RSSArchive for January, 2009

German family drama in Sosua

Sosua – A 52-year-old German businessman apparently killed his wife before committing suicide in the Dominican Republic, police said after the couple had been found dead. Dominican police suspect this was a “crime of passion,” a police spokesman in the town of Sosua told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. No signs of external involvement had been found at the site, he said.

Heinz Gerhard F, who managed a construction company, and his wife, Karin, 51, had lived for 17 years in the northern Dominican tourist resort of Sosua. A friend found them both dead in their bed, the spokesman said. Over the weekend, a brother of the dead man who lives in Germany received an email that alarmed him, so he had asked the friend to check the house. The police spokesman refused to reveal the precise content of the email. Karin F had been shot in the temple, and her body showed signs of mistreatment. Forensic doctors were to investigate the origin of the injuries. The woman’s husband was said to have died immediately afterwards, of a shot in the mouth. The businessman, who suffered from diabetes, had had various financial and health problems in recent times. His business was going badly, and he reportedly once said that he had lost a lot of money while speculating in the stock market.

Source: www.earthtimes.org

Fiesta 151: a family adventure

Climb aboard a sugar cane wagon for a journey through the real Dominican Republic

A giant tractor guides the sugar cane wagon through the countryside. Its the Dominican version of a hayride

A giant tractor guides the sugar cane wagon through the countryside. It's the Dominican version of a hayride

This is an Independence Day celebration, filled with fauna, flora and fun.
Our all inclusive Fiesta 151 includes a 5 course cultural feast at a typical Dominican Ranch, free flowing drinks, a spectacular typical folklore show, crocodiles and so much more to make this an exciting experience for the whole family.
Every day is Independence Day on Fiesta 151 and this is one fiesta NOT to be missed!

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Playa Dorada

Playa Dorada is an area just east of Puerto Plata city with the largest concentration of resorts. It offers a country club setting, with hotels spread out through a very lush and appealing garden-golf course setting. The 18-hole 72 par golf course was designed by Robert Trent Jones

All the buildings on this complex are low-rise, maximum three stories, so the natural vegetation dominates. The whole setting is done really in quite good taste. There are some 15 different hotels in this complex, located about 5 kilometers from the edge of town. But it doesn’t feel dense because of the low rise building code. Some are on the beach, others are around the golf course but all in all you are basically on the beach. The golf course hotels all have their own oceanfront beach clubs and even though it’s walking distance they have golf carts and other means of shuttling those who don’t feel like walking.

When you’re in Playa Dorada you’re basically in a controlled environment. There is a shopping plaza in the middle of the complex with reataurants and pubs and shops, and you can explore up and down the beach. Most all inclusive resorts restrict admission to thier own guests, though.

There’s plenty to do and you don’t really ever have to leave to have a good vacation. But, it’s not the “real” Dominican Republic, so if you want to explore a bit, you’ll have to go beyond your resort.

Rare venemous mammal rediscovered on Hispaniola

In the journal Oryx researchers from EDGE, a program of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), have announced the rediscovery of a small population of Hispaniolan solenodons in Haiti. At the same time scientists in the Dominican Republic have taken the first ever footage of this endangered mammal.

There are few animals stranger than the Hispaniolan solenodon. The species can perhaps be best described as a plump rat sporting multi-colored fur and the long dangly nose of an elephant shrew. Its eyes are tiny pin-pricks, while its feet have long gnarled toes and nails that appear in desperate need of trimming. Something about the animal makes it look old and cantankerous, like an insectivorous hairy Yoda. But the Hispaniolan solenodon is no flight-of-fancy.

Hispaniolan solenodon taken in the Dominican Republic. Photo by Gregory Guida, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Dr. Samuel Turvey, a member of the EDGE research team who rediscovered the species in Haiti, says that solenodons “constitute an ancient mammal lineage that diverged from all other living mammals around 76 million years ago, during the time of the dinosaurs”. The Hispaniolan solenodon has only one living relative, the Cuban solenodon, which Turvey describes as “only distantly related”. Both species are often referred to as a ‘living fossils’ since they are essentially a windows into the early mammals of the Cretaceous.

