Haiti Culture

For many Haitians, their national identity is something they are both proud of and vilified for. Haiti's history as the first independent black republic is something to be continuously celebrated, yet Haitians are keenly aware that this is not how most of the world sees them. Instead, images of boat people, misunderstandings about Vodou and a history of US interventions cloud popular perceptions, and inevitably some of this is reflected back on the Haitian self-image. Most visitors are likely...

The Haitian Slave Revolution

At the end of the 18th century, Haiti - the French colony of St-Domingue -was the 'Pearl of the Antilles.' The most valuable colony in the world, it was flush with sugar and coffee wealth, produced by the sweat and blood of half a million African slaves. But France itself was on the cusp of revolution, and when the Bastille was stormed in 1789, the struggle for libert also opened the door for Haitian slaves to grab their independence. The French Revolution didn't initially abolish slavery, but...

Getting There Away

For such a large city, it's flabbergasting that not a single highway is marked 'to San Francisco de Macoris.' The turnoff from Hwy Duarte is about 15km (10 minutes) south of La Vega. The tangle of unmarked country roads that crisscross the lowland marshes east of the main Santo Domingo-Santiago highway is quite confusing - expect to make frequent stops to ask for directions. It's possible but much more difficult (and on much worse roads) to come south from the coast via Nagua. Caribe Tours (...

Sights Old Jacmel

Running parallel to the seafront, Rue du Commerce is the heart of old Jacmel and has many splendid (if slightly run-down) examples of 19th-century warehouses and merchants' residences. Key characteristics are the high-shuttered doors and windows, shaded by wide balconies with filigree railings. Of these, the house of the influential Vital trading family has been turned into the H tel Florita. At the eastern end of the street are some of the oldest surviving buildings, including the Customs...

Dominican Republic Outdoors

If it involves standing on a board, the Dominican Republic's got it in spades - here you'll find world-class windsurfing, kitesurfing, surfing and wakeboarding. While there's a few scattered spots across the island if you're adventurous, the undisputed water sports capital of the DR is Cabarete (pi84), on the North Coast. Cabarete's bay seems almost custom-made for windsurfing, and it's here that the sport is most popular - although you'll also find a small windsurfing school in Las Terrenas...

Parque Nacional La Isabela

Unesco has been invited to step in and take over this slowly crumbling national park (admission US 3 S 9am-5pm), which marks Columbus' second settlement on Hispaniola. On his second voyage to the New World, Columbus found the first settlement at Cap-Haitien in Haiti destroyed, so he shifted 110km east and set up a new camp here. These days a shabby museum marks the occasion - its cheesiness is appropriate, considering that the majority of visitors are groups of Dominican primary-school...

Tours

HIU.INH Iguana Mama ( 809-571-0908 www.iguana mama.com), the leading adventure-sports tour operator on the north coast, is in a class of its own. Its specialties are mountain biking (easy to insanely difficult, US 65) and cascading. It is the only operator that takes you to the 27th waterfall at Damajagua (US 85), and it has pioneered a new cascading tour to Ciguapa Falls, which only Iguana Mama offers. There's also a variety of hiking trips, including a half-day walk (US 45) into the hills...

San Jos De Ca

San Jos de Ocoa is a collection of small colorful houses set in the foothills of the Cordillera Central. Ocoa, as it's known to locals who are descendants of Arab immigrants who arrived in the 19th century, is famous for its candied figs and its cooperative farming methods. The road here winds through undeveloped countryside, rising from 200m to nearly 2000m and was ruined after Tropical Storm Noel in October 2007, which cut the town off from the outside world for nearly two weeks. The area is...

Midrange Top

H tel de la Place ( 2288-3769 3 Rue de l'Eglise r US 45 (P) (S) ) A pleasant old building overlooking Place Toussaint L'Ouverture, and a popular place to enjoy Carnival. Rooms are modern, although some are a little on the small side most manage a view. The ground-floor terrace bar seems designed for hours of people-watching. Cyvadier Plage H tel ( 2288-3323 www.hotelcy vadler.com Route de Cyvadier s US 61-72, d US 82-104, tr US 158 O ) Off the main highway, this is the furthest of the beach...

