March 14, 2018

Whale Watching in the Dominican Republic

Spring break is a glorious tradition that, for my family at least, means getting as warm as possible! We definitely achieved that this year with our fabulous week-long stay in the Dominican Republic.

Rather modestly, I tend to think of myself as pretty well-traveled. (For a 20 year old at least!) Mom began traveling years before I even turned up and we have something of a competition going to see who can travel the most. Neither one of us can even hold a candle to my grandparents, though! Having not only stepped foot on nearly every continent but rather ravenously explored the globe, my grandparents are the hands-down travel winners of our family. So it was this motley group of experienced travelers that set out on our journey to the Dominican Republic, and what a journey it ended up being!

We didn't have to wait long for the adventures to start. The east coast has been suffering some terrible weather lately and unfortunately our Saturday morning flight to Miami was cancelled! The four of us sat at dinner and brainstormed our options. We were itching to get to the beach so we chose what I thought was the most fun option: drive all night to Miami!
Road trips tend to be more romantic in theory than in practice but nevertheless we rented a car, packed it full of our luggage and a few (dozen) bags of gummy bears and trail mix, and off we went! Let me tell you, nothing will bond your family more than an overnight 14-hour road trip. We breezed through both the Carolinas and tried to decipher the billboards in Georgia in the pitch black night. By the time we reached Florida, the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon.
Unfortunately we arrived in Miami about 10 minutes too late to catch our original flight. Thankfully, several flights a day fly from Miami to Santo Domingo and we were rebooked. This gave us the chance to eat some non-gummy food, brush our teeth, and fall dead asleep on the floor. 
Eventually we made it! I have never been so happy to feel a plane lift off the ground than I was Saturday evening. We arrived in Santo Domingo just a few hours later than originally planned and the sounds, smells, and overall the heat reminded me so much of Manila that it was impossible to be cranky! All of us promptly fell asleep on the long car ride to our home-away-from-home for the week, and then had no problem falling asleep again as soon as we arrived. Now the real vacation could begin.
We wasted no time in enjoying the delightful sunlight and the heat! It was at least 80F everyday and we could not have been happier. The first four days or so were spent as reiterations of the same schedule: wake up, walk to the local bakery for some pastries, sit by the pool or lay on the beach, sip cold cocktails at the (aptly named) Mojitos bar around two, take a little nap, find a new restaurant to enjoy for dinner, play dominos to the chorus of geckos in the backyard, sleep. Repeat as desired.
The beach rapidly became my favorite haunt. The ocean was the perfect temperature, the sand didn't burn underfoot, and stray-but-friendly dogs roamed about looking for chin scratches and treats. Mom is more of a pool person but generously indulged me with rides to the beach in our rented golf cart whenever the yearn for sandy toes got too strong.
We were staying in Las Terrenas, a beach town full of European expats who live full time. Mom is shopping for retirement locales so we tried to avoid the typically tourist-y areas. None of us speak Spanish though, so often in restaurants or shops I went hunting down an Italian or French expat that could translate for us. (The next language on my list to learn is definitely Spanish)

Also because of the expat community, we enjoyed some incredible French and Italian food! I'm still dreaming of Max's spaghetti con gamberi e limone. If you ever happen to find yourself in this little corner of the globe other restaurants definitely not to miss are XO for the best beachfront dining, our favorite bar Mojitos, and French marvels Le Thalassa and Al Pasito. (This is the gorgeous house we stayed in, dripping in sunlight at all hours of the day - I cannot recommend it enough)
Our most active portion of the trip came towards the end when we went whale watching! Hundreds of humpback whales come to the bay of Samana in the Dominican Republic during the winter to mate and to have their babies. We were lucky enough to see several different mother and calf pairs and even one mother-calf pair with a huge male escort whale protecting them.
Baby whales can only stay under for 30 seconds at a time when they're first born, and work their way up to about 9 minutes while still here in the Bay. After that, they have to migrate around 7000km with their mother to the colder waters of Iceland and Nova Scotia to feed!
We learned so much about the whales by going with Kim Beddall, a marine biologist who has dedicated her life to preserving the humpback whales. If you're going to go whale watching, make sure to do it with Kim! She is an expert in her field and knows how to make the whales feel comfortable with people watching them, instead of some other tour groups who are looking for profit over the comfort of the animal.

This trip was definitely one for the record books! From a fourteen hour impromptu road trip to golf carting through dusty & crowded streets, we won't soon forget our time in Las Terrenas.



  1. This is so cute! Family time is precious. I've always wanted to visit the Dominican Republic, there's so much to explore. Loved the post!

    1. Thanks Athena! You should really visit the Dominican Republic -- it's absolutely gorgeous!


  2. Omg the whale!! The trip looked amazing <3

    xo Kat

    1. It was the most amazing trip! Seeing whales in their natural environments instead of in a zoo or aquarium was so special.