Encuentro Beach Leads Me Home

By Emily Yurcheshen, Travel Writer

“Every room in my home makes me smile.”
–Cheryl Richardson

I arrived into Puerto Plata with my friend, Lulu, after a red-eye flight from Los Angeles. As we stepped off the plane, this picturesque country warmly welcomed us with the sweet sounds of a colorful Merengue band.

A young gal at customs spoke to Lulu, a native Spanish speaker and asked her if it was her first time here. “Yes, she responded, but not for Emily.”

“Then your friend has already fallen in love with this place and you will too,” the lovely custom official said. I turned to Lulu with a grin on my face and glimmer in my eyes. At that moment, I knew this would be a new adventure for Lulu. For me, it felt like coming home.

The Question of Home

But, what is home? Is home a certain house? Is home a town? Or is it just a feeling of comfort and confidence associated with a geographical place? All I knew was I felt at home in the Dominican Republic.

The island’s humidity immediately embraced us when we stepped outside the airport. My heart leapt for joy when I saw Deborah Nelson, our fearless leader and director of The Vacation Rental Travel Guide, standing in a lime dress. This is the first time I had seen her since I visited here two years ago for an apprenticeship when I wrote Summer Magic in the Dominican. We all headed to Encuentro Beach.

Bailey’s Saves the Day!

Fatigued and hungry, we stopped at Bailey’s, a popular outdoor dining casa in the heart of Sosua, a small town in the Puerto Plata Province on the North coast four miles from the airport. Lulu dove into a mountain of flavorful fried rice with shrimp called Chofan. I devoured a sea bass the size of my plate.

We made a quick grocery run at Super Pola for fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and an assortment of other staples at a reasonable price. Playero is another grocery option, which is an easy stop along the main road. They stock tasty gluten-free desserts and fresh, local, German Bakery’s pastries. The sweet, glazed poppy-seed rolls are scrumptious! The delicious German bakery is a few blocks away and well worth the stroll from either market.

 Sosua–Fun in the Sun

Sosua Bay is a swim-safe tourist area as well as a spectacular launching off point for snorkeling and scuba diving. Boat touring booths line the waterfront. Rent or bring your own gear and your underwater camera to capture the electric blue Queen angelfish. Spectacular! The bay is exposed and open to the sun so wear a hat and your sunglasses. Also, take a buddy if you decide to visit the town at night.

Playa Alicia is a hidden-away beach gem just around the corner from Sosua Bay, with crystal clear turquoise water and unbelievable seascapes. This gorgeous sea spot is a more quiet and peaceful alternative.

Winding down familiar streets and roads ignited me as we neared our casa in Encuentro Beach. I did not realize how much this island had become a part of me. I beamed with excitement for this new phase of the journey, for  I  sensed hints of new experiences lurking in the clouds and tall coconut palms waiting for discovery.

Spreading Ukuleles Love and Light to the Dominicans

This time Lulu and I traveled with a handful of ukuleles donated by Matts Music in Paso Robles, California. Since electricity is unreliable in areas of the Dominican Republic, we also brought ten solar-powered lights generously provided from Unite to Light, a Santa Barbara organization started by John Bowers that has lit up 70,000 homes worldwide. Reflecting on my first trip, I understood how these lights could brighten Dominican homes.

Encuentro Beach, Surfer’s Haven

Gliding on a long board across warm turquoise surf, palm trees wave from the Encuentro shore as tiny tropical flowers dance in the wind. Coconut Grove is located on one of the most popular surf beaches in the world, Encuentro. A perfect destination for the sports enthusiast, surf schools wave their colorful flags up and down the Cabarete coast. The friendly surf coaches teach people of all ages and abilities how to the glide on these spectacular warm waves. Some even provide Spanish classes.

Panoramic Penthouse: Sky Surfing

Coconut Grove Condominiums sit on a hill above Encuentro Beach. A stone pathway surrounded by coconut palms and fragrant jasmine flowers lead you to the stairwell overlooking a figure eight swimming pool. Spiraling the three floor staircase, the magnificent view of cream-colored Romanesque pillars and arch windows guide you to the double wooden entry doors.