The solenodon is unique in more ways than outward appearance. “They are the only living mammal species that are able to inject venom through specially modified teeth, similar to the way that snakes inject venom – a very unusual adaptation for a mammal!” explains Turvey. While there are other venomous mammals, including two species of shrews and the male duckbill platypus, they are capable of only passively conveying venom; shrews’ venom resides in their saliva and duckbill platypuses possess a poisonous claw on their hind leg.

In spite of its uniqueness in the animal kingdom, the Hispaniolan solenodon faces great pressure today. Its forest habitat has been invaded by alien predators and degraded by humans, allowing for only pockets of small populations to survive. Before European colonization of Hispaniola—the island which today includes the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic—it is believed that the solenodon had no natural predators. It’s slow and clumsy gait, hardly useful for evading predators, is cited as evidence for this. However, once Europeans arrived the island became overrun with dogs, cats, and the Asian mongoose which prey heavily on the island’s endemic species, including the solenodon. In fact, the solenodon is one of the few island mammals to have survived this onslaught.

Hispaniola was “never colonized by true carnivores,” Turvey said, “so solenodons probably represented the top mammalian ‘predators’ of these unusual island ecosystems before human arrival, although they are generalist insectivores rather than really carnivorous.”

Detail of Hispaniolan solenodon feet and claws. Photo by Gregory Guida, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
The appearance of invasive species, compounded by human encroachment and habitat degradation, has pushed the solenodons to the verge of extinction. By the 1990s a couple populations persisted in the Dominican Republic, but Haiti’s only population of solenodons was predicted to have only 10-20 years left before it vanished. While the bleak prognosis was due largely to the amount of pressure on the solenodon, it also reflected the general laxity of the conservation community toward species that don’t have the requisite ‘charisma’ or popularity with the public. It is a trend EDGE is working to overcome.

“So far solenodons have been sorely neglected by conservationists,” Turvey says, “many of whom have probably never even heard of them.”

Rediscovery in Haiti

The survey in Haiti undertaken by Dr. Turvey and colleagues was to ascertain if any solenodons still survive or if the nation had lost one of its natural treasures. In April 2007 the team of scientists spent eleven days in Massif de la Hotte region of Haiti interviewing subsistence farmers and villagers. This mountainous region was the last place where solenodons survived in Haiti; previous researchers outlined an area of solenodon habit in the Massif de la Hotte of only about eight to ten square kilometers.

The survey proved a success. The scientists’ interviews and the subsequent discovery of three dead solenodons—one of which had been eaten by a farmer—confirmed that the solenodon still survives in Haiti. In fact, the researchers believe that the species’ range may be even larger than it was a decade ago. They found evidence that the solenodons occupied lower elevations than expected and could even survive in largely degraded habitat. In the paper announcing their results, the researchers hypothesize that a widespread culling of dogs in the region may have saved the solenodons from extinction and even allowed them to expand their small range.

The re-discovery of the Haitian population of solenodons is important for an additional reason. Researchers stress that preservation of solenodon habitat and conservation measures would not only aid the solenodon but other endangered species, including Hispaniola’s only endemic rodent, the hutia, which is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN, as well as the gray-crowned palm-tanager, also endemic to the area. The Massif de la Hotte region may also be ripe for new discoveries: while visiting for only eleven days the researchers made the first sighting of an indigo bunting in Haiti and recorded the island’s first yellow-headed blackbird.

Despite this wealth of biodiversity, conservation in Haiti faces many hurdles. “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and obviously the ongoing humanitarian crisis has meant that there have been few national resources available for conservation or environmental work,” Turvey said. “So far there are only a couple of sites in the entire country that have been awarded national protected status. The Massif de la Hotte is home to a large number of unique endemic species restricted to this small mountain region, but although it contains one of Haiti’s few national parks, and has been identified as a globally significant region by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE), there still is little concerted conservation activity even here.”

The solenodons of the Dominican Republic

At the same time as the EDGE team was surveying in Haiti, conservation work concerning solenodons was taking place on the other side of the island in the Dominican Republic.

