|Cruising in the
This page updated: May 2009
Free cruising guide (PDF file) on Noonsite's DR page
Free cruising guide
Dominican Republic News and Travel Information Service
Excite about Dominican Republic
Lonely Planet - Dominican Republic
DR map from World Atlas
maps from Caribbean-On-Line
Some Spanish phrases for cruisers
Charts: Wavey Line Publishing charts, or NIMA charts, or chartbook from
Bellingham Chart Printers ($80; no chart of Luperon).
I looked at someone's Garmin GPS-plotter once, and although it had "coverage" of the DR, it
showed only a grey blob when you tried to zoom-in on Luperon harbor. Check yours ahead of time.
Guidebooks: "Gentleman's Guide to Passages South" by Bruce Van Sant
(on Amazon - paid link)
(lots of good harbor and town sketches), and
"Turks and Caicos Guide" by Stephen Pavlidis
(on Amazon - paid link)
(has about 10 pages on the DR).
Dominican Republic courtesy flag
Currency: approximately US$1 = 32 Dominican Republic Pesos (sometimes written "RD$" or just "$") in late 2005.
Relatively cheap prices if you speak Spanish, bargain, and shop outside of Luperon.
Van Sant's book says DR is good place to provision, but he assumes you take your
boat to Puerto Plata, which few people do.
From "Destiny Calls": "The Dominican Republic is not the cheapest place
in the Caribbean, just one of the poorest".
Risk of malaria in Haiti and rural areas of DR bordering Haiti.
Hepatitis B is highly prevalent in the DR and Haiti.
Hepatitis A is found in rural areas.
When leaving, and exchanging pesos for US dollars, you're allowed to exchange
only 30% of amount originally exchanged into pesos. In other words, you're
forced to spend 70% of what you exchange into pesos. Keep receipts from all
Tap water may not be safe to drink for visitors. Bottled water sold near dock for 40 pesos for 5 gallons.
A very common refrain from cruisers who have been to the DR and Puerto Rico:
skip the DR entirely and go straight to Puerto Rico (because of theft and greedy officials in the DR,
and because PR is so nice).
Winter-league baseball: late October through January.
Carnival in Santiago: February and August.
Carnival: first Sunday after Feb 27.
Carnaval: best in town of La Vega, in February (on weekends, with parades on Sundays,
largest at end of month).
Merengue Festival in Santo Domingo in late July and early August.
Smaller Merengue Festival in Puerto Plata in October.
Santa Domingo: many museums and old churches; Colonial Zone; Alcazar de Colon (castle and museum);
La Ataranza / Royal Mooring Docks; Catedral Santa Maria la Meno;
Columbus Lighthouse complex (museums, zoo-park);
Museum of Fine Arts; Museum of Natural History.
There are two rainy seasons: October to May along the
northern coast, and May to October in the south.
Great beaches. Reefs and fishing are substandard.
Good deserted beach: Playa Bavaro at Bavaro.
Winter breeding grounds for humpback whales: "Silver Banks" off NE corner of DR.
International airports: Las Americas (20 miles east of Santo Domingo), and La Union (25 miles east of Puerto Plata).
Ports of entry on north coast: Puerto Plata, Manzanillo Bay, Samana, Luperon.
From Luperon article by James Baldwin in 2/2003 issue of Cruising World magazine:
- Some charts call Luperon "Puerto Blanco".
[Apparently Luperon is the town and Puerto Blanco is the harbor.]
- Narrow entrance channel surrounded by reefs; buoys sometimes
drift or disappear.
- Absence of bureaucracy, low cost of living, friendly people.
- Dinghy dock at Puerto Blanco Marina in northern arm of bay. Weekly potlucks
and Sunday boater's flea market.
- Luperon town pier: public water tap, dinghy dock.
- Luperon is a port of entry; offices near the town pier.
Fees about $68 plus $10/person.
From "Mattkoray": when coming west from Puerto Rico and checking in at Punta Cana,
the officials refused to give any receipts. This caused problems later with
Immigration fees in Luperon.
From "Turks and Caicos Guide" by Stephen Pavlidis
(on Amazon - paid link):
- Luperon harbor entrance: markers red-on-right as you enter, but don't trust the markers.
Be very careful; you're entering between two shoals, and more shoals inside.
- When entering the country, don't pay extra to "Commandante".
- Seawater in Luperon harbor is filthy.
The tapwater and ice made from it are unsafe.
- Luperon has machine shop, medical clinic, propane refill.
- Take busses to other cities.
Puerto Plata is commercial center of the north coast, and has tourist resorts.
Santiago is industrial center, in central highlands.
Santo Domingo is capital, with population over 2 million.
- Great diving on DR's south and east shores; reefs on north shore are very damaged.
From Dave in Marathon 11/2004 (just spent 4 years in DR):
- There really are no good charts of the DR. Get a small-scale (wide area) chart of the
whole country or area, then use harbor sketches in Van Sant's book.
- Usually can avoid paying additional fees in each new port you enter: just say
"no" when asked, and show previous receipts and permits.
Say "no" a few more times, then if they get very insistent, pay.
Rules vary from port to port and official to official.
- People say the DR is "fished out", but only the easy places within rowing distance of the coast
are fished out. A few miles out in the ocean, fishing is great.
- People say the swimming/diving is bad, but there are plenty of pretty little gunkholes and coves to explore.
