Travel | Dominican Republic’s Famed Mamajuana Elixir + How to Make Your Own

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As if you need help relaxing at the already serene Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado resort in Samaná, in the Dominican Republic, this adults-only property offers an extensive variety of soothing treatments and services at its Bahia Spa — including one that utilizes the Dominican Republic indigenous drink of herbs and tree bark macerated with rum, red wine, and honey.

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The spa feels like an oasis in the middle of a rainforest paradise. Each window overlooks a lush, green tropical scene with countless palms, banana trees, and various flowering plants. Here, I was treated to the resort’s exclusive Mamajuana Spa Treatment ― a full body massage incorporating the mamajuana, an alcohol-spiked modernization of the herbal tea the island’s indigenous Taino people called “the elixir of fertility.”

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Today, besides being rumored to be an aphrodisiac, this beverage is also consumed for its reputed medicinal value. The alcohol is believed by many to extract the herbs’ curative properties, creating a healthful tincture, often served as a shot — when it’s not being used for a luxurious massage.

The massage was honestly one of the best I’ve had. It loosened my muscles, relieved tension (especially in my lower back), and wasn’t too hard or rough in terms of pressure or technique. After the massage, I was calm and rejuvenated ― and ready for a nice nap.

Post massage, guests are welcome to enjoy the spa’s many facilities, including its Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, tropical storm shower, and bubble beds. We were also given a shot of the mamajuana to sip on while we took full advantage of the gorgeous indoor pool area. The pool was cool and refreshing ― the perfect ending to the spa experience.

If you don’t find yourself in a vacation destination, don’t worry. Just because vacation is over (or never actually got started,) doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to the refreshing tropical cocktails of the Caribbean! For the adventurous at-home-mixologist, try creating your very own bottle of Mamajuana, the drink the Dominican Republic is most famous for.
mamajuanaAs one of the most traditional drinks of the area, it’s a deliciously potent brew of rum, red wine, and honey that has been soaked in twigs, bark, and herbs. This mix of ingredients creates an intense, complex, and sweet libation that is perfect for getting any party started.

Ingredients:
Red Wine
Rum
Honey
Dominican Plants (Indian bejuco, palo Brazil, canelilla, anamu, behuco caro, timacle, maguey, marabel, sweet nail, behuco, or sweet cloves)

Prep:
Start by bottling the aromatic plants with three tablespoons of honey and wine. Marinate or “cure” for a week or so. After one week, remove most of the wine from the bottle (leaving only a little) and pour the rum in. Many will add spices such as cinnamon, sweet cloves, vanilla, star anise, or/and ginger. Let the mixture marinate with the plants and herbs for another week. Pour over ice and enjoy!

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Travel | Celebrity-Status Pampering in Santa Bárbara de Samaná, Dominican Republic

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{Credit: Bahia Principe}

This was my first time visiting the Dominican Republic, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the trip. However, from the second our group entered the first of four of the Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts properties we were to visit, it was clear that I had nothing to worry about.

Upon arrival at each property, guests were greeted with the warmest welcome and refreshed by one of the many tropical drinks offered (which is especially crucial after a three-hour ride from the airport). After our bags were taken care of, the festivities and pampering began as music started playing and festively dressed dancers gave lively performances to celebrate our arrival! Every initial greeting to one of the resorts made me feel quite special; I certainly have never experienced welcomes like that before.
IMG_9033While each of these properties is a part of the Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts family, each one is unique and offers different experiences from the other. That said, each resort is all inclusive: as in food and drinks, fun, and relaxation 24/7.

Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo

El Portillo is Bahia Principe’s family-friendly resort located right by the beach. The staff is extremely attentive and approachable, and the property is gorgeously manicured with a variety of palms and lush foliage surrounding the premise. The beach itself is pristine — the water is warm, clear, and all shades of vibrant blue — and this goes for all the water in the Dominican Republic.
IMG_9038The water is filled with tropical fish, urchins, and coral reefs, making the Dominican Republic a perfect destination for those interested in marine life and water sports. If you stand still long enough, you can even feel the fish nipping at your feet! Straw umbrellas, lounge chairs, and cabanas are available along the beach as well, and those who don’t feel like lounging can walk along the coast line for quite some time.
IMG_9079IMG_9065This hotel provides transportation to areas of interest, such as the nightlife of Las Terrenas where there are more restaurants, dance clubs, and bars beachside. That said, if you don’t want to leave the resort (because why would you?), El Portillo throws Dominican Beach Parties nightly at its Bachata Discotheque (at least one discotheque is on each of Bahia’s properties).

