Cabrera is a just small town located at the eastern end of the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, or so says the Wikipedia definition; but is it just that? Cabrera is really one of the best kept secrets in the Republica Dominicana. Situated between the larger towns of Nagua and Rio San Juan and lying alongside the Atlantic coast Cabrera, historically, was an agricultural town, its main sources of income coming from cattle, meat, milk production, coconuts, and rice as well as fresh fish and shellfish. Originally called ‘Tres Amarras’ at it’s foundation day on July 1, 1891 Cabrera was renamed to ‘Cabrera’ in honor of the hero of the Capotillo Battle, General José Cabrera
So what makes Cabrera so special in the eyes of those who know it or have discovered it? Maybe it’s because Cabrera has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic as well as rivers, exotic vegetation and many natural attractions including a National Park reserve located in El Breton, a small section of Cabrera called Cabo Frances Viejo; possibly because it is host to some of the most prestigious and luxurious villas you will find anywhere in the Dominican Republic in the Orchid Bay Estates development located just outside the town, or maybe it is the genuine warmth and hospitality offered by the local inhabitants to visitors to Cabrera.
But what of the town itself? Cabrera still remains largely untouched by “tourism” unlike the well known resorts of Sosua, Puerto Plata or Cabarete. Virtually the only visitors to Cabrera are those staying in one of the luxury villas. There are no “all-inclusive” hotels to be found here; the only hotel of note, La Catalina, is situated some 10 minutes or so away in the hills overlooking Cabrera and the Atlantic ocean. Vacationers here are not those looking for the raucous nightlife of typical tourist resorts but those seeking a relaxed, away from the madding crowd, style of holiday as well as an opportunity to see life in the Dominican Republic as it really is and Cabrera offers just that option.
While the Orchid Bay development has, without doubt, helped the local economy of Cabrera, bringing with it welcomed employment and additional trade for business and service providers, it has fortunately had little or no adverse effect on the town or its inhabitants. Cabrera is still a traditional Dominican Republic town with a population of around 39,000 and where life revolves around the town square, locally referred to as “El Parque”. Although it is at the week-ends it really comes to life you will always find people meeting here, families with their children, teenagers with their friends and older people chatting about life and current events. At the week-end the Disco Bar on the corner of the square opens along with the one and only Discotheque and the area is packed with people enjoying life to the full. Despite what you may have heard dancing, not baseball, is the national pastime and the Merengue and Bachata music can be heard throughout the square.
Cabrera provides its residents and visitors with virtually every type of business or commercial enterprise imaginable. “Colmados”, traditional small grocery stores abound and can be found in every street and almost on every corner. (If you are old enough to remember what a corner store used to be you will know what I mean)! Here you can still buy 1 egg or a “spoonful of sugar” well almost, as well as small quantities of rice, the staple food of the Dominicans, served out of sacks and carefully weighed in pounds or ounces on scales which look like they originated from the Ark. The final bill tallied on a calculator. Digital scales and electronic tills have not found their way here as yet! Fishmongers, butchers, a fruit and vegetable market, hardware stores, bakeries etc. are also to be found in Cabrera along with banks, estate agents, solicitors and accountants. All in all every type of business you can think of.
Visitors, vacationers as well as “expats” are made to feel welcome here. Dominicans by their very nature are friendly open people and in Cabrera you will find the locals all that and more. You can mingle with them in El Parque or pause for a refreshing drink in a local bar and always find a welcoming smile. Many do speak some English, or at least the American version, so ordering a beer, usually a “Presidente”, a Pina Colada cocktail or “Un Trago”, the famed Dominican Brugal rum and mixer is not at all difficult.
As with every town in the Dominican Republic, Cabrera has its patron saint and the annual “Patronales Festivales” are held in late September and last for a whole nine days! As with everything else here, the action is centered in and around El Parque and the whole town comes out to celebrate and join in the festivities. Sometimes, nationally recognized bands will perform here on a makeshift stage. Food stalls of all types offer local delicacies whilst others provide drinks of every concoction you can think of. Vendors sell jewellery, souvenirs, novelties and toys for the children and there are fairground style rides and a big wheel for both the young and young at heart to enjoy!
Cabrera is fortunate in having a Mayor and Town Hall dedicated to maintaining the town in pristine condition and providing all the services necessary. Cabrera is remarkably clean and tidy with the provision of a regular waste collection service and a will on the part of the population to keep the town in good order. There is a fire station, ambulance service, hospital, civil defense post, police station and, apart from a good selection of State Schools, an Independent International School largely funded by voluntary donations and sponsorship from villa owners. The strong foreign community works closely with the Town Hall to enhance the safety, serenity and beauty of Cabrera through various charitable foundations including The Friends of Cabrera a registered charity in the U.S.A.
To attempt to capture the ambiance of Cabrera with mere words is almost impossible but the following description, written by Paola Santos Vanderlinder and translated here from the original Spanish text is, I feel, about as close as it is possible to get: -
What can you say about the Town of Cabrera?
Unknown to many, far away from the capital, where you can explore the four corners in much less than 24 hours. Why do we give such vital importance to such a tiny place?
It’s the people, it’s the sea, it’s the earth, where it is always spring, which makes you feel that there is no equal place. Its history, its people, the good people, the kind people, a magic paradise where you come and want to remain, where wonderful meetings happen, where the memory writes poems of happiness, indelible with time.
It is not necessary to have been born in Cabrera to adore its roots, its history, its inhabitants, and its essence.
A distant place where the spirit takes delight, in which there are born the immense inspirations of the soul, a place that many have left in search of a future, but remain marked with its name, one without equal of having been born in a place where the secret of life is hidden in the beautiful waves of the sea.
Natural beauty, candid hospitality, a warm embrace, multiple smiles, native tenacity, the brilliant sun, hands that give, palm trees swaying in the breeze, white sand, blue sky, a flower wet with dew, a love of youth, a friend in the park, a lesson in the school, a church to sing in, a father who comes home to his family, a celebration for someone born, a love that never forgets you, a sweetheart that you loved, a history that was born … .This is Cabrera, an unforgettable paradise.