Where are you located?
Swell is located just a three-minute level walk to the main sandy bay of Cabarete, and a ten-minute drive in our own transporation to the surf beach. We placed Swell very deliberately; not at the surf beach because there is nothing there to do once surfing is over and getting back to town for restaurants, the main beach, shops etc. is a real pain. Driving standards are poor in the DR and if you were at the surf beach, you would want to be getting into Cabarete often. We prefer to have a professional driver, well used to road and local driving conditions, take you to surf each day, and for you to be able to walk safely elsewhere. It’s not an accident why we are where we are.
Is it a safe place to visit?
Cabarete, where Swell is located, is a cool surfer-town with friendly locals and expat surfers & kitesurfers from all over the world who have made Cabarete their home. Like all central-American countries, there can be petty theft, so don’t leave your Iphone on the beach in plain sight when you go for a 2-hour surf or kite session.
I am travelling solo, will I be OK?
70% of our guests arrive at Swell as solo travelers and leave us having made a lot of new friends. In truth, staying at Swell means you are never really alone: Friends are quickly made and our guests are quite amazing in the way they settle in and make Swell their home-from-home in a matter of hours. We constantly find that our guests take new people under their wing even before our staff has had the chance! Have a look at the gallery of the good times to get an idea of the vibe among the solo travellers.
Do you have Wifi?
We have free wifi in the communal area, but not in the rooms. This is deliberate as Swell is a social place, we don’t want you to hide in your room watching movies on your laptop and we try to encourage everyone to take time off from their screens. If you need privacy to work, get yourself a local sim and hotspot from your ‘phone. Alternatively, choose a quieter moment in the communal area to carry out your work, and don’t forget, you are actually on vacation!
Which day of the week do I need to arrive at Swell?
You can arrive any day of the week with us if we have space, but Saturday arrival is best in a 7-night stay as that is always a day off from surfing. Just contact us to see if we have space for you for your chosen dates.
What is the average age of guests at Swell?
We are proud to have a really broad age spectrum: We’ve taught people ranging from 18 to 68 years old to surf. In general, our average age is around 38 years old. If you are worried that you might be too old to learn to surf, don’t: Age doesn’t matter: All you need is the spirit and passion to give it a go. You’ll find that what binds Swell guests together is not being the same age, but loving the feeling of catching waves, being by the ocean, bare feet in the sand, and living in board shorts.
Can you tell me more about the room?
Remember that you are not paying only for the room as your 7-night package always includes 3 dinners, daily breakfast, surf beach transport, and also includes surf lessons/board rental if you are on the learn to surf package. All our rooms have shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in dispensers. We do not have hair dryers in any rooms, there are no fridges and deliberately there is no wifi in the room (but there is complimentary wifi in the communal area).
Do the rooms have a safe?
Yes, each room has its own safe. Safes in most rooms are big enough for laptops. Swell has a strictly guest-only policy for admittance to our premises, therefore, belongings are generally secure inside the camp.
What power sockets do you have; do I need an adaptor?
Our power sockets are the same as the USA and Canada, so you will not need an adaptor if you are coming from either of those countries. If you are travelling from Europe, bring the same adaptors as if you were travelling to the USA.
Are children welcome at Swell?
The minimum age for guests at Swell is 13 years old in Winter (November through April). This is because the swells are too big for us to teach younger children to surf during that time. We welcome slightly younger children from May to October, but Swell is NOT suitable for any kids below 8 years old at any time of year.
Where can I get my laundry done?
Close to Swell is a laundry where you can take your clothes and they will charge you to wash, iron, and fold your clothes, by the 1lb. Haudy, the Swell surf camp manager, will tell you exactly where it is.
What is the nightlife like in Cabarete?
Cabarete is a very cool vibrant town, with a good variety of bars, all within a short walk from Swell. From lounge-type beach bars with live music, or no music, to thumping beach clubs with loud Reggaeton music, you can find what you are looking for to party into the early hours.
I don’t want to surf, can I still stay at Swell?
Are there medical facilities and do I need immunisations/malaria pills?
Yes, there are good doctors who speak English in and around Cabarete. The CMC hospital in Sosua is a 10-minute drive away and they have English-speaking doctors and surgeons with good qualifications. Make sure you travel with a good travel insurance policy to cover you for any medical emergencies. No special shots are needed for a visit: Malaria is not a problem here. We do have mosquitos though and so to prevent mosquito bites, bring a good repellent, or buy some in the supermarket a short walk away from Swell.
