Black Orchid Resort – Review

Beauty, serenity and hospitality

I stayed at the Black Orchid Resort for three nights in February 2015. Should I return to Belize, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again. I did not go to Belize for a chaotic city vibe, so staying outside the city in a small resort on the river was perfect for me.

I had arranged an airport transfer from the hotel and was warmly welcomed by the driver who took me to the resort. Check in was easy. My room was clean, comfortable and cozy. It had everything we needed and maid service cleaned and tidied up for us daily. Luggage was delivered to my room which was nice as it was on the second level (no elevators).

Black Orchid Resort, Burrell Boom, Belize

Black Orchid Resort, Burrell Boom, Belize

I had the opportunity to see several of the different rooms and each one is unique with a Belizean flavour, but different interiors. Some have been more recently renovated than others, but all of the three or four that I saw were lovely in their own charming way.

Black Orchid Resort Rooms, Burrell Boom, Belize

Black Orchid Resort Rooms, Burrell Boom, Belize

I had hot water and lovely showers while I stayed at the hotel which is always a plus when you’re staying in a country with less infrastructure than Canada.

The staff were extremely helpful, friendly and attentive. I didn’t have any issues, but if I did, I wouldn’t have hesitated to ask them to help me. And I feel confident that they would have gone out of my way to assist as quickly as possible.

The grounds of the Black Orchid are rustic, but charming. Full of nature from the trees and flowers to the monkeys. It was lovely just to take in the peace and quiet of the surroundings while sitting by the pool, overlooking the beautiful river or relaxing in a hammock.

While I was there I took one of their free bicycles and rode around the small community. People were incredibly friendly, as well as curious. They were surprised to see tourists biking around, I guess most visitors take tours, rather than explore the small community.
I stopped for a drink at a local convenience store and chatted with the owner, and I met a man who regularly races in the big Ruta Maya Canoe Challenge, so I heard about the race from a competitor which was interesting.

The Black Orchid is outside of the city, out of the hustle and bustle, completely quite, serene and relaxing. I didn’t spend any time at the bar, but a few of my co-travellers did and enjoyed the evenings chatting away over drinks.

I was particularly impressed with the food. Every day I ordered something different and it was just as good, if not better than the previous day. The soups were full of flavour and ingredients, the fish was fresh and the chicken dishes were all very flavourful as well.

Tacos at the Black Orchid Resort

Tacos at the Black Orchid Resort

Breakfast was sufficient but not luxurious. There was always cereal, juice, coffee, tea, some kind of bread or pastry and a couple of fresh fruit options. I never left the hotel hungry. If you arrived near the end of breakfast, supplies might be slightly limited, but the one morning this happened to me, I just asked for replenishments and a couple of minutes later I had everything I needed.

As for location, there is nothing within walking distance of the resort, but there are a myriad of great adventure activities in the surrounding area. This makes the Black Orchid a great central point to stay for a few days.

You can do canoeing, cycling and bird watching right at the resort. The Baboon sanctuary is only a few kms away. Within an hour or two you have Lamanai Ruins which are fantastic ruins hidden in the jungle, accessible by river. In the other direction you can head to San Ignacio for caving, tubing or many more ruins sites. Most of these would be full day trips from the Black Orchid.

On the flip side, you can also easily reach the Caye’s from Burrell Boom. Arrange your transfer into Belize City, hop the ferry and off you go to Island Paradise. Two to three hours and you’ll go from jungle to beach.

Although I wouldn’t suggest spending your entire Belize vacation in Burrell Boom, it is certainly a lovely, off the beaten track resort that caters to those who appreciate the sights and sounds of nature over the hustle and bustle of the city.

You’ll be sure to be well taken care of by the friendly staff.

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Incrediblue was incredible!

For those of you who may not know, I chose to visit Athens, Greece in October as I was already planning to travel in Europe and there was an exciting travel blogger conference being held in Athens. Since I was in the general area (i.e. the same continent), I decided it would be a waste not to go to the TBEX conference and see what it was all about. The conference did not disappoint!

After three days of networking, connecting with other amazing travel bloggers and vloggers, doing a few tours and taking in an amazing amount of information, I got a really fantastic opportunity that kind of rocked my world.

