10 Things To Do in Cabarete When There Isn’t Wind to Kitesurf

Cabarete Dominican Republic Beach Bars and nightlife

Cabarete—a small, oceanfront town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic—is the type of place where it’s dangerously possible to accidentally get stuck. Not in the sand, not in the mud, but in the actual town itself.

Why, it seems, would you ever leave a town where you can surf all morning, kitesurf all afternoon, and then decompress beneath the shade of a palm with a $2 Presidente beer? Maybe eat some fried plantains, catch up on a good book, and then standup paddle as the sun goes down before hitting the oceanfront beach bars.  For people like myself who love watersports and beach scenes, it’s little wonder why Cabarete has been voted as one of the coolest beach towns in the Caribbean.

Despite all of its charms, however, Cabarete above everything else is known for its world-famous kitesurfing. Here, in this warm-water paradise of white sand, clear waters, and perfectly sideshore winds, most years have close to 300 days where there is strong enough wind to kitesurf. In fact, the conditions are so prime for kitesurfing in Cabarete, that Discovery has ranked it as one of the 10 best kitesurfing places in the world.

Kitesurfing Cabarete

For those of you doing the math at home, however, even though there can be 300 days where there is enough wind to kitesurf, it also means that there are 65 days where there is basically no wind at all. In theory, you could travel all the way around the world, fly for 14 hours, arrive in Cabarete frothing at the mouth for kitesurfing, and then spend the next 4 days staring at a windsock which hangs limply in the afternoon sun.

I know, because it happened to me. In fact, the whole reason I traveled to Cabarete was for the chance of learning to kitesurf. Lessons were arranged with Laurel Eastman Kiteboarding School, I took some lessons at home in Maui, and I journeyed 7,000 miles just for the chance to finally get up and ride. On the afternoon we arrived it was 5pm, and there were people kiting as you can see from the photo above. The next day, however, would be the start of a four-day stretch where the wind simply failed to blow.

Luckily, there are far more things to do in Cabarete than strap into a harness and kitesurf. If you, too, end up becalmed in Cabarete, here is a list of ten things to do in Cabarete when there isn’t wind to kite surf.

1. Go Surfing

Surf Encuentro Dominican Republic

 Photo Credit: Heather Ellison Photography

Even though there are waves directly in front of town (on the outer reefs), one of the most well-known surf breaks in the Caribbean is only a five-minute motorbike ride down the coast. At Encuentro, rows of surf schools and oceanfront beach bars occupy a shoreline with consistently pumping waves. Far less tony than the beach bars in Cabarete, Encuentro is closer to a frat-row of surf bros who are living the surf town dream.

A tropical canopy provides shade from the sun, and plastic-chair beach bars and small thatched huts double as surf schools and hangouts. For visiting surfers, schools such as Pau Hana Surfing offer everything from soft top longboards to fiberglass shortboards. One of the great things about Encuentro is that on most days, beginning surfers can catch the whitewash on the inside section, while advanced surfers can choose from multiple A-frame peaks. Granted, on most days of the year it’s blown-out by the afternoon, but the glassy conditions continue unabated on days when the wind doesn’t blow.

To reach Encuentro, simply pay a motoconcho driver about 150 Dominican pesos ($4 US) and he’ll drive you down the bumpy dirt road.

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2. Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving at Sosua

 Sosua Beach Dominican Republic

Photo Credit: Heather Ellison Photography

Sosua is the nearest major town to Cabarete, and it’s approximately 15 minutes away by motoconcho. During World War II, the town famously accepted close to 100,000 Jewish refugees who were fleeing from Germany and Austria, and a handful of German stores and cafes can still be seen today.

Unlike Cabarete which is exposed to the wind, Sosua has a sheltered, protected bay where the calm waters are perfect for snorkeling. You can either rent snorkel gear and swim directly from the beach, or, for those who would prefer to dive, companies such as Northern Coast Diving can take you to nearby reefs. While the snorkeling and diving are the biggest draws, you can also spend time at the numerous beach bars which exude a vibe a bit more “local” than Cabarete.

Yes, you’ll be haggled to buy something, and yes, you’ll be encouraged to rent a cabana, but you’ll also have the chance to see Dominicans playing chess while they sip on sugary black coffee. You’ll see local families enjoying a day at the beach, or watch a man with a bowl of fruit on his head haggle over prices for his selection of mangoes. Between the colorful reefs offshore and the colorful characters onshore, Sosua is a great day trip from neighboring Cabarete on days when the wind fails to blow.

3. Jump off of waterfalls at Damajagua


Although it’s a pretty far day trip from Cabarete (60-90 minutes), the pools and waterfalls at Damajagua are a great way to experience the Dominican jungle. Also known as the 27 Charcos, this series of waterfalls and refreshing pools can only be experienced with a local guide. Prices fluctuate with how far you hike, and the price for the best (and most expensive) tour is $500 pesos ($12 US) to visit the top waterfall.

For those who choose to begin at the top (highly recommended), the experience begins with a jungle trek that winds its way through the forest. For 40 minutes you’ll walk across bridges that sway above the river, and scramble up paths of finely-packed dirt. Along the way, various fruits such avocado and breadfruit poke through a canopy which is a dozen shades of green. You’ll also be accompanied by a guide who may, (or may not), offer engaging conversation. Once at the top, you’ll spend the next hour splashing through the river as you slide, jump, and swim your way down through the waters of the Rio Damajagua.

