K1 — Hispaniola Island: Dominican Republic & Haiti (14 days)

On the steps of Columbus. Hispaniola is the first colony founded by Cristoforo Colombo in 1492. While the Western part of the island is now Haiti, the other is the Dominican Republic.

A unique combination of outdoor activities, colonial exploration, cultural experience, sea swimming, wild animal & national park discovery, and leisurely vacation. Possibility of a New York escapade with the same airfare.

Day 1. Arrival in Santo Domingo. Transfer to hotel.

Day 2. Santo Domingo.

We visit the old town with its colonial architecture, at leisure so as to go a few centuries back: the castles, churches, mansions, the fort on the coast which protected the city against the invaders: pirates or French or British armies, according to the time. We eat in a traditional tavern — local food. We walk along the seaside malecon (promenade) with the palm, and the nightclubs. If we happen on a holiday, we cross locals wearing with the famous Caribbean masks. We also tour the capital’s outskirts. At night we sleep in a family-owned, hospitable hotel which looks more like a medieval mansion, with high ceilings, paintings in each room, verandas with carved columns, and staircases decorated with ancient tiles.

Day 3. Santo Domingo-Jarabacoa.

Two-hour transfer by air-conditioned bus to the center of the island, at the foot of Pico Duarte (3175 m — 10,416 feet), the Caribbean’s highest peak. Rancho Baiguate is in the middle of nature, with pleasant and well-decorated rooms. We eat at the buffet and bar of the estate. We horse-back ride to the small waterfalls of Baiguate or Jimenoa, through a tropical forest. We visit a coffee-producing unit, as well as a biological farm. At night we stroll to nearby Jarabacoa village.

Day 4. Jarabacoa.

Morning rafting on the impetuous currents and gorges of the three rivers which encircle the estate. Lunch on the estate. Afternoon hike in Jarabacoa valley, up to the foot of Pico Darte in the tropical forest, full of Caribbean flora and fauna.

Day 5. Jarabacoa-Samana.

Three-hour bus transfer to the northwestern part of the island. We settle in the hotel and have lunch. Afternoon sail with a special boat to see some of the 2-3.000 whales (80% of the North Atlantic population) who come every year down from Island, Greenland, and Canada to the warm Caribbean waters for reproduction.

Day 6. Samana.

Transfer by boat to Los Haitises national park on the other side of the gulf. Along 160 kilometers (100 miles) we can find beaches, bays, river deltas, covered by mangrove. We visit three large caves full of relieves and fragments of ceramic objects from the times of the Tainos, people who lived on the island when Columbus arrived, whom he described to the Spanish king as follows: «Throughout the world, there is no better people, nor better country. They love their neighbors more than themselves, they have the world’s softest talk, and they are quiet and always smiling». A path leads during two hours to the national park’s heart through tropical forest, savannas, and meadows.

Day 7. Samana-Puerto Plata.

Transfer by bus along the northern shore to Puerto Plata, a coast town with the island’s most famous beach of white sand, across Silver Bank, a protected area with corals and lagoons, for whales, sea turtles, and mammals. On the way we may take a swim on a desert beach with corals further out or on Cabarete’s surfing beach, a formerly quiet fishing village. We settle in the particularly hospitable guesthouse at Puerto Plata. Traditional food specially prepared by the host, Manuel. Small excursion to the geological (limestone, nacre, streams, etc.), botanical (sierra palm, tamarind, satinleaf, Jamaica nectandra, mahogany, copey, catalpa, mara, amapola etc.) and zoological (Hispaniola Woodpecker and Parrot, Red-tailed Falcon, etc.) Isabel de Torres, 800-meter (2,625 feet) high protected area which we reach by telpherage.

Day  8. Puerto Plata.

Excursion to one of the three beaches: to the west, Playa Costambar and Playa Cofresi, from the name of the Caribbean’s last pirate, or to the east, Playa Dorada, a complex of no less than twelve luxury hotels with a full range of sport and entertainment centers. Afternoon: cultural visit in the center of town with the Gingerbread houses from the Victorian times, San Felipe church, San Felipe fort on the shore, the statue of Gregorio Luperón general, hero of the 1860-65 resistance against the Spaniards, and the amber museum, without forgetting the rum Brugal factory, the visit of which is more a pretext to buy rum at cost.

Day 9. Puerto Plata-Cap Haïtien.

Transfer, visit of Fort Liberté.

Day 10. Cap Haïtien.

Excursion and hiking to Citadelle, afternoon visit of the city.

Day 11. Cap Ha tien-Gonaïves-Port-au-Prince.

Transfer, visit of Gonaïves.

Day 12. Port-au-Prince.

Visit of city, markets, National Palace.

Day 13. Port-au-Prince-Santo Domingo.

Transfer, visit of Lake Enriquillo (crocodiles) and Sierra de Bahoruco National Park.

Day 14. Santo Domingo.