- Theft: thieves will swim out in the middle of the night and cut the painter on a
tethered dinghy, and float it away. Also, on an unattended boat, will crowbar a hatch open
to get inside.
Entering Luperon harbor: call for Mike on "Seacomber" on VHF 68, and he might
come out in his dinghy to guide you in. [In 6/2005, he came out without any
radio call; he checked every morning for arrivals. I probably could have made
it in okay anyway, but it was nice to have a guide.
10/2006, I'm told he's no longer in Luperon.]
- Because of the prevailing NE winds, the south coast offers more protected anchorages,
although the more scenic bays are on the wild and rugged north coast. The north coast only offers a
handful of sheltered anchorages and as it is usually difficult to cover the distances between them in one
day's sail, cruising here needs careful planning. ... The best northern anchorages are to be found between
Puerto Plata and Manzanillo Bay. However, the most attractive area is at Samana Bay: one may come
across a group of humpback whales who migrate south to the bay area for the breeding season.
- The best facilities are in the capital, Santo Domingo, which has a large number of local sailors
and adequate facilities for both sail and power boats. An alternative is Boca Chica in Puerto de Andr�s,
where one can use the facilities of the local Club Nautico. Outside of the large industrial centres, repair facilities
for yachts are virtually non-existent although minor repairs can be dealt with by ordinary workshops.
- Ports of entry: Casa de Campo (southeast DR), Luperon, Punta Cana (east DR), Santo Domingo
[Van Sant says: Manzanillo also]. If possible, one should arrive
during working hours, 0800-1700. Fly the Q flag and wait to be boarded, as it is illegal to land before clearance.
Usually a port official will come with customs and immigration officers. The ship's papers, passports and clearance
certificate from last port should be presented on arrival. Then a visitor's card for each person must be obtained.
Yachts must clear from port to port, and see customs on each arrival, but there is no charge for this.
Clearance papers must be obtained from each port. Note that many ports are closed to foreign yachts,
unless one has special permission. Permission should also be obtained from the Port Authority
to cruise outside of the ports.
Dominican officials expect, and often request, a small present after business has been concluded.
This need not necessarily be money and it is not obligatory, but it is difficult to avoid.
A small gift or a small amount of money (a few dollars) will be highly appreciated.
- Tourist cards (required for USA nationals), valid for up to 60 days from the date of entry, can be obtained on arrival for US$10.
- Luperon: Yachts on arrival are usuallly be boarded by customs, immigration and agriculture.
One must also visit the Naval Commandante, whose office is located on the hill and the immigration office in town.
There is a dinghy dock at the government dock.
There are two mercados in the town that have basic supplies, as well as various small stores and street stalls selling fresh produce.
Puerto Plata is about 25 miles away and has two supermarkets with a better selection of goods.
- Cases of ciguatera have been reported on the north coast between Samana and Puerto Plata. There is a risk of malaria in certain provinces.
From Lee Haefele on The Live-Aboard List:
Entry to DR will cost about $130, per port. They seem to allow you to stay
at ports that are not entry points without fees while waiting weather.
Luperon is WONDERFUL, but you do land-based stuff there, busses and taxis and
food cost near nothing in US$$.
From Windom log file :
- Upon entering Luperon, first batch of officials included Commandante, and asked
for a tip; we said no. Second batch: we paid the Immigration official $10 for the
boat and $10 for a tourist card for each of us, good for 60 days in the country.
"Agricultural inspector" asked for $5; we said no.
Woman asked for $5 for a harbor fee, which we had
also been told wasn't legitimate, but she raised a big stink; we paid.
- Since cruisers are only permitted entry to a few particular ports in the Dominican Republic, we
are keeping the boat in Luperon and doing our sightseeing by land. Fortunately, this is easy to
do. Luxury buses -- comfy seats, air conditioning, and old American action movies, dubbed or
subtitled in Spanish, on video monitors -- run all over the country for ridiculously cheap ticket
- For about $4.50 each we rode in style to Santo Domingo, a trip of about 150 miles, which
took four hours. [Stayed overnight in hotel, hit museums, hardware store, etc.]
- Now most cruisers park in smaller, more protected Luperon and visit Puerto Plata by land.
There are lots of touristy things to do in Puerto Plata, and the groceries and hardware stores are
far bigger than those in Luperon.
- [In April] it only rains at night; sometimes it's just a sprinkle, sometimes a real boat-washer. It's
good to have the rainwater, since we're reluctant to run our watermaker in this foul harbor.
Bottled water's fairly cheap here.
- [Rented van and driver to go to:] Santiago is a big and modern city,
and we gleefully spent money in the huge hardware stores,
auto-parts stores, pharmacies, and fabric stores.
- Bottles of rum (the recommended "gift" for
commandantes in ports where you're technically not allowed to anchor).
- Leaving Luperon: Three weeks of inactivity in the rich organic mangrove-surrounded harbor had
encouraged an entire ecosystem to grow on our anchor chain.
Visibility was still terrible outside the harbor, so scraping prop out there wasn't much better.
- Escondido: very beautiful. Since this harbor is one of those where
yachts are not officially welcome, we opted to anchor just inside the eastern cliff, far from
civilization. We anchored only 50 feet from shore -- and it was 50 feet deep!
- Escondido to Samana: We were glad to have chosen to do this stretch of coastline in daylight,
because the scenery was spectacular.
From "Delirious": Escondido is a beautiful anchorage, with a huge cliff coming down into
the water, and a beautiful beach.