I don’t want to stay at Swell, can I still surf with you?
What is the weather like & what kind of clothes should I bring?
Well, it’s almost always hot here, so no warm clothes are required, save for a hoodie in case of a cooler morning in Winter months (Dec through March). The water is always very warm too, so no wet suits are needed, not even a shortie!
When is rainy season?
Well, in short, unlike Costa Rica where it can rain solidly for 3 months, we don’t have a rainy season: It can rain at any stage (often during the night) and is normally a sharp downpour before the sun comes out again, strongly. Rain is less likely between June and August than at any other time of the year.
The weather forecast shows rain, should I be worried?
This is a stunning, mountainous island and undoubtedly, it is always raining somewhere in the hills: Just imagine, it takes 7 hours to drive West to East. This is not a small island and with Pico Duarte (the highest peak in the Caribbean) right in the middle, don’t expect forecasts to show nothing but clear skies. Extended periods of rain are rare.
Which currency is used and where can I change money?
The local currency is the Peso (currency code DOP). The airport has a currency exchange, but don’t change money there as their rates are very uncompetitive. Very close to Swell on foot are two good currency exchanges, and two banks which will give a much better rate. You can only take out Dominican pesos from the local ATM machines. US dollars and Pesos are both accepted methods of payments in Cabarete; The general rule in a shop or restaurant is pay in the currency the item, drink or food is priced as restaurants and shops will not necessarily always give you a good exchange rate. ATM machines only give out pesos – they often run out of cash at weekends – so prepare yourselves! It’s best to have a mixture of USD and DOP.
Can I use credit cards there?
Generally, don’t expect anyone to accept credit cards as payment: cash is king and credit cards will always incur some extra taxes (as much as 28%) on goods and services. At Swell your arrival balance must be paid in cash in either USD, CAD or pesos, the same goes for your departure balance.
How much spending money will I need while I am at Swell?
It is impossible for us to advise you as everyone has very different spending patterns, so please don’t write to Clare and ask how much cash you should bring.
To help you gauge, here is an idea of various items you might spend your money on: A local beer costs between $3 and $4 USD. A local lunch will cost you around $5 or $6 USD and for a dinner outside of Swell, expect to pay $10 to $15 USD. Our average drinks bill at Swell is around $35 USD after a week-long stay. Check the Day Trips page of the website for the cost of other activities you might want to do whilst you are with us.
Do you offer guided surf trips to other spots?
No, we don’t: There are other breaks, some of them are world-class on their day. However, we know from years of experience living and surfing here that you must be a very competent surfer already to safely surf those spots, as they are often a long paddle out against strong currents. Unlike Encuentro, those other surfing spots also require a certain swell height and direction to make them worth a visit. We can certainly offer advice and help to expert surfers on where to go and when, if you are staying with us.
I’m worried about arriving alone at the airport, how do I get to Swell?
Rest assured, an official taxi desk sits in the centre of the small arrivals area and the taxi co-ordinator will make sure you are put in a registered, safe cab to Swell. We give you a downloadable or printable map along with your arrival details for Swell, to give to the taxi-coordinator so there is no need for explanations as to where you need to go. All airport staff speak English and you will have Haudy’s (manager at Swell) own number to call in case you need any further help at all
Is the flight included in the package price?
We can’t possibly include flights in our packages; our guests travel to Swell from all over the world, so it would be impossible to do so. Take a look at our location page to see all the airlines flying to the Dominican Republic.
Can you handle vegetarian/vegan/gluten free food?
Whilst we do not have a team of chefs to cater to every whim, we are well used to catering for vegetarians, vegans and people with other food intolerances. We have a wide variety of ingredients to choose from and will always try our very best to cater for your needs if you tell us in advance, so just send us an email to see what your options are.
When do we surf?
Surfing at Swell always takes place in the mornings. The first surf session (the lesson) leaves at 7 am and you will return to Swell around 9.30 am for breakfast. After breakfast, we return to the beach for a supervised practice session. You return to Swell again usually around 12.30 to 13:00 and have the afternoon to yourself to relax, or take part in any of the other activities on our day trips page. You can take yourself back to the beach at your own expense in the afternoon and still use our surfboards, but remember, surfing is exhausting and we strongly recommend that you don’t do this. Even if you can manage a 3rd session on Day 1, by Day 3 you won’t be able to surf at all because your arms will no longer be working!
What do I need to bring for my surf course and how can I prepare?
