As I make my way along the coast of the criminally undervisited Pedernales Peninsula, the obvious question is: Why am I here? My destination is Bahía de las Águilas, an 8-kilometer deserted stretch of cinematic beach in the far-flung corner of the Dominican Republic that most folks have never even heard of. It’s the most remote, hardest-to-reach beach in the country — and many consider it to be the most beautiful, as well.
Beginning south of Barahona and extending south and west to the Haitian border, the Pedernales Peninsula is last call in the DR; an isolated, cactus-strewn desertscape more reminiscent of the American Southwest than anything anyone imagines in the Caribbean, though that isn’t far, either. The coastal waters here are as beautiful as any in the world, a kaleidoscopic swirl of the entire spectrum of blue, backed by dramatic cliffs, polished-stone beaches and a wealth of incredible national parks that almost nobody outside the Dominican Republic knows a thing about. Whereas Punta Cana is more about downing endless cocktails and gorging on bottomless buffets (I’m not saying that’s not awesome), Pedernales is an ecotourism startup catering to sustainably inclined nature lovers, solitude seekers and those just crazy enough to go against the grain of tourism brochures, travel agents and whatever the Joneses are doing.
So, why do so few go? That’s a very good question — and one that tour operators and hoteliers in the region would very much like answered. I haven’t seen a tourist since I stopped for dinner the evening prior at Casa Bonita, one of the little-known gems of this coast. Perched dramatically on a hillside between Caribbean waters and misty, coffee-strewn mountaintops, this former vacation home for a wealthy Dominican family is now a charming boutique hotel. Knowing it would be my last meal of significant substance as I drove into more remote areas the next day, I stuffed myself on an extraordinary organic artisanal baked cheese (from nearby Polo, the organic-coffee capital of the DR), followed by an organic-lemongrass filet of beef. Organic Polo coffee followed, of course — and it was probably the best cup
of joe I’ve ever had in the Caribbean.