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Touring the Colonial Zone on Bicycles

Bicycles have become a creative form of carrying out popular tourism in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone.  In the past few months bicycling through the city’s colonial streets has become an interesting way to become familiar with the Zone’s rich history. Both tourists and nationals alike can now rent bicycles for a couple of hours and tour the Zone with family and friends.

When bicycling through the colonial streets, tourists will be able to stop and enjoy a refreshing drink or delicious meal in one of the Zone’s many restaurants and pubs, as well as visit some of the museums found in the area.

Bicycle tourism is also a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday with family and friends.  It is by far the best way to get young kids to exercise, and get them away from their cellular telephones and tablets.

Dominican urban cyclist Jose Miguel Paliza explained that bicycles do not pollute and require little maintenance, and are ideal for running errands and doing light shopping.

In addition, bicycling also has great physical benefits since it is one of the most complete physical activities, helping to relieve back pain, lose weight, regulate blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels, as explained by   Dr. Ingo Froböse.

Sunny Bikes

There are several bike rental shops in the area.  One is the Sunny Bikes rental shop, where you visitors can choose the bicycle of their choice including bicycles with child seats.

Address: Duarte Street # 154, Colonial Zone

Instagram: sunnybikesrd

Hours: Tue-Fri: 10: 00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.; Sat-Sun: 9:00 a.m. – 7: 00 p.m.

Telephone: (809) 689-6249


Address: Arzobispo Merino Street #217

Hours: Tue-Fri: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Sat-Sun: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Telephone: (809) 885-6003

Text: Rosa Cedeño; Photo: Maximo Zorrilla

Source: Access DR

Oct 20, 2016

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Punta Cana: The Most Popular Destination in the Caribbean

Punta Cana was once again named the most popular destination in the Caribbean, according to Expedia.  During the first semester of this year, Punta Cana came out ahead of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Paradise Island (Bahamas) and Ocho Rios (Jamaica) in the semi-annual ranking of the Expedia Group.

In addition, the region has become one of the world’s top golf destinations according to TripAdvisor.

Expedia is a leading online travel agency, with more than 120,000 hotels worldwide and 500 airlines registered in its website.

TripAdvisor is also a top online travel website which annually issues the important Certificates of Excellence and the Travellers’ Choice awards.

Source: Access DR

Oct 20, 2016

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“Aromas”: A Museum that Features Rum, Coffee, Cocoa and the Larimar in Punta Cana

The recently inaugurated Aromas Museum recently opened in Punta Cana, on the Dominican Republic’s easternmost region.

This innovative private museum is dedicated to the production of rum, coffee, cigars, cocoa, and “Larimar” – the semi-precious stone found only in the Dominican Republic – in the country.

The museum also highlights the Taino culture and the traditions found only in the Dominican countryside.

The museum offers visitors tours that will take them to various local and nearby farms where some of these products are harvested and produced.

The “Taino Passion” tour runs for approximately four hours, and includes transportation from the hotel to the “Aroma Museum” and visits to nearby farms.

The tour is approximately US$55 for tourists and, for Dominicans, the entrance fee to the museum is of RD$100 (US$2.50). The museum shop sells many of the items featured in the museum.

Taino Culture

The “Aroma Museum” displays dozens of pieces representing the culture of the native Tainos, the original inhabitants of the island before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.

The museum features some of the original tools used by the Tainos as well as ceramic pieces of the gods they worshipped.

Also featured is a traditional Dominican countryside stove with earthenware jugs, the traditional countryside coffee maker, and a wooden pestle to “grind” rice and coffee beans.

There is also an exhibit that explains the techniques used locally to roast coffee and prepare cocoa, another than features the replica of a sugarcane and coffee plantations, and also features exquisite pieces of Larimar stones and jewelry.


The Larimar is a semi-precious blue stone found only in the Dominican Republic’s southwest region. It is the country’s “National Stone” and local craftsmen and jewelers create beautiful pieces set in gold and silver.

