JUAN DOLIO: Visited recently (03/2012), after over 10 years hiatus. Wow, things have changed, gotten better and gotten worse.
Returned for a short vacation (thanks to Don, and to Ayse & Gurol – which without their help would have been extremely difficult). Anyway, took a flight (with the wife) from Boston to San Juan to Santo Domingo. From the moment of
flying across the caribbean coast line I could see, from my window seat, that many things had change – at least in resort development and construction. When we arrived, it was rather easy and fast through immigration and customs. We left the airport at 8:30am and did what every normal person does when they leave the airport (its 5:00pm somewhere – especially in the Dom. Rep., its always 5pm) and that was to get a couple of cold ones -BEER, Presidente, to be exact. My first shock was the introduction of “light” beer (yuck, might as well drink iced tea), which we declined and settled for the full flavored beer. My next shock was that the alcohol content was less than 7% (6.5% now), it was over 13% ten years ago. We then head towards our hotel, in the Juan Dolio Beach area, which is about 20 minutes east, on the ocean.
We get to our hotel (they call it a resort however I thnk they are very confused as to what “resort” actual means) The Albatros, and after checking in we were shown to our apartment (I skipped all the blah stuff as I am NOT recommending this hotel, not even for a 1 hour visit!), a one bedroom efficiency unit facing the sea, with great breezes and very clean. The furniture and appliances were old and beat up. The bathroom shower, toilet and sink, needed some updating and fixing/replacement, faucets and toilet seat needed change.
The grounds were quite clean and the pool a very nice size though was in need of paint maintenance. The pool-side bar, well, somewhat typical of the tropics, was boring and a limited selection of booze. The beer however was cold.
The property is right on the water/ocean. It did not cost us a cent to stay there however we checked their prices and it was extremely expensive and made worse by the quality of the rooms. There is no restaurant, bar (except for pool side), activities on premises. There’s a small game room with a beat up pool table, a small grocer (hahahaha, yeah, right) and wi-fi but only if you stand in the reception area. That’s all I got on the resort (hahaha).
As for the area, there are several restaurants, whcih also have bars. Some restaurants do not accept CCs so you need to check before you go. The food in the area is – in my opinion – LAME! I’m from the island and think much of what I had should have been free (ok, not free, but possibly tossed in the garbage – so bad it was). The one place (the only place) we frequented was ‘El ConCon.” Which has a very good menu with pretty good food (3 star) however a bit expensive for the area. You must try the octopus, the stewed goat and the chicharron de pollo.
There are beaches in the area, with easy access however you’ll limited mobility on them as 2/3’s of the are for the ‘true’ resorts there. The water is lusciously warm (caribbean sea) and the sand is not finely annoying.
Juan Dolio you go to because… well, because you don’t know any better, I didn’t and was not overly happy, except for the extreme quite in the area. Be the way, this specific area caters mostly to Italian nationals (the old country, not NY or MA). Though there are visitors of other nationalities, it appears 1/3 of the resident and business ownership demographics is Italian – yeah, the pizza is a lot better in Jaun Dolio. The area seemed safe at night though lighting was not very abundant. One last thing (as there really ins’t too much to discuss or highlight about the area) it is a tourist trap area though there aren’t too many tourist attractions or stores. Its a trap because once you’re there there really is no other place to go without spending a load transportation money, and I don’t recommend public transportation nor car rental.
SANTO DOMINGO: I didn’t plan to spend too much time in Santo Doming but I did think of borrowing my sister’s or brother-in-law’s car when I got to the capital. Once I was approaching the capital, I changed my mind immediately!
Overcrowding, lunatic drivers, crazy intersections, new roads, bad road signs, pot-holes that should be called valleys, street flooding after the rain – TOTAL STREET CHAOS! What a nightmare. Anywho, driving myself was not going to work out – I’m no prude but I;m certainly not nuts.
So I got to see family, old friends, my kids and grandson and got chauffeured around a lot by someone (I should have driven myself, I’d have not soil my pants so badly so many times). Soon I came to realize the enterance to the city was worse than driving around in the city however my chauffeurs made soil me pants anyway.
I took my wife to see the oldest/first European settlement in the new world (Chris first made landfall on a piece of sand-bar in the Bahamas which he name ‘San Salvador’ (Savior) and a few days later he landed on Quisqueya (Taino Indian name for the island) and christened it ‘La Espanola,’ which everyone today knows as ‘Hispanola.’ Man (or woman) it POURED cats and dogs. Though she was not upset I was a bit as I wanted to show her that we, Dominicans, had history, not as old as Europe but a lot older (by a-lot) than the rest of the Americas (including what would 2 centuries later become the USA).
Ok, so we walked around – soaking wet. My grandson needed a wee-wee, the little bugger whip it out and let loose, cute – hey, it was raining! So we did a walk-around, saw Chris’ and Bart’s house (Chris refers to Christopher Columbus and Bart to his eldest who also was Governor of the island), our National Pantheon, my daughter’s work place, about 100 500+ year old buildings, the oldest/first cathedral in the new world, etc., etc.
My son took us all to dinner (I paid – actually the wife paid – of course) at the or ‘El Conuco.’ Supposedly a famous and well regarded restaurant with history and great food – NOT! My kids, especially my daughter who’s a Chef, was totally disgusted – she wanted to give them a piece of her mind, but I asked her to let it go, which she did. Suffice to say the food, service and price was horrendous! I’ve only had one worse place in the world which was over 10 years ago in Venezuela, I mean yuck – bottom line is NEVER go to ‘El Conuco!!!!!’
We did our city thing and headed back to Juan Dolio where we sat pool side for days, drank rum and coke, and beer and great coffee, all for breakfast!! Remember, its always 5:00pm in Dom. Rep.
If you need more details or information, just send me a heads up and I’ll be there!