Relaxing on a sand bank just off-shore Saona Island in the Dominican Republic. Photo by Janna Graber

Relaxing on a sand bank just off-shore Saona Island in the Dominican Republic. Photo by Janna Graber

“Hop out,” the boat captain says. Our speedboat has stopped and is bobbing about on a crystal blue sea. In the distance, I see a white sand beach lined with palm trees, but we’re at least half a mile from shore.

“Trust me,” he says. “You can stand up here.”

I nod and slip over the side of boat. Sure enough, the water comes up to my shoulders. We’re on a sandbank in the middle of the sea, and colorful starfish dot the soft sand beneath our feet. The boat captain turns on some music as my friends jump into the sea beside me. A crew member offers us cups of rum and Coke, which we sip, relaxing in the warm water.

Right now, the cold weather back home seems very far away. Yet the Dominican Republic is just a 3.5-hour flight from Newark, N.J. Those few hours can make a world of difference.

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