It’s just before midnight and a pleasant 27C as I sit here in my hotel room at Paraiso del Sol, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. It’s a very nice change from the cold, wet and gray day that greeted me when I hopped in the cab to Vancouver International Airport earlier today.
Oh how badly do I need this vacation!! My marriage is officially over, but now begins the odyssey of evicting my ex-husband from my couch. After all the stress of the last few months, I badly need this time away to refresh and recharge.
I’ve never been particularly interested in the idea of all-inclusive vacations. I’ve always felt like enough of a cheater doing organized tours, rather than always travelling 100% independent. In the interest of fairness though, I figured I couldn’t keep knocking AI holidays if I had never tried one. Plus, after the last hellish few months, I’m really not interested in working too hard on this vacation.
So this afternoon it was out to the airport to catch a chartered flight with Sunwing Vacations to Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The flight was a little over 7 hours with cloud cover almost the entire way. The skies cleared just as we were descending over Cuba, and the cabin crew came around with complimentary champagne spritzers to start us off on our weeklong tropical adventure.
The wall of heat and humidity that greeted me as I stepped off the plane instantly brought a smile to my face. Passport control was laid back and easy. Welcome to the Dominican Republic! Heading to the luggage carousel, I found my backpack was already waiting for me. I couldn’t help but smile, noticing how out of place my beat-up bag looked next to all the pristine suitcases around it. At least it’s easy to find!
From there, it was a bit of an adventure finding the right bus out to my hotel. Once on board I had about a half hour wait until it had filled up enough to depart. From the airport it was only about a 20 minute drive to the resort. Unfortunately it was already dark by then, so there wasn’t much for me to see outside my window.
Paraiso del Sol is a 3-star beach front resort. My parents have done many an AI vacation over the last few years and were slightly concerned that I had elected to go with only a 3-star. They tend to forget that I spent 4 months living in a tent in Africa – after that even a 1-star resort is luxury to me!
Once at the hotel, I wasn’t interested in facing the horde of guests descending on the reception desk, so I took my time getting off the bus and looking around the lobby. My first impressions of the resort are quite good. The lobby is large and cool with its tiled floors, high ceilings and open front and rear walls. Everything that I could see tonight appears to be in good repair with tasteful (albeit simple) decorations.
After about an hour wait before finally checking in, I found that I had been upgraded to an ocean-side room. Nice! The resort was made up of several buildings, generally split into either pool-side or ocean-side. The cheaper pool-side room that I had booked would have been set much further back from the water. The upgraded room they gave me is less than 100m from the beach. Plus I’m on the third floor on a corner with my own balcony. Luggage safely stowed and now wearing the fashionable plastic bracelet that indicates I’m an all-inclusive guest, it was time to explore.
Too wired to sleep, I took a stroll down to the beach. I followed the boardwalk until it ended in the sand in a cove of palm trees. Despite the resort’s proximity to the water, it was pitch black as soon as I left the grounds. Following the sound of the surf, I picked my way past empty beach chairs and fallen palm fronds to dip my toes in the Atlantic Ocean. I found myself a comfy patch of sand, lay down and stared up at the brilliant display of stars for a while, soaking it all in.
When the evening breeze started to turn chilly, I followed the lights back up to the resort and found myself a seat at one of the quieter bars. After unsuccessfully attempting to practice some Spanish with the bartender, I enjoyed a chat with a few people who were making the most of their last night on the island. I’ve missed this. Even though I’ve only been home for about two years now, my life on the road feels like it was a lifetime ago. It feels great to be out in the world again.