From Osiris Sailing on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum 3/2005:
Luperon: There is a new marina / yacht club in the bay -
Marina Luperon Yacht Club which is located on the north side
of the main anchorage. It is open to every cruiser as the
"yacht club" in the name is only there to differientate it
from another facility under construction on the south shore.
Facilities available include dockage, clubhouse, good food,
internet access, a spectacular view of the whole harbor
and 59 stairs to good heart health.
To enter Luperon Harbor always try to arrive at or just after
dawn, and call on VHF 68 before trying to enter the harbor.
Somebody will come out and help you navigate the channel into
the bay. All the facilities and cruisers monitor VHF 68 day and night.
From Gord May on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum 3/2005:
Don't recall where I got this, but it's useful information on LUPERON:
From Paco PWD on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum 3/2005:
... Luperon (Puerto Blanco) is an extraordinary hurricane hole,
made secure by surrounding hills and holding ground of
anchor-swallowing gelatinous muck. Thievery happens, but is
rare. Many cruisers wait out hurricane season in Luperon
because of its shelter, but also because hurricanes avoid this
part of the North Coast, tending instead to track through the
Bahamas, or pass to the south on the other side of the
... For eastbound cruisers, Luperon is the place to hunker down and await a
weather window. In these waters, that means a period of
diminished trade winds and seas; otherwise you face a head-on
bash to Puerto Rico with only one port to break up the
trip: Samana, a nest of outboard motor thieves.
For local knowledge, put out a call on Channel 68, which is
monitored by every cruiser in the harbor. Channel 16, while
not restricted to Dominican military use, is nearly useless
because no one but the Navy listens to it.
Entry procedures: Anchor anywhere with Q flag hoisted and wait
for Dominican entry officials in a skiff; it is customary to
offer them a cold soft drink. If they don't show, dinghy to
the government dock and walk into town. At the outskirts, to
the left is a path leading to a small bridge and the hilltop
naval outpost. The commandante will record your presence,
giving you legal permission to wander about on land. The
immigration officer will catch up with you later.
Fees are $10 U.S. for the boat, $10 for each passport, a $5
harbor fee and $5 garbage and water fee at the government
Charts: Incredible as it may seem, no large-scale government
chart of Luperon exists. Hispaniola 017 by Wavey Line
Publishing, available at major chart providers, depicts a
small-scale view of the Turks and Caicos, the north coast of
the Dominican Republic and western Puerto Rico with several
harbor charts on the backside. It's an excellent chart, which
includes waypoints, but again, Luperon is inexplicably omitted.
Gord, the whole article is "A Hurricane Hole And an
Adventure Of A Lifetime" by Peter Swanson, a very nice read.
I spent one week in Luperon January 05 with intent to check out
the cruising community there (and it's large) there were
approx. 100 boats there. The bay is indeed a Hurricane Hole,
during the last one that went directly over, only 2 or 3 boats
got loose and only that they were unattended and not prepared.
FYI, the Marina Luperon is still a hole in the ground with
only the sales office and bar open and nothing else. The
construction is on hold as someone owns a tract of land in the
middle and is holding out for big $$$, I'm told.
... Mike Donovan, the de facto harbour master ...
The water does NOT move much, it's BROWN, so
swimming off the boat is out of the question and no public
beaches around. ...
... there are virtually NO boat facilities
available, NO parts NO nothing for serious repairs. Some guy
was waiting 4 weeks for an alternator from U.S., as stuff only
comes to Santo Domingo and you have to arrange a cab delivery
to Luperon $$$$$$$$$.
From OSIRIS on SSCA discussion boards 2/2005:
There is a new marina / yacht club in Luperon, Dominican Republic. The name is
Marina Luperon Yacht Club and is located along the north side of the main anchorage.
The club house is up on the hill with a fantastic view of the whole harbor.
They have limited dockage available now and a brand new easily accessed dinghy dock.
The facilities are open to everybody - the "Yacht Club" in the name is only to
differentiate it from another Luperon Marina facility across the bay that has
been under construction for several years and will not be open for several more years.
Internet access, good food, gigantic satellite TV, and 59 stairs to better
health are among the benefits available to visiting cruisers.
From someone on SSCA discussion boards:
Re: Is Luperon a good Hurricane Hole?
From someone on SSCA discussion boards:
Luperon is protected from the sea nearly 360 degrees, as the entrance to
the harbor is a dogleg and the harbor is long and fairly narrow.
The main protective feature is massive high mountains rising around the
area on 3 sides which destroy or deflect hurricanes that try to come across.
The holding is good in very soft mud but you must be set for several days
before you can rely on the hook being really dug in due to the deep slime
and reversing current (tidal). There are also lots of mangroves around to tie to.
Local lore states that they've never had hurricane force winds in the harbor.
As a place to hide from a hurricane it is great. As a place to STAY during
hurricane season it leaves a lot to be desired IMHO ... but some live
and love it there for years.
We spent last hurricane season in Luperon on our CSY 44.
Hurricane Jeanne went directly overhead and there was no wind greater than 35.
We also loved being there. The locals are wonderful and there is much to see and do.
