Rio San Juan, a large seaside town of over 15,000 inhabitants, lies about halfway between the Dominican Republic’s western border and its eastern end at Punta Cana. The town and its immediate area are rich in attractions and support several hotels from quite large to very small, however, tourism is not the only source of income for the area’s population. Cattle and dairy farms dot the hillsides south of town, and a substantial fleet of fishing boats operates from the protected coves just west of town. There is even a small but active boat-building presence.
Near the town are some of the most beautiful places in all the Dominican Republic. Playa Grande, a beach once hailed by National Geographic as one of the 10 most beautiful in the world, stretches along several kilometers of shoreline just east of Rio San Juan. Featured here is world-class surfing, wonderful swimming, and a number of beach-side kiosks that will serve fish, caught locally, on a table set beneath the palms and sea grape just a few meters from the surf. In town, the Gri Gri Lagoon offers a small but protected anchorage for a small fleet of boats that offer tours of the mangroves and the handful of pocket beaches that dot the rugged, rocky shoreline. Guests can opt for snorkeling in several locations or may picnic ashore in solitude on one of the tiny, intimate beaches mentioned above. The crown jewel of the Rio San Juan area would have to be the Playa Grande Golf Course. This magnificent 18-hole masterpiece was the last track designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The course opened to rave reviews in 1997 and has been compared to Pebble Beach. 10 of its 18 holes play along 20-meter-high cliffs overlooking the dazzling corals of the near-shore shallows all the way to a hazy horizon where the dark blue of deep water is often broken by the breaching of humpback whales.
At present, Rio San Juan and the Playa Grande area are enjoying a surge of development. Hotel and villa construction in the area of Playa Grande and the Playa Grande Golf Course is proceeding full speed while just west of town, a large, well- known beachfront hotel complex is undergoing extensive renovation. This is an area rich in amenities, poised to develop quickly and well.