A large number of organizations—ZSL, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT), the Ornithological Society of Hispaniola, the Audubon Society of Haiti, and the Dominican Republic’s National Zoological Park and Agency for Protected Areas and Biodiversity—are currently collaborating to create a program that would conserve Hispaniola’s endemic land mammals, including the solenodon, throughout Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Richard Young, a conservation biologist with the DWCT who is working on the program, says “the project would enable the long-term conservation of the Hispaniolan solenodon by conducting large scale surveys to assess its population status and a field study in order to identify the main human-driven threats to its survival”.
A pilot project was conducted by the DWCT and the Ornithological Society of Hispaniola this past summer. Due its scarcity and the general lack o knowledge about the solenodons, Young was surprised by the success the team had in finding solenodons: “during one month of intensive trapping effort one individual was caught in a live-trap, providing a valuable DNA sample and some very rare film footage of the solenodon after the animal was released”.

The DWCT, created by the popular author and honored naturalist Gerald Durrell, focuses much of its attention “on conserving vulnerable communities of endemic animals which make such a valuable contribution to global biodiversity” according to Young. Like EDGE it has a history of working with species and places that haven’t gained the attention of the larger conservation community.

The future of the solenodon

While the solenodon’s future remains precarious, the recent attention from EDGE, DWCT, and other organizations will be vital if the species is to survive.

Now that there has been confirmation of the species in Haiti, a more thorough study of the population needs to be undertaken. “Given the lack of any targeted mammal conservation research in Haiti for almost 2 decades,” the scientists wrote in Oryx, “immediate further investigation is required into solenodon distribution, habitat utilization, density, and interaction with introduced predators across the region”. Until such a major project begins, community-based endeavors such as local surveys and the general raising of awareness (because of its scarcity the species is unknown even to many Haitians) is currently underway.
While the immediate future of the project in the Dominican Republic is focusing on fundraising, Young hopes the project will begin in 2009. The long-term goal of the project is to establish a species action plan that “would set out the main actions needed to conserve the species, and develop an island-wide monitoring programme to understand if future conservation efforts are effective.

A final mystery remains. In 2001 biologist Jose Alberto Ottenwalder suggested that the solenodons of Haiti may be distinct enough from those in the Dominican Republic to represent a subspecies; Ottenwalder went ahead and named it Solenodon paradoxus woodi . Others have even suggested the solenodons in Haiti could be a distinct species, providing even more urgency for the conservation of the Haitian population. Further studies should provide the answer to the level of relation between the populations.

Such debate is not new to solenodons. The taxonomy between the Hispaniolan and the Cuban solenodon is under discussion: some believe they should not share the same genus since the two species are separated by an astounding 25 million years.
When asked about their hope for the future of the solenodon both Turvey and Young proved cautiously optimistic.

Noting their extreme scarcity and the number of threats they face, Turvey sees hope in the mammal’s ability to survive: “solenodons seem to be tenacious little animals in many ways, as they have somehow managed to survive in the West Indies when over 100 other land mammal species have died out in the region as a result of human activities.”

Young says that the species has a chance “given some good conservation science and planning and if effective partnerships between national and international partners can be built, conserving this species is possible but actions are needed urgently.”

Both scientists agree that without active conservation the solenodon will likely go extinct. There is little doubt that if this is allowed to happen, the world will suffer the loss of one of its most unique inhabitants.

Samuel T. Turvey; Helen M.R. Meredith; R. Paul Scofield. Continued survival of Hispaniolan solenodon Solenodon paradoxus in Haiti. ORYX October 2008.

Source: http://news.mongabay.com

Sea Horse Ranch: luxury villa sales and rentals

Sea Horse Ranch is a distinctive oceanfront villa resort on the north coast of the Dominican Republic offering exclusivity in a setting that is among the Caribbean’s best.

This extraordinary gated community was designed by the award-winning architects of Edward Durrell Stone Associates for luxury living that is private, quiet and independent.

The beach club at Sea Horse Ranch

The beach club at Sea Horse RanchThe beach club at Sea Horse Ranch

With home sites for building, villas for sale and vacation or long term rental villas, Sea Horse Ranch was developed with a master plan that highlights and preserves the natural environment ~ over 250 lush acres of inspiring terrain.

Sea Horse Ranch is truly a first class Dominican Republic real estate development where our international clientele enjoys all the amenities of our resort, along with the magnificent coast and activities of the surrounding area.

