Although it can no longer be considered a ‘hidden’ treasure, Las Terrenas is just far enough off the beaten path to satisfy those in search of a real Caribbean adventure. Even with the construction of the new Atlantic Tourist Boulevard, the main airport and the capital of Santo Domingo, the only true city in the country, are still over 2 hours away. This is no longer the sleepy, electricity-less fishing village it was just 20 or 25 years ago, but fortunately, it has yet to grow into a bastion of mass tourism and all you can eat buffets.
Everyone who comes to visit wishes they could stay. The pristine beaches, laid back lifestyle, and in many cases, the illusion of romance with an attractive local, leave countless visitors scheming of ways to come back on a permanent basis, and many of them do… some of us just never left.
The large expatriate community wishing to make this place ‘home’ has brought their culture and customs and intermingled them with the local Dominican culture creating something entirely new and unique. In Las Terrenas you can lose yourself on a deserted beach surrounded by nothing but palm trees and your thoughts, or lose yourself in a crowded disco with thumping house music so loud you won’t be able to hear yourself think. Ride horseback through the rolling hills and countryside, or a Hummer to the casino. Eat fresh caught fish at a run down shack, or imported Sushi at a fancy restaurant. Walk through the Dominican part of town and wonder how people can manage making so little money then walk past the tremendous villas and wonder how some people manage to make so much money.
Local vegetable stands: American style supermarkets: one room school houses, internationally recognized French and Montessori schools: kids making up games with soda caps: others downloading apps onto their iPhones: French, Italian, German, American, Canadian, Hatian, Mexican, Cuban, Russian and about 20 other cultures all living and working together. Nature trails, waterfalls, concerts, Surf schools, Kitesurf, Diving, Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Karate, Ballet, Bellydance, Yoga, Pilates, Fencing. The list of things to do in Las Terrenas is endless… You can even learn to sail.
The Las Terrenas Sailing Club currently makes it home on one of the most beautiful and well known beaches in the area, Playa Las Ballenas, (ballena = whale), which derives its name from the rock formations that resemble humpback whales that can be seen from the beack looking out toward the horizon. The Las Terrenas Sailing Club was founded 7 years ago and has approximately 40 members. The sailing school offers lessons 4 times a week for kids ranging from 6 to 12 years old, as well as sailing camps during the Summer months. The club sponsors a community outreach program that welcomes kids from the village and teaches them to sail free of charge and is subsidized by the FDV (Dominican Sailing Federation) with additional funds coming from the Ministry of Tourism and the Olympic Committee.
The Sailing Club’s 3rd Annual Regatta, Regata Las Terrenas 2015 took place on May 2nd and 3rd. Throughout most of April and into early May of 2015, many parts of the Dominican Republic were mired in an unbearable heat wave with temperatures constantly hovering around their mid summer highs, despite it still being early Spring. A Saharan dust cloud also made its way from Africa bringing unusually strong breezes and dry air. This combination, called a ‘tormento seco’ (dry storm) by the locals, caused dangerous wildfires to spontaneously ignite around the countryside. As the sailors assembled at the start of the regatta, helicopters could be seen taking water from the oceans to dump on these out of control blazes.
The weather had no negative effects on the regatta and, if anything, the strong breezes made it a perfect weekend for the event. Teams from around the country: Perdenales, Barahona, Luperon, Cabarete, Boca Chica and La Romana joined the team from Las Terrenas to make this year’s regatta the most successful yet. 47 Lasers, Optimists and Sunfish, and Sailors of all ages spent 2 days cruising the crystalline waters of Playa Las Ballenas and enjoying barbecues, pizzas and homemade cookies. At the end of the second day trophies were given to the top 3 racers in each category.
Living up to his almost rock star like name and good looks, Johnny Zacharias was one of the big winners on the day, taking 1st place in the Sunfish category. This prize, combined with his 2nd place finish in Boca Chica and 1st place in the Las Salinas Regatta, qualified him for the World Youth Championship in Peru. Although he is the son of a German father and Dominican mother, Johnny was raised by a French woman and is equally comfortable speaking French and Spanish, making him the atypical typical Las Terrenas story. Would he consider himself German, French or Dominican? I didn’t get the chance to ask. But like many others who call this place home, I would consider him a first and foremost… a Terrenero.
– UYC Contributor Oscar Richard