Discover Chocolate in the Dominican Republic

Clay Gordon
03/07/11 05:27:20AM
1,680 posts


Discover Chocolate in the Dominican Republic is for chocolate professionals and serious chocophiles with a passion for chocolate who want to experience cacao first hand: to see cacao pods growing on the tree, taste fresh cacao pulp, see and smell fermentation and drying ... in short, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the magical and complex process of growing, harvesting, and processing wet cacao into the dried cocoa beans used to make chocolate.

$1850 p/p single occupancy
$1599 p/p double occupancy

There is a 12 person minimum required to make the trip, 15 people maximum.

Early-Bird Pricing
Paid in full by March 30, 2011
$1650 p/p single occupancy
$1399 p/p double occupancy

Referral Discount/Commission
$50 discount/commission (single rooms only)

The price includes:
All breakfasts, most lunches, and all dinners specifically mentioned.Transportation via private charter coach.Accommodation.Souvenir beach towel.Two group tasting sessions.

NOT included in the price:
R/T airfare to Santo Domingo.Arrival and departure taxes.Airport transfers.Meals not specifically included.Tips at hotels.Your bar bills.Personal expenses (e.g., souvenirs).

To make Reservations and Payment

Send a message to Clay Gordon.

clay -

updated by @clay: 04/12/15 12:16:34PM
Clay Gordon
03/07/11 06:05:32AM
1,680 posts

Discover Chocolate in the Dominican Republic is for chocolate professionals and serious chocophiles with a passion for chocolate who want to experience cacao first hand: to see cacao pods growing on the tree, taste fresh cacao pulp, see and smell fermentation and drying ... in short, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the magical and complex process of growing, harvesting, and processing wet cacao into the dried cocoa beans used to make chocolate.

Discover Chocolate in ...trips are comprised of a mix of local culture and cacao/chocolate activities because knowing about the local culture - history, food, society - is important to understanding cacao and chocolate. The Dominican Republic (or, more precisely, the island of Hispaniola) holds a special place in the history of cocoa and chocolate. Santo Domingo, the capital, is the oldest European city in the New World and the island is one of the first places outside Central America where cacao was transplanted by the Spanish.

Discover Chocolate in The Dominican Republic starts in Santo Domingo with an exploration of the Old City (the Zona Colonial) and follows a counter-clockwise path around the island to Hato Mayor, the largest city in the Oriente (the east) and the center of cacao production in the area. In the region we'll be visiting two cacao plantations, one a small co-op and the other an older farm selling cacao to respected chocolate makers internationally.

We will spend a night at one of the quirkiest hotels anywhere, located on the edge of a vast nature preserve, and enjoy some fine tipica comida y criolla beforecrossing the Bay of Samana to spend some time enjoying the world-famous Dominican beaches and other scenic beauty.

From the Samana Peninsula we head west towards San Francisco de Macoris. In the west and along the way we will visit four cacao plantations, including a model cacao farm maintained by one of the largest cacao processors on the island as well as a farm being newly rehabilitated.

Each day of the trip will be a mix of cultural and cacao/cocoa/chocolate activities which, taken together, will increase your understanding of cacao, cocoa, and chocolate, and the local culture. A feature of every Discover Chocolate In ... program are the optional informal evening gatherings in the hotel where the group is staying that are forums wide-ranging discussions covering all things cacao, cocoa, and chocolate. Two evenings will include tasting events - chocolate one night, and Dominican rums another. On the recent Discover Chocolate in Paris trip (October 2010), these discussions often started around 7pm and lasted until past midnight on at least one occasion. Any topic about chocolate is open for discussion, from very technical discussions about post-harvest processing to talking through retail business concepts.

Day-by-Day Itinerary

Saturday, May 21st

Today you fly to the Dominican Republic, landing at Las Americas airport, located to the east of the capital city of Santo Domingo. After clearing customs and immigration, a greeter will get you to a taxi to the Zona Colonial, the heart of the old city, where you will check in to the Hotel Beaterio (or similar).

