Fancy-Pants on the Cheap

Trip Start Sep 05, 2009
Trip End Sep 13, 2009

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Where I stayed
Bahia Blanca

Flag of Dominican Republic  , María Trinidad Sánchez,
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Our good luck with the guaguas continued, or maybe they're just good here.  Our trek to Rio San Juan required four buses, and we weren't really sure of the route, but we made it quickly and with no complications.  We headed straight for a hotel listed in the guidebook that sounded great, but we had heard different prices from different people.  When we walked in, we both said, Oh no, this doesn't look like a place we can afford.  As soon as you walk into the reception area, you get a grand view of the ocean, with tables set on a patio in the open air.  The terrace below literally juts out over the water, and the waves (tiny as they are) break against the building.  A broad outdoor spiral staircase leads to three levels, all with wide balconies facing the water.  The hotel has seen some wear and tear, but it's truly beautiful.  We were shocked - shocked! - that the terrace-level rooms were $15 for the two of us.  The rooms are basic and the terrace isn't well-maintained, but we walked out of our room to a wide expanse of ocean and a little beach off to the side.  Really, the hotel made my week.

As soon as we checked in we headed back out for Playa Grande, supposedly one of the prettiest beaches in the area.  It's hard to know how they define that, because the whole north coast is stunning.  The beach is indeed gorgeous, with trees buffering the road from the soft sandy beach and a long peninsula of palm trees shielding one side of the bay.  Shen was hoping to surf, but the guy with the surfboards wasn't there, and also there wasn't there any surf.  Supposedly it gets very good in the winter, but this time of year it's hard to predict.  He arranged for the guy to come the next day, and we walked over to Playa Preciosa, where the waves are usually a little better.  It was still pretty bad - he caught a few waves on Thursday, but overall it was a bust.

We got back to the hotel right in time to have a drink on the terrace and watch the sun set over the ocean.  Perfect! We went out for dinner and finally found food that wasn't of animal provenance.  I didn't think it existed here! I wouldn't go so far as to call it delicious, but we had some good mangú (a strange casserole of platanos and corn, maybe? I don't really know...) and rice with a few beans thrown in.

In the evening we strolled around Rio San Juan, another small but chaotic town.  The people here have been super friendly, and the natural beauty is remarkable, but I can't say I like the towns we've seen.  They almost have a strip-mall feel to them - shop after shop, power cables criss-crossing the street all over the place, and no real center.  There's nothing pretty about them.  The towns we've seen do have a Plaza Central, but life doesn't seem to revolve around it as it does in many places.  I can't seem to find the town's anchor.  One thing that does give a sense of character is that everyone is out on their stoop in the evenings.  Once the sun sets, it's all about watching people go by.  On our walk, many of the homes were lit by kerosene lanterns.  Electricity is very unreliable here, so we weren't sure if the power was out in those homes, or if they have some sort of rationing system.  Many of the kerosene-lit homes clearly had electricity (fridges and TV's, for example) but were also set up to function without it.
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Juan Pena on

Mangu is made out of Plantains, Butter, Milk, and a slite bit of sugar.

I'm so glad you guys explored the whole city usually American come to the Dominican and stay at a resort and then they claim they been here next time try Las Terrenas de Samana it is so beautiful there.

Thanks for posting!!!

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Judy Miller on

We have stayed at the Bahia Blanca in RIo San Juan several times. One of our favorite spots in the world!!! Thanks for the great pictures.

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