Source: Access DR

Oct 20, 2016

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Dominican Republic through the eyes of tourist: Enchanted by Puerto Plata

It’s a view like no other. As we reached the top of the Caribbean’s first and highest cable car ride, the community of Puerto Plata spread out 800 metres below us with its crescent harbour, 20 kilometres of white sand beach, several baseball diamonds (locals love the Blue Jays) and thousands of modest homes.

We were in one of the Dominican Republic’s premiere resort areas but, unlike the more popular, upscale and modern Punta Cana region in the east, the north coast of the DR is much more laid-back, established and authentic with a lot of colonial architecture from the late 19th century-plus Fort San Felipe, the oldest military installation in the Americas, completed in 1577 to thwart pirates. There are some truly luxurious resorts in the area but most of the all-inclusives we saw tend to be older and modest in size and price. Some promote themselves as “Five Star” but, as a guide told us, “Local Five Star has a different meaning than in Canada or the U.S.” But all the resorts tend to be good value.

We loved our earlier visits to Punta Cana but we were enchanted by Puerto Plata and the opportunity to enjoy its excellent wide, sandy beaches (among the best in the Caribbean) and wonderful mountain views but also the many attractions beyond our Iberostar resort.

In addition to the cable car to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres, a highlight for us was a visit to nearby Ocean World, a marine park with dolphins, sea lions, sharks, stingrays and thousands of tropical birds.

Visitors drive through a curtain of water to reach the entrance (tough if you’re in a convertible) and have the option of staying wet for encounters with dolphins (very popular), sharks and stingrays. We arrived just in time to see the Shark Show, where local handlers stand in the water and, with good humour, warn the volunteers about the dangers of sharks and the need for life insurance. Once in the water, the handlers and the guests soon discover that nurse sharks are remarkably docile and easy to hold and manipulate. It’s a fun show, filled with drama.

We also entered a giant aviary where hundreds of colourful love birds (parakeets) decided they liked us and covered our shoulders, hats and hands. It was great fun but felt a bit like a scene from Hitchcock’s famous bird movie.

The north coast of the Dominican Republic is famous for its amber (ancient resin) and the unique Amber Museum, housed in a beautiful pink and white Colonial building, is well worth a visit. One display case holds a rare, 50-million-year-old small lizard, trapped in amber and preserved forever. An attached gift shop allows visitors to purchase amber jewellery and larimar (pale blue stone) found only in the DR.

Rum is the famous amber liquid produced in the Caribbean from molasses. Few countries do it as well as the Dominican Republic. Visitors are welcome to visit the Brugal rum factory in Puerto Plata. Established in 1888, it’s the best-known rum producer in the country. A knowledgeable guide describes in English the history and manufacturing process of the award-winning spirit (the bottling section is the only part of the factory on view) and the Tasting Room offers generous samples of the various rums. A gift shop, with better rum prices than at the resorts, ends the interesting tour.

On our last day we had a chance to visit two upscale boutique resorts that have brought a new level of luxury to the north coast. The beachside Gansevoort is a modern pristine white building with floor to ceiling windows. It features 48 one- to four-bedroom suites with private plunge pools and, in the penthouses, rooftop Jacuzzis. As one TripAdvisor guest noted, “It’s beyond amazing.”

The other beachside hotel we admired was the opulent Casa Colonial, a 50-room Colonial mansion with a rooftop infinity pool. We had lunch there and enjoyed one of the traditional Dominican dishes, goat stew with rice and red beans. It was, perhaps, our favourite meal of the whole week.

Our last evening was spent about 30 km from Puerto Plata on Playa Cabarete, one of the top five kiteboarding and windsurfing beaches in the world. Along the wide, sandy beach scores of open air restaurants with twinkling lights contribute to a magical night beneath the stars. With toes in the sand we ate at La Casita De Papi, famous for its fresh fish and Shrimp Langostino. The beachfront is also home to the Cabarete Mojito Bar. We thought Cuba made the best mojitos in the world. We were wrong; they’re produced right here in the DR.

