People from the Dominican Republic really know how to have fun. The Bestie and I booked our excursions late, so we had to settle on an excursion to Altos de Chavón and a cruise on the Chavón River. I didn’t think the excursion would amount to much, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised.
First off, the port at La Romana stuffs as many tour buses into its parking lot as possible. Ask the staff for directions to your numbered bus if you get lost. Our bus was towards the back of the parking lot, so we were wandering back and forth all confused until we decided to finally stop and ask someone for help. We finally get onto our bus and meet out guide, who dubbed himself “El Chocolaté.”
As we drove through the greenery that is La Romana, Chocolaté (we dropped the “El” at some point during the tour) gave us a quick intro to the culture of the Dominican Republic. What are they best known for? Rum? Yeah, but that’s not where I was going.
BASEBALL! Apparently there’s some sort of baseball university or college in the area that specializes in turning out baseball greats like Big Papi.
A crapload of celebrities, like Vin Diesel and A-Rod, are also either property owners or regular visitors to the Dominican Republic. I guess if you go during the right time of year, you can see celebrities like it’s Beverly Hills. The nearby Casa de Campo properties are where these people seem to flock.
Altos de Chavón is a recreation of a 16th century European village. Basically, it looks old, but it’s not old. It is a beautiful property, and students from the local design school are able to study and display their work on-site. It’s a nice mix of the new and the old, with some of the buildings also housing small gift shops and a bar.
There’s also the amphitheater (where the only bathrooms I could find are located). If it didn’t feel like a million degrees in the sun, I think I would have enjoyed this view in the present a little more. There is no shade in the amphitheater. I really hope they have all their events at night. They have concerts regularly here; performers like Pitbull, Frank Sinatra, and Santana have all graced the stage at this venue.
There aren’t too many activities here, but one that I liked was the archaeological museum. Admission is free, and security is lax, as illustrated by the guard sitting with his feet up as I walked in, his phone in his hand as he argued with someone on the other end about some he-said-she-said drama. The displays illustrate the history of the area, focusing especially on the natives who first stepped foot on this land. I especially liked the display of the body jewelry and notes about the kind of drugs they took for ceremonies. The big-ass canoe was pretty cool too.
There are great vantage points all along the Altos de Chavón for the Chavón River. The Bestie and I also found a trail that we believe leads down to the water from the village, but we didn’t have time to make it all the way down. The shade was quite nice though.
After reconvening outside of the amphitheater, Chocolaté led us back to the bus, and we traveled down to the river for our cruise.
The cruise itself is relatively short, but it might be because we were having fun. You basically go up and down a portion of the Chavón River while the staff on the riverboat keep the rum and Coke flowing. And I mean FLOWING. More than one of our tour party was seriously wasted once we got back on board the bus. Oh, and if you decide that you just want just rum or just coke, let them know. You also don’t have to drink (an option I took because I didn’t need anyone fishing my drunk ass out of the river).
The staff turn up the music on the boat to get the guests dancing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how — the most important part is that you’re having fun. Even Chocolaté got into the festivities and asked a few ladies for a dance. I watched one member of my tour group dance on her own, and insisted that one of the ladies working on the boat teach her husband to dance (he finally did after a little chasing). It was amusing to get back on the bus after the river cruise and watch one lady, who had been silent the entire tour, cheer and high-five everyone who got on the bus after her. I also watched as the lady, now thoroughly sociable and sauced, made friends with the lady in the next seat, and the Bestie helped them take a selfie. A bottle of rum and extra cups somehow made their way onto the bus also, and we all enjoyed one last shot of rum before we ended the excursion.
If you’re looking for a low-exertion excursion, I suggest looking into the Altos de Chavón/riverboat cruise. Altos de Chavón is a beautiful place and chronicles its history well, and although the riverboat cruise is nothing more than floating on water for some time, the dancing and rum (as well as your fellow tourists) will make it fun. I will give caution on that last note, as there was one guy in our tour party who was not amused during the riverboat cruise (and probably didn’t participate in the dancing), but to each his own.
Has anyone else been to La Romana? What are some other things to do there?