Arrival: December 30, 2008 – January 8, 2009 Our arrival was not particularly exciting to report. We failed to take exact directions with us, so the taxi driver had to ask three people in the village how to get to the hotel before we found it. (BTW, taxi was $35 to the hotel and $20 back to the airport). A Dominican woman came to the locked gate and let us in. Martina and Werner (the owners, whom I had conversed with via email to make the reservation) were nowhere to be found. Rudimentary knowledge of Spanish and/or a dictionary are necessary to get by here, because the staff, very friendly though they are, speak little to no English.
We stayed in a 1-bedroom apartment with two beds and a kitchen. It was spacious, clean, and well-constructed. The bathroom had a small shower in the corner with a curtain around it (no tub). The hot (more like warm) water did not last, often resulting in lukewarm showers (not that this was entirely a bad thing). The very low water pressure was a little frustrating. The mattress on the bed had very little padding on top of the springs, which I found uncomfortable – but this did not seem to bother either my son or husband. YMMV. The kitchen had a reasonably-sized fridge, a two-plate hotplate, coffee maker, and basic dishes. There was no air conditioning in the apartment (some rooms have it), but there was a ceiling fan in the bedroom, and we did fine without AC while we were there. The woman who took care of our room was very friendly and did a great job. One of the residents of Bayahibe directly behind our bedroom had a rooster in a cage – which provided a wakeup call every morning. Luckily the outer blinds of our windows closed very well, and we managed to sleep through the earliest crowing on most days. 😉
Restaurants and Bars:
We ate at the following restaurants: Mare Nostrum, Restaurante La Bahia, La Punta, Cafecito de Cubano, Pizzaria Marina, Bamboo Beach Bar & Grill, and Cafe Restaurante Leidy. Most, with the obvious exception of the pizza place, served multiple seafood dishes and a few pasta dishes. The Cafecito de Cubano also had sandwiches. If you are vegetarian, you will be limited mainly to spaghetti with tomato sauce (or pesto at Mare Nostrum), simple cheese & veggie sandwiches, basic salad (if you’re lucky), and a few sides. Oh, the Leidy restaurant and Bamboo Grill also have crepes (the latter actually being run by French). My husband’s favorite was La Punta, where they served whole fish that were quite tasty; I liked Bamboo Grill and La Bahia. None of them were bad though. We also went several times to a juice bar called La Jungla and once to the ice cream place next door to it. We didn’t visit any bars.
The main beach in Bayahibe is a moderate walk from the hotel – probably around 10 minutes. We went there once a day on several of the days. To my knowledge (though I could be mistaken), there is no public bathroom near there. Towards the far end of the beach is the start of a resort, but there’s plenty of public space available. There are several trees to lie under. Woven beach chairs are available for $6 in USD. The same vendor also sells seafood, fries and drinks. There are a few booths directly behind the beach selling the usual stuff (art, jewelry, hats, etc) but they do not come down to the beach. You will, however, encounter a few pushy vendors on your walk between the hotel and beach, especially during the hours when most of the tourists come through on buses for side trips or boat excursions. The Bayahibe beach itself is fine – no real complaints there. If you enter the water away from the main crowd, there is a small dropoff a few feet into the water – not the best for really small children. If that’s the case for you, stick to the main area. We had a nearly-4-year-old with us, and he was fine, with supervision.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel::
We went on two tours. The first was the "Safari" trip organized at the hotel. We were able to grab Martina on one of her fleeting visits and ask her to set it up. The truck picked us up early at the hotel. From there, we visited a sugar plantation, a tobacco farm, a market in Higuey, a ranch outside Higuey (where we had lunch and went on a short horse ride), the River Chavon (where we went canoeing) and a mountain farm that grew a variety of things (cacao, cinnamon, etc). It was a fun and interesting day. The second excursion was the Saona Island VIP trip by Casa Daniel. (The company with the hotel – NOT Scuba Fun, BTW – also offered a trip like this, but we decided to try a different company for variety). It stopped for snorkeling in a sandbar with large starfish, drove through the mangroves and past some caves, stopped for lunch and a couple of hours worth of swimming/snorkeling at a nice beach on Saona, briefly stopped at Mano Juan, and then gave us another chance at snorkeling a short distance from the Bayahibe beach (where we saw lots of fish). It really was a great finish to our vacation. There were guides available for both tours translating into English, German & Italian; the first tour also had a Haitian tour guide speaking French.
One big complaint about the hotel: do not depend on being able to get on the Internet there. When they say "Wifi area", they just mean that some other hotel in the vicinity has Wifi, and there are signals there. However, I was unable to get online with either my netbook or my husband’s laptop. The local Internet cafe was closed while we visited, but I think its owners were just on vacation. Werner (one of the hotel owners) tried to explain to me how I could get a card somewhere that would allow me to get online, but I was unclear where or how to get it. Another detail: Martina and Werner are often not on-site. They are building something (and maybe even living?) in Dominicus and are often busy there. If you speak fluent Spanish, you will probably do much better than we did, both finding information from the staff as well as contacting the owners if needed. We felt like we were on our own a lot of the time, moreso than in most hotels. The office closes at 5:00 or so. Oh, they also offer breakfast for 180 pesos each; we had it on one of the mornings we were there. It includes one hard boiled egg, white rolls and toast with butter, coffee, a juice drink, and some cheese/cold cuts. We weren’t that excited about it and opted for eggs and cereal (albeit limited) in our room for the rest of the trip. We can’t report on breakfast at any of the restaurants, as we were trying not to eat out all day. The restaurants there are not as inexpensive as one might guess or hope. 😉