Christmas is my favourite holiday. And I’m a pretty big supporter of spending the holidays back home with family and not escaping to some Caribbean resort. But this year, I got to do both!
I had a whirlwind tour of Toronto that lead straight into a sleepless Christmas Eve and 4am airport arrival on Christmas Day for our flight down to Puerto Plata. 14 Lees, including 4 under 8 years old, boarded the plane to spend a week stuffing our faces, sunning our skin and enjoying one another’s company. It was busy, humid and blissful – all at the same time!
Highlights of our trip:
Pools, beaches & endless drinks: Everyday was some lovely combination of wading in the Atlantic Ocean, playing in the sand, swimming in the pools and complimenting all of that water time with delicious strawberry daquiris (poco rum por favor!). I especially loved watching Lee and Nathaniel dig huge holes on the beach (for hours!), doing hilarious aqua aerobics with my dad (who was the only male in the class), and catching our resident Water Baby, Lara, as she flung herself tirelessly back and forth in the pools.
All that food! Suffice to say, we ate A LOT in the DR. I honestly don’t remember feeling hungry at any point during our trip. Some of the food was better than others; some was a lot better. My favourite meal was our night at the a la carte seafood restaurant where I was ready to marry my salmon entree. A few other dishes, like the warm bread pudding, chicken parm at the Italian restaurant, or the daily omelette station at breakfast were close competitors, but the salmon won out. However, the insane feast they put out for New Year’s Eve (complete with ice sculptures, a sushi station and multiple roast pigs) was probably the most impressive to witness.
Nightly shows: Every night our resort put on a show. And most nights it wasn’t that spectacular. The magic show was creepy, the African show was a little culturally-insensitive and we never did make it to the tropical show. But Michael Jackson Night was, surprisingly, stellar! We were blown away by the MJ look-a-like, the amazingly talented dancers and the perfect compilation of Michael hits. We were that family clapping and singing along in the back row. We’re sorry.
Dune buggies! While I opted out of the waterfall outing (it involved hiking and leaping – no thank you), I was pretty stoked for dune buggies. Our family of five headed out to drive over bumps and through puddles on a course that took us into a forest, village, field and beach! It was crazy messy and a huge adrenaline rush to be going so fast. I even put my fears aside and took the wheel for a stretch of it. The whole morning was a ton of fun and I would definitely recommend it. However, don’t wear flip flops to drive – big mistake.
A ride up the cable car: We headed off the resort one day and up the cable car (of which mountain, I couldn’t even say) to get a great aerial view of Puerto Plata. The views were awesome and the cool trails at the top made for a very scenic mini-hike. After the mountain, a few of us headed into the city centre for lunch, a walk and a visit to the Amber Museum. Lunch was a bit of a gong show, but all in all the day was enjoyable. It was nice to spend some time away from our resort and to practice my Espanol!
Ocean World: Another off-resort activity took us to Ocean World, where we snorkelled in a pool with fish, took in sea lion, dolphin and shark shows, played with birds and hung out on the beach. Sure, it was a bit overpriced and definitely catering to tourists, but that didn’t stop us from being in awe of the amazing animals. Jade even has plans to get a degree in marine biology and return to work as a trainer!
Awesome family moments: The best part about our trip was spending so much time with this side of my family. Jadey and I roomed together, and got to bond over hilariously loud shower songs, early morning wake-ups and helpful sunscreen applications. Dad worked hard at improving his (very limited) Spanish during our week in the DR and it was really fun to help him out with that. Staying up late and drinking with our uncles will always be a fun time that Jade and I won’t forget. And bringing out the girly side of our adorable cousin Lara by painting her nails and singing Frozen songs at the top of our lungs is easily one of my favourite memories.
From getting all dressed up for nightly dinners and dancing at the New Year’s Eve party to walks along the beach at night and a luxurious visit to the spa, this trip was certainly awesome and unforgettable.