At the modern Puerto Plata airport we met James Flynn of Gander, Newfoundland, who was with 10 friends from Atlantic Canada. He’s a veteran of Caribbean travel and usually travels south in April or May. But this time he wanted to come earlier, mainly because the price was so good. It was his first time in Puerto Plata. “The service at our resort has been great.” he told us. “I really liked the cable car and the great beaches with few people. And, of course, the rum.”

John and Sandra Nowlan are travel and food writers based in Halifax.


Oct 16, 2016

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Disaster divided: Two countries, one island, life-and-death differences

The hits never seem to end for Haiti. First there was the devastating earthquake in 2010, followed by a deadly cholera outbreak, and now the tiny country is reeling after Hurricane Matthew killed hundreds and displaced thousands.

Meanwhile, its neighbor — the Dominican Republic — has weathered similar disasters with vastly different results. How come the two countries fare so differently despite sharing the same island, Hispaniola?

Here are some key disparities between Haiti and Dominican Republic, which contribute to each country’s ability to recover from natural and man-made disasters:


Both countries are at risk for earthquakes and hurricanes. The map below shows what portions of Hispaniola Island lie on earthquake fault lines.

The red shaded area shows earthquake fault lines in Haiti, while the yellow shows earthquake fault lines in the Dominican Republic.

In 2004, Hurricane Jeanne made landfall at the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic. The flooding from Jeanne killed an estimated 3,000 people in Haiti, according to a report from the National Hurricane Center. Meanwhile, only 19 deaths were reported in the Dominican Republic.

Though Hurricane Matthew didn’t hit the Dominican Republic nearly as hard as it did Haiti, only four deaths were reported in DR, versus 300 and climbing across the border. Likewise, the earthquake in 2010 was felt across Hispaniola, but no one outside Haiti died.

Environmental impact

Haiti lacks resources to prepare for natural disasters. There are no funds for disaster response or infrastructure improvements in watershed protection or irrigation programs that could help prepare for hurricanes and storms, according to the World Bank.

Widespread deforestation in Haiti also has led to “flooding, dramatic rates of soil erosion.” The depleted tree cover makes the impact of storms and hurricanes worse, USAID notes.

Deforestation began during Haiti’s colonial period, as land was cleared for cash crops like coffee, tobacco and sugar, all farmed through slave labor. In post-colonial years, political and economic problems further exacerbated land issues.

Next door, the Dominican Republic enjoys better farmland and has more greenery. A NASA satellite image of the Haiti-Dominican Republic border from 2002 shows the marked difference in the two countries’ landscapes.

Haiti is on the left and the Dominican Republic on the right.


Hispaniola has long been a divided island.

It was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and settled by the Spanish. In 1697, Spain gave the portion of the island now known as Haiti to the French.

The colony would become one of the wealthiest in the world, thanks largely to an agriculture-based economy and large amounts of African slaves.

The slaves eventually revolted and Haiti became the first post-colonial, black-led nation in the world when it declared independence in 1804. The other side of the island, then known as Santo Domingo, was actually ruled by Haiti for 22 years. The Dominican Republic was formed in 1844.

The country bounced back and forth between Spanish rule and independence until ultimately declaring independence for the last time in 1865.


Back in 1960 the two countries had the same GDP per capita, according to the World Bank. Now the Dominican Republic’s GDP per capita is about seven times that of Haiti, which remains the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

The Dominican Republic’s economy is largely propelled by services and industries like tourism. In Haiti, they’re more reliant on agriculture.

The Dominican Republic has taken full advantage of the island’s natural beauty — fancy resorts cater to tourists seeking a beach escape and multi-lane highways criss-cross the country. In Haiti, such modern luxuries are virtually nonexistent.


Political instability has played a major role in each country’s ability to tackle problems, large and small. Haiti was ruled nearly three decades by father-son dictators, who assassinated political foes and eliminated dissent. The Dominican Republic, on the other hand, has held competitive elections since 1996.

In a ranking by Transparency International of corruption, Haiti ranks near the bottom as 158th out of 167 countries. Dominican Republic ranks as 103rd.

