After just a short three kilometers south of Bahoruco and La Ciénaga , you’ll reach San Rafael. Its beach has forceful waves and is therefore not advisable to swim in, although it is a popular gathering point for Dominicans on the weekends. The things to see here are the balnearios (swimming holes) and magnificent vista points on either side of the town.
Balneario La Virgen (8 a.m.–6 p.m., free), right off the main highway, is cleaned often and very cold—but that is the beauty and the experience of swimming in a balneario. There is food and drink available in a shack next to this tiered pool. One tier is more for children since it is shallower, and it can get crowded and loud.
Villa Miriam (8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, US$1.75) is off the highway up a steep road. It is a formed set of several pools and one regular pool. Since this one isn’t free, it isn’t as popular, but it is quieter and less crowded.
The mirador (viewpoint) up the hill from the balnearios has a breathtaking panoramic view of the southern coast of the Dominican Republic . The cliffs have blooming azaleas in fire red and orange, set against the blue of the Caribbean Sea; it makes for phenomenal photos.
Los Patos, several kilometers south of Paraíso, has a white-rock beach that is not very safe to swim in as the coastline is incredibly deep. But the adjacent Balneario Los Patos, where the Río Los Patos meets the sea, is a great place to swim. Its water is crystal clear and frigid with lots of room to splash around. It can get crowded on the weekends, but if you come midweek, it should be relatively empty. There are public bathrooms by the pool.
The food vendors have gotten together to form an association, and they clean and care for the area because it’s the bread and butter of a very poor area. Seafood and drinks are for sale in many booths. They say they can fit 1,000 cars in the parking lot, but that is highly doubtful.
Nearby, the town of Paraíso has only one decent hotel (within town) and a pretty beach. But there are no services save for a Western Union (Calle Ana Irma Tejada at Calle Arzobispo Nouel) and a typical colmado on the same corner where you can buy food like cheese, sausage, bread, and liquor.
Hotel Paraíso (Av. Gregorio Luperón and Calle Doña Chin, tel. 809/243-1080, www.hotelparaisodr.com , US$21 d fan only) is a family-owned hotel that has very friendly service, spacious rooms with air-conditioning (for an extra few dollars) and cable TV. They are clean. You’re not getting a spectacular hotel, but a good one for the area. Find this hotel on the Carretera at kilometer 34.
The beach can be litter-filled in some spots near town, but for the better part, go out past the hotel and you’ll find the white-stoned beach in much better shape than the one in town.
L’Hotelito Oasi Italiana (Los Patos, Calle Jose Carrasco, tel. 829/918-6969, www.lospatos.it , US$36), the Italian-owned small hotel, has comfortable rooms, although not stellar accommodations. The poolside comes with a hot tub and is attractive for dozing on loungers. But it is the restaurant that has put this hotel on the map (technically in Los Patos, Carretera Km 37). Its truly scrumptious food and welcoming hospitality reign supreme here, with the ocean vista as your backdrop.
Guaguas stop in Paraíso at Calle Enriquillo from both directions.