The Journey to the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it the very first Caribbean island nation that I have visited, but I was finally able to fit it into my travel plans after many delays. The Dominican Republic first appeared on my travel radar in 2015, but I was never able to fit it into travel plans. I always had a particular plan for visiting, and it usually involved trying to knock out Costa Rica and Panama during the same trip. However, it never seemed to work with the timing, and it became quite frustrating. Yet, I truly believe the Universe was on my side this time since for this trip, everything aligned with the days, times, and price. I would be able to easily fly from Costa Rica to Santo Domingo, which is the capitol of the Dominican Republic.
Prior to going to the Dominican Republic, I grappled with where to fly into. There were two main ways. The first option was to fly to Punta Cana, which is a popular resort area on the eastern coast of the country. This is where most people who visit go, and it was the place with the most options for tours, but it was also pricier. In addition, flying into Punta Cana would have been very easy if I were flying from the US. However, I was not. The second option was to fly into Santo Domingo, which is on the southern coast. This was the easiest option for flying from Central America, and it was cheaper. However, while Santo Domingo is popular as a day trip for people from cruise ships and those staying in Punta Cana, it did not seem to have as many options for those who were planning on basing themselves there since tour options were relatively limited for a solo traveler like myself.
Before leaving the US, I had spent many hours figuring out which place I wanted to fly into; Punta Cana or Santo Domingo. Depending which one I flew into would determine whether I went to the Dominican Republic first or last, and it would also determine the ultimate order of the countries I would visit. After many frustrating days and hours of trying to figure out something, I made the decision to head to Santo Domingo, which meant going to Panama first and Costa Rica second. Flying from Costa Rica would allow me to fly to Santo Domingo nonstop.
I felt fortunate. Most times when I tried to book a flight from either Panama or Costa Rica to the Dominican Republic, either the days did not align, or the flight resulted in ridiculous layovers or flight plans. However, the day I scheduled to fly, there was a nonstop flight from San José, Costa Rica to Santo Domingo available, so I immediately jumped on it.
The journey to the Dominican Republic was quite easy. I had a nonstop flight from San José, Costa Rica to Santo Domingo on Condor, which is a German airline. This flight was relatively unique in the fact that its final destination was not the Dominican Republic but Frankfurt, Germany. It was simply scheduled to make a stopover in Santo Domingo, pick up some passengers, and then head to Germany. As expected, the flight was filled with Germans, and I had the fortune/bad luck of sitting next to a group of German teenagers who were absolute chatterboxes during the whole flight.
The flight was uneventful and relatively peaceful aside from the extremely talkative German teenagers whom I do not think were silent for hardly a minute. In a way, it was kind of fortuitous since I got to practice my listening skills with German. The last time I had used German was the last time I was in Europe about a year ago.
Upon arrival Las Américas International Airport in the Dominican Republic, I went through immigration, got my bags, and was greeted by the driver whom the hotel had sent. We then set off to the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo. The driver did not speak English, and my Spanish is not particularly good, so the only thing he said to me for the duration of the trip was "Bienvenidos a República Dominicana" (Welcome to the Dominican Republic).
The hotel I was staying at was the Hotel Villa Colonial, which is located in the heart of the colonial center of Santo Domingo, so it was close to most of the tourist attractions, which is the main reason why I chose it. From the outside, the hotel is rather inconspicuous with a little sign identifying it, so it would be very easy to walk past it if one is not paying attention. However, once inside, the hotel opens up into an open-air area that is very tastefully decorated.
Even though it was still early in the afternoon, it was extremely hot and humid, and I was exhausted. However, I forced myself to leave the air-conditioned room and do a brief walk around the general area in order to get my bearings for when I would do a more thorough exploration later during my stay. Once I returned to the hotel after finding a grocery store and buying a few sandwiches for later, I crashed at the hotel and spent the rest of the day hanging out in the room, taking it easy.
While I was tired, I was still very excited because the Dominican Republic became the 76th country I had visited, and I was finally able to get here after wanting to visit for the last three years. Although it took me awhile to get there, I always knew it would happen someway somehow, and it did.