Here’s a look at their leadership:

Dominican Republic

After grappling with the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (1930-1961) and the tight rule of Joaquin Balaguer (1966-1996), the Dominican Republic has held competitive presidential elections. Danilo Medina Sanchez became president in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016.


The Haiti leadership remains in flux. From 1957 to 1986 Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier retained power. In February, President Michel Martelly stepped down after five years in office, leaving Haiti with no successor after elections marred by allegations of fraud were postponed twice. The Haitian Parliament elected a new interim president Jocelerme Privert. The presidential election in October was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew.


Oct 13, 2016

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Did you know Orders for Take-out should not be charged 10% tip according to Proconsumidor

On Sundays it’s normally a day to relax and spend time with family going out for afternoon fun or staying at home with a good movie. Many times you don’t want to take time out of your day to cook, so naturally you call for take-out! Have you sat down and checked the receipt, though? Did you ever notice an additional 10% there referred to as tip?

As most of you know the Labor Code advises that ten percent of the value of the purchase be charged to customers when they consume products within an establishment, intended to be distributed as a tip to all the employees who served you, but many restaurants and places where food is sold are including this percentage to consumers who also order take-out! Many consider this an illegal practice since only the tax percentage (18%) should be included. Why double your tax bill when you’re not even dining out?

But just like a coin, there are two sides to every story. Some people feel scammed when they are charged this 10% tax for take-out or delivery since they didn’t really use the dining establishment services; however, others defend this practice by saying that this is the correct action because even though you are not consuming what you bought inside, there are still employees preparing and packaging your food.

Proconsumidor, which is an institution that protects consumers and users under law No.358-05, posted last month that consumers should not be charged the additional 10% if they indicate that they are to take-out this order or ask for delivery service. After this was released and different opinions surfaced, the executive director of Proconsumidor,  Altagracia Paulino, has made a petition to the Ministry of Labour to review this law and specify in which cases the percentage should be applied since the law was written back in 1960 when take-out and delivery were not as popular as they are now.

Labor code

Article 228 of the Labour Code says: “In hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars and in commercial establishments in general where food or drink is sold or consumed in those same places, it is mandatory for the employer to add a ten percent for tip in the receipt or customer accounts, to be distributed entirely amongst workers who have served the consumer.”

How do you feel about this? What is your opinion about this common practice among food establishments? We will just have to wait and see how this debate plays out in time.

Source: Casa de Campo Living

Sep 29, 2016

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Fun Places to Practice Kayaking in the Dominican Republic

Kayaking is a fun sport, whether you decide to go at it alone, or with family and friends. In the Dominican Republic, most hotels offer kayaking tours for individuals or for groups. Some facilities provide their guests with top-rated kayaking tours.

Kayaks are available for one, two and four passengers.

This fun aquatic activity is easily learned in five minutes.  Once you try it you won’t want to stop rowing!  It is more than easy to fall in love with this refreshing activity.

The kayak is a long and narrow boat, with a compact and maneuverable design.

The passengers sit facing the boat’s forward direction and are handled with the use of paddles.

The term kayak is an Eskimo term, meaning “piece of driftwood.”

It was originally built to fit the owner.  In Eskimo society, minors could only use the kayak when they reached adulthood.

The family built the kayak for its mature son, and held a special ritual to commemorate the event.

The following hotels include kayaking among their non-motorized water sports:

  1. Grand Paradise Samana
  2. Viva Wyndham Dominicus Palace
  3. Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe
  4. Be Live Grand Punta Cana
  5. Casa de Campo
  6. Coral Costa Caribe
  7. Blau Natura Park Eco Resort & Spa
  8. Dreams Punta Cana
  9. Grand Palladium Bavaro Resort & Spa
  10. Iberostar Dominicana
  11. IFA Villas Bavaro Resort & Spa
  12. Majestic Colonial
  13. Memories Splash Punta Cana
  14. Royalton Punta Cana Resort & Casino
  15. Secrets Royal Beach
  16. Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resorts
  17. Iberostar Costa Dorada
  18. Gran Bahia Principe Samana

Source: Access DR

Sep 24, 2016

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The Caribbean Is Running Out Of Coconuts

At the worst possible time, the Caribbean is running short of one of its most emblematic products.