If you’ve been following along with my blog, you might be aware that I have fallen head over heels in love with sailing. I’ve always loved boats and being on or near the ocean, but I struggle with sea sickness, so it makes it a love / hate relationship.

During the TBEX conference, I had entered a contest with Incrediblue, lo and behold, when the winners were announced, I had been chosen as one of them. The prize, a four hour catamaran sailing experience with a handful of other winners, a spread of beautiful Greek cheeses and Ela Gold Champagne.

It was a grey, chilly day in Athens, but we all joined together to set sail for a few hours just off the coast.
The bloggers: Lizzy, Scott, Suzanne and Paula. We were greeted by three friendly crew members who would take care of us on board. They helped us navigate the ropes to get on the catamaran and showed us to the kitchen where we were treated to a spread of champagne, olives, crackers, cheeses and sun dried tomatoes.

In case you are not familiar, Ela Gold is infused with 24 carat gold flakes. I’m not much of a drinker, but how could I pass up something so unique! It’s not like I get to taste the richness of gold every day. I am far from a connoisseur of any kind of alcohol beverage (although I do love a good fuzzy navel!), but I have to admit that the Ela Gold Champagne was tasty and paired well with the local snacks.

Once we had indulged in champagne for breakfast, the crew navigated us out of our tight docking spot in the marina and off toward open water. Despite the blah weather, it was a lovely day for sailing. The waters were calm and visibility was excellent.

Our small group spread out around the catamaran; some chatting with the crew, others lazing on the netting (until they were warned that they might get a bit wet). I took a few minutes to just sit and take it all in at the front of the boat, the calmness of the seas, the wind whistling by, the smell of the ocean …. When it all comes together it is so very relaxing. How could you not love the freedom of being on the ocean? After breathing it all in, I got back around to mingling with the other bloggers, staff and crew.

Incrediblue is a really interesting company. They are somewhat like an agency for people who own and operate sailboats of all different shapes and sizes. It is kind of like the Air BnB of sailing if you will. If you are interested in a sailing vacation you simply sort through their inventory by location, date and size of the vessel and then you contact the crew to ask as many questions as you wish. It is a completely tailor-made experience. They operate mostly in the Mediterranean, but are expanding. You choose your ship with crew, your destination and length of time sailing. How cool is that?

I was chatting with the crew about sailing the catamaran and next thing I knew, I was sailing the catamaran! Just take a look at my face and you’ll quickly see how much I was enjoying my time on board. (Thanks Intrepid Escape for capturing my joy!)

I learned a bit about when to turn the wheel and how far, but I don’t really think I was very good at it. I didn’t really realize how quickly the wind changes and that you have to adjust for it constantly. After a few minutes of trying my hand at sailing, I gave the wheel back to the Captain as the winds were changing. The crew rushed off to change the sails and shortly thereafter we were headed back to shore.

Despite the grey day in Athens, the sailing trip was a great glimpse at what Incrediblue has to offer and yet another chance for me to get out on the water and enjoy the relaxing lilt of the waves and the wind in my hair. Also worthy of noting, one more sailing adventure without sea sickness! Preventative medication is king!

Ah Hotel – Santiago, Chile

A couple of weeks before traveling to Santiago, Chile I booked myself a room at the Ah Hotel. It is an aparta-hotel, so it comes with a kitchenette. It is centrally located within only a couple of blocks of the historic city centre, on a main street with a bus stop directly in front of the entrance.

My taxi driver dropped me off and I pushed the buzzer for someone to come unlock the front door for me. They keep this door locked all of the time for security, so no matter what time of day or night you are arriving, you need to buzz in, or you can buzz yourself out. It was nice to know not just anyone could come and go, especially with the bus stop right there and what seemed like an abundance of homeless nearby.

The lady who greeted me did not speak much English, but that was ok as I had proudly just had a full Spanish conversation with my taxi driver. So, I was at least over my jitters about opening my mouth to try and speak Spanish. She found my reservation, checked me in and showed me to my room, up one flight of stairs. She also carried my suitcase up the stairs for me.

The room was plain. In fact I can’t even embellish the sentence as it was that dull. Honestly, it made no difference to me as I was only there for a couple of nights. The walls were white, it was sparsely furnished and only one piece of art crookedly hanging above the double bed.

