Everyone who passes through Luperon has a story to tell. It’s a town that evokes the senses and gets beneath your skin. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t help but be intrigued by it. The shabby town is colourful and vibrant, and is surrounded by glorious countryside and stunning scenery, and the smiling faces of friendly locals and expats.
Whether you are arriving from Puerto Rico or the Turks and Caicos islands, your first impression of the Dominican Republic is of an impenetrable landmass. As you get closer, in the morning light you can make out the green rolling hills. Anyone wishing to travel by boat to the DR should read ‘The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South’ by Bruce Van Sant – it provides essential advice for dealing with this coast.
Entering the harbour has been made easier by the placement of red and green buoys in the channel. If they are not there or you are in any doubt then call ‘Papo’ on VHF68 and he will come and assist. Once inside the harbour you can choose to go into the reasonably priced Puerto Blanco Marina; anchor, or take one of Papo’s moorings for $2/night.
Be warned, Luperon water is unlike any other, it is incredibly nutrient rich, meaning visibility is zero making it difficult to check the integrity of your mooring, and the growth rate of barnacles on your hull and chain (should you anchor) is phenomenal.
There is no denying that Luperon is a magnificent hurricane hole and should a storm threaten you have plenty of mangroves to tuck into.
Once you are anchored and flying your Q flag, most likely the Comandante will come to your boat with a couple of sidekicks. Offer them a cold drink, they may even ask you for a beer. Despite getting bad press over recent years they are very friendly. Once their checks are complete the captain is to go ashore to the port-a-cabins at the end of the Government dock where you pay the fees and fill out the paperwork for Immigration, Port Authority, Customs, Harbourmaster and Department of Agriculture. It should be noted that if you wish to move anchorage, you need to obtain a despacho for each stop.
If you need drinking water, fuel, ice, laundry or help with anything then ‘Papo’ or ‘Handy Andy’ are the guys to call on VHF68. Everything is delivered to your boat. Drinking water is decanted from five-gallon drums into your tanks; fuel is pumped from their boat to yours. Be warned: the fuel could be dirty and as a precaution should be filtered before entering your tanks. There is a morning net at 8am on VHF68 on Wednesdays and Sundays. Also on Sunday it’s the boat flea market at Puerto Blanco Marina – it can be a happening, or non-happening event depending on how many people turn up. If you are looking for an internet connection many of the bars provide wifi or you can buy a data SIM card for your phone if they have them in stock – or you can pick up wifi in the bay by buying time at the JDiMax store in town.
To get into town leave your dinghy locked to the partially sunken dock halfway up the north side of the government dock past all the fishing vessels. Try not to breathe too deeply as it’s a little smelly around this part.
For a sleepy little town, Luperon can be a bustling place. Music blares from shops and cars, motoconchos (motorcycle taxis) whizz about and trucks blast politico broadcasts as cows are herded down the street.
Despite the poverty it is a lively, colourful place. There are various small shops and tiendas to cater for all your basic supplies. The road forks at Wendy’s Bar – a popular watering hole for cruisers. Take either road and you will find veggie shops and small butchers shops selling various cuts hung from an open hatch and chopped with a huge cleaver on a wooden bench or freshly made chicharrons – pork skins – hot out the pan; so naughty, but so good. Whole BBQ chickens can be bought from roadside vendors. There is even a second hand boat parts shop. You can find a bank with cash point, a bakery and even a heladería – a small ice-cream parlour selling 50 cent ice creams. Everything is so reasonable you could end up going broke. There are plenty of bars and restaurants serving incredibly priced 650ml beers and anything from burgers to pizzas to platos tipicos (typically rice & beans with chicken, beef for pork).
….what I loved most about our stay in Luperon was the access it gave to the stunningly beautiful countryside. Just at the entrance of the bay is a halted development accessed by a small beach in the ‘other’ lagoon. Here you can find huge blow holes and trails with dramatic view points and scenery. Further afield the 27 waterfalls at Damajagua are worth the visit.
Climb up the waterfalls and rivers then jump, dive or slide back down again. Or perhaps visit the teleférico – a cable car that takes you up the side of Mount Isabel de Torres to the Christ Redeemer statue and botanical gardens at the top. Whatever your reasons for visiting Luperon, go there and make up your own mind.
Rosie Burr and her husband Sim Hoggarth have been cruising the Caribbean and North America for over a decade. Visit their blog www.yachtwanderingstar.com