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I know kids. I have three. And there’s one thing kids want to do more than anything and that’s play with a MONKEY. I’ve wanted to play with a monkey since I was 11. But the zoo wouldn’t let me. So when I learned I could feed monkeys in the Dominican Republic, I was all in.
Why leave the All-Inclusive Resort?
Lounging in a beachside cabana offers busy adults the time they need to recharge and relax. But I didn’t want to sum up my time in the Dominican Republic with one sentence, “I sat by the beach with a glass of champagne.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love champagne and there’s nothing better to drink sitting next to the beach. I just wanted to learn a few things and walk away with a better understanding of the Dominican Republic. Like learning about my favorite things, chocolate, coffee and rum, all produced locally.
Why Choose Runners Adventures?
With 20 years of operating experience across the Dominican Republic, Runners Adventures offers eight different tours. During a recent trip to the explore the Ocean Blue and Sand All-Inclusive Resort by H10 near Punta Cana, I spent a day exploring the countryside with Runners Adventures.
My tour sampled several of Runners Adventures signature activities. I fed the monkeys, witnessed thrill seekers on zip lines, learned about the local agriculture and even stopped by a pristine beach.
I was a little hesitant, I’ll be honest. Not knowing what to expect from a place called Monkeyland, I didn’t want to see unhappy, little monkey faces. I’m too much of a kind-hearted animal lover for that.
To my delight, I found a family of tiny, curious two-pound squirrel monkeys that swung from limb-to-limb in their five-acre sanctuary in the rainforest of the Dominican Republic. At night the monkey family sleeps in a large protective house, which kept them safe.
After a quick briefing, I walked though the door of the monkey compound. I went down a few steps and into a grove of trees where the monkey guide handed me a bowl of cut-up tropical fruit, nuts and sunflower seeds. Seriously, I would feed the nutritious snacks to my three kids.
In a blink of an eye, monkeys jumped onto my head with tiny, velvety feet and ran along my shoulders and arms to grab their treats. The monkeys perched on top of my head to nibble their fruit. I wanted to grab one and stuff it in my bag to take home. The monkeys were that cute and gentle. I didn’t.
A must-do for the family. My school aged kids, 9, 12 and 14, would have loved it. The monkeys prefer calm-natured people that remain quiet during their feedings.
Maria’s House or Casa de Maria
I’m just your typical coffee-drinking, chocolate-hoarding mom. So when I learned that the Dominican Republic grew cacao (the raw ingredient of chocolate) and coffee beans, I had to learn all about it.
Just down the road from Monkeyland, the Runners Adventure stopped at a traditional Dominican house owned by Maria for a lesson in local agriculture. I found a tropical paradise covered with different crops that yield year-round, like coffee, cacao and pineapple.
How to Make Chocolate
Behind her simple yet colorful house, I walked down to covered area where Maria works to turn the raw products into my favorite treats. First, I sample the cacao seeds fresh from the pod and experience a completely different taste and texture. The seeds remind me of a tart banana, almost lemony and look nothing like chocolate.
Maria dries the cacao seeds before roasting them. Then she pounds and sifts the seeds to remove the flavorful nibs. The nibs are molded and eventually grated with cinnamon and raw sugar for a Dominican cocoa powder. I got the opportunity to taste the fresh cocoa powder—a must-do for the chocolate lover.
Coffee requires less steps. The Christmas red-colored beans are dried for days then roasted to a deep chocolate brown before grinding. The best part – I sampled a hot chocolate, fresh coffee and pineapple from Maria’s trees.
Not only did I find cacao and coffee plants, her land blooms with tropical flowers and chickens run around eating bugs. Maria’s House is a popular stop for families wanting to learn more about the cultural heritage of the Dominican Republic.
Zip line Adventures in the Dominican Republic
Runners Adventures offers a zip line course through their canopy of rain forest trees. Twelve zip lines connect 18 platforms for a ride of a lifetime; thrill searchers even fly over a small river.
Certified by the Association of Challenge Course Technology, safety is paramount at the Zip Line Adventures. Kids have to be 6-years-old and 44 pounds to ride and adults have weight restrictions too.
Learning about Sugar Cane, Rum and Cigars
The Dominican Republic, on the second largest Caribbean island after Cuba, is an important agricultural center. Sugar cane is the largest crop harvested in the Dominican Republic and my Runners Adventure tour explained the production process.
As I walked through a field of towering sugar cane plants, I imaged a machete-wielding farmhand harvesting the cane and dragging it to a pair of oxen. Traditionally, oxen drove the sugar cane press to extract the juice. Before moving on, I sampled the raw sugar cane juice that’s sweet yet not syrupy.
The next stop on the tour was a series of boilers where the sugary juice reduces to molasses, a sweetener. Allowed to ferment, molasses turns to rum after distilling, another important product of the Dominican Republic.
Next to the sugar cane fields, I watched a demonstration of traditional cigar making. With a combination of local and imported tobacco leaves, the cigar maker rolls the leaves into some of the best cigars in the world.
Punta Cana is world famous for its sugar-white sand beaches with water the color of purest turquoise. Hotels line the majority of the beaches in the Dominican Republic, except for Macao Beach.
Macao Beach offers straw-colored sand dotted with palm trees, perfect for sunbathing. A beach for beach-lovers, I found a surf camp and several huts offering seafood and drinks.
Getting to Runners Adventures
Runners Adventures picks up their guests from the lobby of their resort, a convenient feature for travelers without rental cars. Depending on the adventure, guests will ride in an open air safari truck or smaller air-conditioned tour bus.
I consider driving up-and-down mountain roads part of the adventure. Kids should love the bumpy ride along the unpaved roads.
Tips from a Traveling Mom:
- Runners Adventures is also called Bavaro Adventures, the original company name.
- Kids are welcome though strollers might be difficult to navigate in the hilly terrain on the typical excursion.
- Monkeys are sensitive to insect repellent so it can’t be worn in the monkey compound.
- The Monkeyland tour is not recommended for people with peanut allergies.
- My school age kids 9, 12 and 14 would love the Monkeyland though it might be intimidating for timid preschoolers or babies.
- For a Runners Adventures tour, I recommend wearing hiking sandals and clothes that can get dirty.
- Rain can be encountered at anytime in the rain forest.