Live music, DJs, and dancing goes until 2 a.m. Plus, if you’re feeling shy, there’s fun, energetic staff members to keep the party going with easy-to-follow choreographed dancing to traditional music of the Dominican Republic.drcdGrand Bahia Principe Cayacoa
While each property we checked out was pretty spectacular, this resort had some of the most stunning views. Cayacoa is right on the Bay of Samaná, and is literally surrounded by coconut trees and vegetation.

IMG_0271IMG_0270IMG_9113IMG_0267IMG_0283The view of the bay is picturesque, as you can see all the boats floating in the harbor, the lush, tropical terrain in the distance, and the town of Santa Barbara de Samaná. Unique to this resort are two panoramic elevators with ocean views that take you straight down to the beach.
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One view that is particularly special is the view of the famous Los Puentes, otherwise known as the “Bridges to Nowhere.” Expanding out into the ocean are long, impressive bridges connected by green islands that appear to go on forever. In addition, the resorts’ al la carte restaurants, such as the Las Dalias main restaurant, have expansive views of the ocean, as the eatery is high above sea level.

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With 295 rooms, a luxury spa, gorgeous, bright blue pool decks – which often have fun aerobics classes taking place, bars and restaurants throughout the premise, and a variety of activities available including kayaking, snorkeling, and paddle surfing – you could honestly stay at the resort solely, and be totally satisfied with your vacation.

Luxury Bahia Principe Samaná
Samaná is an adults-only resort and is one of the most tranquil and relaxing places I’ve ever been to. The 149-room resort is gorgeous – its bright and playful peach exterior matches perfectly with the vacation excitement guests feel as they explore this property. We were welcomed with not just any fruit cocktails, but piña coladas, in juicy pineapples, complete with an umbrella and cherry on top.

As one of the Luxury Don Pablo Collection properties, this resort boasts an elegant and exclusive experience, and with 24-hour room service and unlimited a la carte meals, you can’t argue with that. This cliff-side resort is surrounded by tropical, ocean views.
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This especially intimate setting is great for couples seeking a romantic getaway – even the spa offers couple’s treatments. For guests looking for adventure, they can horseback ride along the peninsula, whale watch, or participate in a variety of water sports, merengue classes, and yoga.
IMG_9138Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado
Similar to Samaná, Cayo Levantado is a part of the Luxury Don Pablo Collection properties and also features a world-class spa, classy dining, and seclusion. In fact, this resort is so remote that you need to be transported here by boat. Transportation is, of course, all taken care of by the always-accommodating staff, who are with you when you’re picked up at the dock and see you to your final destination.IMG_0458IMG_0355IMG_9202IMG_9337This topical island’s beaches, which include the famous Bacardi Beach, are ideal – white sand, pristine, clear water, and surrounded by green, dense foliage. Activities offered include all those previously mentioned, as well as catamaran sailing. Other available sports include basketball, pool, table tennis, darts, and boogie boarding. Cayo Levantado also gives you easy access to Bahia Principe Village in the peninsula of Samaná. So if you’re feeling like you want to explore, head over to the town where you can get a taste of the local vibes, culture, and life style. Plus, the boat ride itself is beautiful.
IMG_0295Lastly, if you’re really going for luxury, the 24-hour butler services include a turn-down service, a pillow menu, and a scent menu. Yes, you can choose your preferred type of pillow and a scent to make the room even more personalized. Even cooler is the fact that they also offer whirlpool tub preparation service. Rose petals, candles, scents… what more can really be offered?

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Travel | Day Tripping in Santa Bárbara de Samaná, Dominican Republic

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Go full on coconuts in this palm tree paradise!

One of the most memorable parts of my trip to the Dominican Republic was our group’s excursion to Playa Rincón, facilitated by Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts through Coming2. The adventure to our ultimate destination allowed us to see firsthand how the locals live and gave us the opportunity to interact with them as we toured through their homes and property.

This secluded beach is well worth the effort to get there — here’s how to make the most of it!

Our first stop was a community in the rural part of Santa Bárbara de Samaná. As we walked through the lush, green area, we were accompanied by our tour guide, as well as two adorable, younger boys who seemed quite excited to have new company. My little homies!

