Visiting the Caribbean can typically mean staying on warm, sunny beaches, but wait! Many travelers today are venturing inland to enjoy the mountains of tropical islands such as the exotic Dominican Republic. This post is written from there while I am visiting my mother’s family in her hometown of Jarabacoa. If anyone has seen how much this Dominican town has changed over the decades, it is me. Coming from a diverse family background (American father and Dominican mother with their roots going back to Ireland, Scotland, and Spain), I can appreciate how Jarabacoa has progressed in eco-tourism, while still maintaining its small-town, friendly charm. Every visitor I’ve met says that from everywhere in the island they have visited, “there is just no one else on the island like Jarabacoa”. Here is one of my well-experienced recommendations for where you can stay to experience what all the Jarabacoa hype is about.
You can fly into the Capitol City of Santo Domingo, which has an international airport and is located on the southern shore of the country. The other popular and second-closest option is to fly into the international airport located in Puerto Plata, which is a city, located on the northern shore of the island. From either location, arrange for a bus or other vehicle transportation of your preference to take you into the very center of the island and high up into the mountains. If you’re able to fit in the time, I would also highly recommend staying a few nights in either place to enjoy the historic sites and local culture. Once you’re ready to head inland, keep in mind that driving in the Dominican Republic is, in my opinion, outright crazy and treacherous, especially in the cities. By car, it takes about 1.5-2 hours from Santo Domingo and 2.5-3 hours from Puerto Plata. Add about another hour or 1.5 hours onto the travel time for taking the bus from either location.
The way I usually take is from Santo Domingo. During this current visit of six weeks, I’ve already been up to the mountains on four different trips. Each time, I’ve stopped to enjoy the latest-greatest place to enjoy along the way. It’s called Miguelina, Panaderia -Reposteria. This lovely little stop has a great outdoor patio area that is covered and the nicest, cleanest bathrooms I have ever seen in this entire country…and I am not exaggerating! The place is famous for their bathrooms, but even more so known for the fresh foods they make and decadent Dominican pastries that incorporate the heavenly flavor that can only be captured by the Dominicans. The owner, Miguelina, is an icon for a woman who has succeeded in business and provides quality service and business. I recently tried their Coconetes and am hooked! These large cookies are soft and dense, completely made of fresh shredded coconut with occasional chunks to discover, mixed with shredded ginger. I love ginger and I love coconut, so it doesn’t get much better than that for me regarding cookies. Their especially great with coffee, which you can also enjoy at Miguelina’s as well. Make sure to stop here and keep an eye out for the red sign. It can be a bit hard to see until you’re practically upon the turn, but it’s right there on the highway, so convenient to stop in at and then continue on your way again.
Once you’ve loaded up on loaves of bread, cookies, puddings, dulces (sweets), and so much else that just makes your mouth water, you only have a little more to go to get to Jarabacoa. The turn off to start really winding up into the mountains, is also the exit for La Vaga as well. You just head straight up into the mountains (you’ll see the signs) and you hang on tight as you climb up sharp turns. The views are beautiful as you go higher and higher, the sides of the mountain growing steeper and dramatic. Depending on what traffic you encounter and get stuck behind, you will find yourself driving into Jarabacoa within about 30 minutes from the highway turn-off. The drive will be exciting and gorgeous, the mountainous terrain green and lush and welcoming you to enjoy the relaxing get-away of Jarabacoa. Stop in again soon to read about recommendations on where to stay and eat.