One of the most fun days we had while in the Dominican Republic was definitely the day we went to explore Playa Salinas and the Dunes of Baní or Dunas de Calderas as it is also known.
The navigation system we rented with the car said it would be a 1.5 hours drive from Santo Domingo but taking the traffic into consideration and the fact that we got lost at least twice, regardless of our “trusted” navigation system, it ended up taking us more like 2.5 hours to finally find the dunes.
Behold! A working Salt Mine
My brother, coming from Belgium was a bit pale and the poor thing has not seen a Caribbean beach for some time so we decided to first head to Playa Salinas, which according to my “Maps Here” app was close by.
This beach was supposed to be at a tip of a very tiny peninsula in the area of the town of Baní, one that is barely visible on the map of the Dominican Republic. According to Google images this beach was absolutely gorgeous, with tall palm trees and beautiful calm waters.
We were pleasantly surprised on the way to the beach to see a working salt mine. I’ve seen quite some salt mines in my life. Growing up in Curaçao and visiting the island of Bonaire numerous times as a kid, salt mines were a big part of my youth. The lesser Antilles islands were used mostly for the salt back in the day and it seemed that the Dominican Republic was no different. But this salt mine was special. One: it was still active and Two: it was just breathtaking.
So we stopped to admire it and ended up spending an hour or so walking around taking pictures and videos.
Playa Salinas. Are you sure this is it?
It was around noon by the time we finally reached Playa Salinas next to the salt mines. I quickly realized that the internet cannot always be trusted. We drove onto a property with several old food shacks and a large building in the middle. It all looked abandoned although there was music playing. It looked and felt more like ghost town than anything else, a not very clean ghost town for that matter. But swim we must. By now we were tired of being in the car and we were bathed in sweat (my brother insists on driving with no a/c). We parked the car and walked to the beach. The palm trees and the calm water were definitely there as promised by the images we found on google but a beautiful beach Playa Salinas is not.
Maybe I’m spoiled, living on an island with world class sandy beaches, although I don’t think that was the problem.What was off-putting was again all the trash left behind on the beach and trash containers that were not emptied for a while. At least we had the entire beach all to ourselves and the water did look inviting and super clear. Thank God. If it was’t I wouldn’t have noticed the dozen or so black sea urchins in the water or the broken bottle of beer I almost stepped on.
I strive to be a very positive person and although Playa Salinas was not exactly what we thought it would be, we tried to make the best of it by sitting on the edge of the water, away from the sea urchins and with the trash in the back of us. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. For half an hour or so we enjoyed each other’s company, the refreshing water and the view of the hills in the distance.
Las Dunas de Baní
Las Dunas de Baní were next. This was the part I was most interested in. I see beaches everyday but sand dunes, not really. My inner explorer girl jumped with glee once we parked at the entrance to the dunes. After leaving our mother in the capable hands of the dunes attendant and a soldier from the nearby military area and paying 100 pesos each, which is the equivalent to about US$2 we started our trek to the top to see the magnificent beach below, as was promised by again Google.
Ok, so here is what you need to know before exploring these dunes: Don’t ever go around midday in August, the hottest month of the year and please do yourself a favor and wear proper shoes. I thought I did by wearing my best sports shoes, the same ones that helped me hike up to waterfalls and natural pools, and explore urban cities. I was prepared, head to toe and totally looked the part. Meanwhile, my brother and his friend are walking these dunes in their Birkenstock sandals and All Stars like it was nothing and my trusted sports shoes were melting, leaving behind pieces of themselves in the hot sand. I ended up hiking the dunes for the most part in my socks and HOTDAMN that sand was scalding.
When we finally reached the top of the dunes my heart just sank to the bottom of my socks. Where was the beach promised by Google and TripAdvisor and countless blogs? All I could see was the ocean in the far distance, scattered salt pans and bush. I was so emerged in my disappointment that I didn’t hear my brother saying: “We have the wrong dune. We need to go to that one”. I follow his skinny finger and he is pointing at a dune all the way in the distance. Please God, no more. But my need for a good blog post gave me the kick in the behind I needed, and I dragged my by now, sweaty ass on my filthy socks down this dune and up the next.
The view was worth it. It was beautiful and I shed a tear or two of sheer happiness at having reached the top and this view. My tears of happiness quickly turned into tears of frustration when I realized I had to make the trek back to the car. I panted, I pleaded for rain, I thought of giving up once or twice and I wondered at least once f I could camp out there till morning but I finally made it back to the entrance to the dunes.
In hindsight we should have gone to the dunes first and then to Playa Salinas to cool off.
All in all, it was a fun and adventurous day. We got to explore this not so well known part of the Dominican Republic as a family, and that alone was worth all the blisters in all the world.
Remember to always Live, Laugh and Travel.
Riselle a.k.a. The Traveling Island Girl
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