Luperon is Great! Don’t miss it.
Luperon is one of the first harbours to clear in at in the Dominican Republic along the north coast of the Island of Hispaniola.
Hispaniola is shared by Dominican Republic and Haiti and is the largest island in all of the Caribbean, but also the poorest. Cruisers have been coming here for years but about 5 years ago it was having some problems with crime and corruption among officials. Word quickly spread amongst boaters that Luperon was not a good place to go. Since then the resident cruisers and expats that live in Luperon Harbour have worked hard with the locals to turn this all around, however almost every review remains the same and no one seems to recommend coming here. We would like to start a new and updated review of Luperon! Tell your friends, it is a great spot with a lot to offer the cruising community and one that shouldn’t be missed.
Every time we talked to another cruiser to get their take on Luperon the reviews were far from glowing yet none of the crusiers we talked to had ever actually been to Luperon. There was talk of corruption from the officials that made it difficult to clear customs without some heavy “tipping”. The harbour water is described as filthy and we were told our boat bottom would take a beating, not to mention that water is too dirty to use our water maker. Luperon has even been given a pretty bad rap, garnering the nick name “ Pooperon”.
Not exactly our picture of paradise.
After all these comments from fellow cruisers we found ourselves confused, should we go to Luperon despite the negative feedback or skip it? We continued to read and ask questions about Luperon, somehow convinced that it couldn’t be all that bad and besides where else would we go? We would have to work out a new route or make an extra long passage to skip Luperon.
What kept us intrigued was the idea of rich culture, cheap prices ( lets not forget we are travelling on the Canadian dollar which at the moment may as well be pesos ) a new language to learn and plenty of things to do and see. In the end we spoke to a long time delivery captain that told us it was worth it. That was enough for us! The decision was made, we would ignore all the negative reviews and check it out for ourselves. Luperon here we come!
Expecting the worst we were met with one of our favourite places so far, so keep reading to find out why and what the actual truth about Luperon is.
We have been in Luperon for 6 weeks giving us enough time to make a true assessment of the area and what is actually going on here. I guess the duration of our stay might give you some clue about how we feel about the place. Simply put…we love it! What about all the bad reviews you might be asking? Well, some of it is true, and some of it WAS true but things can change and from what we have seen and experienced a lot has done just that for the good.
Lets start with the corruption of the officials. Checking into the country was a breeze. The authorities knew the minute we arrived and sent a team of 3 men to inspect the boat. One of the men was from the army and spoke english, the others were from immigration and drug control. They were very polite and friendly, once aboard they had a look around but did not go into any compartments or either of the hulls. Pictures of our vessel documents and passports were taken along with some casual questioning. “ Do you have any guns, drugs or Haitians onboard?” They asked, we replied “no” they said “OK” There have been tougher questions entering back into our own country. When the inspection was over, they said we seemed like nice people and they could tell that we were honest and they would not have to inspect the boat any further. We travelled with 2 other boats that had the same experience. We were off to a good start.
With the inspection complete, the next step was to check in with the authorities on shore. These humble offices are more like a temporary work trailer that you would find at a construction site but it works for them. All in a row it is very convenient, bring your dinghy to the dock and walk to the end or the pier. Immigration is first where you pay for your vessel and number of passengers. For Saltair 3 it was 3000 pesos for the vessel and 500 for each passenger for the duration of 1 month for a total of $100US. Next office was The Ministry of Tourism where you pay $10 per person for a tourism card. Up next is the Port Authority which surprisingly doesn’t ask for any money just your vessel information. Finally is the Department of Agriculture where a fee of $20US is paid to cover garbage disposal and whatever else. This office only had one chair in it and the official, who by the way isn’t wearing anything to indicate that she IS the official offered it to us to sit on. Not sure how that makes sense since there is 3 of us but it was a nice gesture which she sweetened by giving us a Mango as a gift. No doubt from a tree in her yard. What a nice welcome so far. All the officials were full of smiles and warm greetings, most spoke only spanish but there was a translator that would go to each office with you. I’m not sure if he was there on purpose or if we just got lucky, its hard to tell when no one is wearing a uniform. Each office made sure to emphasis that these fees were only to be paid one time and that if we were to go to any other port in the DR we were not to pay again. This is far from corrupt if you ask me. Never once did we get the impression that a bribe was needed to complete or check in , it went very easy.
