Island in the Sun
Seven days. It had been seven days since day one. I was on the 5th floor of the Hodelpa Gran Almirante, sipping a glass of champagne in the VIP lounge. I looked woefully out of place, my dirty shoes still wet from river rafting the day before. I couldn’t help but smile…this was my life lately. Chaotically different, one day to the next. One night I was falling asleep in a five star resort, surrounded by six down pillows. The next night I was pitching a tent, or falling asleep in the back of my truck. The merging of luxury and living with next to nothing – a beautiful and strange contradiction that rarely achieved balance. Life lately was beginning to feel like all or nothing…and I was falling in love with it.
I was in the heart of Santiago, but my mind was still fixed on Paradise Island. I was still turning somersaults underwater; chasing electric yellow fish through a turquoise sea. A local favorite, a sandy oasis in the middle of the sea. The mangrove forests. The private lunch at Blue Island. The handmade whipped cream.
I could almost feel the warmth as I thought back to day one in the Dominican Republic. We had just landed, and my only thought was to remove my jacket. Then my hoodie. It suddenly occurred to me that pants were a bad choice. There were ten of us, most of us meeting for the first time. All of us seasoned travelers, adventurers at heart. My kind of people.
We shuffled through passport control, and piled into two separate vans. As we rounded turn after turn, I could sense the elevation gain. We were driving straight into the heart of the island. Jarabacoa – a region sometimes referred to as the ‘Switzerland’ of Dominican Republic.
For three nights, we were based at the Hotel Gran Jimeona. We sampled local cuisines with mountain views, we hiked to waterfalls and waded through forested lagoons. I went paragliding and river rafting for the first time. We hiked 8km along the Ébano Verde Trail, and spent time in the company of local guides and residents who made us feel right at home.
After three days in the wild and forested regions of the island, we made our way north. The sun was setting just as we reached the vibrant coastal town of Punta Rucia. Whisps of pink melted into the sky, and blue hour swept across the sea. After a spirited seaside dinner of pizza and beer, we tucked into Paraiso Eco Lodge for the night. We were determined to rise in time for sunrise.
Sunrise in the Dominican Republic is something you should see. For a few short breaths, everything around you becomes a dream. Soft, pastel, light. The quiet shore. The sensation of sand rising to embrace your feet. We shared a traditional Dominican breakfast on the beach, then stepped into a small speed boat anchored nearby. Our shadow raced across the sandy seabed as we flew over the turquoise water, out into the open sea.
To Paradise Island. Into the wild, open blue. And then back to Santiago, to here. I was back in the Hodelpa lounge, freshly showered and scrolling through photos from the past week. Looking out the massive bay windows, I was lucky enough to catch one last Dominican sunset. The last one for now, anyway. Because without a doubt, I’ll be back.
This post was created in partnership with The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism.
Christian A. Schaffer’s original blog post: https://christianschaffer.art/journal/island-in-the-sun-dominican-republic