I wrote this essay originally in 2005 for the US Windsurfing Magazine. I updated it now and here since much of the information is still current.
Sail Away, Cabarete
Cabarete is located on the edge of a bay that sports one of the best wind- and kite- surfing setups in the world. Located on the north shore of the Dominican Republic, this once-small town has grown into a blossoming hub that caters to wind and kitesurfers, surfers and canyoning enthusiasts and mountainbikers as well as other, primarily water sports oriented tourists. I came to Cabarete for a short windsurfing trip, stayed 20+ years ago-and left in 2010. Why did I stay so long? I can’t think of many better place to be. I sailed as many days as work allows, and I still hade more than enough time to enjoy the beach lifestyle supreme!
There are nonstop flights to Puerto Plata airport/ POP, the nearest airport, about a 20min. cab ride to Cabarete. Fly to Puerto Plata, not Santo Domingo, Santo Domingo DSQ is at least 5 hour road trip by cab or longer by bus.
When you get off the plane buy a tourist card for 10$. Convert your money to the Dominican peso (about 43.50 RD to $1 US.), then grab a $20 cab ride from the airport to Cabarete.
thanks to the reef about three-quarter miles offshore, Cabarete Bay offers remarkable flat water and wave sailing. A dose of local thermals augments the easterly trade winds. The typical range is 15 to 25 knots, but windier days are not unusual in early spring to midsummer. On an average day, the waves break hip to overhead high, on the reef. In the winter, cold fronts occasionally push down large swells that break outside the reef and re-form inside the bay, creating a powerful shore break. On these days, you can see some mast-high-plus waves that will get any sailor’s adrenaline pumping. If you’re around during a swell, you’ll for sure see some world-class sailing. The action will no doubt feature a fair share of highly visible wipe-outs.
I am an average size guy, weighing about 180 lb. My standard Windsurf-sail is a 5.2 and my other sails are a 5.7 and a 4.7. I use them with an 85L board on lighter days and a 75L board on the windy days.
Trick for your first trip
Newly arrived wind and kite-surfers initially struggle a bit with the wind shadow over the first 100 yards of water. The ticket here is to beach start and not fall or you will have to use your ‘uphaul’. Kitesurfers launch their kites further down the beach, in designated kite-zones.
After having been here for a while you consider the wind shadow a blessing. The wind is light near the beach and keeps you cool, yet you or your non sailing spouse or your children will not be sandblasted all day while you are getting your wind fix.
When the wind is down try Surfing at ‘El Encuentro’, an entry-level spot with a good right point break and a faster left on the bigger days.
The full time surfers are there, or at some other spot along the North Coast every day early in the morning, sometimes again for a late afternoon session.
Horseback riding and mountain bike riding are other great ways to discover the countryside. The northeastern region of the DR is quite diverse, lush and tropical, hilly and dotted with small rural settlements.
You can take a guided ‘Canyoning’ Tour into the ‘Cordillera Septentrional’, and into a canyon less than an hour away from town. Guides supply wetsuits, helmets and climbing harnesses to help you negotiate down the riverbed and the occasional waterfall. It’s as much fun as you can possibly have with a wetsuit on!