This past Thanksgiving (Nov. 2016) my family and I traveled to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic to attend my neighbor Michael (who basically is our brothers since we grew up right next door to each other for 18 years) wedding. It took me awhile to gather all the photos from everyone's phones to finally share about the trip. This travel diary probably isn't as professional or fancy like other bloggers, but I really wanted to share this for myself to remember this experience and the things we did on the trip, so this is a more personal post.
We started off our vacation by driving to Toronto, Canada Wednesday night, it was a lot cheaper than flying from the states there and it was a non-stop flight. Thursday morning bright and early we flew into Gregorio Luperon International Airport, 15 minutes away from the Hotel. The flight was around 4.5 hours and this was my first time out of the country (besides Canada) so it was a new experience for me. The airport in Puerto Plata is very small but busy. We had a car waiting to pick us up, but if you didn't it would be easy to get one. The ride was around $40 and they do take American dollars, most of the drivers did understand some English just in case you aren't a Spanish speaker.
WHERE WE STAYED: We stayed at the Blue JackTar Hotel & Condos in Puerto Plata, Playa Dorada. Since the wedding was being held there all the guest traveling from out of the country stayed here. It was a pretty small "resort" and I use quotations around resort because this wasn't a resort you see on the Beaches commercial or Atlantis. But it was small and quiet. It wasn't very busy so it was easy to get a spot for dinner, a chair at the beach or to golf (which I did not do, but they did have a golf course). The hotel had beach access with chairs and cabanas (free of charge), and the beach was clean and quiet, the water was very warm, perfect for a swim. The hotel had a pool, but I never used it since it wasn't heated at the time we visited and wasn't very clean if you did end up wanting to take a dip. Other things they offered was a gym, basketball court, and a casino? I never saw a casino so I'm not 100% sure about that one, but the site does say they have one. Everything was in walking distance and the weather was in the mid to high 90's our whole trip, but it did rain every day we were there, it would stop, but seriously every day so pack a raincoat and shoes you don't care about getting soaked.
WHAT WE EAT: The hotel offered free breakfast and had two restaurants on the site. The breakfast was pretty good, they had a self-serve area like most hotels do with cereal, fruit, coffee, but they did also offer menu items like pancakes, french toast, and traditional Dominican breakfast foods. This was also the time to grab free water. Since the water over there can make you sick it is better to drink bottled water, every time they clean your room they will give you four new water, but if you're like me, that is just not enough for a whole day. If you get them at a restaurant to drink with a meal they will charge you so it is best to stock up at breakfast time since those are free. A tip is to bring a large Camel Bak water bottle with you and fill that up with the bottle waters from breakfast (fits about two) then take two back to the room. Seriously, this tip will save you, I only figured it out the last day. They hotel has two other restaurants, Blue Jack Beach Bar & Snacks, which was located at the beach and Green Jack Restaurant that was next to the lobby. I liked the Blue Jack Beach Bar & Snacks better since they had more variety of foods I liked and they would also serve you if you decided you wanted to sit on the beach in a cabana or lounge chair. Some of the foods I liked were the cheese sticks, Caeser salad, and chicken quesadilla. This place was only open during the day time. The Green Jack was the place we went to for dinner, they had decent food, kind of got boring after a couple of days, but the dessert was amazing! I got dulce de leche cheesecake every day and it was amazing. Same with the ice cream and other desserts. The main course was similar to what was offered at the Blue Jack, but bigger sizes and more "dinner" options. I really like the Caeser salad there and the four cheese pasta, my friends like the flatbread pizza. The prices were standard most meals around $10. The nice thing is that you could just charge it to your room so it could be paid in full at the end of your stay.
WHAT WE DID: Since it was vacation and the place we were staying had a beach, we mostly just headed there every day to hang out with friends, eat and dip our feet into the water. One of the days they rented a huge bus and took us on a tour of the city where we went to a rum factory (very cool process), the amber museum, and to a historic Spanish fortress called Fortaleza San Felipe which is a museum as well. Another day we took the Teoeferico Puerto Plata Cable Cars up to a botanical garden area that has Mount Isabel de Torres which was a really fun tour.
THINGS YOU NEED TO PACK: Besides the essentials that anyone would bring on a trip, I recommend a few more things that I wish I would have brought with me or that were life savers on this trip!
- Large water bottle
- Bug Stray, the mosquitoes were pretty bad at night
- Sun Screen
- Sunglasses, it was sunny 90% of the time, even when it rained
- Closed toed walking shoes
- Snacks like Cliff bars to replace a meal and save you some $$$
- A good book, I was reading Luckiest Girl Alive on this trip and loved it!
- A beach towel, if you can fit one I suggest bring one, you only get one your whole stay and they don't wash them for you.