Recent golf trips to Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Saint Kitts offer a learning experience about Caribbean life
I’ve been on a Caribbean kick lately, visiting Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Saint Kitts in a span of six weeks. The trips have been a real eye-opener to help me understand island life a little better.
I’m used to seeing the stark contrast of these island nations – the poverty of some of the locals compared to the plush accommodations of the resorts. But I talked with a West Coast friend who wasn’t. He couldn’t understand how anybody would want to vacation in these places when they could go to Hawaii instead.
His concern for the disparity in the living conditions between the rich people who live in second homes in Caribbean resort and real estate developments and the locals being paid less than minimum wage was valid. But comparing Hawaii to the Caribbean is like apples to oranges. Hawaii has its rundown neighborhoods, too, and frankly, Hawaii is out of reach (both price-wise and distance-wise) for most of us who live on the East Coast, Midwest and Southeast.
Hawaii is wonderful and scenic, but the Hawaian islands still feel like you’re in the United States. Caribbean islands tend to feel like foreign countries. Plus, I love that each Caribbean island has its own flavor.
Check out the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park on St. Kitts in the photo above. Puerto Rico has its own fortresses in San Juan, but I never left the comforts of the Dorado Beach Resort & Club (see the Watermill at the resort below). I was glad I went back to the Dominican Republic so I could get rid of my previous misconceptions.
I’ll admit my first trip to the island of Hispaniola in 2003 wasn’t the best experience. I wasn’t prepared to see the bars on every window, the crumbling buildings and the shanties some people called home. What really unnerved me was the security guard at my resort near the Dominican Republic’s capital of Santo Domingo carried a machine gun.
Thankfully, my return trip to Punta Cana on the eastern side of the island in November was much better. I never felt threatened.
One couple I interviewed, Chris and Carrie Smith of Philadelphia, said they always felt safe during their excursions to go horse-back riding and zip-lining away from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana.
Bernie Morgan, the club manager at Punta Espada Golf Club (see the photo below) inside the Cap Cana developement, said he had no hesitation moving his wife and 9-month-old daughter to the island when he got the job 18 months ago. He called the Dominicans some of the friendliest people he’s met in his travels around the Caribbean and Middle East working for Troon Golf.
Morgan weaves an incredible tale about eating at a restaurant one day when he witnessed dozens of people running his way. After an initial panic, he realized that the people were chasing a purse snatcher who was eventually caught. Morgan said he realized at that moment how serious the locals are about keeping crime to a minimum, so the destination doesn’t get a bad reputation, like the safety and crime concerns currently plaguing Mexico.
“When visitors come to the area it can be deceiving because it is so different from what they are used to,” Morgan admitted.
As long as you’re smart, the Caribbean is a great vacation spot, especially in the next six months. The beaches. The golf. The resorts. What more can you ask for?
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