As promised, today I’ll fill you in on our off-resort excursions.
If you’ve been, or are planning to go to an all-inclusive resort, you will undoubtedly be made aware of some of the “excursions” that are available. Excursions are off-resort activities and can range from a couple of hours at a shopping mall to a 3-day hike to a remote beach, and everything in between.
We booked our honeymoon through cheapcaribbean.com and they work with a company called Olympus Tours to arrange transportation to and from the airport, as well as off-resort excursions. They had a desk in a corridor off our resort’s main lobby, which allowed us to talk with the representative and mull over the decision before booking anything.
Essentially, he showed us a brochure of all the tours they offered: horseback riding on the beach, rainforest hiking, ATV tours, golf adventures and tons more. We wanted to do a few things, but also be reasonable about the financial aspect of it, but lucky for us we were gifted a few things off our honeymoon registry, and were given money from wedding guests that we were asked to specifically use on our honeymoon, so we felt a little less guilty.
Ultimately we decided on three: 1. “Caribbean Festival” 2. “Canopy Adventures” and 3. Saona Island. Let’s go through them, shall we?
1. Caribbean Festival
I debated this one for a good long while, and you’ll see why in a minute. It was a 4 hour excursion that included a booze cruise on a pirate ship, snorkeling over a coral reef, and a trip to the marinarium – an ocean pen that housed stingrays (without their stingers) and nurse sharks. BOTH OF WHICH WE INTERACTED WITH. If you know me, you’ll understand why this is such a huge thing – I have a ridiculous, irrational fear of fish. Big fish, small fish, tiny goldfish, they’re all the same and they all freak me out. But Cam really wanted to do this, so I went along with it and only had a small meltdown.
It was overcast and raining all day, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more had it been sunnier, but it was still an unforgettable experience.
Hanging out on the pirate ship.
Ocean pen – the larger area housed the nurse sharks, and the smaller had the stingrays.
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos at these areas (tourist trap of course), but I can vividly remember the details. First we sat on the side of the dock in the stingray pen and pen the stingrays, both on the smooth, slippery belly and the rough, sandpapery backs. Their barbs were removed (which I felt partly glad and partly sad about), so there was no risk to getting stuck. If that wasn’t enough trauma for me, we then had to slide into the water on an elevated floating floor, and had to turn around with our backs out and the trainer put the stingray on our backs so it could “massage” us. I was, of course, freaking out at this point. Finally, if I thought that was enough, they had another idea because they made us individually hold the stingray and smile for a photo.
Normally I don’t buy these sorts of tourist photos, but I could not resist these two:
On the left, Cam with the happiest, stupidest smile I’ve ever seen. He didn’t even smile like that when I was walking down the aisle. On the right – PURE TERROR.
After that we got back on the boat where I proceeded to try and calm down for a solid half hour. Luckily we had some rum punch to ease the trauma.
There was some Dominican dancing:
And we sailed home:
2. Canopy Adventures
This was another excursion a little outside my normal comfort zone – ziplining! We scheduled it for the Thursday we were in Punta Cana, but thanks to the tropical storm that was approaching, the government shut down many of the tourist attractions. Ironically, Thursday was a beautiful, rain-free day. It was rescheduled for the weekend, and it poured the whole time.
In case you were wondering, yes – the ziplines go faster when it’s raining. I know this first hand.
We had to ride in a covered 4×4 truck about 45 minutes to get to the mountains where we would be ziplining, and traveled through some very rural areas:
Again, we weren’t allowed to take photos on the ziplines, but we had a great time. Here we are soaked in tropical rain and a little sweat after 2 hours on the zipline trail:
On the drive back to the resort, we were educated on some of the finer Dominican exports:
Cam is holding a coffee plant, and I’m holding a cocoa pod. The bottom right is a small piece of Dominican chocolate. It was amazing, and we bought 2 pounds of it (to benefit the local schools of course).
3. Saona Island
Easily my favorite excursion, it was also the longest. We had to be up in the main lobby at 7am to get on a coach bus which drove us 2 hours to the southeast tip of the island. On the way we drove through the city of Higuey, where we saw lots of stray dogs:
And this amazing church – the Basilica:
Finally, we arrived at a little fishing town called Bayahibe, where we got off the bus and boarded a speed boat:
We snorkeled a bit again, and I got to take advantage of our $25 Polaroid underwater disposable camera which I have yet to get developed.
After a half hour boat ride, we arrived at an amazing little spot they call a “natural pool.” Essentially it’s a sandbar in the middle of the Caribbean sea with crystal clear water that’s only 3 or 4 feet deep and filled with starfish:
I love those photos. Especially the one that looks like Cam is talking on a starfish phone.
We hopped back on the boat, and after another few minutes, someone spotted a 4 foot wide manta ray flapping its way to deeper water. This is the best shot I could get, but forgive me for not wanting to get closer to the thing that killed Steve Irwin:
Eventually, we arrived at the picturesque Saona Island. This is what you think of when you think of paradise:
It’s a small island separated from the island of Dominica by a half-mile strait, where only 300 people live.
Amazing. I miss this so much.
I think I took more photos in those 3 hours we spent on the island than the rest of the week combined.
Alas, we had to leave. So we boarded a catamaran, and set sail for a 2 hour ride back to the bus:
We did the 10 hour Saona Island trip on our last full day, and originally I was not too happy about that as I wanted to savor our last few moments, but it turned out that it was the perfect ending to our amazing trip. I highly, highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Punta Cana, even despite how long it is. It was so worth it.
We capped it off with our romantic beach dinner, which I had a few photos from in my last post, but just as a refresher:
We had a few hours the next morning to take some last minute photos, sit in the pool and the ocean for a few more minutes, and tidy up our luggage before heading to the airport and jetting back to the states.
It was a relaxing, beautiful, romantic, perfect 9 days and I wish we could do it all over again. I’m already planning our next vacation.
And thus concludes the Camera-mooning series, which means.. OUR RECAPS ARE COMING UP SOON! Get. Excited. Ya’ll.