Arriving in Bahía de las Águilas is no small feat. If you have ever read Alex Garland’s The Beach (or seen Leonardo DiCaprio’s ill-advised Hollywood version) or watched films like Y Tu Mamá Tambíén, it’s kind of like that. The last gas stop was in Enriquillo, 44 miles in my rearview mirror, and I haven’t passed another vehicle for at least 30 miles. I think I saw a stray burro grazing on a dead cactus far off on the horizon at one point. I take a left off Highway 44 for Cabo Rojo, a barely marked, fumble-with-the-radio-and-you’ll-miss-it turn about seven miles east of the end of the line in the twin border towns of Pedernales/Anse-à-Pitres.
Four miles later in Cabo Rojo — which is definitely vying to be the Most Beautiful Immaterial Port on the Planet — the road turns to dust and gets very ugly. My Chevy Spark is not meant for off-roading, so I’m forced to slow to a crawl for the next four miles, lest I leave an axle here for nobody else to find. Eventually, I arrive in Las Cuevas; there’s nothing but a magnificent seafood restaurant called Rancho Tipico. On the menu, two things: mofongo (a DR staple of African origins, it’s a mishmashed concoction of fried green plantains, garlic, olive oil, pork cracklings and various seafood stuffings), and various transport prices to Bahía de las Águilas (which can only be reached by boat). I have a small chuckle between bites of my dreamy octopus mofongo with a view, as I see that options become cheaper as groups become larger, with the most economical per-person price requiring a group of at least 16 people. The thing is, though, I haven’t seen that many people in my two days here!
But the travel gods come through once again, as there is one Dominican family climbing into a small boat just off the restaurant’s pier. I ask to join, pleasantries are exchanged, and off we go together to a beach even most Dominicans can only dream about. The 10-minute ride is all shock and awe, past gorgeous cliffs with cactuses clinging to the craggy edges, weaving in and out through storybook rock formations and dodging sea-diving pelicans.
They say it’s the journey, not the destination. But they are wrong. Suddenly, Bahía de las Águilas comes into focus and a collective gasp is let out on the boat. The unadulterated, gleaming sands and jungle-green vegetation, stretching off into the distance as far as the eyes can see in a spectacular slow arc between two prominent capes, are inexpressible by poet or silver screen. There isn’t a soul on it. The soundtrack is silence — not so bad after all.