Click here to visit the Sea Horse Ranch web site

Mob retaliation burns Haitian dwelling

MONTELLANO — A Dominican mob destroyed at least 10 dwellings belonging to illegal Haitian immigrants in the northern province of Puerto Plata after three Haitians allegedly killed a courier.

The mob ran several Haitians out of the town of Montellano in retaliation for the killing of Rafael Ventura Tineo.

Police said the 35-year-old courier was attacked Saturday with machetes by three Haitians who tried to steal his motorcycle and money.

The three suspects are being held at the police station in Puerto Plata and will be turned over to the criminal justice system, police said.

Ventura Tineo died from his wounds early Monday at the public hospital in Puerto Plata, police said.

When word spread that the victim had died, a mob gathered and went after the Haitians in the town, which is near one of the largest sugar mills in the area, destroying some of their dwellings.

A police spokesman in Montellano told Efe that officers acted quickly and kept the situation from getting worse.

Officers are looking for the people who destroyed the Haitians’ dwellings, the police spokesman said.

Municipal officials gave the immigration service four days to repatriate the illegal Haitian immigrants or they would take action themselves.

Dominican officials estimate that around 1 million Haitians live in the country, most of them illegal immigrants who work in agriculture and construction.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti in the western portion. Though both countries are poor, Haiti is destitute, and Haitians cross the border to do work that many Dominicans will not do, such as harvesting sugar cane.

Haitians have been the target of mob violence numerous times in recent years, and the Dominican government has carried out mass expulsions of illegal immigrants.

In August 2007, a Haitian was lynched in the northern province of Santiago after allegedly being caught in the act of robbing a house.

Witnesses told the press that after being surprised inside a home in the Guandules district, Piti Pie, 23, was chased and then killed by a mob armed with sticks and machetes.

The migrant pleaded for his life by saying he only broke into the house in search of food, witnesses said.

In January 2006, mobs in the northern Dominican Republic burned two Haitian dwellings and beat at least six migrants with staves after reports circulated that two Haitian men tried to rape a young Dominican girl.

During the same month, seven Haitians were injured when their homes were burned down in reprisal for the death of a Dominican air force sergeant in Guerra, near Santo Domingo.

And in December 2005, scores of Haitian families were forced to flee their shantytowns in the northern Dominican Republic for surrounding hills and woods after mobs burned dozens of homes in response to the murder of a 40-year-old Dominican man, allegedly by Haitians.

On Dec. 12, 130 Haitians were repatriated after being detained in the city of Santiago, the immigration service said.

In January, the Dominican Republic repatriated 2,002 illegal Haitian immigrants.

Freestyle Catamarans

Beneath the mild morning breeze, the two Freestyle catamarans put out to sea. “Today this boat is yours”, says Captain Robert, an English expatriate whose skin is craggy from years of sun and salt air, “so do whatever you want but just remember you’re here to have a great time”.

About one hundred passengers have come aboard these two gleaming, 55-foot catamaran sailboats that for years now have been sailing off Playa Dorada beach. With 50 people on-board you’d think it would feel cramped, but it doesn’t. This highly popular day trip attracts budding seamen from everywhere. Today English and Germans are the majority; it’s the European season. During the winter, Canadians and Americans dominate the decks. The crew is cosmopolitan too: an English captain, a Belgian, an Australian and the Dominicans who make the crew.

These catamarans, one built in the United States and the other in Sainte Croix, were designed for racing. Heading east, the cats actually motor their way upwind from Playa Dorada to Sosua Bay. This leg of the trip is a relaxing, 90-minute ride that belies nothing of what’s to come on the return trip: the rush and excitement of racing downwind at full sail.

For now things are scenic and relaxing, gliding along close to a nonstop strip of white sandy beaches, coconuts and exotic mountainscapes far inland. The morning sea is calm, the catamarans cut effortlessly through the waves. Passengers make themselves comfortable, some taking sun on the wide net suspended across the forward hulls, others seeking shade in the lounge. Here we see some fancy villas, there some rough hewn shacks. Closer to Sosua, the shoreline turns to cliff. Iron-shore, they call it. Looking out to sea everything is deep blue sea, except for a few small fishing boats bobbing in the waves.

