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Updates on Cruising the DR

By Sue Richards last modified Apr 22, 2011 12:16 PM

Published: 2011-04-22 12:16:45
Countries: Dominican Republic

Received from Wade Alarie: 3 April 2011
SV Joana ( (Canada)

My wife and I have been cruising the Caribbean on our Roberts 53 for the past two years. The purpose of this letter is to provide a recent positive recommendation for cruising the South Shore of the Dominican Republic and in particular - Marina Zarpar in Boca Chica.

Surprisingly, there is still a noticeable lack of cruisers in the DR. Yes, there is evidence of the annual migration along the North coast (following the well travelled path through the Turks and Caicos to Luperon and to Puerto Rico). Most of these cruisers seem to blow by the DR, avoiding it as a destination. But, if you are the kind of cruiser that likes to avoid the crowds, stopping where the cruise ships don´t, then I can recommend you download and read Frank Virgintino´s Cruising Guide to the Dominican Republic ( to get you started.

Yes, the DR does require that you get a despatchio, as you move from one harbour to the next. But, you may anchor enroute and you do not need to move directly from one Marina to the next. For example, we cleared in to the DR at Las Salinas, anchoring right in front of the Hotel Salinas. After a few nights, when we wanted to move to Boca Chica, we got a despatchio (no cost) and sailed to Boca Chica. It was easy and quick to get the despatchio. We picked it up (taking our tender to the Coast Guard station) at 1300 pm for an expected departure at 1830 pm. On arrival in Boca Chica, we surrendered the despachio to Raul, the Marina Zarpar Manager. There is an on-site Immigration Officer to speed up the paperwork.

At Marina Zarpar, our experience has been 100% positive. The staff are very friendly, and go out of their way to accommodate you. Since our arrival a month ago, we have seen many cruisers come and go and cannot recall anyone with a complaint. There are always 5 to 7 cruising boats on a mooring ball,and probably another 7 to 10 in berths. Some people stay a few days, some a few weeks, and some for months at a time. Most of the cruisers are European, or International, with noticeably less Americans and Canadians (I am Canadian).

The marina now has their new travel-lift, bay and haul-out facilities in operation. Since arriving here a month ago, I have personally seen 4 boats (two sail and two motor) hauled and launched. The work completed appears to be of a high quality and the customers have been satisfied. The staff haul and launch boats with great care, better than I have seen elsewhere. Although I have not required a haul-out, I have had help in resourcing some hard to find materials and parts. When my Lavac toilet needed a critical replacement bolt, I ordered the part from the US and had it delivered directly to Marina Zarpar by Fedex. The part was ordered on Thursday morning, and much to my surprise - I had it in my hands on Monday morning. Packages that are under $ 300 fly in duty free. I was expecting difficulty, but there was none.

There is a wonderful family atmosphere at Marina Zarpar. Tony is the on site SSCA Representative and works with the Marina to arrange cruisers parties (lunch or dinner), at least every two weeks. The Marina is adjacent to Club Nautico, where membership is restricted and cruisers don´t visit.

There is almost no tide here, with a tidal range of about 10 inches. The docks are fixed (no need for floating) and built of pressure-treated lumber. Each dock has a gazebo built into the structure. One might view these gazebos (with covering and chairs) as a waste of valuable dock space, but they aid in fostering the atmosphere of the place. Cruisers gather to meet with friends, eat lunch or surf the Internet. Although the docks are new, there is evidence that the staff are continually working on maintenance to keep things working. When the local electricity goes down, the Marina´s generator kicks in.

We have used the wifi (a lot) and it is very fast, even from the anchorage. The marina actually has a very strong signal due to an omni-directional antenna and amplifier installed on the roof. This is obviously a Marina that pays attention to the needs of cruisers. Once, when I had a problem accessing a website, I spoke to the network manager and he immediately fixed the problem.

We have run our watermaker while on the mooring ball. We have washed our clothes in the marina laundry facilities. It costs $ 3 or $ 4 for a wash, depending on the size of washer that you use. There is a Captain´s lounge with satellite TV. We have often used Pablo (the Marina´s driver) for rides to the bank, the grocery store, etc. Yes, we do give him a tip of $ 2 or $ 3 each time, but we consider this nothing more than securing good relations in a country that favours gratuities.

All in all, we love Marina Zarpar, and it will be hard to leave, but we are headed South-East .....

Received from Haakon Flender: 3 April 2011

My girlfriend, my friends and I have crossed from Spain to the eastern Caribbean and spent time on various islands on our way towards Florida. I just thought it was worth mentioning our experience in the Dominican Republic before we leave towards Cuba.

When we arrived at Boca Chica (which is 30min drive from Santo Domingo), we were guided by a Marina Zarpar motorboat to show us our slip. After landfall, they helped us tie up our boat and the Marina owner (Frank from New York) and the marina manager, Raul, showed up and greeted us.

Raul arranged with all the Officials (Customs, Immigration, Drug intelligence) to come to our boat and guided us through the process. No problems, except they 12-14 so you must take that into account.

The marina has a free taxi service to common close by destinations like Boca Chica city (very touristy city, but okay for a day), the supermarket and restaurants.

Frank actually took us to the city personally in his car the first day to show us some restaurants that he liked. We also got some good advices from Frank for what to do and where to go in the DR. He has lived there for about 20years and knows the country very well.

So after some days at the Marina cleaning the boat and relaxing, we took a taxi to the capital to get the buss to Jarabacoa and Cabarete. The bus is extremely cheap and airconditioned. Jarabacoa is a small city in the mountains where you can start your trekking to Pico Duarte (tallest mountain in the Caribbean, about 3087 meter). I would recommend it if you need to move your legs. Go up to the camp site on one day, and up to the top and down again on day two (arrange with a guide). Cabarete was the next stop and this is a perfect place to Kite- and Windsurf. The beach has alot of nice bars and restaurants as well.

All in all we are very happy with Marina ZarPar and with a super service I personally have not met at any Marina before (Asia, Europe, Caribbean).

It's also worth to mention that Dominican Republic is packed with kind and welcoming people and they have an lively culture and atmosphere. Its quite different from East Caribbean I would say. In a positive way.

Received from Cade Johnson: 19 April 2011
SY Sand Dollar

Subject: Luperon security

We have been enjoying ourselves here in Luperon for the most part (21 months now!) - friendly local population and new sailors to meet on a regular basis, but several times now we have had our dinghy cast adrift at public docks. We are not aware of having done anything to irritate anyone, in fact, we are conscientious about ducking others lines to reduce the chance of someone having to touch our line at all. It is annoying!

Most people here have not been locking dinghies, but we have reluctantly concluded that it is now necessary.

Speaking of locking, we bought an old SUV here for seeing the country: an '86 Montero with a fair bit of rust. On April 19, 2011, someone tried to steal it from Puerto Blanco Marina, but failed to release the steering column lock and ran it into a rock embankment about 30 feet from where it had been parked, bending the frame and destroying the radiator. About 6 weeks earlier, someone had broken in and stolen a few tools which we'd (perhaps foolishly) been storing there.

So, travelers beware; Luperon has a share of relatively destructive and marginally competent thieves ashore, but the harbor seems to be safe for now.