Decorated in sea blues and greens, the sunny ocean view, two-bedroom, two-bath home is ideal for surfers or a small family getaway. An open-floor plan with a joint living, dining and kitchen area; tiled floors; wood wicker furniture; and a turquoise love seat overlooks the ocean and lush hills. A faux marble counter top with two stools sets off the kitchen from the dining area. The wooden round table seats four. Combined with the breakfast nook and the window bench, which seats another five, this dining area creates a wonderful space for feeding guests. The kitchen is fully equipped with appliances, pots and pans and accouterments that match the green and blue seascape.

The Penthouse Layout

Two cozy bedrooms are tucked behind the open kitchen, dining and living area,  one with a queen-size bed and the other with two single beds, both with ocean view. A small terrace with a patio door opens from the second bedroom. Large closets, desks and dressers that invite you to unpack and stay a while.

A large screened window allows the breeze to flow freely through the room. It also includes a ceiling fan. The sun shines brightly through the window at dawn beckoning the sleeping to rise and seize the day!

The expansive living area is the entrance to the house and features cozy corners to read, nap, play cards, or strum an ukulele. Beautiful tribal wooden statues, ocean tapestries, and paintings enhance the peaceful feel of this room. A mural of the ocean and sea creatures covers the stair wall that leads to the most important feature of this home.VRTG-encuentroTerrace-6-27-2016

Top of the World Terrace

From the high-rise terrace, a 360 degree panoramic view spans from the ocean to the mountains, and overlooks Encuentro Beach and beyond. Walk outside to a magnificent picture blending sea and sky which entertain your senses. Move along the white rail of this circular 600 foot area, and envision a breathtaking expanse of color, shape, and textures. Hills, valleys, and miles of beaches give the feeling you are part of a panoramic photograph at the top of the world. An inviting palm tree cabana in the center of the terrace covers a table and couch. It is a perfect spot for feeling at home while watching the sun rise and set.

Once you have settled in, pop over next store for a Mango Tango, Coco Loco or Banana Mama during happy hour at the Tiki Bar starting at 4 p.m. or dine at the Coconut Palms restaurant to sample their famous Bar-b-que. The hotel features the artist Teo Guzman who features a collection of fine silver, larimar, and amber jewelry as well as tribal paintings and souvenirs. This bilingual Dominican went above and beyond our request to support an interesting jewelry endeavor. I found a bottle cap that through heat, time, and pressure transformed to look like a precious Lapis Lazuli stone. For a mere eight dollars, he gladly accepted challenge of turning it into a uniquely beautiful necklace.

Kite surfing near Encuentro Beach, Dominican RepublicKite Surfing is King at Cabarete

Cabarete is a lively town a few miles down the road from Encuentro Beach, and recognized as the king of adventure in the Caribbean. It catapulted to be one of the world’s top windsurfing and kite surfing destinations due to consistent wind, smooth surface, and fairly shallow water. Hosting an international kite surfing competition every June, bright, majestic colors dance through the sky as eager, wild-eyed daredevils do 360 degree jumps in the air. Learn how at the Laurel Eastman Kiteboarding School located at the Millennium Resort. If you do not feel like kite surfing, enjoy a chilled cocktail at the beachfront pool at Millennium Spa. Millennium offers a host of spa treatments: massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures in addition to dance classes including salsa and meringue. For more adventure options for you or the whole family, many places offer group tours.

Art and Arcoiris Tours, a Blast from the Pittsburgh Past

Cruising around Cabarete, Lulu and I stopped into souvenir shops. Like a bird to water, I was drawn into a quaint shop called Kana Rapai. In addition to finding clever, colorful items completely recycled, Kana Rapai is an art studio that offers creativity classes, something that touches my heart. I could not believe what happened next. “I’m from Pittsburgh.” I heard male voice not far away. Since Pittsburgh is where I was born, my ears perked up. I leaned my head into the alley to meet Mike, the director of Arcoiris Tours. Mike brought us to his shop and informed us about the tours his company offers. The one that stood out was the Blue Lagoon Tour.

