Friday, February 19, 2016

Dispelling the Myths of Luperon….

After a beautiful night sail with 15 kts on a broad reach from Big Sand Cay (south of Grand turk), the winds died down at daybreak, just as the mountains of the Dominican Republic arose from the sea.  It was an incredibly dramatic landfall, and a sight for sore eyes after spending so many months on the flatter islands of the Bahamas and Turks.  We could smell the fertile soil of the island long before we could see it, and the sight of mountains amidst the vast ocean was something I've always dreamed of seeing in real life.  What explorers must've felt like after months at sea, I cannot imagine…

Upon entering the harbor, we were greeted by a local named Papo in his penga and guided through the "channel."  Apparently 2/3rds of first time visitors will run aground if they are not guided in.  The channel markers are NOT in their correct places and both sets of our charts are lacking any sort of information regarding depths in the harbor itself.  There are a few shoals and low areas to watch out for.  Initially we had planned to anchor, but after realizing how crowded the anchorage was and not really knowing the depths, we opted to take a mooring ball from Papo for $2 a day.  I'm glad we did as we have several boaters drag since (including our buddy boat Sailboat Furminger). Papo, as it turns out, is the local go-to guy for any of your needs, from propane, to fuel, laundry, and water all delivered to your boat at a very reasonable price.  He even helped us rent motorcycles for $10/day.  

Ok, so let's discuss the topic of Luperon as a cruisers' stop.   We have read and heard many horror stories regarding Luperon.  From a filthy harbor, to the rampant theft and crime, corruption amongst government officials, lack of services, and nothing to do… we were a bit apprehensive to say the least.  I'd just like to clear the air and dispel some of the horribly inaccurate rumors.  First, yes, it is a filthy harbor, you are not going to be able to swim off your boat nor use your water makers.  Yes, there is some corruption amongst government officials, but let's be realistic, we are dealing with a third world country here and the money we are talking about is quite nominal (I suspect we overpaid "official fees" about $30.  There was no greasing of palms or requests for tips, but they certainly were creative with the "fees").  All said and done, the total price is still half the price of clearing into the Bahamas or the Turks.   But with that being said, I would never EVER dissuade someone from coming here.  This place is a diamond in the rough and from what we've heard from local Ex-Pats, the closest you will find to what the rest of the Caribbean was like 30 years ago.  The anchorage itself is incredibly sheltered, but it's hard to get enough scope out for proper holding (the bottom is a soft jelly-like mud, and bruce as well as new generation anchors supposedly offer the best holding).  Even as I write this, it is blowing a steady 20 knots and the boat is not is rocking.  

Luperon has been hands down, by far, our favorite stop in terms of beauty and culture.  For the first time since we've started back in March, we feel like we are finally cruising.  It epitomizes what we had first imagined cruising the Caribbean would be like before we had set out.  It's a small, little fishing village off the beaten track, far enough from the touristy areas of which the Dominican Republic has many of to retain a lot of its true culture.  Goats, cows, and chickens roam free among the streets along with packs of stray dogs.  Fruit grows everywhere, from mangos, to papayas, to guavas, and you can smell the lush trees everywhere you go.  The people here, though extremely poor, are exceptionally friendly offering warm smiles and greetings.  Yes, there is petty crime here as with anywhere in the world, and you should take precautions and stay situationally aware to minimize your risks.  But really I don't feel threatened here.  The people are always trying to engage you in conversation, and we've even been invited to someone's home for lunch.  We've roamed the streets at night, snapping photos of the locals just hanging out outdoors, and socializing with one another.  We've sampled some of the local street fare, from tiny shacks to gringo owned restaurants and not once have we felt unwelcome.  Yes, we felt out of place at times, but that is simply a part of traveling.  So far, we've been here for over a week, and we are loving every single moment… Stay tuned for more about our adventures in Luperon...

Papo guiding us in...
Our anchorage...
Guanabana growing on the side of the road.


  1. Hi Yu, So if I've understood correctly, you are now in Luperon, Dominican Republic, hear Puerto Plata? If so, you are close to the only place we have ever been in the Caribbean - in 2007 we spent a week in a resort in the town of Sosua a bit east of you. How cool to actually know the area you are visiting! We were also struck by the differences between the fairly well off "resort"areas and the poverty of the rural areas when we went on an offroad tour through the countryside (after a stop at the local rum factory, lol) Be safe on those motorcycles, the drivers there are CRAZY! Cheers, Phil

    1. Hi Phil,

      Yes, we are near Puerto Plata! We love it here so much, and from the looks of the weather, we will probably be here for at least another week before we head to Samana. We were here in DR about 10 years ago at an all inclusive resort, and man what a difference it is compared to the small fishing town we are experiencing! Yes, the drivers here are crazy, and we had an interesting/ adrenaline filled day riding through the countryside.

  2. Did you by any chance run into or hear of Bruce Van Sant, author of Passages South. His books were an inspiration for me and I seem to recall he retired to Luperton but I haven't heard about him for some time.

    1. Hi David, Yes, we have heard of Bruce Van Sant, and in fact have one of his books, but no, unfortunately we have not ran into him. Luperon is full of retired ex-pats, and the vibe is so laid back. If you're ever in the area, you should definitely make it a point to visit this small town. I'm absolutely smitten with it.