Depending on when you arrive, you will have an opportunity to freshen up, relax in your room, or start to explore the Zona Colonial. A welcome dinner at a restaurant in the nearby Parqueo Colon is scheduled for the evening. In addition to being able to meet everyone on the trip), Clay will go over the itinerary for the week, answer any last-minute questions anyone might have, and generally get the week off to a great start.

Sunday, May 22nd

Today will be spent easing into the time zone. After breakfast in the hotel, we will take a guided walking tour of highlights of the Zona Colonial. The tour will include a visit to the Mercado Modelo, the major market in the city. After the morning walking we'll lunch at Meson de la Cava before returning to the Zona Colonial to continue our tour of the city. Optionally, you canreturn to the hotel where you can partake of a very excellent local custom (siesta). Dinner is on your own. Clay and the hotel staff will work with you to arrange your evening which can include a visit to a local casino.

Monday, May 23rd

Be sure to wear swimming gear under your clothes! After an early breakfast and checking out of the hotel, we're on our way to the town of Hato Mayor. There we will visit a small cocoa cooperative that sells beans to CONACADO. In addition to walking through their cacao farms and seeing how they do their post-harvest processing, everyone will have the chance to taste the other products the group makes from cacao - including chocolate para la taza (drinking chocolate), cacao pulp marmalade, and cacao vinegar.

From there we travel just outside the town of El Valle for a catered al fresco picnic lunch at Rio Yanigua reserve. Rio Yanigua is known locally for the special grey clay (no relation) on the river bottom, revered for its curative and restorative powers. The water really is nice and a dip/dunk (souvenir towels provided) is an option while lunch is being set up.

After lunch we're off to Hacienda Elvesia (the Swiss Farm). This is the farm that supplies beans to Felchlin for their 74% Cru Hacienda bars (among other chocolate makers). Here you will have the opportunity to see a much larger scale operation than the co-op we visited earlier in the day. The differences in post-harvest processing techniques will be explained.

After we leave Elvesia it's off to our hotel, El Paraiso Cao Hondo.To say that Cao Hondo is a little quirky is an understatement. The architecture reminds me of a cross between Swiss Family Robinson - if the head of the Robinson clan was actually the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi ... with streams running everywhere. It's a truly special place. After checking in and relaxing we'll sit down to dinner - the fish soup I had the last time I was there was stellar. After dinner there will be an optional informal gathering to discuss the day ... and a chocolate tasting.

Tuesday, May 24th

After breakfast and checking out of the hotel, the morning will be spent in a group activity in the Los Haitises National Reserve to learn a little about the natural history of the island and the native Taino Indians.

From there, it's across the Bay of Samana to the Cayo Levantado, a small island near the mouth of the bay. There we will have lunch, relax, explore, and swim. After lunch we travel to Las Terrenas on the North Coast of the island, famed for its beaches. Our destination is the all-inclusive resort El Portillo, where rest of the day is free to enjoy on your own. After dinner, the group will gather for the optional discussion.

An aerial view of Cayo Levantado.

Wednesday, May 25th

The Dominican Republic is known worldwide for the beauty of its beaches and other natural attractions. Just past the mid-way point of our trip, this day has been set aside to relax and explore the natural beauty of the Samana Peninsula. The day will start with an (optional) trip to Limon Waterfall (on horseback or on foot if you prefer; snacks and water provided), where you will have the opportunity to swim in the pool under the waterfall.

El Limon Waterfall

From Limon Waterfall we return to El Portillo where the rest of the day is free to relax, explore, or enjoy the resort's attractions. We will dine together as a group and the after-dinner group discussion will include a Dominican rum tasting.

Thursday, May 26th

After checking out of the resort, we head along the coast to the town of Nagua where we will turn inland on our way to San Francisco de Macoris. Our first stop will be the new in-development Cacao Prieto farm where we will see their nursery and learn about their plans to grow the first large-scale plantation in the world that will be planting stands of 100% white bean porcelana strains. Two other cacao plantations are on the itinerary for the day as we travel to the town of San Francisco de Macoris wherewe will check into our hotel, Las Caobas. After dinner will be the group meeting.