From BigGB on SSCA discussion boards:
[Someone asked: Luperon versus Rio Dulce for hurricane protection:]
Well ... I can give you my thoughts on Luperon:
On the plus side:
1. Excellent hurricane protection and good holding once you find the right spot and get the hook well dug in.
2. Friendly cruising community and good know-how to fix stuff.
3. Cheap beer and restaurants.
4. Beautiful countryside if you go on tours.
On the downside:
1. Dirty ... sanitation a problem.
2. Fresh clean meat, dairy difficult to find.
3. Real poverty and squalor ... but friendly people.
4. You really need a bit of Spanish to get along.
5. No haulout facilities for major repairs, or marinas that support a plugged-in lifestyle.
As you can see ... it is a mix and it all depends on your personal preferences.
Personally, I was glad to leave after a month and would look for something on
the south shore of Puerto Rico if faced with your situation ... but many seem
to spend years happily in Luperon.
About Luperon DR, from Lee Church, 2003:
I am thinking it's a good place to stay for the season ...
learn Spanish and then head further south
in november/december, or north ... or west ... or ...
It's definitely a candidate for culture shock if one were to stay here ...
serious culture shock.
It's not for everyone and hardly for most cruiser's tastes though ...
Diesel is a bit cheaper than the USA ... but as inflation is over 100% for the year everything is a
moving target. As for quality, I would use the Baja filter before putting it in the tank although I
have not had to buy any here yet. You can also get diesel delivered to the dock ... but at a higher
cost of course.
In the scope of beeronomy things are cheaper, yet not as cheap as commonly believed.
For one thing
just getting cash costs much more than in the USA ... some places take 10% off the top for ATM card use.
It's like anywhere ... you have to beware, shop around and understand what is a good value and what
is not ... really tough to answer within an email such a complex topic.
The economy here has different motivating factors than the USA, and a different value structure that
overlaps what we are used to dealing with.
I would use the Pavlidis charts for the DR north shore where you will
arrive (the electronic ones are pretty good for Luperon, and print them out of course as backup).
We are getting ready to say "adios" to the DR (though it's a great country).
I would spend as much time as you can in the Bahamas.
Get there early, and take your time coming on down.
It's a bit tricky waiting for weather, but once you get the hang of it,
it's not so hard. Also, when you get to the DR, if you didn't take your
time in the Bahamas, you will regret missing the blue waters and fishing, etc.
Turks and Caicos is a bit pricey, so try to anchor, check through and
wait for weather. I would be wary of an extended stay there.
Entry fees: $10 per person for immigration, $35 for the boat port authority?, $25 for boat agriculture
thing ... and maybe something else for $10, don't remember exactly ... it may depend on how big the
boat is ... And of course you don't have to pay the commandante (the guy with the gun who takes you aside
and asks for money without a receipt). Of course you can pay him, but then you have to live with
being an easy target in the future as well, the dock guys will try for money ... well, everyone will
try for money ... but that's the way things work i suppose. I know people who have paid more than I did, but not less ...
[November 2004, asked about drinking water:]
We have rigged a tarp to collect rainwater. We use that water for drinking and
cooking, and occasionally the hot shower. We only put rain water in our tanks and add a touch of
chlorine every few cycles. Excess chlorine is bad for me and the tank. We have found we really
don't need any chlorine, but add a very small amount anyway, just to be safe.
Yesterday and today we collected about 50 gallons of water with the tarp setup, and I have not
purchased bottled water (available in the 5-gallon bottles for 30 pesos) since last september (2003).
We use jerry cans for dinghy dock water, which is a mix of well water and town water, for
showers and cleaning. We use a solar shower attached to the main mast with a tube that runs
through the head dorade box and to a valve and shower head so we can shower below with hot/warm
water and still have some semblance of modesty.
Entering rainy season I expect that water collection while in Luperon and Samana will not
be a big problem. A watermaker would be a great toy to have aboard east of the DR and am
I have a propeller lost in DHL customs transit hell (since March) ...
From The Aldebaran Travel Log:
"Luperon: The people are very friendly and helpful.
Our refrigerator compressor broke and the local
hardware store guy has made arrangements to get
a new one for us from the big city of Santo Domingo.
Everything from beer to diesel to phone calls
is much cheaper here."
Luperon, from letter from Dick and Mary Hein in
10/2002 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
- Entry fee $71 in 2002.
- Good holding in anchorage.
- Good, inexpensive restaurants.
- Much cheaper than Bahamas and Turks.
- Water available at marina; added a little bleach and drank it.
- A few basic grocery stores in town.
- Rent van with driver Jaime and go to Santiago for large supermarket,
- Luperon article in 8/2002 issue of Passagemaker Magazine.
- Doing Mona Passage: most people leave from Samana,
but also could go to Los Haitses Park, then Miches, then Punta Cana,
then Punta Macao, then jump.
Good hurricane holes: Manzanilla, Luperon, Samana.
From Lee Haefele on The Live-Aboard List:
Luperon, DR was great. The current exchange rate of 45-50 pesos to 1 dollar is
somehow wrong, in our favor. Everything is so cheap, that you do it all.
This coupled with the cheerful people and interesting tropical landscape and
mountains is a paradise.
From the beginning: Arriving by boat you must arrive before 9 am, as the
trade winds commonly make the harbor impassable later. A VHF call on 16 or
68 will bring one of the long-term cruisers out in a dinghy to guide you in.
The harbor entrance is curvy and uncharted, the guide is essential.
5-7 armed officials will come aboard and charge about $110US total, giving
receipts. Fees will likely be repeated at other DR ports. After this,
obtain Pesos from the money machine, do not part with your US$$, there is no
way to get any later for your return trip.