The lady left me to settle in and I checked behind each of the three closed doors to see what I would find.

Door #1 a kitchen the size of a closet, but equipped with almost everything I would need for two days. There was a mini fridge, a cooktop, some silverware, a couple of pots, glasses and dishes. I checked closely for cockroaches, just waiting to let out a horrible scream, but I found none and the kitchen, although not spotless, was sufficiently clean.

Door #2 opened up to a decent size bathroom that looked like it had possibly been renovated in the last few years (unlike the remainder of the apartment). The paint was peeling a bit, but everything was clean, the toilet was new and it was bright.

Door #3 was a small closet with shelves and hangers for those who were staying longer and wanted to unpack.

Sounds good so far right?

Now, keep in mind that I am not a particularly squeamish person. I’m used to traveling and staying in basic accommodations with a variety of issues. I am far from a neat freak, clean freak or perfectionist which all of my friends and family can vouch for.

After getting past the first glance, I looked around and realized that the apartment was actually quite dirty. The floors were smattered in black patches. There were so many of them that I thought it might be part of the colour in the wood floor, but no … Not unless it has been dirty for so long that it has seeped into the wood. This is a distinct possibility. It looked like the floors had not been mopped for a year … maybe more. This was the kind of place that you don’t walk barefoot unless you want your feet to turn black.

It almost looks like soot or volcanic ash, and maybe it is, but if there is that much on the floor in a closed building, what do people’s lungs look like? Yikes!

Based on the dirt on the floor, I became immediately more aware of the dirt everywhere else. The curtains that were once white, were grey; darker at the bottom from the soot everywhere. The walls were the same with the baseboards collecting more dust than I’ve ever seen.

On further inspection, the kitchen had a few bits and pieces of food left around and the plates and glasses were not all that clean. This could be because they don’t provide dish liquid or cleaning cloths. So, if you plan to stay for awhile, you’ll need to buy your own … along with a mop apparently!

The bathroom was actually still decently clean with surprisingly good quality toilet paper. I know, random thing to notice! However, the towels were another story. Although you could tell they had been washed from the way they felt from being air dried and were folded neatly. Maybe they were washed in the river though? A couple of stains, some ground in dirt and even a couple of rips showed that these had been around for a very long time.

At 11pm on the first night there was a knock on my door with delivery of breakfast on a platter for the next morning. An individual-sized packet of Chilean style frosted flakes, a Quaker Oatmeal cookie, tea, coffee, sugar, milk and orange juice boxes and yogurt. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was just enough to get me going the next morning.

The first night when I went to crawl into bed, it was the first bed that I ever in my life have checked for bed bugs. Luckily, I didn’t find any. I didn’t sleep the greatest that night as I was still thinking about them, but I woke up the next morning un-eaten.

I would definitely give the hotel a great rating on location. It really does not get much better. However, if you like cleanliness, you should look elsewhere, this is not the spot for you. I paid about $50 – $55 per night CAD and I’m very excited to move on to my next hotel, included in my tour which should be a huge improvement. Having said that, it wasn’t so bad that I decided to move elsewhere. I survived it. It was a great location, internet worked perfectly, the bed was reasonably comfortable and the shower wasn’t bad. It just needs some TLC and some strong cleaning solution.

Very surprised to see that it won a trip advisor award in 2013. Did I just have a bad room? Did it just not get cleaned fully before I arrived? Who knows … Or sometimes trip advisor isn’t the be-all-end-all.

Review: Hotel Rialto – Venice, Italy

HOTEL RIALTO

Location – Venice, Italy

Hotel Rialto is centrally located immediately at the bottom of the stairs to the famous Rialto bridge along Canal Grande.

Being centrally located, it is well accessed by vaporettos, gondolas and private water taxis. No matter where you are in Venice, if you ask how to get to Rialto Bridge, people will help you find your way as it is one of the main attractions in Venice.

If you don’t get lost, it is about a 10 – 15 minute walk to San Marco square, or about 15 – 20 minutes via vaporetto depending on the number of stops. Of course, if you have a good sense of direction, I would suggest wandering the narrow, crooked, charm-filled streets rather than riding the crowded vaporettos.