IMG_0410I was fascinated by how much produce grows naturally in the region — pineapples, avocados, cacao pods, mangos, coconuts, coffee, banana bunches… it was incredible. There were pig pens, chicken coops, a huge iguana pit that served as a tourist attraction, and colorful homes which sprinkled the property. Everyone we met was so kind, generous, and happy.

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Our next stop was a visit to the family-owned fruit shop called Parada Pichichen, though it’s also known as Maradona because it’s said that the owner looks like Maradona, the soccer/football player. This fruit shop was phenomenal — literally tons of the freshest fruit I’ll probably ever taste! Basically every type of produce and fruit you can imagine was for sale (except berries). In the back they also freshly ground cacoa and coffee beans, and had bottles liquors and mamajuana wines.fruit

Once we hopped back on our RV tour bus, we continued to make our way to the beach through villages and secluded tropical forests, riding on unpaved, pothole-laden, bumpy roads. It’s an extremely rough ride. That said, as long as you don’t get car sick, you’ll be fine. As soon as you finally get a glance of the gorgeous, turquoise, clear water, you know this is going to be an amazing experience.IMG_9276

Playa Rincón has been named one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world by Conde Nast Traveler. The powdery-white sand stays pristine probably because the only way to get to this remote paradise is by driving on the one rocky road that leads there. No shops, resorts, or bars around. But no one complains — located at the base of Bahía de Rincón, surrounded by coconut palms and mountainous terrain, this beach’s warm water and gentle waves are perfect for splashing around in.IMG_0429shells

Whether looking for sea shells, sand dollars, and tropical fish (which I certainly did), snorkeling, or simply soaking in the sun, Playa Rincón is ideal. The beach also has a small freshwater stream, Cano Frio, which forms a natural border between the beach and the edge of the mountainous Cabo Cabrón National Park. It’s awesome for rinsing the seawater off. The beach is sparse of people —  ideal for wanting to escape everyone and everything. No crowds, noise, or pollution. You can also rent beach chairs, but there’s really no need.lobster

IMG_0437After hours in the sunshine, we were treated to a beautiful, freshly prepared meal just steps away from the beach. The family who prepared this feast is known as Bochela, while the name of the restaurant is Brasa del Mar. Though lobster is considered a luxury in most places, the decadent crustacean is plentiful on this island. Our beachside lunch featured grilled whole lobster, fried plantain chips, sweet mango chunks, coconut bread, and rice and beans. And of course, ice cold Presidente beers to wash it all down.
IMG_9298I decided to take advantage of the guided horseback riding on the beach. Going horseback riding along the insanely beautiful shore of Playa Rincón was like a dream. I actually felt like I was on some type of luxury resort commercial! Despite not being totally comfortable horseback riding, taking a 15-minute ride clomping through the refreshing water and scenery of the Dominican Republic was unbelievable.

IMG_9119Before we jumped back on the boat to Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado, we went on a spur-of-the-moment walking tour through downtown Santa Bárbara de Samaná. The first area we checked out was the Avenida de la Marina, the fun boulevard that faces the Samaná Bay. Bright, candy-colored colonial homes and touristy gift shops line this lively avenue. Across the way is a walking promenade on the water. The crystal clear Marina — filled with sail boats and fishing boats — is picturesque. Lush mountainous hills provide a green, tropical background for this laid back, seaside town.
IMG_9166IMG_0453Walking through the neighborhood was an unique, culturally rich experience. I didn’t necessarily feel unsafe, but I was glad to be in a group of other tourists/ guides. One piece of advice — watch out for the motorcyclists! Bikes zooming through the streets are literally everywhere; I’m not going to lie, I almost got hit at least once…
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IMG_9462The streets are lined with bright, pastel colored homes, small eateries, hair salons, clothing shops, and other store fronts. It was interesting to see how the locals live and spend their time off. The opportunity to adventure through the community was certainly worth all the sweat that was dripping off my forehead. It had to have been 100% humidity! IMG_9308IMG_9330Another fun stop, although maybe I was just particularly excited, was to the supermarket! Mimasa Supermercado y Panaderia has isles of different products and groceries from both international brands and Dominican Republic brands. Coconut candies, chocolates, caramels, cookies, and spreads… liquors, rums, and a variety of sodas… it’s basically a food enthusiast’s dream!

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