We flew into Santo Domingo thinking we would visit SD on one end of the trip or the other. Unfortunately, we never had the time to do this. By the time we got our car, we headed for Puerto Plata. The map I purchased before going proved to be of little use other than as a general guide. Very few people spoke enough English to help with directions, and we didn't speak enough Spanish to understand their advice. Road signs are virtually nonexistent, and vehicle standards are minimal, so you will find yourself sharing the roads with pedestrians, bikes, motorcycles, burros, cars, vans, and trucks. Driving is an adventure. Off the main road, you will need a high-carriage, as a regular car will bottom out often. Roads are rough. On each end of the trip, we found ourselves hopelessly lost for an hour or two. Do not attempt to drive across the island if this is not your idea of an adventure!
We used the Villas Jazmin as a home base. We spend the first day relaxing at the beach a block away from the resort. The weekends are wild and fun to experience. Very crowded and loud local music. Day 2 was spent in Sosua at the beach. Nicer beach and interesting shops and food offerings all along the beach. Clean water and beach. Day 3 was spent deep-sea fishing out of Sosua with a captain that spoke fluent Spanish and English. Nice trip, but no luck fishing. Day 4 was a rainy condo day with movies. Day 5 was the best for us. We headed to Imbert and found a hillside cigar maker. Great local experience, but no English was spoken. We then went to the waterfalls or cascades in Imbert. We hooked up with a local guide which was a must. You would never find them on your own, and it would be extremely dangerous if you tried them on your own. There are 28 pools. We tried for the first seven, although it was only the 20-somethings that made all seven. Unlike anything you have ever done--climbing rocks, swimming across pools, swimming up the channels, jumping into pools, sliding down chutes. Like a waterpark, but this was the real thing. 100% nature, no safety features, and not for the faint of heart. Our guide was Augusto, an 18 year old who spoke excellent English and who took very good care of us. He goes to school in the afternoon, but ask for him if you visit in the morning. He only has time to do one trip a day. Takes two to three hours. Excellent experience and worth the fee he charged plus a handsome tip. We then headed to the coast through Luperon to La Isabella. Pretty countryside and quiet beach (we were the only ones there). Day 6 was traveling back to Santo Domingo. We managed to get lost again. The trip from SD to PP is about 150 miles, but took about 6 hours each way due to time spent lost.
The locals were great. English is not a second language for most, but despite that, they do all they can to help out. We never felt threatened in any way, and we enjoyed interacting as much as we could. We took very few pictures as it felt intrusive. The DR is not a wealthy country by any means, and it makes your realize just how lucky you are. Although many live in one- or two-room huts in small barrios, they are happy people who are personally clean and healthy. They have few luxuries, and unless you stay in an all-inclusive-type resort, you won't find luxury either. The litter everywhere is unfortunate. The DR was a great experience for us, but it will not be for everyone.