Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day Trips from Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo is known for its dynamic nightlife, striking colonial architecture, and hip-swaying rhythms, but after seeing the sights, visitors and locals alike sometimes need a break from the big city. Luckily, there are a number of quaint towns within a few hours of Santo Domingo that provide new perspectives on the DR’s rich culture and natural beauty. Here are two of our favorite day trips from Santo Domingo.

Day Trip 1

Mountains and a Typical Dominican Town: San Cristóbal

View of San Cristobal Province 
The province of San Cristóbal, home to over 220,000 inhabitants, is less than an hour's drive from the capital. For such a small area, it's comprised of a variety of microclimates, from the cool and humid coffee-carpeted mountains in the north, to the sunny, stone-dotted beaches of Palenque and Najayo in the south. Man-made creations such as the well-stocked Valdesia Dam attract fishing fanatics, but all visitors can marvel at the resplendent mountain views along the small village byways. A number of cave systems including the Cuevas de Pomier (or Borbón), covered in pictographs, offer glimpses of the indigenous civilizations’ way of life.

While adventurous travelers will see the great potential throughout the province, the city of San Cristóbal presents a different kind of authentic Dominican culture. Famous for being the birthplace of Trujillo, the city is a tangled mess of motorcycles and guaguas, destroying pleasant strolls in their wake. There are, however, a few interesting sights: Trujillo’s mansions like El Cerro, and the abandoned Casa de Caoba. These paired with a decadent meal at Aubergine (see below) make for the perfect day trip from Santo Domingo.

Eat: Restaurante Aubergine

Restaurante Aubergine
Jutting out from a mountainside overlooking the peaks and valleys of San Cristóbal, this avant-garde restaurant fuses Asian, German, and other flavors to create a multi-layered journey for the senses. Try any of the German chef’s ever-changing inventions with exotic meats or one of the namesake dishes, such as fried eggplant roulettes topped with chili con carne -- a terrific blend of Mexican and Thai. The desserts are equally imaginative: white chocolate avocado ice cream topped with eye-catching fresh strawberry sauce and poppy seeds.

RD$390-960; La Colonia Km 6 ½ past Cambita en route to Los Cacaos; 809-374-1382, 809-729-9364; harald@codetel.net.do; www.aubergine.com.do. For public transport either take a carro público (RD $ 40; 15min) to Cambita from the Mercado in San Cristóbal, and then a motoconcho (RD $ 100; 15min) to the restaurant or take a guagua (RD $ 50; 30min) going to Los Cacaos, which also leaves from the Mercado. Tell the cobrador to leave you at Aubergine (where the German is – “donde el aleman”) in La Colonia.

Day Trip 2

Beach Time and Fresh Seafood: Juan Dolio

Fisherman in Juan Dolio Beach
Located 52 kilometers (32 miles) east of Santo Domingo, the white sand beach and placid aquamarine water at Playa Juan Dolio are close enough to the capital to make for an excellent day trip. Most of the beach, though bordered by walled vacation homes, is pleasingly quiet, allowing sunbathers to enjoy it unobstructed.

Eat: Pepek Namornick

With tables directly on the beach, this Russian-owned seafood restaurant offers international fare in an elegant but casual setting featuring wicker chairs, a respectable wine selection, and a naturally-treated wooden bar. Start with one of various salads such as the iron-rich Ensalada Popeye (the restaurant’s namesake), followed by filet mignon with Roquefort or grilled shrimp.
RD$300-700; C/ Principal Plaza Perla Mar I; 809-526-1890

Eat 2: Restaurante El Sueño

Juan Dolio Beach at Sunset
On the weekends, this Italian-owned, open-air restaurant with an ocean view is bustling with Italian expats and capitaleños pining for steaming plates of pastas, thin crust pizzas, and succulent seafood dishes. Try the arugula and prosciutto pizza or the ravioli stuffed with lobster, and finish the meal with cool, smooth gelato.
RD$380-700; C/ Principal

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