Rich-world consumers have never been keener on the coconut. Starbucks wants the tropical fruit’s milk for lattes, Rihanna promotes its water as a trendy sports drink, and the price of coconut oil has jumped more than 50 percent in the past year.

The Caribbean is practically synonymous with the coconut, so its farmers should be cashing in. For a bunch of reasons, they aren’t. Storms, droughts and the Lethal Yellowing disease, spread by plant-hopping insects, have wiped out entire farms; growers have failed to invest in new trees, or fertilizers to improve yields. Caribbean plantations have shrunk by about 17 percent since 1994, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

“It’s fair to say that at this pace, the Caribbean is running out of coconuts,” said Compton Paul, coordinator of a regional coconut program at the Trinidad-based Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute.

‘Too Early’

In Nagua on the Dominican Republic’s north coast, where Dioni Siri has his own trees and also buys from other farmers, production has dropped by about 60 percent in two decades, according to the local association of growers. Siri, who sells to export markets, says that quantity isn’t the only issue: many of the nuts that do get harvested aren’t up to scratch.

In his warehouse, he picks through a pile of the fruit, holding each one close to his ear and shaking it to see if it contains milk. When there’s no sound, the coconut is dumped on a growing pile of discards. “It was picked too early,” Siri says. “It’s not good enough. Our biggest problem is that the farmers aren’t growing enough quality coconuts.”

It’s a problem that nobody saw coming. Two decades ago, international demand was waning amid medical warnings that tropical oils could raise levels of artery-clogging cholesterol.
Coconuts sold for next to nothing in the Caribbean, where they’ve grown for five centuries since being introduced by Europeans traveling from the Indian Ocean. Often, they were just left to rot on their trees.

Today, coconut milk is being sold as a healthier alternative to cow’s milk, and it’s a staple of recipes in the paleo-friendly cookbooks adored by the CrossFit crowd. Even the fruit’s husks turn out to be useful, filling car-seat cushions.

Celebrity Investors

And most sought-after of all is the coconut’s water, rich in potassium and other electrolytes. It’s on track to become a $4 billion industry by 2019, according to Technavio, a research company.

All Market Inc., the industry pioneer which began selling leading brand Vita Coco in 2004, now cracks about 1.6 million nuts a day, and can claim Rihanna and actor Matthew McConaughey among its celebrity investors. The company estimates that the U.S. market alone is already worth $1.2 billion, according to spokesman Arthur Gallego. “We’re focused on developing new products around the coconut,” he said. “We want to be to the coconut what Dole is to the pineapple.”

With buyers so eager, Vilma Da Silva and her husband gave up growing other cash crops on their 35-acre farm in Guyana’s Pomeroon region five years ago, and starting focusing on coconuts-for-water exports. They buy coconuts from about 60 other small farms, bottle the water and export it, receiving about $1.50 per liter. It’s been lucrative — revenue has doubled since they made the switch — but they’re running into supply constraints.
“We want to get into more international markets and export more but there aren’t enough farms to buy from,”’ Da Silva said.

Other countries are stepping in to meet demand. Worldwide, farmers have increased the amount of land planted with coconuts by 14 percent since 1994, according to the UN. Indonesia, the Philippines and India are the top producers.

Meanwhile, with export-oriented Caribbean farmers like Siri and Da Silva buying up all the fruit they can, locals risk losing out. Typically, green coconuts for water have been so plentiful and cheap that any thirsty islander might buy one on the street corner, from a machete-wielding salesman who’d lop off the top and insert a straw. They still do — but prices are rising, while grocery shelves are filling up with thinned-out or even fake versions. Trinidad & Tobago’s Health Ministry in May confiscated bottles labeled as coconut water from stores, saying they contained only water and chemicals.

It’s not the first time a developing-country staple has been caught up in a first-world food trend. Farmers that grow the finest coffees often can’t afford a bag of their roasted beans. And when protein-rich quinoa caught fire in the U.S., many consumers in Bolivia, one of the biggest producers, were priced out.

