Barahona is a remote region of the Dominican Republic. It is sparsely populated and wildly beautiful. Very few travelers venture here, but the adventure of it all makes it rewarding.
Barahona is an attractive provincial city, the only one of any size in the Southwest region. It has little to offer besides a good beach, an interesting cathedral, and a good bar scene. It is the base for visiting the isolated, prehistoric-looking Lago de Enriquillo, as well as a visit to the ramshackle, 'duty free' border market in nearby Malpasse, Haiti.
Lago de Enriquillo is an astounding natural wonder, located far below sea level among striking, stony mountains. Enriquillo was a Taino chief, and a forlorn statue of this great 'cacique' stands along the long, deserted dirt road to the lake. A boat trip will reveal weird and wonderful plants and animals, the most amazing of which are the many 5-foot crocodiles, said to be harmless, but don't go wading. This end-of-the-world place is very much worth the day trip from Barahona (ask at your hotel), the price of which includes sandwiches, beer, and a visit to the ramshackle border market in nearby Malpasse, Haiti. Top-drawer Barbancourt Rum, Cuban cigars, and surprisingly good Comme Il Faut cigarettes are available at low prices, and you'll meet real Haitians who happen to speak 'market' Dominican Spanish.
This is a largely impoverished area, but people are mostly honest, dignified, and happy you've made such an effort to visit. Prices are low. Food is delicious and has a good, safe bar scene (signs warn customers to check their arms at the door). Motorcyclists will take you anywhere in town for 10 pesos. I was there in July, 2013, and motoconchos charged around $50 pesos. They have redone the Malecon on the waterfront, and were renovating the 1920's bandstand in the Parque Central when I was there. It is a very friendly city, and I saw no tourists. There were some Peace Corps and Missionary workers.
Safe, scenic, cheap daily bus service (3 hours) from Santo Domingo. Ask for "Barahona" lot. Some stops at clean service areas along the way, with good meals. The fastest bus service is Caribetours. It leaves Santo Domingo at 6:15, 9:45 AM and 1:45 and 5:15 PM from Leopoldo Navarro & 27 de febrero. Travel time is a bit over 3 hours, with perhaps a very brief stop in Azua. The bus is large and air conditioned and has seat belts and shows movies. Other buses and guaguas leave from a much tackier station just over the Ozama bridge. Cab drivers know where it is, and any bus you catch at the SDQ airport drives right by it. Tell then "bus para Barahina". There are large buses and smaller guaguas in various states of comfort. These will make a 30 minute pitstop at Cruce de Ocoa where there is a restaurant and tourist shop with a large portrait of Chairman Mao presiding over all. The large buses are comfy, the guagua are less comfy. The fare is $260 pesos (US$5.90) You might save $20 pesos taking a guagua, but not much more. The travel time for guaguas and buses that stop at Cruce de Ocoa is around 4 hours. This varies, because they pick up and drop off people all along the way. Caribetours only stops in Azua.
There is no local bus service, but motoconcho motorcycle taxis charged 50 pesos inside the city limits in mid-2013. Two can ride for the price of one. Taxis are available on call from your hotel and are not expensive, $150 pesos or so (under $3.00 US). Near the city market you can find guaguas to all the local cities. There are several large bus lines that travel to Santo Domingo and on to Pedernales. There are no banks or ATMs between Barahona and Pedernales. There are several banks with ATMs in Barahona. Usually there is an armed guard near the ATM with a sawed off shotgun. If you are headed for Pedernales or points in between, use the ATM machines in Barahona, because there are none farther west. Banco Popular is right on the Parque Central.
Visit the town beach. It's not Ipanema, but it's relaxing with spectacular views. There are two beaches. One is in front of the Malecón (seaside boulevard), towards the Ingenio (sugar mill) from the harbor. The other, called El Cayo, is on a sandy spit past the Ingenio. The side facing the city is pleasant, but you will need to bring food and drink. The side facing the Caribbean would be beautiful, but was littered with an impossible amount of bottles and trash. There are some sea grape and palm trees for shade.
In the evenings, the Malecón is bustling with people and buzzing with motorcycles and scooters. There are numerous restaurants and beer halls.
You didn't come to remote Barahona for the cuisine, did you? Satisfactory (at best) cafe and hotel food is available. But you won't go hungry, or get sick, either. Preparing meals from market-bought food is probably your best bet. The Café Melo (Anacaona 12) is quite good and pleasant, and has wi-fi. It is perhaps the only restaurant that does not have music playing. It is the only place in town that has French toast. Brisas del Caribe is said to be the best restaurant. It is on the Eastern end of the Malecón. The city market has empanadas (fried turnovers with various filings) and coffee in various stalls. Coffee is never Nescafé Instant and is usually quite good, always sweetened and strong, like expresso. There is good pizza one block from the malecon, near the Children's park. It is open only on weekends.
Good, cheap bars in the town center. People-watching is the main entertainment.
No real problems in this quiet, rather dull city. Danger exists in the wild countryside due to isolation, and by Lago de Enriquillo, the crocodiles.
The best beaches are at San Rafael, about 20 km S down the road has a waterfall and freshwater pool. A bit farther, just past Paraiso, is Los Patos, which has a freshwater pool near the Ocean, with several cafés around it. Paraíso is the largest town between Barahona and Pedernales. The beach there is covered with pebbles and the surf is a bit rough. The Hotel Kalibe in Paraíso is very nice, $1300 for a large room with AC, cable and hot water. It has a very friendly staff and a nice pool. There are several cheaper hotels in Paraiso as well. It is a hilly town and rather sleepy.