Here is a little list of essentials: *1 Sunscreen (at least SPF30 and waterproof) *2 A pair of board shorts or surf leggings (such as those produced for triathletes by Underarmour); longer is better as you will protect your legs from a rash from the rough surface of the surfboard. *3 A rash guard for when your surf course is over (during your course you must wear one of our Swell rash guards). *4 Surf booties: we surf over a reef which in itself is not sharp, but there can be sea urchins between the rocks; if you bring surf booties, you will prevent getting any of the little spikes in your feet. We recommend Rip Curl, Billabong, O’Neill or Quicksilver split toe booties, at least 2mm thick; they should be a snug fit. Clare will send you an email with links to follow to prepare for your surf course, including some great exercises you can do to improve upper body strength; essential for paddling and popping up.
Which airport should I fly into?
The best (closest) airport to fly into is Puerto Plata (airport code POP). Taxis are safe and well-organised at POP airport with published fares and a taxi desk in the arrivals area. POP is only 25 minutes away from us and has direct daily flights from New York (JetBlue and Continental airlines) or Miami (American Airlines) and flights from Europe too. Take a look at our LOCATION page for more flight/airport ideas and the costs of airport transfers. STI and SDQ are both options to get to us. Punta Cana (PUJ) is only an option if you don’t mind renting a car and a 5 to 6-hour drive to Swell.
Can I drink the tap water and do you have a bar at Swell ?
You don’t need to drink the tap water as Swell provides safe drinking water for free from a water cooler in our kitchen area:) We have a limited bar selection available but you are welcome to bring in your own spirits and use the ice from our fridge to mix some killer-drinks! We have a plastic-free policy at the camp, so we limit our drinks for sale to those which can be re-cycled.
Can I cook my own food at Swell?
No you cannot use the Swell kitchen at any time for the preparation of food, nor use our fridge to store your food. If you wish to self-cater, Swell surf camp is not the right place for you. But, if you want to be looked after with truly delicious food (there’s a good reason why our guests have asked for a Swell surf camp recipe book to be published), and be within a few meters of a whole bunch of other restaurants, then do choose us for your surf vacation.
How do I make a reservation at Swell?
Use our Contact Us page to send Clare an email with your preferred dates. We answer emails quickly and your email is guaranteed to reach us if you correctly enter your email address (sadly lots of emails still arrive every week with errors in the email address, so we can’t respond to them). Once you are settled on your dates and tell us you are ready to book, Clare will usually hold the room for you for a few hours to allow you to make the payment for your stay. Depending on how far in advance you are coming, it will be an 80% deposit, or full payment required.
What if I need to cancel?
We have a very strict cancellation policy: Refunds are not possible, but we will give you an invoice so that you can make a claim on your travel insurance for reimbursement. A good travel insurance policy is essential; it is crazy to travel to a foreign country and undertake water sports without one and it will come in handy if you have to cancel, cut short or extend your stay.
How far in advance do I need to book for a surf holiday at Swell?
We can book up weeks and even months in advance: We recommend that you book at least 4 months in advance of your intended stay. Popular holidays can fill up even further in advance so if you know you want Swell to be your surf vacation choice go ahead and book early to avoid disappointment! Prices can be cheaper the longer ahead you book.
Can I combine surfing and wing foiling or kitesurfing on my trip?
Sure, plenty of people do. Surfing is always in the mornings at Playa Encuentro, a short ride from where Swell is located in Cabarete. Kite or foil lessons require wind, which usually kicks in around 1 pm. So if you are interested in learning more than just both surfing, you can send Clare a message and she can give you a price quote for your water sports adventure holiday.
I want to do other stuff than surfing whilst I am in Cabarete, how can I organise those things?
We organise a variety of adventures for our own guests each week: Haudy, the manageress of Swell, can organize canyoning, snorkelling, horse riding, kitesurfing, Yoga, massages, special dinners out and pretty much anything you have in mind. All excursions are best booked once you are in Cabarete and often all our guests go together to take part in these trips.
What type of Yoga do you do?
Molly, our Yogi, is an Ashtanga practitioner. Our Yoga is relaxed and unpretentious: Molly’s teaching style is warm and supportive and she encourages students to explore beyond their perceived limitations by emphasising proper alignment to maximise performance and prevent injuries. You do not have to be a regular practitioner of Yoga to take and enjoy a class at Swell.
When is the Yoga at Swell and can I add more classes?
Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons at around 4.30pm. We don’t have time for more Yoga at Swell as our guests are so often out and about doing all the other fun excursions on offer.