MANGO!

Tempted just from hearing the word? You’re not alone.

When around the Santo Domingo or southwest area in mid-June, it’s worth venturing over to the southwestern town of Baní, just an hour drive from Santo Domingo (or a bit longer by bus). Every year, Baní celebrates the mango season with a vibrant festival that runs from Thursday through Sunday.

In the small town’s central park, next to the colorful city hall building, over 15 mango producers from the southwest and from the region of Monte Plata display and sell their juicy, vibrant mango harvest.

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There are over 101 varieties of mango in the DR, many of them sent for exportation. I tasted about 20 different kinds at the festival, including: Manzano, Luís, Mingolo, Palmer, Melo, Haden, Banilejo, Keitt, Pascual, Gota de Oro, Madame Francés, Puntica, Gustico, Grano de Oro, Marcelo, Parvin, Sprinfield, Tommy Atkins and Jumbo Kesar.

If you find out why the Madame Francés mango bears that name, let me know! I asked several vendors and no one seemed to know or wonder why. I’m sure there’s a story behind it.

The most popular and famous of all is the mango banilejo–small in size, it packs a super sweet punch and plenty of juice. I was offered a freebie to taste while debating how many to purchase. No need for utensils, just peel with your teeth and bite away. There’s water available to wash the mangos and rinse yourself of the messiness post-mango eating.

Event Highlights at Expo Mango

  • Traditional dance performances by the Ballet Folklórico of the Ministry of Tourism.
  • A mango tasting “casita” or tent, where you get to try out over 20 types of sliced mango from a buffet – RD$50 per person.
  • Mango eating contests (usually held on the Sunday).
  • Plenty of mango shopping opportunities from a variety of vendors–with beautifully displayed fruits–for the cheapest prices you’ll find in the country (about 40 pesos for a dozen)
  • Mango smoothie stands
  • Other mango related products, including marmalade.

Best Festival Days

Saturday and Sunday are the most crowded and fun days, when families and groups attend from around the country. There are drinks (including Presidente for beer lovers) and food on site. It’s a well organized, safe event, not to mention a great way to experience Dominican culture.

For more information on future dates in June (in Spanish), visit Expo Mango’s Facebook Page.

Getting There

From Santo Domingo, catch the Expreso Bani from across Parque Enriquillo. The precise bus stop is on Calle Ravelo, at the corner of Calle Jose Marti).  Cost is between RD$115-$125 or US$2.50 one-way per person. Carry local change. The return from Baní leaves out of the bus terminal that sits a half block away from the event or central park.

The bottom line

If you have time to spare, go.

Lebawit Lily Girma

A former corporate attorney, Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning travel writer, photographer, and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for US-publisher Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic. Originally from Ethiopia, Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–fluent in four languages, she has lived in eight countries besides the U.S., including Belize, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. Her articles and photography focusing on the Caribbean region have been published in AFAR Magazine, CNN, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, and others. She is the recipient of the 2016 Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

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