Catamarans Sosua Beach destinationOur destination is Sosua Bay, a picturesque cove with with a wide beach where resorts and shops share the seafront. The catamarans anchor offshore near the coral reef and before long most of the passengers are snorkeling around the rocks and through schools of exotic fish.

It’s been “beer o’clock” for awhile now and upon reaching Sosua Bay out comes a hearty buffet lunch. There’s time for relaxing siesta before anchors are lifted for the short ride along the shore to yet another beautiful dive site called The Three Rocks.

Bataille d'eau on the catamaransMid afternoon and it’s time to set sail again. And now, as the cats point their bows towards the open sea, and as the giant sails fill with wind, we begin to appreciate what these racers were built for: the true sensation of really sailing.

“Sometimes you go on touristy boat trips and the whole thing is just so lame”, says a passenger, “but this is real sailing, brilliant”!

Forging through the waves neck in neck, and just a few meters apart, passengers line the hulls yelling and cheering on their respective skippers. Crew members pass out pails and instigate a water war between the boats. Amid bursts of laughter and sopping wet clothes, passengers begin to feel the excitement, exhiliration and adrenalin of racing in the open sea with only the wind for power.

By late afternoon the Freestyle catamarans are pulling up to their moorings at Playa Dorada Beach. Sun burnt, wind burnt, still coming down off the catamarans trip, passengers await the tenders to take them to the beach. The sun is low over the mountains, casting a golden hue on the scene. The bartender still has time to serve a few last cuba libres. People converse over plans for the evening with new found friends. It’s a quiet moment after an hour long rush of adrenalin.

Freestyle catamarans excursions can be booked in destination through tour representatives or at the Sea Pro water-sports booth at most hotels. Or click here to inquire or reserve online

Puerto Plata Police Kill 3; Accounts of Incident Differ

PUERTO PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC — Dominican police officers shot and killed three people whom they said confronted them with gunfire while resisting arrest, bringing to eight the number of civilians slain this week at the hands of law-enforcement officers.

The police identified the victims as brothers Jose and Ruddy Cabrera Peña, aged 24 and 21, respectively, and another man known only as Julio “El Santiaguero,” all of whom lived in the northwestern city of Puerto Plata.

But witnesses to Friday’s shootings refuted reports that the victims had fired at the officers and instead said they were summarily executed while pleading for mercy.

A woman who did not want to be identified told reporters that the three men were thrown violently to the ground by the officers and that two of the victims were handcuffed at the moment they were killed.

“They executed them; later they fired some shots in the air and placed a sub-machine gun next to their bodies. A lot of us saw what happened and we know they were killed like dogs,” the woman said.

Andres Cabrera and Felina Peña, the parents of the Cabrera Peña brothers, denied that their children were criminals and said they could have been executed by order of drug traffickers who operate in the area.

They also said that members of a police patrol usually demand money on weekends at a drug distribution point located near the house where the two slain brothers lived.

The parents said their sons opposed the operation of that distribution point and therefore called on Dominican authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the case, adding that the version offered by the Puerto Plata police was fabricated.

The police officers, however, said the three men tried to confront them when they were about to be placed under arrest.

This incident occurred three days after police officers killed five suspected criminals in a shootout on a Santo Domingo avenue.

Juan Hubieres, president of the New Option National Transport Federation, one of the country’s leading labor unions, said Friday that three of the people killed belonged to that organization and denied that they were criminals.

Dominican police have a history of summarily executing accused criminals and then claiming that the fatalities were the result of an exchange of gunfire.

via The Latin American Herald Tribune

Exploring the Dominican Republic

For the price of a short flight to the Caribbean the DR delivers travel adventure that some think requires spending big bucks and flying across the world for

air charters Our six-seater twin-engine aircraft was cruising at 2500 feet, an altitude that gave us a perfect bird’s eye view as we flew along the north coast of the Dominican Republic between Puerto Plata and Samaná. The man sitting beside me was at awe with intensity of the the blues of the water and the greens of the land, a rich multicolored quilt with its full-length rip of endless beach running from from top to bottom.

