Saturday, January 26, 2013

Travel: Caribbean Escapes (That are Still Affordable)

Caribbean Escapes (That are Still Affordable)
By Suzan Haskins

The tops of the palms wave cheerily in the breeze like giant green feather dusters against a soft blue, cloudless sky. I’m bobbing contentedly in the warm turquoise waters looking back at the beach, its silky white sands speckled with tiny seashells.
Despite it being mid-summer I’m the only one swimming in this small cove...the only one enjoying this flawless slice of beach this morning.
I’m near the town of Bayahibe on the south-eastern coast of the Dominican Republic, at a stretch of beach known as Dominicus.
This is in the province of La Romana—a popular tourism destination. I’ve learned, though, that there are the tourist resort areas of La Romana and then there are places like this—that buzz with activity on weekends and holidays when the locals come to play, yet are nearly deserted mid-week.
A small fishing village of brightly-painted, Caribbean-style wooden buildings, Bayahibe itself is laidback, with the rustic charm of nearby Saona Island and the Dominican Republic’s best scuba-diving sites, located just offshore.
Prices on the island, and even on this popular southern coast, are quite affordable.
On this trip, I had a chance to look at the popular beachside community of Juan Dolio, 45 minutes west of La Romana and about two hours from Santo Domingo. This proximity makes it a well-established weekend getaway for those looking to escape the big-city stress and spend some downtime on the beach. It’s also a quick-and-easy hop from the States. Santo Domingo is little more than a three-hour flight from New York and a two-hour flight from Miami.
In a three-tower project right on the beach, for example, a 1,345-square-foot, ground-floor two-bedroom/two-bathroom condo is selling for $230,000. This condo has tile floors and granite countertops, and a large terrace perfect for dining. There’s also a superb view of the beach and ocean. The beach here is wide and sandy, lined by swaying palms, and condo amenities include a swimming pool and on-site restaurant.
A free golf membership to a country club is part of the deal, and all the amenities you need are close by, including restaurants and small grocery stores, an international school, and a medical clinic with English-speaking doctors.
A bit farther east, in another high-rise project, a 1,560-square-foot, two-bedroom/two-bathroom apartment on the fourth floor is selling for $278,000. There are gorgeous ocean views from the master bedroom, and the guestroom has an ocean-view balcony to capture a cooling sea breeze.
All the properties I saw are in the newer part of Juan Dolio, traveling east along the beach from the more established section of town. This newer area is where a brand-new film studio is being built, along with one of the biggest shopping malls in the Caribbean.
Later that night, after viewing these properties, I sat on the balcony of my hotel room, sipping Dominican rum and watching the soft Caribbean moonlight play across water and the fine white sands. Another perfect moment...
I tell you more about this part of the island, and give full details on all the properties mentioned, in the current issue of International Living magazine.
Editor’s note: Things have changed in the U.S. in the last 30 or 40 years—for the better...and for the worse.
Many of us remember when we could walk freely at night...recall doctors making house calls...and can think back to when an average industrial wage was enough to take care of the whole family.

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