Moral of the story. Rent a car.
However, if that's not a viable option (you don't have enough money, you don't want the hassle of actually renting a car, you're just plain scared to drive in the crazy free-for-all that is the D.R.), a guagua is really your only choice.
So with that in mind, I've put together a few survival tips for you in case you find yourself dealing with the Dominican transportation system.
1. Don't expect to find bus times posted online. Or even bus services. Virtually the only way to find a bus stop is to ask a local, then you need to head to the station yourself to find out when the buses leave and where they go.
2. Find a seat next to a window or door in the front, some place with air flow. Do NOT sit in the back. It looks like a nice spacious back seat, but it's a trap! The bus will definitely pick up more luggage and passengers than its capacity and the back is where most people will be squished.
3. You will leave each city at a snail's pace. This is because the driver will pick up (or try to) more riders along the way. He must drive slowly so that anybody mildly considering jumping on the bus has the opportunity to do so. This will drive you crazy. Grin and bear it.
4. If you are sitting next to a window or door for an extended period of time, make sure to cover yourself properly. You will get sunburned.
5. You are going to be mildly uncomfortable, accept that fact and focus on something more positive. The scenery is beautiful. The people are friendly. If you are willing and open, you can always have an interesting conversation. (my most entertaining conversations have taken place on buses) If not, there's always bachata or merengue on the radio to listen to. Or you can work on developing your ability to sleep in any position. This will serve you well for future trips.
6. When you arrive in your destination town, you will begin dropping people off one by one randomly along the route. You can simply signal the driver wherever you want to be let off, and he will do so. Once again you will move at a snail's pace and once again, this will drive you crazy. Take a deep breath and smile though, you're almost there.
And if you are lucky, you're final destination will look something like this...
The last bus stop at Las Galeras almost literally drops you off in the sand on the beach. Which was quite lucky for me because that is exactly where Rolexis had decided to park their car minutes before my arrival. I flagged them down and we went to look for accomodations for the night.
Since our first choice, El Cabito, was closed for the month of July (bummer!), we ended up staying at La Plantacion, which was where I stayed on my last visit. The major draw for this place being its close proximity to the beach and its beautiful pool, which I dove into first thing.
Rolando and Alexis opted for a picture instead of a swim.
I was trying to be healthy, but I'm pretty sure my orange sauce and mashed potatoes were high in butter content. Oh well, I tried, lol.
Tummies full we headed back to the hotel to rest up. We each had big plans for the morning!