In the Dominican Republic beachfront town of Las Terrenas, the sparkling Caribbean and the sands that fringe it are ever-present. You can use the beach as a thoroughfare to get from one part of town to another; it's the most pleasant pedestrian route. At any time throughout the day, you can turn this way or that, and there it is again, the sea, now blue, then green. You can dine at a table on a deck just a foot or two above the sand with the lapping water only a few feet beyond, small fishing boats bobbing just offshore, bigger sailing boats swinging at anchor farther out at sea.
I've seen my share of Caribbean beach towns. Las Terrenas is that but more. This town was discovered by Europeans, primarily the French, about three decades ago, and today is populated by French, Italians, Brits, Danes and Germans. The strong European presence has many implications, especially when it comes to the local cuisine. Restaurants in Caribbean beach towns are typically long on jerk chicken and coconut rice. You can find those things here, I'm sure, but I didn't notice them on any menu where we dined. Instead, French and Italian restaurants offer prosciutto and melon, beef carpaccio, pepper steak, roasted chicken, homemade pasta and fresh bread that wouldn't be out of place in good restaurants in Paris or Tuscany, often supported by wine menus that include many options for fine, even sparkling wine -- champagne, Prosecco and cava.
What can you do in Las Terrenas between meals? Here are my top 10 ways to spend your time in this charming beach town:
- Walk to town for breakfast at the authentic Boulangerie Francaise, open seven days a week and a favorite meeting place for local expats and tourists.