Blue Lagoon Tour, an Amazing Adventure!

Ride a zipline across a wide canyon and plummet about 150 feet into a deep crystal bowl of fresh water. I dare you! But don’t forget to point your toes and stay tall or else you may belly flop. Ouch! Hold Iguanas, brightly colored tropical birds, and baby crocodiles. Don’t worry … the crocodile’s mouth is taped shut. Taste cacao, coconut, oranges, papaya, and pineapple right from the tree. Cacoa-covered bananas are the best! And don’t forget a fresh cup of finely roasted coffee.

Iguana Mama is another Cabarete based tour company where you can find tours for canyoning, mountain biking, kayaking or other adrenaline rushing activities. Explore many national parks or go deep-sea fishing, cascading down the 27 Waterfalls of Damajaqua.

Le Bistro-Divine Cuisine by the Sea

Tucked in a tiny street of Cabarete is a most divine dining experience for an incredibly reasonable price. Le Bistro, owned and operated by Stefan and Amel, is an open-aired French restaurant that offers an assortment of appetizers, main dishes and let’s not forget…desert.  We four travel writers dined together.

Stefan’s culinary passion poured over us as he joyfully burst into many delicious dishes. We each ordered something unique and passed the plates around. Accompanied by slowly baked seasoned potatoes, the thinly sliced garlic beef fillet is a feast for the senses. We also sampled a savory onion tart, tender pork fillet mignon and a perfect hot lava cake. Ecstasy!  A fruity glass of Spanish red wine completed the meal. Our delightful chef and host treated us like royalty. His culinary passion and his partner Amel’s gentle spirit was almost as delicious as the food.

With all this adventure and cultural dissonance, I felt a bit homesick. So what about home was I missing? Was it family and friends? Or is home a geographic location? No.

When I first landed, the island felt like home. However, this second trip expanded me in unexpected ways. Through breathtaking vistas, wild adventures, and building cultural bridges, my definition of home transformed. Instead of home being a geographic location, I discovered that home is an inner terrain—a blend of mountains and valleys of risk and comfort. No matter where my life travels lead, home follows me wherever I go.

Professional Vacation Rental Management

The management for this property is among the very best in the area. With Diamond Coast Properties you can count on honesty, integrity, and quick, intelligent service for anything that may need adjusting. They know and love this area. Therefore, when you stay in one of their vacation homes, they make your feel like family during your stay. Their service and hospitality is prompt and unparalleled. Their 26 years of serving this area brings wisdom and understanding of the Dominican Republic. This is a priceless extra that money cannot buy. For more information and to book this place call Marchelina Akrabova at +1 809-817-6706, or Alex Akrabov at 1-849-354-0144. You may e-mail them at

Category Placement: This property belongs to the Vacation Rentals for the Sports Enthusiast Vacation Rentals niche due to its proximity to Encuentro Beach which is truly an adventurer’s paradise. Situated on one of the surfer’s top surfing spots, this location is also near a world-famous kite boarding paradise called Kite Beach. Suitable for the Beach Area Vacation Rental niche, this property is walking distance from Encuentro Beach.

Land of My Soul/La Terra de mi Alma

The wind is blowing as the sun sets by the sea

The moon is glowing singing come dance with me

Coming home to a land far away

Coming home to the magic of each day

Coming home to the land of my soul ( La Terra de mi alma)

I don’t know the language, but my heart will guide the way

I feel merengue music as I watch the coconut palms sway

The stars are smiling and light up the mountainside

From the terrace on top of the world, I can for see miles and miles

Coming home to a land far away

Coming home to the magic of each day

Coming home to the land of my soul

Comments Welcome: Make a comment below (we work hard…give us some love!) on any of our Live Reviews by Travel Writer Liz Manduca, Emily Yurcheshen, Mike Jabon, Luz (Lulu) Orozco, Cindy White, Robert Munster, Deborah Nelson, or Renee Fontaine, and get a FREE Digital version of The Vacation Rental Travel Guide when it is hot off the press!

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