Posted by: Caroline | June 10, 2015

The Return to Samana

Haiti is a gem well worth the travel difficulties, but after our time there, Las Terrenas was welcome relaxation. Even though the pristine beach is its main draw, the town itself is charming, complete with puzzling architecture…


… aptly named restaurants…


… and my favorite beach cafe. Caffeine is essential after those strenuous days lounging on the sand. It can really wear a person out.


The cafes that line the beach were perfect breezy hangouts for enjoying the World Cup matches (and a fresh mojito or two). The fact that Las Terrenas attracts people from all over the globe meant someone in the cafe was deeply invested in each and every game.


(I have to confess I was a little more invested in the beach!)


In all of our international travel exploits, Alex and I had yet to rent a car. Up until this point, it had forced us to get creative with public transportation and our own two feet, but we also thought: maybe it’s limiting us. We wanted to do some true exploration on our own, so we rented this off-brand beauty from an agency in town. They needed to keep Alex’s passport, and our flight was the next day, so it was essential that we return the car by closing time that evening. It was early morning and we had until 6pm, so we figured this was totally reasonable for a short hour or so drive to the guidebook-recommended Playa Rincon.


It was refreshing to be able to pull over and take pictures wherever we wanted rather than quickly snap blurry shots out of shoddy speeding minivans. The drive featured plenty of gorgeous vistas…

rental2    rinconview


… and plenty of stress. Which of our adventures could be complete without a police run-in? We were stopped (very predictably so in a rental car on this touristy trail) and of course asked for Alex’s passport. Remember where that is? Back at the rental car agency? As the police officer tallied up what an enormous fee this would be, we realized that the small amount of cash we had brought–both for safety and because we didn’t want to have a large amount that we needed to exchange before leaving the next day–was about to evaporate. No lobster lunch for us.

So I did what I had to do. I started to cry.

Nothing makes a police officer, especially in such a macho culture, more perturbed than seeing a woman cry. The fine quickly dwindled and we were on our way to beautiful Playa Rincon.



This beachside restaurant served up fresh lobster with coconut bread. And thanks to a quick stop at an ATM after our tiny police fine ate into our day’s budget, we were able to actually purchase a meal!





When boatloads of other tourists began showing up, we decided that 20 people on this idyllic, secluded beach were far too many. We hopped in our rickety SUV to head back up the beach path a few hundred yards in search of a more private spot.


Yes, that’s more like it! Until a kid on a motorbike drives up and says our “secret” spot is actually frequented by drug mules and that we should get out of their ASAP. Ok, kid, you had me at “drug mules.” I leapt back into the car, Alex cranked the engine, and …


Oh. We parked on sand.

It was a moment where I really wished I had paid more attention to those ridiculous how-to survival guides. I am sure “how to rescue your sand-stranded car while next to a drug trafficking forest” is a chapter that I skipped over with little thought to how it could ever pertain to me.

We tried hard to unwedge this car. We tried various combinations of pushing, giving it a little gas, trying to get traction with palm fronds, but nothing worked. At this point, I’m mainly terrified of someone jumping out of the bushes to attempt to rob us, realizing we have nothing of value, and killing us just out of frustration about their wasted time. Even if they do let us go, we have no car anymore, and we certainly won’t make it to the rental car agency to get Alex’s passport back. We also don’t have any money to pay anyone to help us. (Welcome to the inner workings of my mind while terrified).

We decide the safest thing to do is for both of us to run back to the beach village and try to get some of the boat drivers–who brought those boatloads of tourists we so hated a half hour ago but who I would have cheerfully tolerated now if given the chance!–to help extricate this car.


I stayed behind at a restaurant while Alex and five or six strong and eager Dominican guys rode off on motorbikes. Minutes later (though still long enough for me to dream up even more chilling scenarios), the SUV and all invested parties returned safely. We bought some beers for the guys as a thank you, and I lounged on the beach until my heart rate returned to normal.

So maybe the DR is not always more relaxing than Haiti…


  1. Please tell me that one of you tried an Alex burger. Was it as badass as the sign implies?

  2. […] a certain nightmarish set of problems that befell Caroline and myself last time a rented car entered the picture, culminating in a police bribe and getting the car stuck in the sand on a beach notorious for […]

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