Day 2 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: The open road

Bienvenido al la Dominican Republic. Photo: Jon Coen.

Bienvenido al la Dominican Republic. Photo: Jon Coen

There’s something about travel that changes your fundamental perspective. It’s an inherent feeling of doing something in a foreign land and thinking, “This is great. Why don’t I do this at home?”

Today, I rented a scooter to explore the Northern Region of the Dominican Republic. The D.R. takes up the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which is part of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean.

I spent most of the day zipping through tropical grasslands, dirt roads and bustling Latin American towns, seeing gorgeous vistas of the Atlantic and green rising mountains on about $4.75 US in gas.

Everyone I met in the last 24 hours seemed to be out on the road, so I got some fist bumps while cruising the four-lane highway. I also got a little ballsy and opened ‘er up on the open road, hitting 80 (okay, well maybe that’s 80 kilometers an hour, and I was mostly on the shoulder, but still).

Doing 80 on the open road (or at least 80 kph on the shoulder.) Photo: Jon Coen

Doing 80 on the open road (or at least 80 kph on the shoulder.) Photo: Jon Coen

And now I sit here, with a belly full of langostinos and camarones remembering that where I live, it’s freezing cold for six months of the year, and often rainy.

Or sometimes it’s freezing cold and rainy at the same time. And then, it snows. So, a scooter would be great for about three weeks a year. That’s why I don’t do this at home.

But in the Dominican Republic it’s a great option year-round. The roads here are loaded with scooters, mopeds and motorcycles. That’s major fuel efficiency, not to mention making for far less cars on the road. (Gas is about $4 per gallon.)

And people are hauling everything on two wheels, from baked goods, drinks and their families, to the guy steering with one hand and hanging onto a full canister of propane … try not to follow that guy.

After spending most of the day on the open road, we checked out the Viva Wyndham Heavens V, which is on the Atlantic, just east of Puerto Plata.

It just opened last year and so far, it seems its greatest strength is the staff. Friendly and helpful, it’s non-stop smiles with these people.

If lounging on the beach with a rum drink is your thing, you’re welcome to do it here, but the Heavens has relationships with the outfitters and tour operators in the area to get people out and doing what this region of the D.R. has to offer.

Langostinos a la Papi. Do not make this at home (because you could never.) Photo: Jon Coen

Langostinos a la Papi. Do not make this at home (because you could never). Photo: Jon Coen

We capped off the day with dinner at La Casita de Papi in Cabarete. The food is a mix of Caribbean, Latin and French — and whoever Papi is, the brother knows how to cook.

After showering our table with fresh ceviche, caprese salad, Carpaccio and arugula with parmesan, they dropped two massive pots on our table — camarones (shrimp) and langoustines a la Papi, both swimming in a sweet cream-based sauce with a hint of curry.

And again, you start thinking, “Why can’t I eat like this at home?”

And the sun sets over Cabarete in the DR. Photo: Jon Coen

And the sun sets over Cabarete in the DR. Photo: Jon Coen

Well, apparently, the sauce is a secret. Hell, the menu doesn’t list any of the ingredients. Even if you knew exactly what was in it, there’s no way you’re going to recreate a dish served on the beach, as the sun sets on a day in the D.R. That’s why.

More from 7 Days in Dominican Republic

Day 1 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: A love for the beisbol

Day 3 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: No shortage of small waves

Day 4 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: From ATV excursions to fine dining

Day 5 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: Leaping from waterfalls

Day 6 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: Just a bunch of monkeys

Day 7 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: Muchas gracias