The harbor is well sheltered with reasonable holding in mud.
Unfortunately, the water is filthy, you learn to wash after handling dinghy lines.
Luperon is a small, safe town. There are no real full-service
marinas yet. Puerto Blanco Marina has dockage for about 5 boats, electric and
water, restaurant and bar, but no repairs or fuel. These services are handled
by a combination of locals and several long-term cruisers who do various
There are about 6 English-speaking restaurants plus many local
food stands. A full dinner is 90-180 pesos ($2-$4). Double-size (650 ml)
Presidente beers are $1 at a bar. Jose's tours are great, full-day tours
are usually $20-$25/person. Taxis can be had for 1200 pesos/day for trips to
other cities. Bus service is very good, 130 pesos to Santo Domingo.
Propane refill was 130 pesos plus 50 for the 3 mile motochoncho ride. Gas
was about $2 us/gal, I did not buy Diesel, it is arranged by boat boys to be
delivered in local skiffs. Telephone calls to US are $.15/min.
Anyway, for minimum dollars, you can visit here and have a wonderful, active time.
There were 100-150 boats there with us and there were lots of cruiser-arranged
get-togethers. We traveled to Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata, Imbert, Caberete.
Luperon is sort of 3rd world, people live in small houses, but
are usually well-dressed and clean. Haitian laborers seem very poor,
farmers don't use machinery, just Haitians. The same with construction,
cement is mixed all by hand by Haitians. The electric and water only work
about 1/2 the time. Dinner out is often by candlelight. The country was
out of propane for about a week. Don't drink the local water or accept any
ice except the round machine-made cubes; lots of cruisers did get short-lasting
I rate Luperon as the best port visited. I have also heard good reports
about Samana, but not Puerto Plata. Tradewinds can make travel to Luperon
a waiting game, we waited 11 days at South Caicos while winds blew 25-35 daily.
For guide books, see Bruce Van Sant's "Gentleman's Guide to Passages South"
(on Amazon - paid link
(he lives in Luperon) and Stephen Pavlidis' "Turks and Caicos Guide"
(on Amazon - paid link
From Lee Haefele on The Live-Aboard List:
Hispaniola / Dominican Republic charts:
This was quite a trial of Job finding useful paper charts for this area.
Below is a report on what I found. Bluewater books has everything in
stock, most of the salespeople had sailed or motored to the DR. One
salesman sold me some stuff that was of no use at all.
Wavey Line charts: Supposedly these have been corrected using WAAS GPS.
HIS 017 Good routing chart of Hispaniola, with a few harbor charts,
Harbors: Puerto Plata, Monte Christi/Manzanillo Bay, interior only of Bahia
Samana, with no chart of entrance. Other harbor charts on south and east
coasts. Very useful.
HIS 020 Harbor charts of south shore DR, and west shore of Haiti, many
harbor charts. Nothing of any use on north shore.
TC001 Great routing chart of Turks and Caicos.
TC002 Providenciales, very detailed, color.
TC003 Turks Islands, very detailed with dive sites (not color).
British Admiralty #463, 6 harbor charts of north shore, including entrance
to Samana and Puerto Plata that are missing from HIS 017, but does not
include any chart showing coastline. Seems to deviate from Wavey Line
charts as to most GPS positions by about 1/4 mile.
Ocean Grafix "Charts on demand" 25673 of Mayaguez PR. Bluewater salesman
stated that Maptech chartbook #10 (that I just bought from them) was woefully
out of date for this area and I needed this. There was NO difference, they
are the same chart.
ISS Waterproof chart #16, good routing chart from FL to PR, not much detail,
except reverse side is detailed Mona Passage.
None of above have Luperon )-; . There is a good Luperon Harbor sketch in
Van Sant's Gentleman's Guide to Passages South
(on Amazon - paid link
Pg 194. (Best, very complete book for DR info.) There is also reported to be one in Pavlidis'
(on Amazon - paid link
From article by M. Rorke Miller in 3/2002 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine:
Especially in Samana:
- Hoist and lock dinghy and outboard every
single night; dinghy theft to get outboards is rampant.
Don't leave anything loose on deck.
- Officials keep tight watch on the coast, because of heavy drug smuggling activity.
- Not many people speak English.
From someone in Warderick Wells 4/2005:
- Don't leave fuel jugs on deck; they'll be stolen.
- Checking in at Manzanillo costs only $35.
Checking in at Luperon costs $85.
If they try to sell you a $200 cruising permit, don't buy it.
- Give small bottles of rum as tips.
- Some people get nasty rashes or parasites from the water or food; be careful.
From MelissaK on Cruising World message board:
Re: Land travel:
From Van on Cruising World message board:
DON'T rent a car ! The driving there is horrendous. You'd be much better off with
locals driving you around, and it'd cost probably the same as a rental.
I can't describe, really, but the driving and drivers is/are just different, and dangerous.
It's a physically beautiful, but depressing country. I was there for five months,
in Luperon Bay, on the north coast. The average educational level is fourth grade.
Lots of people live in dirt-floored homes. Elections had folks voting for the
"white" or the "purple" ticket. They don't much watch TV, or CNN.
Yet there are a lot of plusses. I've never seen a society that shares like they do.
A household of twelve, and only one person working and paying for everything.
I'd travel really light, and just rent a taxi to go from town to town.
Ask the taxi driver to find you a place to stay, I've done that and stayed with families.