Friday, May 27th

On today's calendar is a visit to a model cacao farm operated by Rizek Cacao, one of the largest cocoa processors in the Dominican Republic. The planting of the farm itself is a contrast to some of the others we've seen. After the visit and lunch, it's time to return to Santo Domingo.

After checking in to our hotel and freshening up, it's off to Restaurant El Conuco, famed for its Dominican cuisine ... and dance and music demonstrations. A fitting send off for our week together!

Saturday, May 28th

Check out of hotel, return home.


Additional nights are available in Santo Domingo at a good rate at the end of the trip for those who would like to extend their stay.

clay -
Clay Gordon
03/07/11 06:16:27AM
1,680 posts

Is This Trip For You

Trips "in country" (that is, to a country where cacao is grown) do involve a fair amount of physical activity. On this trip to the Dominican Republic we will be doing a fair amount of walking (during a guided tour of the Zona Colonial as well as through cacao plantations), swimming (river and ocean), and potentially horseback riding.

It is not necessary that you speak Spanish. Of course, a little familiarity goes a long way in helping you understand what's going on. There will be at least one bi-lingual guide accompanying the group the entire way.

You should also have experience traveling internationally and feel comfortable negotiating foreign airports. If this is the first time you will be traveling internationally, contact Clay to determine if this trip is right for you.

One of the great opportunities a trip like the offers is exposure to different cuisines. While we will make all reasonable efforts to cater to specific dietary requirements, it is not possible for the organizers to guarantee, for example, that a guest requiring a 100% raw or vegan diet, or that some types of food allergies, can be accommodated. If you have specific dietary requirements, please contact Clay.

Traveling to the Dominican Republic

R/T airfare is not included in the price of the tour. Las Americas (airport code SDQ) is the country's major international airport and is nearest to Santo Domingo, the capital. Unless you have plans to arrive early and/or stay late, it's best to plan to book your flights into SDQ. There will be someone at SDQ to greet your flight after you clear customs and immigration and help you get to the hotel.

Travel Documents, Visas, Health Information

Documentation and Visa requirements vary from country to country. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have any necessary tourist visas, vaccinations (please contact your health professional), etc. For travelers from the US, visit:

Tourist Card

If you do not already have a valid tourist visa you will be charged US$10 for a tourist card on arrival. This must be paid in $US or EUROs (). Local currency, GBP, etc, will not be accepted. A departure tax of US$20 (cash) is payable on most charter and some scheduled flights. If you are flying on a US carrier, the departure tax is always included in the taxes when you purchased your ticket, so you will not have to pay anything when leaving.

Airport Transfers (not included in the trip price)

A taxi from SDQ Airport to Santo Domingo Zona Colonial) is about $40 (official rate as of October 2008, but sometimes you can get it for around $25-30 and we are working to negotiate special rates with a local taxi provider). There are no hotel courtesy shuttles at airports in the Dominican Republic.

Taxis and other transportation

Transportation to all activities listed in the trip itinerary (with the exception of airport transfers) is included. However, not all time is scheduled and you may wish to take a taxi somewhere.

Taxi services are available. In all cases, its a good idea to go with a licensed driver and negotiate a price for your destination before you get in the taxi. Good drivers are often easy to identify by licenses worn around the neck, uniforms, and clean air conditioned vehicles. When calling a taxi company (it's best to have the hotel or restaurant do this for you), you will be given a number to verify your driver. When being picked up, make sure your driver gives you the right number as false pickups are often a prelude to robbery.

Exchanging Money

At the airport, you can exchange your US$ and to Dominican Pesos. You may not be able to exchange back local money to US$ and in your home country, so do it before leaving. As always, the best deal on currency exchange is to withdraw cash at an ATM machine as you need it rather than exchanging bills or traveler's checks at a cambio.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is recommended for the trip (and is not included in the cost). At a minimum, you should plan to purchase insurance that covers the full cost of the trip, including transportation, in case for any reason the trip is canceled or you cannot make it because of weather or other delays.

What to Bring

A complete list of what to bring will be provided to everyone who signs up for the trip.