The hotel is urrounded by delicious tourist restaurants located directly overlooking the canal, many tourist shops and pop-up vendors and gelaterias. If you wander a few streets away, you can find quaint restaurants hidden amongst the winding streets, all of your favorite brand names (Gucci / Louis Vatton etc) and unending canals full of gondolas, small bridges and Venitian architecture.

The Annex

The Annex, Hotel Rialto, Venice, Italy

The Annex, Hotel Rialto, Venice, Italy

The main hotel is complimented by a few extra rooms located in the Annex.

The Annex is located about 2 – 3 minutes walk from the main reception area through a couple of narrow back streets. Although I had no difficulties, it is a little bit sketchy entering the hotel through a back door and some people may not be comfortable with this.

You access the Annex through a green, unmarked door in the back alley. In fact, the first night I was there, after venturing out on my own, I came back and couldn’t get my key to work in the green door. I headed around to the front of the building to get assistance at the lobby and then decided to return and give the key one more try. It was on my second attempt that I discovered there are two sets of green doors side by side and I was trying my keys in the wrong door. Common mistake, I’m sure. I’m glad that no one came out yelling at me for trying to break in to their home or shop!

Once inside, The Annex has a flight of stairs to climb and no lift / elevator. So, it is not good for anyone with a lot of luggage or mobility issues.

The hallway smells a bit funky, but not unbearable and a hotel this old and steeped with history shouldn’t smell like aromatherapy anyway, it would take away from it’s authenticity.

The Room

Hotel Rialto, Venice, Italy

Hotel Rialto, Venice, Italy

I had a twin room (two single beds) overlooking the canal (a lovely surprise). The room was larger than a standard bedroom in a house and seemed even larger with extra high ceilings (approx. 14 feet high or more). The walls are green broqued material (yes you read that right) and the furniture is all painted green with a pink flower design delicately placed on each piece. A desk, vanity, two end tables, three chairs and an old style love seat plus a square stand and large stand up closet furnished the room.

Let’s not forget the huge, beautiful Murano glass chandelier lighting the entire room, as well as three lamps and an art light over one of the lovely old-style paintings.

The bathroom was simple and clean with a corner shower (no tub).

There was a flat screen tv and air conditioning. WIFI worked occasionally, but not regularly. However, it was free and worked very well in the lobby area.

Breakfast

Breakfast is included and served from 7 – 10 am near the main lobby. It is a small dining area inside, but during breakfast hours they share the outside terrace of the bar next door.

Self-serve breakfast consisted of a few different pastries, boiled eggs, soft bacon, yogurt, whole fruit and cereal. Additional items were available at extra cost. The food was good and options were better than continental, but I wouldn’t call it a buffet either.

Overall, the hotel was good quality and excellent location. It certainly had charm and history. It was pricey as most hotels in Venice are. I don’t think I would have wanted to stay in anything cheaper though and the view of the canal was a lovely surprise.

Air Canada Rouge Review

Air Canada Rouge – Toronto to Venice – Review

Being Air Canada’s lower cost counterpart, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for my first Rouge Flight. I was surprisingly welcomed by friendly and gracious staff with stylish uniforms and fedoras. Friendly, helpful, polite … can’t ask for much more from an airline. Compared to the regular Air Canada flight that I had just gotten off, where staff seemed to just be getting by, it was truly a pleasant surprise.

Not having much time before take off, I asked one of the attendants to assist with getting their inflight entertainment set up on my electronics. I was pleased to find out, all I had to do was download the app on my computer and my iphone before leaving and once we were up in air I’d be able to access a full variety of entertainment options – movies, tv, news, music, kids programming. Although I managed to sleep through about five hours of the flight, I still found time to give the Air Canada Rouge player a go. I successfully watched two episodes of Big Bang Theory (my go to on planes) at good resolution on my MacBook Air with no interruptions. It was simple to use. Just remember that you need your own headphones and a device. The service is free to use and the app free to download. Just go into your app store on your iphone and download the free Air Canada app. I’m sure it has many more great features, but I only checked out the bare minimum and valued my sleep instead.

Also remember that you have to have the app downloaded prior to take off as it is only wifi for their specific rouge app, not for surfing safari or checking email. I was a little disappointed by this as I was hoping to keep in touch via social media and had gotten excited at the wifi idea. Ah well … it’s coming, just not quite yet.

