We headed out from the capital city of Santo Domingo and only had to drive just over an hour to get to our destination for the day, Playa Pato (Pato Beach). I really didn’t know why we were going to this beach until my cousin Luis strapped his surf boards on the top of his jeep when we left home. He’s the one who surfs and as long as I’ve known him (which has been my whole life), he has been great at surfing. Married and with two kids now, he still continues to enjoy riding the waves of his native country, the Dominican Republic. His community is composed of his family and some of the best surfers of the world who are Dominican and from elsewhere. Now that you know this, you’re on board to understand what I was expecting Pato Beach to be like.
To appreciate Pato Beach, you really have to understand what it takes to get there. The last forty minutes or so looks like this: off the main highway you turn onto some measly little street that’s paved, or at least resembles something that used to be paved. You now navigate around potholes, realizing you have to settle for hitting the smaller ones in order to avoid “bigger” holes. Dilapidated buildings of peeling, bright-colored paint are on either side and eventually you enter into a small village. The streets are already narrow and yet lined with vehicles and occasionally a donkey-drawn cart of tropical fruits. No matter what you encounter, the spaces you have to fit through are making you hold your breath. After winding through streets, which I think some were actually one-way but the locals don’t really pay attention to that here, you give a sigh of relief, having navigated the village and feeling like you got spit out the other end.
Now a dirt road begins, heading out through open fields of slender palm trees, towering tall and lanky. I guess you can say that after making it through the “town-roading” you now to get to go “off-roading”. Here’s where you’re thanking God (or whatever you believe in) that you have a four-wheel drive vehicle. You put that puppy into gear and proceed over ruts and holes, splashing through puddles and passing random cattle. Hopefully you ruefully smile, finding humor in the fact that the large cows are on your side of the barb-wired fence that borders your track of mud. While you’re relishing the adrenaline pumping through your veins, a familiar excitement kicks in when you spot in the distance the blue water lined with white caps of the ocean waves…you’re almost there! You lean in further over the steering wheel now, knuckles gripping tight as you plow through feet of water that has flooded the path. Tall grasses rise higher than the vehicle on either side, temporarily hiding any views of the beach, until…all of the sudden, you’re through the water that is splashing up like waves themselves as you emerge onto rocky beach ground. There is the beach. From here it seems like you’re floating as you slightly bump along to the small oasis of the only palm trees in this immediate area. In their green leafy midst is a brightly colored shabby hut. You’ve arrived at your surfing destination!
We got to say hi to Luis’ friends, among them a female surfing champion, Vanessa Ramirez. They all ran into the water with their boards to surf while my mom and brother and I enjoyed fresh coconut water from coconuts that an old man hacked open for us right there. This hard-to-get-to beach was a hidden gem for surfers, even attracting groups of people learning to surf. The beach is rocky, composed of pebbles and stones all throughout, so it’s not ideal for sunning. Within the water itself, are purely waves and strong currents, visible even the untrained eye of non-surfers like myself. I knew I didn’t want to try swimming in these particular waters, at least not for my tastes.
Watching the surfers was one of the best beach past-times I have ever had. The waves would come rolling in, thunderous and gaining momentum until they would crest into pipes of turquoise liquid, only to roll and crash into white foam as they pounced onto the water and beach. I admired how the surfers would paddle their boards with their arms, pushing down to duck under waves or allowing the rise of the water to take them up and over other swells…all until they would be in that right moment at that right time. Then they would know it was the right rhythm and they would maneuver their body and board at the same time to join with a wave, allowing it to carry them as they stood up and rode it’s journey closer towards shore. Playa Pato is truly a surfing beach. So if you’re a surfer and get to visit the Dominican, make sure to visit this spot…just make sure to also rent the proper vehicle to get there!