Here’s the catch with Damajagua, however. If you visit as part of a prepaid tour, you’ll only have the chance to visit as high as the 7th or 12th waterfall (inquire with your tour operator). The only way to visit all 27 waterfalls is to arrange your own transportation. The problem, of course, is that private transportation from Cabarete can be expensive. A taxi will cost about $100 US, or renting a car and driving yourself is about $35 US. Regardless of how you get there, be sure to visit towards the beginning of the day so that you beat the majority of the crowds.

4. Grab Some Drinks at a Beach Bar

Cabarete Domincan Republic Nightlife

Photo Credit: Heather Ellison Photography

If the wind doesn’t blow and your afternoon is free, well it’s never too early to simply start drinking. Luckily, Cabarete has a string of beach bars set right beneath the palms where it’s all too easy to kick back with a cocktail and start the gradual descent into tomorrow.

While choosing a bar in town can be tough, I recommend Mojito Bar for their affordable combination of sandwiches and cocktails. The location is prime, the vibe is strong, and the tax is already included in the menu price, which is something rare for this stretch of beach.

 

5. Go Mountain Biking

mountain biking

Photo Credit: tonylanciabeta on Flickr

Even though Cabarete is definitely a beach town, the mountains of El Choco National Park are only a short drive away. This protected area covers 48 sq. miles of jungle and pastureland, and it’s also criss-crossed by mountain biking trails which range from easy to technical.  Local tour operator Iguana Mama offers multiple mountain biking excursion within the park, or, if you’d rather explore on your own two feet, there are also trails which depart from outside Cabarete into the hinterlands of the park.

6. Take A Walk or Jog Down the Beach

Kite Beach Cabarete Dominican Republic

Photo Credit: Heather Ellison Photography

If you were looking forward to the workout you’d get from an afternoon of kitesurfing, you can always get your cardiovascular fix by taking a long walk or a jog down the beach. At a leisurely pace, it would take about 30-40 minutes to walk all the way from Kite Beach to the very eastern end of Cabarete.  Round-trip, walking from one end of the beach to the other can occupy the better part of an afternoon if you stop and linger at any of the shops in town.  What’s more, the beach is wide and largely-empty, although you should refrain from walking down the beach at night when unsavory characters can lurk in the darkness.

7.  Go Shopping for Larimar or Amber

Amber in Dominican Republic

Like black pearls to Tahiti or rubies to Myanmar, Amber and Larimar are two precious gems which are native to the Dominican Republic. In fact, the northern stretch of coastline where Cabarete is located is often referred to as the “Amber Coast”. While the northern mountains outside of Cabarete are pockmarked with amber deposits, larimar is mined in the southwestern mountains towards the southern border with Haiti.

Larimar, with its rich blue hue that can be easily confused for blue turquoise, is a native gem of the Dominican Republic found nowhere else in the world. From Santo Domingo to Punta Cana to the stores of Cabarete, Dominicans and jewelers pride themselves on the beauty of their precious gem. For those who are into collecting jewelry, it should go without saying that the larimar prices in the Domincan Republic will be more affordable than you’ll find back at home.

8. Go Stand Up Paddling

Stand up paddle Cabarete Dominican Republic

Photo Credit: Heather Ellison Photography

When the wind fails to blow and the water is calm, you might as well take advantage of the tranquil waters by getting on a stand up board and paddling the lagoon. While those who want waves can paddle at Encuentro, paddlers who would prefer to have placid waters can hang in the lagoon in front of Kite Beach. Or, for a combination of the two, consistent waves break on the outside reef where you can relax in the lagoon before heading outside to surf.

For paddleboard rentals in the vicinity of Kite Beach,  Dare2Fly Kitesurfing School has a selection of stand up boards in their oceanfront rental center facing the water. $20 US for a one-hour rental is an average price for a paddle and a board.

9. Ride A Horse on the Beach

Image source: Wikipedia

If you aren’t going to zip at top speed along the waters of the lagoon, then you may as well do the next closest thing and gallop a horse down the sand. Check with Iguana Mama about horseback riding tours that visit the shoreline and mountains, and you could easily find yourself cantering along the beach on an isolated stretch of coast.

10. Relax and Do Nothing At All

Agualina Kite Resort Cabarete Dominican Republic

Finally, if the wind fails to blow and you’re left with no plans, there’s nothing wrong with finding the nearest patch of shade and relaxing and doing nothing at all. Remember, you’re on vacation, and the laidback pace of Dominican life allows for moments of lengthy relaxation.

If you’re looking for a perch to sprawl out on a pillow and simply listen to the waves, Vaca Bar at the Agualina Kite Resort has a crow’s-tower view looking over Kite Beach. It’s the perfect spot for cracking open that book, stretching out in the shade, and devoting attention to that long-lost activity of simply relaxing and slowing down for a while.

Cabarete Dominican Republic

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Hertsens October 17, 2013 at 5:40 pm

You forgot to mention caving and cave diving in Cabarete’s national park, 5 minutes from the center..

Roger October 18, 2013 at 1:04 am

Great article,

I am adding attractions to my list which contain several things todo on non windy days 🙂

you can check that here http://start-dominicanrepublic.com/cat/attractions/

Cheers

Roger

admin November 26, 2013 at 8:44 am

Thanks Roger!

John @ GoodPlanetLiving March 18, 2014 at 5:00 am

So nice photographs. places are really ideal for traveling. this article can help travelers to take decision to go these places. thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures.

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