Turns out, we weren't staying in Puerto Plata, but in Sosua which was just east of Puerto Plata. The trip across the mountain in a van filled with 5 of the 18 who missed our connection was a bit harrowing. More so because the chief method of transportation in the Dominican Republic is motorbikes/cycles. And apparently there are no rules with them. Like....even...lights are not necessarily required. Or.....3 people per cycle is JUST fine. Helmets? Pftttt....I'm not sure there's a helmet in all of the DR. So, driving along curvy barely paved unlit mountain roads at 11 pm, one needed to look carefully for motorcycles/bikes traveling along the side of the road. We arrived in Puerto Plata, where the other 4 people were getting dropped off around 11 and I had to get to Sosua, which I thought was only about 12 miles but ended up being a good 40 minutes away. I was a tad concerned given : I was alone, I had NO IDEA where the Casa Marina Reef was except somewhere in Sosua, I didn't speak ANY Spanish and the two drivers didn't speak ANY English, and, if worse came to worse, I had NO IDEA if 911 is universal. As you can see, unfounded fears.
So, Monday we hit the beach. Hard. With probably the absolute most brilliant idea I have ever had (which I will give credit where credit is due...I read Trip Advisor and took their advice).. I bought and brought 2 of these:
2 24 oz double walled insulated hot/cold cups. They had lids, straws (that had to be removed from the bottom of the lid which made them difficult to lose) and a hole on top that one could easily sip coffee out of if one was of a mind. I got them in different colors and designs. We would go to the bar and they would fill completely with ice (instead of the 8 oz plastic cups that one lived in fear that just a gentle squeeze would crush the cup and spill the contents) and drink of choice. This week it was rum and coke (diet). The drink would stay cold and last for 2 hours and there would STILL be ice left in the cup. This cup will henceforth accompany me on ALL warm weather trips.
The bar, as luck would have it, was about 20 feet from our patio door. NOT that we needed to make many trips as...we had the cups! Seriously...THIS is how close it was:
That was to the right out our door. To the left this was the view:
We had two beaches to choose from. One was larger and required traveling down a long wooden staircase where the rise of the steps was not consistent but the beach area was much calmer.
The second beach was a few short steps from the bar and was more of a bay-ish area surrounded on both sides by large coral reefs. The water was quite a bit more turbulent, but we chose to lite there anyway. Um...convenience.
The water was absolutely AMAZING. You could go out up to your shoulders, look down, have a swell lift you 2 feet out off the botom and you could STILL not only see the bottom clearly but count your toes as well. Not a SPECK of seaweed.
In between the two beaches were 3 cool water Jacuzzi tubs that had been built into the coral reef.
And off to the west one could see the mountains of Haiti:
There were 3 specialty restaurants on site and we made it a point to eat at each one, while trying the buffet one night. The buffet was probably a step lower than any of the previous all inclusive buffets I have been to, but still adequate. The specialty restaurants were very good. I had sea bass at the seafood restaurant and was surprised at the size of the portion of sea bass I received. It was very well prepared. I had a pork filet at the Italian restaurant that was good flavored but not very tender (and I found this to be true of all the pork I had at the hotel). At the Mexican restaurant I had a chicken filet that was wonderful. The snack bar needed work. French fries need to be crisp not soggy. They had burgers and pizza made from naan which was unusual (not your typical pizza sauce).
We spent the 4.5 days on the beach, soaking up sun and catching up on 16 years of life. My kids asked me if there were any awkward moments given that it had been so many years since my friend and I had been together and really there weren't. We fell right back into our friendship of 25 years ago.
And really, how cool is that?