Do not wear nice jewelry or fancy clothes, you know that! There's almost no English spoken.
Re: Land travel:
Santo Domingo: you can see the oldest church and University in the Americas.
Originally Colon's (Columbus, for the gringos) land base, then his son's.
Get a driver and car, just as cheap or cheaper than renting a car, and you do
not want the legal complications were you to get involved in an accident there.
Just ask at the taxi stand at the airport. Take a few days here, lots to see.
For the modern development, drive east to La Romana and see the resorts such as
Casa de Campo, up to the restored Altos de Chabon tourist village.
A few more miles NE you get to the SW border of Samana nature preserve.
Get a boat here and cruise around, even go to Samana harbor: touristy,
overpriced, aimed at the powerboaters from PR. East to Punta Cana will give
you the rest of the tourist traps.
Now it gets interesting, north from SD, head up to Santiago,
the center of tobbacco and coffee production. This is an old city
still deeply connected to its past and although developed,
not at all corrupted by tourism, yet. For some recent history, see
the german yewish colony east of Puerto Plata. Trujillo granted asylum to a
boatload of refugees from Europe and they prospered there.
Now most of the tourists there are europeans and they resent the Americans,
perhaps remembering how the "ship of fools" was not allowed to disembarc.
Not to worry, you will be tolerated.
To find poverty and underdevelopment, drive west and then SW from SD,
to Barahona, nearer the Haitian border, very poor and mostly survival
farming and fishing villages. People are friendly and will give you the
shirt off their backs, literally. Great fishing and snorkelling.
From seaplane pilot in Dry Tortugas: El Portillo:
French heritage, wonderful food.
From "Insider's Guide to the Caribbean" by Jonathan Runge:
Puerto Plata very touristy. Sosua is nice. Cabarete is windsurfing capital.
San Pedro de Macoris is baseball capital.
From Jack Tyler on SSCA discussion boards:
[Re: anchorages on the south coast?]
Yes, the south coast is absent much discussion - everyone seems to use the T+C/DR/PR highway.
If you have a CD of SSCA Bulletins, search under WHOOSH and you'll find a write-up
we did for our run across the Central Caribbean, including a few spots along the S coast
of both the DR and Haiti. (If you don't have the CD, consider buying it. It's a great
resource, easily searched using Adobe Reader, and only $20 for 8 years of monthly
cruiser tips - quite a value).
I've recommended to others that they consider picking up an old copy of the
Caribbean Cruising Guide (or a title similar to that) by Wallace Stone.
In the less travelled parts of the Caribbean, we found its info not much
dated and very helpful. Also, the discussion about weather systems, currents and
such is well done and timeless.
If going a bit further, consider getting a copy of Lethbridge's Jamaica Cruising Guide.
It's also dated (last published in the late 80's, as I recall, reprinted in the mid-90's)
but again, not as much changes on that coast as other places. His sketch charts are excellent,
as was his pilotage and weather advice. Port Antonio and Ocho Rios have seen significant
changes, but the harbor and buoyage info is little changed.
After sailing along the DR's north coast, part of which was used for filming a
portion of Jurassic Park, we found the S coast very different. Low-lying in places
and with a very 'Caribbean' feel. I think they have not been as polluted by
North American cruisers, too. The officials are unaccustomed to seeing much yacht traffic,
were always formal but fair in our experiences, and in some cases far more curious
and therefore eager to have us stay rather than behaving overly rule-bound.
Plane flights out of DR to USA: can fly out of Puerto Plata, but also could
take a bus to Santo Domingo, stay overnight in a hotel, and
fly out of there the next morning. Prices RT to Philadelphia in mid-2005:
$450 from Santa Domingo, $720 from Puerto Plata (but I think flights to other airports didn't
differ as much). Someone mentioned cheap flights
out of Santiago on JetBlue.
From Scott and Minh on "Lynx" in Georgetown 5/2005:
- Skip all the anchorages along the north coast of the DR.
They really aren't all that pretty (except maybe for Los Haitises national park,
in Samana Bay opposite Samana town).
And as soon as you enter any cove or anchorage, someone will run out to demand money from you,
sometimes even coming right on board without asking. And there are lots of fishermen with flashlights
around you at night, which is a little disconcerting.
- On the north coast, Rio San Juan is a good anchorage for protection, but
most of the bottom is algae over coral. Van Sant's book has a waypoint for
just about the only spot of good holding in there.
- Conditions are rough off the north coast of DR. Some guides say it's rough
only for the first 5 miles near the coast, but really it's rough for the first 15 or more
miles out. [Van Sant says stay very close to coast at night during ESE wind, for lee effect.]
- Entering Luperon harbor: don't bother calling for a guide, just go right in (on a
proper tide). Entrance is marked, just stay between the shoals. Anchor expecting strongest
wind from the east.
- Clearing-in to the DR: don't need a crew list in Spanish. They'll want
you to fill out their own form anyway.
- More than anywhere else in the Caribbean, avoid contact with DR officials as much
as possible. They all have their hands out for money.
- In the DR, always get the price settled ahead of time (in restaurants, busses, stores, etc);
otherwise you may get a nasty surprise: they will charge what they think they
can get away with. Try to patronize only stores that post prices clearly,
and tell others that they should post prices.
- There is not much car-traffic in the DR, so the roads are relatively safe.
Rent (or buy, if staying for a while) a car or motorcycle.
