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La Romana ranks as the Dominican Republic's youngest, smallest and most wealthy province. Located 114km (71 miles) E of Santo Domingo, 37km (23 miles) E of San Pedro de Macoris
 
On the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic, La Romana was once a sleepy sugar-cane town that specialized in cattle raising. Visitors didn't come near the place, but when Gulf + Western Inc. opened a luxurious tropical paradise resort, the Casa de Campo, about 1.5km (1 mile) east of town, La Romana soon began drawing the jet set. It's the finest resort in the Dominican Republic, and especially popular among golfers.
 
The Dominican Republic lies on the eastern side of Hispaniola, an island it shares with Haiti. The D.R., as it's known, stretches over two-thirds of the island and is about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. It also claims the West Indies' highest mountain peak -- rising some 10,415 feet from the Cibao Valley. Christopher Columbus founded the first permanent European settlement in the D.R. in 1493.
 
Just east of Casa de Campo is Altos de Chavón, a charming and whimsical copy of what might have been a fortified medieval village in Spain, southern France, or Italy. It's the country's leading sightseeing attraction.
 
The 7,000-acre resort village of Casa de Campo, which is like a town itself, is located in La Romana and features lots for cruise passengers to do and see. It's definitely the main draw during a day in port. Most of the more interesting options (particularly golf, tennis, skeet-shooting and horseback-riding) are available only through ship excursions, and a limited range of activities exist for independent-minded visitors. In addition, some cruise ships don't even call on this port until mid-afternoon or later, which limits outdoor activities.
 
With a couple of exceptions, passengers who want to venture out on their own are limited to exploring the area's nouvelle villages, such as The Marina (which is meant to replicate Portofino) and the more charming Altos de Chavon (which was designed to resemble an old Spanish town). Both have a handful of restaurants and shops, which are pricey and designed to appeal more to Europeans than to Americans.
 
Off the coast of La Romana lies Isla Catalina, which attracts divers and snorkelers, though there are no facilities. It is mainly uninhabited, so bring whatever you need, including fresh water. The tour desks of Casa de Campo or other hotels can arrange excursions, although nothing is organized into a central agency for bookings. Catalina lies only 3.5km (2 1/4 miles) south of La Romana but 18km (11 miles) west of Bayahibe.
Bayahibe is a relatively new tourist development that's a lot more famous and more heavily patronized with Italian, French, Spanish, and, to a lesser extent, British and Canadian groups than it has been, until now, with American clients. Launched onto the world's consciousness in the early 1990s, it didn't become "important" until around 2000. There's no village center, no monumental architecture, not even a permanent settlement here: only a sea-fronting road with some mega-hotels on the sea-fronting side, each facing a sandy beach.
 
The location of Bayahibe is 30km (19 miles) directly east of La Romana. Playa Bayahibe, its lovely sandy beach, is what put this emerging resort on the tourist map.
 
You might negotiate with a boat owner at the beach or ask at your hotel if the staff can arrange for a fisherman to the offshore island, Isla Saona, which has some good sandy beaches beset by sand flies and some fishermen's cottages.
 
The Dominican Republic has a reputation for crime. Always be aware of your surroundings, stay in groups, and don't venture to out-of-the-way places when not on an organized tour or with a reputable guide. As a general rule, leave all jewelry and valuables onboard in your cabin safe, and carry only as much cash as you think you'll need. We recommend a money belt to keep your cash and room key safe while you're ashore.
 
Also be sure to pack bug spray; you won't have much of a problem outdoors, but you might use some restroom facilities (particularly if you're headed to the beach) without air-conditioning, making them perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes -- and they're vicious.
 
Where You're Cruise Ships Dock
There is, technically, no "cruise terminal"; instead, ships dock at an informal facility -- one dock on either side of a small river that's between the sugar cane town of La Romana and the chi-chi resort village of Casa de Campo. There are no services (unless you count a Coke machine).

Casa de Campo is the main event, but you'll have to take a cab or shuttle bus to get there. There are really no facilities in the immediate vicinity of the dock.