Seating was comfortable and being in the plus section (not business), you could certainly feel the difference of the little extra leg room. Sadly I was late boarding (at final call because my previous flight was delayed) so carryon storage space was limited. I found room for my large camera bag, but wasn’t able to fit my laptop case in anywhere nearby. Sitting at the front of the section with a wall in front of me gave me a bit of extra leg room, but with the loss of room to store anything under the seat. Luckily a kind man beside me allowed me to invade his under seat space with my laptop bag for the duration of the flight. Thank you kind stranger! It’s never fun to have your carryon luggage spread all over the cabin when you go to get off the plane. Especially if you have to walk toward the back to get one of your items through the sea of impatient people crowding the aisles waiting for their turn to get off the plane even though the plane has barely come to a hault.

We were served a hot meal for supper about an hour after take off. Choices were pasta – beef stroganoff, or chicken and veggies. Although not the best plane meal I’ve ever had, the chicken was definitely sufficient, piping hot and decent flavor. The best part? The brownie for dessert … yumm!

Breakfast, about an hour and a half before landing was a piece of banana bread. Now, it was white banana bread … not at all the same as my momma makes! I’m used to banana bread that is marbled or spotted a bit. This bread was yellow and so banana-y flavoried that it may have been flavor-added rather than just au-natural. Regardless, it was moist and delicious.

Overall, happy with my first Air Canada Rouge experience. Although not the most luxurious that I’ve been on, it was still clearly well above a low cost carrier in space, options and meals.

Super happy that after having my Air France flights cancelled due to strike that I was able to switch on to Air Canada, collect my aeroplan points, try out Air Canada Rouge product and get to Venice with only one stop in Toronto.

Rouge is definitely a worthy option in the competitive world of airlines.

Mojito Bar – Cabarete

As it’s name suggests, Mojito bar is the place to go in Cabarete for Mojito’s! It was a popular spot for the students from my school in Sosua to go to for 2 for 1 happy hour once or twice a week. Unfortunately I don’t like Mojito’s, but they were popular and sure looked pretty! The bar had a list of 4 or 5 options for their 2 for 1 deal. I opted for 2 for 1 Pina Colada’s. Sadly they were the worst Pina Colada’s that I had ever had. They seemed to solely be pineapple juice and liquor. There was no coconut flavor at all. They were thin, weak and lacked any resemblance to what I expected for a pina colada. Even at 2 for 1 they were sub-par.

Service here was friendly and good, although regularly a bit slow because the bar is tiny and the customers are plenty.

If you are stopping by for a bite to eat the sandwiches are yummy, but make sure you order early before the kitchen closes! The fresh squeezed juice that accompanies the sandwich menu is hit or miss. It depends on the combination of fruits, but twice I was served juice that was too sour to drink. Fresh should still mean ripe!

Overall, not my favorite location for drinks, but the sandwiches were good and I hear the Mojito’s were worth it!

Mojito Bar Cabarete

Mojito Bar Cabarete

Mojito Bar Cabarete

Mojito Bar Cabarete

Mojito Bar Cabarete

Mojito Bar Cabarete

Ojo Bar Review

I went to Ojo’s on three separate Thursday nights during August 2012 for Latin Dance. The first night, arriving at 9pm was a mistake as there was no one on the dance floor … or even at the bar at all. By 10:30 a few people will start to make their way to the dance floor and by 11:30, the dance floor was usually packed with a good mixture of locals and tourists. Generally speaking, mostly young local men (19 – 35) and mostly tourist women (19 – 50) … however, certainly some couples (local and tourist) were showing off their moves too.

The drinks here were strong (Cuba libre or Santa Libre) and reasonably priced. The bar staff were always pleasant and if you are a fan of Bachata and Merengue music, this is the best place to be for a Thursday night.

It was a great atmosphere for dancing and I was comfortable dancing with my girl friends or with friendly locals. Solo women travelers should be wary of the intentions of the locals at this bar (or any bar) as often they are looking for their ‘sugar momma’s’. Return week after week and you’ll see the same guys courting various different women, sometimes within the same evening. However, if you are just looking to dance the night away, you’ll have no shortage of offers to hit the dance floor from local men … most of whom are good dancers and will make you feel like a star even if your dance skills are beginner. Be cautious of their requests for ‘Just one kiss’, your phone number or them offering to make sure you get home safely.

