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When I knew I was heading down to the Dominican Republic, I never thought I’d be doing any surfing. I then started to do a little research on TripAdvisor and that’s when I saw Macao Surf Camp, rated #4. Intrigued, I decided to give them a shot and maybe have a chance of improving my surfing skills.
Getting over that hump
The challenge with surfing and being from Toronto is that well, there’s pretty much no chance to surf at home. In the past I’ve done surfing in San Diego, Malibu and in Kauai but like with snowboarding, if you only go once a year, you’ll never get better. You end up re-learning everything each year.
What I was looking for was a way to get over that hump.
From the beginning, communication with the school’s director, Rafael, was smooth as butter. The excursion was easily confirmed via e-mail and on the day of, all we had to do was wait at the lobby of the Catalonia Royal Bavaro for our pickup. The van came promptly on time and after roughly 25 minutes we were at Macao Beach.
Pristine white sand beaches
Once we got off the van and walked towards the surf camp hut, I immediately noticed what a dramatic change in beach this was to our resort.
Macao Beach is truly a proper white sand beach. There is no seaweed to speak and has no rocks to cause you to stumble either. We later found out that even the area of surf had no rocks either which made wiping out that much safer.
Macao Beach is absolutely gorgeous.
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A proper surf camp that truly makes you feel like a champ
Once we checked in, both Chantelle and I were given blue rash guard shirts to wear. There were also lockers for our bags but Rafael said that they’ve never had an issue with theft since it’s watched the whole time so we just left it in the hut.
Once the lesson was underway, we were brought out to the entrance of the surf camp where 6 surf boards were laid out in the sand. Gustavo, a surfer since 1965 gave us a briefing on basic techniques, common mistakes and things to look out for. Not before long, he had us on the boards and practicing how to properly pop up on the board from down position. I really appreciated feedback on my feet positioning and stance here – something I didn’t learn from my other lessons.
One on one
After Gustavo was done, out came all the rest of the instructor team in black rashguard shirts, and with our surf boards, we walked over to the middle part of Macao Beach.
With no time to waste, we pretty much head straight into the water. I was paired with Alex and Chantelle with Jyens.
What was incredible about the beach was that where the waves were cresting, the water was only shoulder high. This allowed Alex and Jyens to stand there the whole time. This also makes for a nice beginner’s beach with the waves coming in close to shore and not too high either.
For the first half of the in-water session, Alex basically held the board from the back and when a good wave was incoming, he’d give me a good push, and would either say “Paddle” or “Up”. I’d continue to paddle to build speed if I heard “Paddle” and if I heard “Up”, I’d pop up from my board.
The one-on-one instruction here was greatly appreciated and where the magic happened. Eliminating the task of watching for a wave, building up speed and to know how long to paddle, I could focus purely on getting up from my board and my form. In no time, Chantelle and I were both able to ride the waves consistently one after the next. I was amazed at how the personalized experience and the focus on a few core mechanics at a time made everything fall in place. Also because it was just me and Alex, there was no wait time going from one surf to the next.
I can’t begin to explain how exhilarating it was to be able to consistently ride the waves. We became so confident that we were able to ride a wave together and even high-five each other on the way down. Smooth moves.
We even learned a bit of Spanish along the way. “Mah-chu-ka” was the fist-pump and “Grande-ola” meant “big wave”.
Fresh mangos and coconuts
Halfway through our lesson, we were called back ashore. I was pleasantly surprise when we were treated to fresh mangos and coconut from the local beach vendors. At first I was a bit unsure of whether we’d have to pay them but it turned out that it was included with our package.
This gave us time to take a breather and recharge. It was well timed because we were both exhausted from constantly riding surf after surf.
Stepping it up
After our break, we hit the water again. This time, we felt a little bit more confidence so we told them we wanted to paddle ourselves instead of getting pushed. Alex and Jyens were happy to accommodate and this time around, they held our board from the front to keep it stabilized and when a wave was incoming, they’d let go and give us instructions on how long to paddle and when to get up.
It was a lot harder this time around but we still managed to get up on our board successfully quite a few times.
In the second half was also when Rafael came straight out into the water. This was much appreciated because he literally watched each surfer one at a time and would make comments on what we were doing wrong and what we needed to correct to do better.
The photo and video team
Throughout the whole lesson, there was a photographer that followed us around. This was great because taking photos was the last thing on my mind when we hit the water. As you can see, they got some pretty awesome action shots of us.
Ramon Perez is the freelance photographer that runs things and by the time we got back to surf camp hut, he had all the photos ready for us to review. They charge a mere $30 per person or $50 per couple for an entire DVD full of photos. Ramon also does video with a combination of several GoPros and a drone.
Credits go out to Ramon for editing the photos and burning them on a DVD for us.
Fresh catch of the day
After the lesson, we were able to rinse off in their outdoor shower.
Back in the surf shack, we found out that they have their own kitchen as well. It’s not advertised but this is another additional that makes Macao Surf Camp full service. Rafael recommended the Mahi Mahi and Conch so that’s what we ended up ordering. I asked if they had a menu but he said that it changes week to week because it depends on what the local fisherman catch and bring back. Talk about fresh right?
Oh and there’s more
Chatting with Rafael, we also found out that as part of the lesson, you can keep using your board for the rest of the day if you’d like. It was too bad we didn’t have more time to spend on the beach, otherwise it would’ve been nice to hit the water on our own after lunch to put our skills to the test. I honestly don’t know of any other surf shop that does that.
Punta Cana may not be known for surfing but after going through Macao Surf Camp, I’m a huge advocate now. The beach is the perfect place to learn and improve and the team at Macao Surf Camp do an incredibly job of getting you up on your board like you were born to do it.
About Macao Surf Camp
Macao Beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
The surf camp was started 6 years ago by Rafael, Gustavo and Armando and was the first school in the Punta Cana area of the Dominican Republic. Since then, they’ve risen to the top as one of the star activities in the region. Not only are they devoted to the students that come to Macao Surf Camp but they are also big believer of their motto “Protect, enjoy and respect the ocean”.
Surf Lesson Prices
- Private lessons are $115 USD for 2 hours. 3 day package available for $300 and 5 day for $450.
- Group lessons are $95 USD for 2 hours. 3 day package available for $250 and 5 day for $400.
- All lessons include roundtrip transfers, the board, 15 minutes of theory for beginners, 2 hour lesson, break with coconut or water and fresh fruit, rash guard. Surf board can be used throughout the rest of the day.
- Difficulty and skill level tailored to you.
- $30 USD for one person
- $50 USD if there´s two
- For groups its as low as $10 USD
Make your reservation directly by visiting the Macao Surf Camp contact page. Payment only due when you’re done your lesson.
Recommended places to stay near Macao Surf Camp
We had a chance to stay at this all-inclusive resort on our trip to the Dominican Republic and loved this adults-only resort. It wasn’t overwhelming, had the right number of pools, good food, a nice stretch of beach and an amazing room.
A property that is incredibly affordable given that it is a 4-star property. While it isn’t all-inclusive, it has its own private beach and tropical garden with lounge areas and BBQ facilities. Umbrellas, loungers, and towels are free to use as well.
Other activities to consider near Punta Cana
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I was a guest of Macao Surf Camp. As always, all opinions expressed are entirely my own and does not reflect the compensation received.