Getting Around
By Shuttle: Major attractions -- in particular, Casa de Campo -- are not accessible on foot. Cruise lines often organize shuttle transportation from the ship to the resort; typically, shuttles take travelers on a 15-minute ride to either the Marina or Altos de Chavon sections. The shuttles run every 30 minutes.
 
By Taxi: Taxis line up at the dock. To travel the 6-kilometer distance to Casa de Campo, plan to negotiate cab fare before you get in; haggling is OK.
 
Renting a Car: Travelers must take a taxi or shuttle to Casa de Campo's main area, where there is a National Car Rental agency. However, we don't recommend this option unless you know where you're going. Traffic can be a headache, and all signs are in Spanish.
 
Things To See and Do
La Romana has become one of the main tourist destinations of the Caribbean Sea. There has been a lot of investment in the infrastructure for luxurious recreational areas for tourism over the last few decades. It has, for a long time, been the a major part of the economy of the southeastern part of the country, due to sugar production, an activity which benefits from the Chavon River, which lies nearby. Apart from the immense tourist complexes, you can also find gigantic plantations.
This beautiful port possesses a beauty that is hard to beat. Different shades of turquoise waters lapping against the fine sand of the beach with tons of attractions and activities are great for some spectacular vacations. When you visit La Romana, you can play a round of golf with this fantastic backdrop as a continual view. Delve into the deep blue ocean. Stroll through a Mediterranean villa. Window-shop in art galleries. Set sail and fish from a yacht. Attend a concert or get a bit of sun on some of the best beaches on the planet.

Caribbean Eden
Ever since the stories of creation in western tradition have been around, humans who have lived, trapped in cities, long to escape to Eden, nostalgically looking for the way back to paradise. Here, the elements come together to form a part of the sublime: lush examples of vibrant nature, wonderful climate and an incredible view. Here, under the spell of the Caribbean Sea, you'll be closer to that paradise on earth than you ever dreamed possible.

Chavon River
The Chavon River is a lovely waterway that runs past La Romana. This lovely area is a refuge overflowing with flora and fauna. It is, without a doubt, a recommendable sight to visit by boat or in kayak. Discover the rivers where Rambo swam and where the American army chased down the rebel Coronel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. This river has been the location of classic movies that Hollywood has made over the years.

Casa de Campo
To talk of La Romana is to talk of Casa de Campo, the cornerstone of tourism in the Dominican part of the Caribbean. Casa de Campo is a hotel and entertainment complex that covers over 30 square kilometers, making it one of the most luxurious and spacious of the area. The immense property has three golf courses, an enchanting port, a spa, a heliport, luxurious villas, private beaches and a polo field, among other activities to discover and enjoy.

Altos de Chavon
The Altos de Chavon is located high up in the mountains. From the summit, you can enjoy the magnificent panorama of the Chavon River and the Caribbean Sea. In the 70s, construction of this lovely village began, using limestone from the region. Its appearance is a tribute to the Mediterranean villages of old. In town, the visitor can stroll along the cobblestone streets and feel the vibe of the place, enjoying dinner or drinking in a bar. It is also an ideal location to find handicrafts and mementos. In Altos de Chavon, a stone, open air amphitheater was built, where concerts could be held. Local and international artists have performed here, like Frank Sinatra, who inaugurated the forum.
 
 This "village" was done replicating the 15th century colonial architectural style. Has many restaurants, a museum with Taino artifacts, breath-taking view of the Chavon River. This is a charming replica of the Italian village that was built by a man as a gift for his daughter. Also, artists ranging from Sinatra to Cocoband have performed at its large amphitheatre. Traveling to a place like La Romana should not be something of a gut wrencher. Depending on where youre staying will make your experience that much easier and more entertaining.
 
Staying at one of the larger resorts would gve you the benefit of already having everything you need, from food, to games, to activities. This does not include however other activities outside the resort. For those of you who are looking for places to stay, they have local hotels where the people are very friendly, and open to make friends. Compared to the resorts staying in local hotels is much cheaper. Yeah, hotels have food included and fun activities, but the prices are off the roof. Staying out local, gives you the opportunity of going grocery shopping at the street markets and the local supermarket.
 