Guagua's (mini-busses; pronounced "gwagwa")
are irritating in that they will wait for an hour or more until they are
totally full, before leaving.
Idea: if staying in Luperon for months during hurricane season, consider renting
a house up in the hills an hour or two away (probably need a car, too). Shouldn't be too expensive,
and will get you out of the worst of the heat.
From a boat I chatted with in Mayaguana 5/2005:
They got boarded in the middle of the night in Samana and robbed; they never
heard a thing. They suspect someone related to the officials who boarded them
earlier that day; some of them were eyeing their valuables then. They say
theft is rarely a problem in Luperon, but elsewhere, sleep with hatches locked.
They also said Puerto Rico is better than the DR; they loved Puerto Rico.
From "Breath": lock down or remove everything from deck; guys will come right on
board, grab something, and leave, without saying a word.
From "Reeds Almanac - Caribbean": Santo Domingo harbor is a commercial harbor;
boaters may be better off 18 miles to the east at Boca Chica / Andres.
From Gordon Endler: anchorage on SE side of DR: "very good shelter at Rio Chavon; it
is a very deep river in the bottom of a high valley running North South.
It is very safe place; they have paddle wheel boats running
up and down so not tight for room."
My experience in the DR during hurricane season 2005:
Callipygia's "Hurricane Preparedness" (with some specifics about Luperon).
From Roberto: the best way to learn Spanish is to get a Dominican girlfriend.
Heading E from DR to Puerto Rico:
See tips on luperoncruising.com
- This assumes some S in the wind; winter N component makes the anchorages unsafe.
Don't go unless there's been some S in the wind for a while; pure E is not enough.
- Check out of Luperon saying you're going to Puerto Rico. If weather
forces you into Samana, you might not have to get a new despacho from there.
- Start each segment in early evening.
Don't leave each anchorage each night until the wind has stopped completely.
(Unfortunately, this means navigating out of Luperon harbor in the dark.)
- 55 NM ESE from Luperon (W70.58) to Rio San Juan (W70.05).
Pass Puerto Plata after 10 PM (but that's only about 15 sea-miles from Luperon).
- 45 NM ESE from Rio San Juan to El Valle / Puerto Escondido (W69.20).
- 55 NM from El Valle / Puerto Escondido to Punta Macao (W68.31).
Arrive before sunup.
Skip Samana: the officials have been described as "criminals", any dinghy left floating
at night will be stolen, and going up the bay is a long detour from the main route.
Possible intermediate stop: Punta Cana / Miches (W68.59).
- 80-100 NM from Punta Macao to Mayaguez (W67.10).
Wait for forecast wind less than 15 knots.
Modified from "A Gentleman's Guide to Passages South", by Bruce Van Sant
(on Amazon - paid link):
- If sailing:
Leave after midnight from Punta Macao.
Hug the DR coast down to Cabo Engano.
Get off the DR coast before the strong winds start at 8 AM or so.
Sail NE across the Mona Passage during the day, staying north
to avoid the storms that come W from PR around sunset.
Sail NE until your next tack can clear the shoals extending off Cabo Engano to about W67.55.
Then head SE during the night into the lee of PR and into Mayaguez.
- If motoring or motor-sailing:
Leave in early evening from Punta Macao.
30 NM: Hug the DR coast down to Cabo Engano, around the cape, and down W68.17 line to Punta Cana.
Leave the DR coast and motor 30 NM SE to W coast of Mona Island,
arriving before the strong winds start at 8 AM or so.
(Emergency anchorages on DR: close on N side of Isla Saona; marina at Punta Cana.)
Spend the day in the anchorage on the west coast of Mona Island.
Leave in late evening from Mona Island, heading around S side to let
PR coastal storms pass to the N a bit.
Motor or motor-sail 50 NM ENE into the lee of PR and into Mayaguez.
- Check in to Puerto Rico in Mayaguez.
Expect to be boarded or at least looked-over by the USCG when crossing the Mona Passage.
Stopping at Mona Island makes this less likely (according to Bruce Van Sant).
See my Caribbean page
for more info about the Mona Passage.
What I ended up actually doing
- A stretch of very calm weather, E 5-10, presented itself. So I motor-sailed (mostly motoring).
- Left Luperon around 4 PM. Arrived El Valle / Puerto Escondido about 8 AM, but it was
terribly rolly since there was a little ENE in the wind (and it's not a good anchorage anyway).
So had to claw around the peninsula (horribly rough in the middle of the day)
to Samana, arriving about 6 PM at Cayo Leventado.
- Stayed about 36 hours in Samana, having to pay $11 port fees since I went into the harbor.
- Left Samana about 1 PM and motor-sailed overnight to Mayaguez, arriving about 4 PM.
A letter I sent to Caribbean Compass magazine
in 4/2007, in response to a Luperon article:
I spent the 2005 hurricane season in Luperon, and talked to people
from the 2006 season, so I don't claim to know everything about Luperon.
- A very protected harbor, best-protected in the NE Caribbean.
- A very beautiful country, with green mountains and lakes.
- Generally nice people.
- A very Spanish-intensive experience.
- Can't day-sail out of Luperon harbor and along the coast; the
officials won't let you. You're only allowed to check out and go
to another major port; no coastal cruising.
- The harbor is polluted, so no swimming. Probably shouldn't fish
or run a watermaker also.
- No cruising boatyards anywhere on the north coast. Maybe in
an emergency you could rent a crane for a large amount of money.
