My family and I started going to Cabrera, a quiet surfing area in the Dominican Republic, when our friends took us there four years ago—right before my second daughter, Gigi, was born. And we’ve been back 10 times since! Cabrera has always felt like our own secret spot, and part of me wants it to stay that way—even now, I’m not sure why I’m writing about it! On the other hand, it’s one of those places that’s so uncommonly special, you want other people to enjoy it too.
Located in the northern part of the country, Cabrera is a paradise—but you have to appreciate that it’s not swanky St. Barths. It’s a more rustic, wild kind of paradise, and for my family (my hsuband Bill, and my daughters Kit, 13, and Gigi, 6), that’s exactly the appeal. In New York City, we have a polished urban lifestyle, so a real getaway for us means something totally different.
Generally we spend just four days on the island, Thursday through Sunday, but those days are action-packed—as in dawn-to-dusk action-packed. As nice as Cabrera’s Hotel La Catalina is (and it’s a bargain too, by the way, around $100 bucks a night), we don’t spend much time there. Maybe we’ll take a dip in the pool or walk around their lovely gardens, but hanging out at a hotel all day feels too quiet, too normal for us. We’ve never been the relax-by-the-pool type of family anyway. Instead, we explore. On a trypical trip, after arriving in the early evening on the four-hour flight from New York, we drop off our stuff at the hotel and head right to Playa Diamante. There, the girls and I cover ourselves head-to-toe in the claylike volcanic sand, which I swear has special beautifying minerals. (Bill thinks the whole thing is ridiculous.) Then we wade out into the shallow water to rinse off before heading to our favorite roadside stand for pineapple yogurt.
Since Bill and I are avid surfers, we tend to spend at least one afternoon at Playa Grande, known for its waves. The water is usually too rough for the kids, so he and I take turns on the shore with Kit and Gigi doing cartwheels, human pyramids, swinging someone around in a towel, and digging holes. Beyond that, the activities vary. We’ve visited a freshwater lake known as Lake Dudu (you can imagine the joke mileage the kids get out of that name), where we rope-swing out and splash into the water, Tarzan style. We’ve hiked through a jungle, following a guide who hacks through it with a machete, to reach a fairy-tale cave with stalagmites inside and a banyan tree growing atop it. And on our most recent trip, we ended up at a restaurant called Babunuco, which an eccentric artist runs out of his house. You eat whatever he’s cooking that day, and sit among the strange, beautiful objects he’s made—a whale-vertebrae stool, a bar made out of a surfboard. The restaurant is raw and magical—just like Cabrera itself. Lately we’ve started inviting friends and other families along, and everyone falls in love with the place. In fact, one friend who came with us last year loved it so much, she still hasn’t left.
Photos: Matthew Hranek