Altos de Chavon: This cliff-top village, adjacent to Casa de Campo, serves as the resort's cultural hub. It overlooks the Chavon River and offers museums, lush foliage and stunning views. Although it was constructed in 1976, it's designed to look like an ancient Mediterranean village. Worth visiting are the Church of St. Stanislaus and the 5,000-seat Grecian amphitheater. (If you're overnighting in La Romana, you may want to check out the performance schedules.) Museums contained within Altos de Chavon include the Museum of Archeology (open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and Altos de Chavon Art Gallery (Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.). This is also the main area for shoppers, featuring a handful of boutiques and art galleries. One of the best for high-quality craft souvenirs is LaTienda which, inexplicably, doesn't accept credit cards. (There are no ATMs in the village. Consider yourself warned!)
 
Marina Casa de Campo
La Romana is a luxury destination that aspires to be one of the most acclaimed on the planet. A marina to fit the bill and fill the expectations of the town was also needed so this port was built, right where the Chavon River and the Caribbean Sea meet. It is located within the confines of the Casa de Campo complex and the design was made by the Italian architect Gianfranco Fini, who was inspired by European fishing towns of old that sat on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. This area takes up over 90,000 square meters and includes villas, residential apartments, cafes and restaurants, among other recreational areas.
It's built to remind one of Italy's Portofino. (Alas, it comes across as rather soulless.) The crescent-shaped plaza fronts a marina that's chock-full of quite extravagant yachts. Numerous sidewalk cafes and shops sell everything from luxury housewares to teeny-tiny bikinis.
 
Teeth of the Dog: Playing 18 holes on the Teeth of the Dog golf course is a must for any serious golfer; Pete Dye designed it, and it's ranked 43rd in the top 100 golf courses worldwide by Golf Magazine. Expect to pay somewhere around $200 for a day's outing, which includes clubs and transportation. (Daily tee times from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m.)

Cueva de las Maravillas (Wonder Cave): Take a taxi to this underground wonderland, located about 30 minutes outside La Romana. It's affordable to enter, and you'll get a tour with an English-speaking guide. You'll also get a bit of Taino Indian history along the way as you learn about their cave drawings and day-to-day living. (La Romana Road, San Pedro de Macoris; 809-390-8180; Tuesday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
 
Santo Domingo: Pay a visit to the Dominican Republic's capital city, about a 90-minute drive from La Romana and Casa de Campo. Check out the Zona Colonial (Colonial Zone), Christopher Columbus tomb and lighthouse, and the limestone cave of Los Tres Ojos (The Three Eyes). Some cruise lines offer city highlights tours, but you'll probably score a better deal with a private excursion. We did one with Prospero Guillermo Rodriguez, also known as "Chino" (call 809-518-1309 or 809-973-0272), and had a personalized tour of the highlights we wanted to see. It included transportation to and from, as well as recommendations for lunch and the best places to get reasonably priced souvenirs.
 
Other Casa de Campo Offerings: The resort's polo grounds host matches between international competitors November through March. You can also try your hand at activities like horseback-riding, skeet-shooting, golf and tennis.

Shore Excursions
Whether you book on your own or through your cruise line, here are our choices for the best shore excursions:
 
Best for Animal-Lovers: Try horseback-riding at Casa de Campo. Guests generally ride for about two hours.
 
Best for Beach Bums: Laze in the sun during a Bayahibe Beach break. This is one of the few non-Casa de Campo-related excursions, and it's near the town of La Romana. At the beach, you'll find snack shacks and water sports rentals for reasonable prices.
 
Best for History Buffs: If your cruise line offers it, take a Santo Domingo highlights tour. You'll see the ancient buildings of the Colonial Zone, as well as Christopher Columbus' tomb. This tour generally takes all day, as the roundtrip from La Romana is about 90 minutes each way. If your line doesn't offer it, you can make plans with a private guide, but keep in mind that the excursion will be lengthy, and if you don't get back to your ship in time, it won't wait for you.
 
Beaches
Bayahibe Beach: Bayahibe Beach, a 10-minute taxi ride from La Romana, is a public beach where you'll find water sports, restaurants and shops.
 