- Extremely hard to ship parts into the country; they get lost
or delayed for months or you have to take a 2-day trip to the
capital to ransom them out of Customs.
- No marine store in Luperon (there used to be one, but they
couldn't get parts into the country).
- Official fees are no longer cheap: for a singlehander in 2005,
it cost $240 for entry/exit and 4.5 months in harbor. Cruisers
are starting to vote with their feet: I've heard the number of
boats staying there is declining. The officials are nice these days,
but fees are high.
- Food and drink are no longer extremely cheap, as apparently they
were 5 or 10 years ago. Prices are moderate.
- Some theft, mostly of anchors: every season, someone comes through
the harbor and cuts rope rodes on second anchors to steal the rode and anchor.
- The transient cruisers are fine, but some of the permanently "stuck"
boaters have formed cliques and developed grudges with each other.
The bottom line: most people (myself included) come out of Luperon thinking of it
as an interesting once-in-a-lifetime visit, but are glad to get out.
From Frank Virgintino 6/2008:
Things have become more uniform since 2008 and Luperon is the worst offender of all of the harbors.
The fee for immigration is $15 US for 60 days, and $15 for every additional 60 days.
That is the case at this time.
In 2005 and even currently Luperon has been known to extort beyond the normal fees.
I am sure given the growth of the marine industry in the DR and the fact that the
current administration is supportive of cruising yachtsmen, that all harbors
either have or will come into conformity with listed charges.
I've heard of at least a couple of long-stay boats who "solved" the fee
problem by leaving without checking out (illegal). Saved a lot of money.
From Doug on "Exuma Grouper" 9/2008:
Re: Boats in Luperon for hurricane season 2008:
There are only about 40 boats with people on them. More just leave the boats and split.
The crowd is way different from before when you were here [2005 hurricane season].
There are a greater percentage of deadbeats and nutbars than anything we have seen
before so much so that I couldn't in all honesty recommend coming here to new boats.
There is a real clique atmosphere here too.
Oh well, I guess nowhere is perfect.
Last night Paula and I figured out that 12 boats have been boarded and items stolen ...
that we know about and that has nothing to do with thefts from dinghies either.
This is all in the past 15 months since we returned from Puerto Rico. Although we are
still high into hurricane season, several boats are planning on leaving here next week
as there is supposed to be a window for going east.
I wonder how many new boats will bother coming back again next year.
We just had an eye-opener in the harbor, the U.S. Homeland Security requested the
D. R. Commandante to make a list of all Americans, checking and noting their documents.
It seems they are tracking all of their citizens out of State. Another occurrence was
the Commandante has announced that no one is allowed to move their boat in the harbour
unless he is notified and there will be a fine of $100 if done.
Luperon is about almost a month behind us now.
We feel we escaped from a prison ... I can't believe how we saw the place degrade over the past four years.
In 11/2011, message on Sailnet says there is a new marina in Luperon and they have some kind of haul-out facility.
From Deana Jones on the Coconut Telegraph group on Facebook 9/2012:
There are many cruisers who spend hurricane season in the protected harbor
of Luperon in the Dominican Republic. There are also many ex-pats and cruisers
who swallowed the hook and now call Luperon home. We are one of the many cruisers
that love it here and have spent two hurricane seasons. We love the country and
feel that it is an inexpensive, well protected place to spend the summer.
For the most part the people are very friendly and helpful. Of course, there
is always the exception to the rule and the cruisers and other gringos here have
noticed an increase in theft over the last several years and are urging the
authorities to do something about it. I do not wish to discourage anyone from
coming here, but the cruisers feel that the only way to get the attention
of the authorities is to let them know that they need to take action to get more
security for the harbor and to put a stop to the robberies. The following open
letter was composed by those people so that we might get the attention of those authorities:
To Whom it may concern:
In the year 2007, there were approximately 200 boats in Luperon Harbour. People enjoyed
the safe environment and there was no need to lock their boats to go to shore to any of
the Marinas or for shopping etc. ... Currently, September 2012, there are only 30 live aboard
boats in the Harbour, ... Why ? because of the reoccurring robberies in the Harbour.
Between November 2009 and present date, September 2012, there have been 33 recorded robberies ...
33 Robberies over 35 months time. These are just the ones that were reported to us, several boats have left,
therefore we are not sure if there are more unrecorded.
Out of the 33 robberies, only 1 arrest has been made, only 1 item was returned to the owner,
even though photos of the thieves, during the robbery were given to the Authorities here
and they admitted they knew who the robbers were. When robberies are reported to local Authorities,
the victims are sent from local authoritative office to another, with no-one taking responsibility
or seeking justice. No follow-up is ever done, no arrests ever made, no stolen items ever returned
to the rightful owners. Most of the intruded vessels have now left Luperon, never to return.
Every boating community they enter after leaving Luperon, they report how unsafe Luperon Harbour is
and how the local Authorities do nothing to seek justice. They write on their cruising blogs,
report to newspapers, magazines publishers, travel agencies and announce on SSB Radio, to warn cruisers
to bypass the Dominican Republic all together.
Boaters in Luperon Harbour currently pay US$20 per month for Harbour Fees. There is no patrol boat,
no guards stopping locals from entering vessels, and no help for return of stolen items. Just where
does this monthly money go and to whom ?
Luperon Harbour is clearing out fast, and soon Luperon town will only have the local economy to survive on.
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