So now that we’ve settled your mind about corrupt officials we can move into one of the other subjects of bad review, the harbour water. Well, once you are in the harbour its no Bahamas or Turks and Caicos that’s for sure. It hardly seems fair to even have to compare it to those places. The reality of it is that the water is dirty and you probably won’t be doing any swimming off the back of your boat. Not to worry though you won’t die if you fall in, Brad was kind enough to test this for us! Haha.
While we weren’t swimming off the back of the boat inside the harbour, we did do a little snorkelling just at the mouth of the channel. It seems that the closer you are to the opening of the harbour the water is cleaner since it is able to flush through. The locals are always swimming in the harbour and if you need your bottom cleaned it will only run you about $1/ft. You will find that your bottom will get fouled in about 2weeks. The harbour is also too brackish to use your water maker, however our buddy boat would move anchor to the mouth of the harbour on an incoming tide and make water. They did this on 2 occasions with no problems. There is no doubt that the water is not clean but we were expectting worse. You can buy RO ( reverse osmosis ) water by the 5 gal jug and even have it delivered to your boat for about $1 a jug. We did this for the duration of our stay.
Papo and Handy Andy are two honest and reliable guys that service the harbour, catering to every need of the cruiser. They will deliver anything to your boat on their tired fibreglass runabouts from water, beer, ice, fuel, they will pick up your laundry and return it clean and folded, book you tours, help you with anything you want even wash your boat and scrape the bottom. This one is a good one since like I mentioned before, you won’t want to be swimming in the harbour. The locals are happy to get the job and earn a few dollars and that is all it is, just a few dollars. Be kind to them and you can barter with them but try to remember that they are not rich people and if you find yourself bartering over 2 or 3 dollars its a bigger difference to them than it is to you.
Fuel! We were warned not to buy fuel in the DR. But hey what do you do when you need fuel? So we did and it was clean. Papo delivered it to our boat and pumped it in using a generator attached to a pump in his large tank. It is a different colour here which took us by surprise. We used our Baha filter when putting that diesel in which takes longer but that was no problemo for Papo, he is happy to wait the extra time. When we mentioned that we were concerned about the fuel being a different colour and potentially dirty he was quick to offer his pump so we could polish our tank. When we did this the fuel was totally clean, putting our minds to rest.
Crime. We did not experience any crime or even hear of others having problems. Some cruisers lock their dinghys to the dock while others don’t. Some joke about not coming with a full tank of fuel to the dock as someone might “borrow” some but we never had this happen. The pier that leads to the dinghy dock is guarded 24/7 so if you don’t have a boat you aren’t getting to the dock. When we spoke to some of the expats that live in town they all agree that crime has gone down and is no longer a topic of discussion as it once was. The streets of Luperon are very safe day and night. We spent many evenings in town after dark enjoying the atmosphere with the locals and never once felt unsafe. Some streets are darker than others so of course we still keep our wits about us but we enjoyed our time in town.
Dominican Republic is a poor country and there is no hiding that, the minute you walk into town you can feel it. What you can also feel is the friendliness and welcoming attitude of the locals. Their glimmering bright white smiles are infectious and instead of feeling intimidated just be friendly, say hello or Hola and give a smile, you will be impressed with the response. The locals are proud of their country and so they should be, it is beautiful. Take the opportunity to see as much as you can. You can provision here by taking a 45 mins ride to Puerto Plata by either taxi, gwa gwa (mini bus) or rental car and shopping at La Sirena a large grocery store. Rent a motorcycle and drive to some of the smaller coastal villages where the scenery is breathtaking and the friendliness welcoming. We left our boat in the harbour for 5 days while we toured the country with no bad results.
If you are worried about the language barrier, don’t be, there are enough locals to help that speak english and with a little creativity you can always seems to get across what you mean. Who knows you may even learn a few new words. The expat community here is substantial with some living on boats and some that have traded in their life afloat for a life on land. These people are a fantastic group that give great potential to a harbour that could once again could be a flourishing cruising community.
I hope after reading this you will consider going to Luperon it has a lot of great things to offer the cruising experience and we are so glad we didn’t skip it. Spread the word! This is a current review not one that is outdated. Come see for yourself!