Melvin Bautista owns Coco Express del Caribe, one of the leading domestic coconut-water brands in the Dominican Republic. He says he can barely obtain the supplies he needs, as farmers sell to exporters instead, and has raised prices for a 16-ounce bottle by 20 percent this year, to about $1.50. Local farms are mostly “in very bad shape and the trees are very old.”

There’s only one solution, Bautista says: “Start planting more coconuts.”


Sep 9, 2016

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Santa Barbara de Samana: A City Nestled by the Atlantic Ocean

The province of Samana, situated on the Dominican Republic’s northeastern region overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, has become one of the country’s top tourism attractions.

The region occupies an area of 847 square kilometers, with 1,600 kilometers of a truly remarkable coastline, dotted with some of the world’s finest white- sand beaches, and a population of 106,000 according to the 2010 national census.

One important characteristic of the region is the mountain chain that rises in close proximity to the coastline and beaches. The region is also home to two protected areas.

In 1756 the Spanish Governor Francisco Rubio y Peñaranda decided to populate the region to counter the presence of English and French pirates.

In 1908m the city and the province were officially named with its indigenous name, Samana. Santa Barbara de Samana is the name of the capital of the province.

The beautiful bay that bears its name was included in 2009 in the select list of the “Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World.” Other local communities have become important tourist attractions, such as the beachfront towns of Las Terrenas and Las Galeras, home to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The area offers guests an excellent list of hotels, for all budgets, mostly all-inclusive facilities. The region is dotted with local and international restaurants, where many specialize in preparing dishes with coconut milk and oil.

The Pedestrian Bridge

There are two absolutely beautiful keys situated in the heart of Samana Bay. The keys are connected to the nearby mainland through two quaint pedestrian bridges, which through the years have become one of the town’s most important symbols. Walking through them is a ride that offers the best panoramic views of Samana.

Whale-Watching Season

During the January-March months, known locally as the “Whale-Watching Season,” thousands of national and international tourists visit the bay to catch a glimpse of the massive mammals that annually migrate to the warm waters of the north coast from the North Atlantic to deliver their calves and to mate. It is the only place in the Caribbean where tourists can watch their annual pilgrimage.

Tours to the region are organized from all over the country, specifically from Punta Cana, La Romana, Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, Santiago and other local towns and cities.

Source: Access DR

Aug 30, 2016

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National park ‘El Choco’ (Cabarete) is worth a visit

From Sosúa it is only 10 miles towards Cabarete. On the left side of the road you will see a large sign which refers to the ‘Natural Park El Choco’. Make a turn and a few miles further you’ll arrive at the entrance to the park. Why is this area so special? It is an area with many thousands of years old stalactite caves. The area was used as a shelter by the Taino Indians against the raids of the Spaniards under Columbus and his son Diego. Furthermore, it is a lagoon and it is a watery area where rare plants and trees grow. Most plants and trees you find there are imported by the Spanish, French and Dutch colonists around 1600.

The coconut palm, orange, banana and mango, they are all foreign. The stalactite caves have indeed been a hiding place for the Indians. The Taino Indians were used as slaves in the gold mines by the Spanish. The slaves did everything to escape this labor and they sought a safe haven in the lagoon area of Cabarete. An area which is dangerous to walk around without knowledge. The soil is marshy and you can thus disappear into the quicksand. There is no danger today of course if you walk with the guides because they know the way. But the Spaniards didn’t dare to go there at first. At that time they used bloodhounds to trace the hiding Indians. Today some caves are accessible with a safe staircase. In one of the caves there is a pool with fresh water where visitors can take a dip. Although it’s a bit on the cool side. There are also termite nests, termites were eaten by the Indians. They seem to have a peppery flavor. The Taino Indians used the termites for seasoning the food. The trip through the area lasts an hour and a quarter and it’s an excursion that we can recommend.

Source: Sosua News

Aug 22, 2016

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Last updated October 22, 2016 at 2:00 PM
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