Need to take a break? Head upstairs to the open-air rooftop, Salsa section of the bar. You can have a seat on some comfy couches in the fresh ocean air and grab a drink from one of the two bars. And then, once you’ve rested, you can show off your Salsa moves on the huge rooftop dance floor. The best part about it is that most nights there is a refreshing breeze, which is greatly welcomed in the middle of summer in the Dominican when you are out dancing.

Overall, Ojo’s was my favorite bar in Cabarete, specifically for Thursday nights. I made a special effort to go out every week for Latin Dance to meet and dance with locals rather than always heading to the other bars with the North American / European style dance beats.

Enjoy! Be cautious!

Hotel Plaza del Sol Review

Located in the University District of Santo Domingo, Plaza del Sol is reasonable priced and in a reasonably safe area of this massive city. As with any area, being a solo female traveler, I limited my outdoor excursions to day time hours unless I was in a group, but I never felt threatened in this area. I did, however, choose to stay inside or in a group after about 7pm each night.

The hotel itself was one of the best ones that I stayed in ($30-$45 US per night range). It was clean, had a small kitchenette and powerful air conditioning in each room. Make sure to pick up your own matches to light the gas stoves though as they don’t have any available for you. The TVs were large, new and cable worked well. The beds seemed fairly new, firm and were very comfortable! The sheets were clean, fitted and the comforter or top sheet was always white (or cream) and well kept. I was also pleased that the internet worked regularly and with decent speed so I was able to keep up with blogging, work and social media whenever I wanted.

The bathrooms were also fairly good, although each one that I stayed in was different. One had a bathtub and a great shower. If you could figure out the switches, I believe there was warm water, although it only worked once for me. The other had just a shower stall and the warm water was hit or miss. The stall also allowed water to spill onto the bathroom floor, making quite a mess.

I dealt with two staff members – a less than friendly woman and a lovely young man. The man was often there in the evenings and was very patient and helpful when I wanted to arrange my taxi to the airport for 3am.

The main doors into the hotel are locked and you need to get the staff to buzz you in or out which is slightly annoying, but also provides good security, so I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Call ahead to make your booking. If you can get a local friend to call for you, you can likely get a better room rate. They often have tourist rates for people who call or book online, but if a local calls, they can get it for $5-$15 per night cheaper.

The Hotel is located on Jose Contreras Street, which is one-way. Don’t be surprised if your taxi driver drives head on into traffic to get to the hotel (about 4 or 5 blocks from the main intersection). Not sure if they are unaware of how to get to the hotel from the other direction, too lazy to drive around, or if they simply don’t care about it being one way, but I was regularly driven the wrong way down this one way street.

The hotel is centrally located and within walking distance to La Sirena (Dominican’s equivalent to Wal-Mart), several local convenience stores, bars and snack shops, as well as being close to McDonald’s, Domino’s, Burger King and several pizza places. You can pick up groceries and snacks at La Sirena, or El Super Mercato National which is also within 10-15 minutes walk. La Sirena also offers a pharmacy, bank with tellers for money exchange, Claro and Orange kiosks for cell phones and a food court with local and American foods.

The hotel is about a 30-45 minute walk from Zona Colonial or the Malecon (waterfront area), both areas offering lots of restaurants, bars and historical sites to view.

Jose Contreras is also well serviced by local buses as it is a university district. If you know where you are going and what bus to take, I assume you wouldn’t have to wait long to hop on one. There were always plenty going by.

You can also walk 5-10 minutes to main public car routes, or call a taxi to pick you up at the hotel.

My favourite Sosua Restaurant

PJ’s was one of my regularly frequented restaurants in my three-week stay in Sosua during August 2012. Located on the main strip of Pedro Clisante it was easy to find and hard to avoid as it was close to the main beach, close to the main road from Puerto Plata to Cabarete and amongst a variety of touristy restaurants on the main street of the town.

About a week after my return to Canada (Sept 2012), I’ve learned that PJ’s is now under the name of Sinatra’s, but boasts the same great service and food!