Whitewater Rafting

The Rio Yaque del Norte is the longest river in the country, and rafting a portion of it can be a fun day trip. A typical raffing excursion begins with breakfast, followed by a truck-ride upriver to the put-in. You'll be given a life vest, a helmet and a wetsuit (no elbow or knee pads, unfortunately) plus instructions on paddling and safety. Then everyone clambers into the raffs and sets off downriver. You're usually asked to paddle a fair amount of the time, both in the rapids to keep the boat...

Dominican Republic Culture

History is alive and well in the Dominican Republic. With a past filled by strong-man dictators and corrupt politicians, the average Dominican approaches the present with a healthy skepticism - why should things change now Whether it's the Santo Domingo taxi driver's outspoken disbelief that the metro will ever function or the local fisherfolks' acceptance that the new resort marina is going to take away their livelihood, Dominicans have learned to live through hardships. What is extraordinary...

Dominican Republic History

One of the major if not most important strands winding its way through Dominican history, what has shaped its identity and self-understanding more than anything, is its relationship with Haiti, its neighbor sharing the island of Hispaniola. While France and Spain's power in Europe waxed and waned, so, too, did their imperialist ambitions. And conflict within the colonies became ways of waging proxy wars against their rivals. So when the enslaved African population of Saint-Domingue rose up in...

San Cristobal

During his authoritative and brutal rule, which lasted from 1930 until his assassination in 1961, Rafael Trujillo showered his hometown with generosity and monuments to his excess, including a never-lived-in mansion and a US 4 million dollar church, a paragon of Latin American Caudillo high kitsch (see boxed text, pi 14). The city's name was officially changed in 1934 to 'Meritorious City.' (It was changed back after Trujillo died.) An appropriate symbol and reminder of Trujillo's regime is the...

Iglesia San Felipe

The twin-steepled Iglesia San Felipe (Parque Central, Calle Duarte S 8am-noon & 2-4pm Mon-Sat, 7am-8pm Sun) had been completely gutted and was under renovation when we passed through, but should be spiffied up by the time you get there. The principal attraction here is the Italian stained-glass windows. Small but beautiful, they were donated to the church by area families in 1998 after Hurricane George blew through town and devastated the church. At the base of each window is the name of the...

Haiti Vodou

It's hard to think of a more consistently maligned and misunderstood religion than Vodou. The name itself sparks an instantly negative word-association game of voodoo dolls, zombies and black magic - less a religious tradition than a mass of superstitions based on ignorance and fear. The truth is somewhat distant from the hype. Vodou is a complicated and sophisticated belief system with roots in Haiti's African past and the slave rebellion that brought the country's independence in 1804....

Gay Lesbian Travelers

As a whole, the Dominican Republic is quite open about heterosexual sex and sexuality, but still fairly closed-minded about gays and lesbians. Gay and lesbian travelers will find the most open community in Santo Domingo, though even its gay clubs are relatively discreet. Santiago, Puerto Plata, Bavaro and Punta Cana also have gay venues, catering as much to foreigners as to locals. Everywhere else, open displays of affection between men or women are rare and quite taboo. Two men may have...

Dominican Republic Food Drink

Though not known as a culinary capital, eating in the Dominican Republic has its own pleasures. There aren't the same regional variations as you have in Indian, Mexican or French cuisines, but as much as dancing, the act of eating and drinking is the social glue that binds people together. A hybrid of Spanish, African and indigenous staples, flavors and styles, it has several major starches, including rice, potatoes, bananas, yucca and cassava, usually served in large portions - leave your...

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Nearly 200 restaurants, bars and gift shops line the shady Sosua beach promenade. One has drawn quite a following. The Scandinavien Beach Bar and Restaurant ( 809-399-8321 Playa Sosua 152 9 30am-6pm) is famous for its great burgers, cold beers, and, more importantly, the cleanest bathroom on the beach. Then disaster struck - in 2006 a fire gutted the restaurant. The owner, Tom Nilsson, thinks it may have been arson. He sustained more than US 100,000 in losses, and was preparing to return to...

