plus have the beach to yourself.
4 Day Trips from Cabarete:
1. The Beach of Playa Grande:
If you are picturing a Caribbean beach, it probably looks exactly like Playa Grande.
The beaches around Cabarete are lovely, but Playa Grande is something else all together.
It has fine soft sand and gorgeous clear blue water. There’s not a lot to do here except enjoy some fresh seafood, drink a cold beer and look through the souvenir stands.
Some of my favorite things 🙂
If you are feeling active, you can rent surfboards, paddle boards and boogie boards on the beach as well. You can get there from Cabarete by renting a taxi, but this will cost you quite a bit of money (approx. $80 one way) as it’s about an hour from town.
Do it yourself:
Get in a ‘gua-gua’ (pronounced “wa-wa” = shared van taxis) going east which can be flagged in town, or basically anywhere along the one road through Cabarete.
You need to get San Juan, where you will need to change vans. On the second gua-gua, ask to be let out at Playa Grande. From the main road from where you are dropped, you will walk down a stretch of paved road to the beach. Total cost, about 160-200 Pesos.
Coming back, reverse the process. Just keep in mind that gua-guas tend to stop running around 5pm at night, so get on the road by 4 to be safe.
2. Snorkling in Sosua:
You can literally walk off the beach and access the reef!
Almost anywhere in town will rent you gear to get into the water. Some companies participate in an annual clean-up of the reef, since education on garbage disposal and recycling is lacking in the DR. You can ask if they participate in the Sosua Bay Rejuvenation Project.
Sosua is a bigger town than Cabarete, if you need any supplies or other amenities that are not available in Cabarete. There are shuttles to town and of course taxis are an option if you are not on a budget.
Do it yourself:
Getting to Sosua is easy from Cabarete as there are always gua-guas heading west into town. Flag down a van and make sure to have correct change, as the drivers rarely do. Cost is 20 pesos, takes about 30 minutes.
3. The Caves of Cabarete:
This is an awesome day trip because it’s literally in town!
The caves are a part of El Choco national park, but also considered private property, so you can’t visit without a guide. The cost of $20 per person is overpriced, but they do have several guides who speak a variety of languages. Plus, that cost goes back into maintaining the property and supporting the people who work the land.
I had a wonderful guide who told my friend and me all about the native plants and cave system. The first cave is really cool, literally and figuratively. You climb down some stairs and can swim in lovely refreshing water. The entire cave system is interesting and worth the visit.
Bring a bathing suit, bug spray and a good attitude. Despite the not loving the cost, our guide was sweet and let us linger in each cave as long as we wanted. We were there for over two hours enjoying ourselves.
You can take a taxi from town or book a tour… but why?
Do it yourself:
Walk west through Cabarete to the traffic light, the first one you will arrive at from the center of town. Turn left at the light into the neighborhood, away from the beach. Follow the road straight and you will see signs for El Choco national park, and “las cuevas”. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the center of town.
4. The 27 Waterfalls of Rio Damajagua:
These falls are located in the El Chino Park, outside of Puerto Plata, heading inland.
It’s absolutely a good time, especially if the water is high, because then you can be guaranteed to visit all 27 falls. At times when the water is low, they only the tours to visit the bottom 12, or sometimes they don’t go at all.
The one thing I kept hearing I should do, from every Dominican I met, was find a husband ::eye roll:: …
The second thing I heard was I should visit “27 Charcos”. I learned that not only could you visit the waterfalls and look at them and be in awe of the power of water, but that you could jump and slide down them. Uh whaaaa??
I researched a couple tour operators in town and most of them were charging a minimum of $70 US per person, some as much as $90! I super hate paying for tours and almost always try to do it on my own, but there wasn’t a whole lot of information available. Eventually I booked a tour at $50 for the half day, no lunch, but I make a mean sandwich which I was pretty sure would be better than a $20 PB & J.
Basically the “tour” consisted of being driven the hour and a half from Cabarete to El Chino park. When we arrived our driver bought our tickets and introduced us to our guide for the day. I suppose if you don’t speak Spanish, perhaps it would be more comfortable to go this way, but it didn’t seem worth $50 to me. Glad I didn’t pay 70!
Getting to the first waterfall is a solid climb up into the forest, although they have improved it with rugged stairs and bridges—apparently you used to basically bushwack your way to the top.
I’m pretty sure there’s nothing cooler than a natural waterslide. On a waterfall. Into a river. In the forest.
Gaby and Willis were our guides, Gaby providing the instructions in English and making sure we had fun. “Be careful, “ he announced, “The water is wet.” I squinted at him, not sure if he was being funny, or if his English was lacking. “El agua es mojada…?” I repeated back to him in Spanish. “Yes”, he laughed, “just a little bit.”
Most of the jumps and slides and only a few feet from the water, but there is almost always a path to walk around if you are feeling nervous. It was a really fun and beautiful day, and definitely recommended if you find yourself in this part of the world.
Do it yourself:
If you are feeling extra adventurous and up for a challenge you can access the waterfalls without booking a tour first.
You can take a gua-gua into from Cabarete to Puerto Plata for about 80 Pesos. From Puerto Plata, you take a second gua-gua inland to the entrance off the main road for “Los Charcos”, for about 50 Pesos. If you don’t speak Spanish, and you keep repeating “gua-gua” (pronounced wa-wa) and “Los Charcos”, eventually someone will point in the right direction, if only to get the crazy gringo moving.
Currently the sign for the turn off has disappeared..
and who knows if it will ever be replaced, but all the gua-gua drivers know “Los Charcos”. From there you follow the gravel road that will lead you to the main entrance and ticket booth. Tickets, which include a guide, life jacket and helmet, cost 500 Pesos for all 27 waterfalls. This is approximately $11 US, so you could understand why I was irritated to spend $50.
Don’t bring anything you don’t want to carry or get wet, because everything will get soaked. I brought nothing but the bottle of water and it was awesome. There’s a trash bag at the top so you can dump the bottle and enjoy the ride.
To get home, repeat the process. Getting a gua-gua requires standing on the side of the road and waving one down, just like the locals do. Gua-gua typically run until 5pm at night so make sure you leave enough time to catch one.
Cabarete is a great, budget friendly option in the Dominican Republic! Get there soon, and let me know if you go on any good day trips.
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