Initially I went with a group of students from my Spanish school. Although the restaurant was busy, our group of seven or eight was quickly accommodated. Staff moved tables together and made us feel welcome. The atmosphere, the food and the service were all very good by my Canadian standards, which really made them exceptional for Dominican standards. Often, Dominican restaurants are not known for their good service, but this spot proves differently.

On a second visit, I ate alone on a less busy night at the restaurant and was joined by Steve, the owner to talk about all things Dominican and the economy in the area. He was very friendly and I stayed late just enjoying the variety of topics that we conversed about. Many nights I saw him talking with new customers or re-welcoming the regulars. Always with a friendly smile on his face and always making time to converse.

Let’s talk about the food here! It truly is delicious and the price can’t be beat. I am sure that I ate at this restaurant at least 10 times and was only once slightly disappointed (I wasn’t a fan of the meat nachos here).

The English style fish & chips were my favorite. A large portion of fish, perfectly battered and served with a tangy tartar sauce. On top of it being delicious, it was on the PJ’s specials for just $250 RD. A bargain at that price!

My second favorite was the Chicken Parmasean. A large portion of lightly battered chicken covered in tasty tomato sauce. Served with fries or mashed potatoes.

Thirdly, if you are particularly hungry, go for the ½ chicken. It was huge, served hot, with a small salad and fries. The barbeque sauce was tangy and mouth watering too. I could only eat about half of my meal and felt bad that I wasn’t able to finish.

The staff here are friendly, fun and if you frequent the restaurant, you’ll start to know them by name, as friends, and they’ll be happy to welcome you back. I had great conversations with many of them and they even put up with me while I practiced my new-found Spanish skills.

When the restaurant is busy you’ll see the staff moving quickly about to take care of all of the customers as quickly and efficiently as possible. When the restaurant is slow, you can find staff waiting near the front entrance ready to welcome you and make you feel at home. Many of the restaurants have staff at the front begging and bribing you to sit down for a meal. At PJ’s, they were simply there as friendly faces, ready to answer your questions and help you, but not in a pushy or annoying way.

Wednesday and Friday nights were 2-for-1 meal nights (with some exceptions) until 8pm and then karaoke from 8pm – 12am (ish). On top of the already outstanding prices, a 2-for-1 deal was a steal and made for a great cheap night out even once you paid regular prices for your drinks.

The karaoke equipment is excellent and provides for great entertainment without the shotty crackly speakers of many of the other local establishments. There are regulars who try their talents at karaoke every week who are pretty good. There are always a few who do it just for fun and have no talent and then every once in awhile there’s a real star among the singers who will just blow you away! They have a huge variety of karaoke songs, so if you like to sing, I am positive you can find something just right for you.

If you are a fan of Pina Colada’s give one a try here. Well blended, cold and an excellent mixture of rum, pineapple juice and coconut flavors. It didn’t disappoint.

Jolly Roger Bar

Jolly Roger in Sosua is a great casual place to hang out with friends and meet come from away-ers. Owned and operated by a Canadian, living in the area, it is a local get together spot for many Canadian’s and German’s, but everyone is made to feel welcome!

Situated amongst various bars and restaurants on the main street, but yet far enough away from the party bars to not be overwhelmed by the music or the string of moto conchos that can be an annoyance.

The pirate themed bar has a unique décor, is large enough to comfortably hold several small groups of people and hosts a variety of games nights such as fuzball and dart tournaments. Bingo nights are also popular, with a portion of the winnings being donated to a local children’s charity. Great to see an effort being made to give back!

They play a wide variety of mainly English music from the 80’s and 90’s, mixed in with some newer hits. I found myself singing along to almost every song and remembering moments in my past when the music was top of the charts. It is a nice change for those of you who may not be in to dance music or the local bachata and merengue scene.

The owner is always around and happy to have a friendly conversation. The local waitresses are fun, tentative and offer good service.

Don’t forget to check out the interesting drink menu, including the Blue Mother Fucker. I personally wasn’t a fan because I am a whimpy drinker, but several of my friends loved them! I stuck to the Pina Colada’s. Not the best in town, but sufficient. And, there’s always cold Presidente beer!