Cigars

Dominican cigars are widely respected by aficionados around the world, so much so that the DR is one of the leading exporters. To try one for yourself, stop into one of the many cigar stores around Santo Domingo -you'll see several just strolling down Calle El Conde. Typically, prices vary from US 2 to US 6 per cigar and boxes can run as high as US 110. La Leyenda del Cigarro Map pp80-1 809-686-5489 Calle Hostos 402 This small shop several blocks north of Parque Col n has a good selection of...

Costambar

Less a traveler's destination than an expat hideaway, Costambar is still worth a look - it's got a beautiful, secluded beach with a view of the ships leaving harbor to the east , and a couple of good restaurants. It's finding a hotel that's the challenge - this is a private community see www.apc-costambar.com that consists entirely of time-share units and vacation homes, many occupied for six months of the year by Canadians on the run from winter. Some of the condo associations will rent by the...

Drinking

Social life in Jarabacoa revolves around Parque Central. The church, the casino and restaurants are all here, and at night the numerous colmados pump loud merengue and beery customers onto the sidewalk, where the party really gets going. El Viejo Jack 809-574-7536 cnr Mario N Gal n amp Mella S 10 30am-10 30pmSun-Thu, to midnight Fri amp Sat This liquor-store -cum-bar is full of enormous glass cases of dust-free premium booze, which Jarabacoa's elite quaff by the bottleful. Balloon wine glasses...

Eating

Caf Restaurant Fernando 809-523-4939 Calle Pedro Mella near Av Duarte mains US 5-11 S lunch amp dinner Mon-Sat The food here is unremarkable - the typical menu of Italian-style and international standards and sandwiches - but it's a more organized and reliable choice than other similar restaurants in town. Restaurant Buxceda II 809-527-5320 cnr Av Duarte amp Calle Hungr a mains USS7-10 S breakfast, lunch amp dinner This simple and unpretentious restaurant is willing to please any fish, any...

Whale Watching

From mid-January to mid-March the Samana Bay becomes the whale-watching capital of the Caribbean. In fact, they come in such high numbers and with such regularity that the DR is considered one of the best places in the world to observe humpbacks see pl45 . Most tours depart from the town of Saman , and guests are treated to numerous sightings, sometimes at very close range. Reservations are a good idea - the tours are very popular and the season overlaps with Carnival and Independence Day.

Sleeping

1.1111 Rahia Blanca Hotel 809-589-2563 Calle Deligne bahia.blanca.dr codetel.net.do r USS15-35 Jutting out over turquoise blue waters, the Bah a Blanca has one of the best ocean views on the north coast. Rooms are decent -clean, tile-floored and with private bathroom - but are showing their age. All but two have at least partial ocean views and wide balconies on each of the three floors provide plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beauty. Rooms on the 3rd floor are the most spacious and have...

Eiffel Tower Or White Elephant

The idea of commemorating Columbus' landing with a lighthouse wasn't Balaguer's the Faro a Col n see below was suggested as early as the middle of the 18th century and later revived at the Fifth International American conference in Santiago, Chile, in 1923. The site of the memorial was always Santo Domingo. An international design competition was launched in 1929 and after sorting through hundreds of submissions from dozens of countries, the reward of US 10,000 eventually went to JL Gleave, a...

Motoconcho

Cheaper and easier to find than taxis, moto-conchos motorcycle taxis are the best and sometimes only way, to get around in many towns. An average ride should set you back no more than US 1.50. However, a high number of riders have been injured or killed in motoconcho accidents ask the driver to slow down M s despacio por favor if you think he's driving dangerously. Avoid two passengers on a bike since not only is the price the same as taking separate bikes but the extra weight makes most...

