40 days itinerary from Santo Domingo to Port au Prince and back
In 2014 I traveled with my boyfriend to the Dominican Republic and Haiti. As usual we left Italy without a defined itinerary in mind, we were ready to let our feelings guide us along the way.
We arrived in Santo Domingo after a long flight with a stop over in New York to save money, but that left us super tired.
Santo Domingo is a nice town with some beautiful colonial architecture. It can also be frightening in some areas, like around Parque Enriquillo, where most of the buses leave and arrive. It was scary at first for Luca, who had never been out of Europe and was not used to the chaos and crazy traffic.
From Santo Domingo we decided to go South-West, by the coast. Los Patos was recommended by the Lonely Planet as one of the best beaches of the South. So we went there, because the intention was to see as many different parts of the country as possible. We had a great time there. There were very few foreign tourists, many local tourists, so if this is what you are looking for, I recommend this part of the Republic instead of the North and East.
After Los Patos we went to Pedernales, right at the border with Haiti. From there we went to Bahia de Las Aguilas, a natural park with one of the most amazing beaches I’ve ever seen. We were near Haiti, but still couldn’t decide if we wanted to go or not. Everyone we talked to recommended not to go, because it was dangerous and expensive. Probably because we were advised not to, we went. And the true adventure started.
Adventurous backpacking in Haiti
Just after the border we had to take a boat in the night to take us to the nearest town, because going by land would have taken days.
Fist stop in Haiti was Jacmel, a lovely artists town in the Southern Coast, that still showed the many damages of the earthquake in 2010. We had the first glimpse of how Haiti would have been: dirty, chaotic, almost impossible to get money, but with sweet people (mostly).
From Jacmel we took a tap-tap to Port au Prince and from there to Port Salut. It was the first of the many long journeys we had in Haiti. Traveling by local transportation is not easy at all in Haiti. Every time it took us many long hours to do just a few hundreds of kilometers. That was probably the worst part of backpacking in Haiti, because it was a huge waste of time and very tiring.
Port Salut is a pretty holiday resort, very quiet and relaxed. From there we went to Les Cayes one day, trying to go to the Ile de Vache, but the hours lost waiting for the tap-tap to fill up and finding a working ATM prevented us to go to the little island.
After Port Salut we went to Port au Prince, the capital. The first introduction wasn’t of the best, as we were approached by a guy who tried to steal from us. The town centre of Port au Prince is not bad, if you don’t mind the heat and dust, but out of the main roads and square it’s messy and not reassuring. We managed to see some voodoo art, which was one of the reasons why I wanted to visit Haiti.
After Port au Prince another loooong and scary journey to go to Cap Haitien. Cap Haitien is actually pretty and clean, very different from the capital, even though it’s also a large city. But this in the town centre. Just out of the centre there’s a canal full of rubbish, a very bad sight.
From Cap Haitien we crossed the border to the Dominican Republic (so basically we entered Haiti in the South and exited in the North; there’s another border crossing in the centre, between the two capitals).
A much easier backpacking in the Dominican Republic
It was very nice to be back in the Dominican Republic. We realized how difficult it was to travel in Haiti. The Dominican Republic was much cheaper, so much easier to travel, food and coffee available everywhere, easy to get money from the bank, hotels cleaner. Now, many years later, I’m glad I had that experience in Haiti, but I don’t know if I would be able to do it again, it was really tiring. It’s probably different if you have money and can rent your own car or driver. Cap Haitien was the best place, of all.
After that it was all beaches. And every place was pleasant and welcoming.
First one was Cabarete, a surfists spot. This was the first place where we met may foreign tourists, and all the Northern coast has many foreigners, mainly from the US (and many Italians and French living their their retirement years). In Cabarete I had the best breakfast ever.
We went East to Rio San Juan, where there’s not much to do nor to see, but that I loved, probably because of its relaxed atmosphere. After that it was the Semanà Peninsula, with Las Terrenas and Las Galeras. Pretty, touristy.
From there we crossed the country to go to the Southern coast; we also thought of going to the Eastern coast, maybe pay 80 dollars for an all-included resort and spend a day or two just sunbathing and eating (there’s a lot of chicken involved when you travel in the Dominican Republic, and at one point you crave for something different), but we hadn’t a lot of time left so we decided to go directly South.
Boca de Yuma was pretty but Luca wasn’t feeling well so we didn’t really enjoy it. From there to Juan Dolio, the last stop. We stayed in this little town by the sea until our flight back to Italy, and went on a day trip to Santo Domingo where people were celebrating Easter. When we had landed in the Dominican Republic we didn’t spend much time in Santo Domingo because we thought we would be there again before departing. But once in Juan Dolio we were suggested not to go to Santo Domingo before flying back, because it was easier to get to the airport from Juan Dolio and it was nicer to stay in Juan Dolio. It was a good idea.
Would I go back to the Dominican Republic and Haiti? Yes, and I would probably do a similar itinerary. I know that Haiti was a nightmare, but I would like to see if things have improved now.