This beach is very close to La Romana and is one of the main tourist attractions of the area. It is a magnet for those who are looking for their very own Garden of Eden. There isn't a traveler, contemporary, colonial or pre-Hispanic, who has come through these lands that hasn't fallen in love with this beach. It is also one of the most visited places of the area so for those that feel the need for adventure. Race across the water or take part in one of the many activities that can be done on the sea.
 
Isla Saona (Saona Island): Accessible only by boat from Bayahibe Beach, this island is part of the Parque Nacional del Este or the East National Park. Located off the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic, Saona offers beautiful wildlife and pristine beaches that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
 
Boca Chica: Located in the town of Boca Chica, about a 60-minute drive from La Romana, this beach is great for swimming, grabbing a bite to eat and mingling with locals. There are food stalls, upscale restaurants and shaded tables for dining. Water sports equipment also is available for rent. Be careful with your valuables while you're swimming, however.
 
Juan Dolio: About 30 minutes' drive from La Romana, Juan Dolio is a simple beach that's great if you'd like a bit more peace and quiet than what Boca Chica has to offer. Within walking distance of Juan Dolio is Playa Guayacanes, which offers a similar ambience.
 
Eating Out
Authentic Dominican food is generally locally grown and produced. You'll find there's an emphasis on chicken and freshly caught fish, rice and beans, and fruits like coconuts and plantains. Many residents operate stands that offer homemade items like bread and empanadas. Drinks native to the area include fresh fruit juices, Dominican coffee and hot chocolate, Kola Real soda and -- for those looking for a bit of an alcoholic kick -- Mama Juana, Presidente beer and local rum. There also seems to be a surplus of Italian fare in the DR.
 
La Cacita: This little place, located in the town of La Romana (and not to be confused with La Casita, located inside Casa de Campo), offers friendly service by English-speaking waiters and delicious Italian fare, including caprese salad, chicken croquettes, fettuccine carbonara, angus skirt steak and several dessert options. (57 Calle Francisco Richiez; 809-556-5932; open Wednesday to Monday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
 
Lago Grill: Grab a bite here, at Teeth of the Dog golf course in Casa de Campo. This restaurant offers more casual fare that's great for those just coming in off the links. (Open noon to 3 p.m. daily.)
 
The Marina: This area of Casa de Campo offers the most selection, featuring Italian pizzerias, fish restaurants and coffee bars, all open throughout the day.

Shopping
An artisans market, El Artístico (tel. 809/556-2273), lies on the northern side of Carretera Romana, Km 3.5, at a point 1km (2/3 mile) east of Yina Bambu Shop. This is set up almost exclusively for tourists and offers a limited selection of arts and crafts. It mainly offers souvenirs, most of which are of dubious quality. The market is open daily 7:30am to 7pm.
 
For more substantial shopping, head to Yina Bambu Shop, Km 4.5, Carretera Romana (tel. 809/550-8322), open daily 7:30am to 7pm. Lying on the south side of the main road into town, this is the best showcase in the area for Dominican handicrafts and furnishings, even amber necklaces and bracelets. The merchandise dims when compared with what's available in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, but you may not be going there to shop.
 
If you're a true shopper, seeking some quality items, we suggest you head to Altos de Chavón.
 
Some of the terra-cotta pots and planters manufactured in this part of the D.R. are deeply respected and appreciated by homeowners and gardeners in places as far away as Florida. A purveyor of garden pots and statuary, set about 5km (3 miles) west of Higuëy, and about 60km (37 miles) west of Casa de Campo, is El Mundo del Tarro, Km 4.5, Higuëy, Otra Banda (tel. 809/383-1909). The raw clay for many of these pots is mined in Mocca, a town in the central D.R. made famous as the home of many generations of political dissidents (including some who participated in the assassination of dictator Trujillo). The clay from Mocca is hauled to workrooms here, near Higuëy; crafted into pots and statuary, glazed or not glazed, depending on the pot; and sold. Whereas the store can, after some negotiations, arrange for shipping, you'll probably find that it's a lot easier to simply carry the smaller of your purchases with you. The selection is enormous, and many of the forms were directly inspired by models from Iberia.






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