Haiti Food Drink

Everywhere you go in Haiti you can see food being prepared and eaten, from quick snacks cooked on the street and heaped plates of rice and beans being carried onto buses by hungry passengers, to liveried waiters serving high cuisine in the capital's swankiest restaurants. Haitian - that is to say Creole - cuisine is fairly simple, with a heavy reliance on starches, such as rice and plantains, and a selection of hearty sauces, complemented by the local catch from the...

Medical Services

Centro de Obsetetria'a y Ginoecolog a Map p77 809-221-7100 cnr Av Independencia amp Jos Joaquin P rez S 24hr This hospital specializes in gynecology and obstetrics, but is equipped to handle all emergencies. Cl nica Abreu Map p77 809-688-4411 cnr Av Independencia amp Burgos S 24hr Widely regarded as the best hospital in the city, this is where members of many of the embassies go. Farmacia San Judas Map pp80-1 s 809-685-8165 cnr Av Independencia amp Pichardo S 24hr Free delivery. Farmax Map p77...

Gay Lesbian Venues

Much like the straight scene, gay and lesbian venues in Santo Domingo don't tend to last for too long. The following were open at the time of research. Amazonia g 809-412-7629 DrDelgado71 S 8pm-late Frl-Sun A mostly lesbian bar in Gazcue. CHA Av George Washington 165 S 6pm-3am Fri amp Sat, 6pm-1am Sun A fun place with good music, shows and strippers. Esedeku Mappp80-1 g 809-869-6322 Las Mercedes 341 S Tue-Sun 8pm-late Only a block from Calle El Conde, Esedeku is an intimate bar, with a huge...

Papadocracy Haiti The Duvaliers

Economic disarray continued into the 1940s. The elite squashed the attempts of progressive black president Dumarais Estim to redress Haiti's inequalities, and corrupt military-backed rule remained the order of the day. In 1957, however, a black country doctor named Fran ois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier swept national elections on a Noiriste platform. The masses thought salvation lay ahead, while the elite saw another potential front man to do their bidding. Both were cruelly mistaken. Power was...

Trillo de la Hispaniola

The Hispaniola Trail is reputedly the one used by Columbus to walk from the north coast to the interior. This may or may not be true, but a former environment minister - in a moment of political narcissism - announced the trail with great fanfare but little to no funding. The trail runs from here in Mata Grande to Rio Limpio in the west. The trek takes about eight days, on foot and by mule, and there are no cabins or support of any kind, although you do pass through a number of small villages....

Parc National Macaya

The 5500-hectare Pare National Macaya contains Haiti's last region of cloud forest, spread across the mountain ridges of the Massif de la Hotte. It has an extremely rich biodiversity, particularly birds and amphibians, with a high number of endemic species. One in every 10 plants is only found inside the park, with orchids notably represented. The near-permanent cloud cover brings around 4000mm of rain per year, which goes on to water the Plaine des Cayes, Haiti's most productive agricultural...

Sleeping Eating

Hotels are listed in order of their distance from Cap-Ha tien. Cormier Plage Resort 3528-1110 cormier hughes.net Route de Labadie s d USS106 168 half-board P K O One of the loveliest resorts in Haiti, Cormier Plage has 36 big and airy rooms dotted amid palm trees looking out to sea, all with terrace and wi-fi, and meters from the gendy shelving golden beach. The restaurant is one of the best seafood places in the country, and worth making a detour to from Cap-Ha tien. Belli Beach Bar 2262-2338...

Drinking Entertainment

IB Irish Tavern 809-708-5205 irish. tavern comcast.com Calie 12 de Julio 22 S 8am-8pm Mon-Sat This friendly Irish-owned bar does the best US 2.50 Dominican lunch in town. It also does fish and chips and shepherd's pie. A Guinness will set you back a mere US 4, and there's sometimes Bushmill's behind the bar. It has one of the best book swaps in the country. Terraza Las Almendras 809-854-0092 www .puertoplatalasalmendras.info cnrMalecon amp Calle A Brugal Montanez S 8am-late With pleasant...