Cancelation Policy

Available upon request.

clay -
Vera Hofman
03/13/11 02:17:02PM
16 posts

Hi Clay,

I would love to come but unfortunately I can't make it. I hope to join you on one of your future trips.

In May Iwill visit Paul DeBondt in Pisa!

Chocolove, Vera

Joanne Gaither2
03/14/11 12:28:58PM
4 posts


I just read about your trip to DR in May 2011. This sounds very similar to a trip my husband and I took, but we started in Punta Cana, then headed west (toward Haiti)with the tour to the mountains. Spent several days on both cacao and coffee bean plantations - even got to crack open some pods. The trip was wonderful - we would sign up with you immediately - but have a conflict with the dates this year. I will watch for your event calendar to try to join you on another adventure.

Hopefully you'll offer this trip again....


LuMu Candies

jodie V
03/17/11 05:49:01AM
2 posts

Hi there Clay

I've sent a couple of emails to you, and I'm not sure if you've received them? Two of us are interested in joining the trip, from Australia. Can you let me know if it is going ahead, so we can make plans. It looks great!


Francisco Pache
03/25/11 02:18:44PM
6 posts
I would like to come!!!! Please inform if you still have place for me. Thank you
Bent ahm
04/01/11 06:22:54PM
6 posts

Hello Clay,

I represent IMSA Peru. We are just finishing the mini chocolate factory at the Womens' Coop in Hato Mayor - I hope you are going to see that? If I can help with anything, please let me know.

Best regards, Bent

jodie V
04/20/11 08:58:28AM
2 posts
Hi ClayHope all is well. Can you please let us know how the organising is going for the Dominican Republic trip .... we will be travelling independently if your tour isn't going ahead, so we will need to make our own arrangments, and I'm getting concerned .... time is running out!Many thanksJodie
Clay Gordon
04/20/11 01:25:21PM
1,680 posts


There are several ChocolateLife members who are going to be in the DR at that time. While I will put together a list of suggestions for everyone, I suggest you follow up with Bent Ahm about the co-op in Hato Mayor as well as get in touch with ChocolateLife member "Marabel Farms" who operates a plantation along the north coast.

Here is a link to another discussion where people are discussing plans.

:: Clay

clay -
Emilio Perez
06/16/13 01:17:11PM
6 posts

I am a new member ,dont know if Im posting in the rightarea, my apologies for that.

I live in New york now but grew up in San fco de Macoris, Dominican Republic. My father has a20 hectares of Organic cacao farm around Loma Quita Espuela which produceaprox 2000 lbs per year.

He sellsthe productionto a cooperative butI think he is not getting the most money for his product.I would like to get into the chocolate bussineseither selling small quantities of beans or eventually cut the middle man and exporting directly . I guess I dont know where to start.... any inputs will be greatly appreciated

Fisher Au
06/18/13 04:53:39AM
3 posts

exporting to the agriculture country?just like the foreign trade business....hope i will be understood~haha..sorry for my poor english

Emilio Perez
06/18/13 06:39:25AM
6 posts
If your are replying to my post Mr. Au, I have no idea what you are referring to. Please elaborate.
Fisher Au
06/18/13 11:35:43AM
3 posts

hmm,I mean,if you can do the business directly,as an exporter,not by the middle man?

Clay Gordon
06/18/13 12:55:18PM
1,680 posts

Emilio -

This is not the best place to have this particular discussion but as there are replies I will make mine here.

The main challenge you face is the quantity of production. 1MT is not very much. What I am afraid is is that the cost to find other buyers for the beans be more than the increased price he can get on such a small quantity.

For example, while you may find buyers for the beans (especially if they are unusual genetics or of unusually high quality or both), the export costs are going to be extremely high, and your father is going to need to get export licenses. This does not include the costs (and time) associated with marketing the beans.

It may make more sense for you father to do something with the beans (turn it into a finished product) and sell that than selling the beans themselves. If he's only getting 50kg/Ha of dried beans he's probably growing other things that could be combined with the cocoa/chocolate in a unique way that can bring in more money.

clay -


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