That day, we got to see the north coast from the air, we also went whale watching in Samana Bay, and enjoyed lunch and a swim on a paradise-like out island – all for the price of about two hundred American dollars per person.

whalesOn the way back my newfound friend and I got talking about how people spend thousands of dollars to go whale watching in places like Baja, California. Here, for two hundred dollars extra tacked on to a bargain-priced all-inclusive resort vacation, he had taken a fabulous plane ride and had been present at the largest annual humpback whales spawning convention that the Atlantic Ocean has to offer. And as we taxied down the runway on our return to Puerto Plata, my friend’s lament was not how much the trip had cost, – rather he was kicking himself for not having budgeted more for this vacation.

“I only wish we knew before coming that there are so many incredible things to do and see here. Nobody told us!”

Come Prepared

Most people come unprepared to discover the real Dominican Republic because most have booked an all-inclusive resort vacation and their mindset is that everything is already paid for. And while the resorts include the meals, beverage and myriad beach and poolside games, it seems a shame to travel this far and then stay stuck in the resort just because meals and beach volleyball are free. The unseen opportunity here is that for a few hundred extra dollars you can turn a bargain resort vacation into a world class travel experience. Another way to look at it is that for the price of a short hop to the Caribbean, you can have the kind of adventures that some people spend big bucks and travel halfway around the world for.

• • •

Tour operators in the Dominican Republic have organized an impressive array of trips and off resort adventures which means you can explore many areas of the island safely and conveniently without having to be a multilingual, expert traveler.

historySanto Domingo City is the first European City of the New World, founded in the late 1400’s by a brother of Christopher Columbus, Bartolomé. This is the DR’s largest city and is a bustling modern burg of about two million. Old Santo Domingo is a walled section you can walk around, where you’ll find many interesting museums and restored buildings. Most tours of Santo Domingo also stop at the lighthouse monument, where Christopher Columbus’ remains remain.

Pico Duarte, in the middle of the DR is the tallest mountain in the Caribbean at 10,000 feet above sea level. Sitting in the middle of a vast national park, you can take guided mule trips up to the summit. The only thing is they take two to four days. So for those who are not up that much roughing it, there are shorter excursions into the same general region featuring different forms of transportation that range from comfortable to adventurous.

cigarsAt the base of the Central Mountain Corridor where Pico Duarte is lies the Cibao Valley, a lush and fertile agricultural region where world famous Dominican cigars are cultivated and manufactured. From here you go up into the mountains to towns like Constanza and Jarabacoa, where the nighttime air gets cold enough to turn to frost, and where towering pine trees line up beside the royal palms. Traveling through these parts is like visiting a giant botanical garden set among dramatic mountain panorama, around rushing rivers and pristine valleys. There are permanent base camps operating, some with comfortable overnight accommodations, that exist to service sporting activities such as rappelling through waterfalls, whitewater rafting, parasailing and ballooning. rafting

Jeep Safaris and horseback riding trips are among the most popular ways to explore the outback and countryside around the resorts. Most of the Dominican Republic is undeveloped so you don’t have to go very far to feel like you’re in the middle of Africa or lost in the Amazon somewhere, fording rivers, meeting people in tiny crossroad villages, swimming in some remote waterfall. These trips often feature some sort of destination or activity such exploring a jungle river or discovering an uninhabited beach, but the real attraction of these jeep safaris is simply the millions of things you see and learn along the way.

Adventures on and under water can be sailing trips or powerboat rides that take you to some remote beach or out island to swim or snorkel. In Puerto snorkelingPlata there are catamarans that go to Sosua Bay for snorkeling and then on the return trip home, tack way out into the ocean for a spectacular sailing experience. Another north coast adventure takes you for a two hour ride down the coast to where powerboats take you through a jungle river to a sand spit of an island where the water and snorkeling are perfect. December to March marks the whale watching season in Samaná. I confess that the first time I went to see whales in Samaná I only went because I had to write about it. But after being witness that day to a mother and her calf and to the sheer size of the animals, lolling around and coochi-cooing right beside our boat, I know now that a chance to go whale watching is an experience that nobody should miss.

Saona Island is a great day trip destination if you are staying in Bavaro or Punta Cana. This is an idyllic island national park where just a few hundred people live in simple huts and without vehicles. What dominates here is pure white sand and coconut palms. You have to travel by boat and there are a variety of possibilities. One of the tours takes you out there by catamaran and speeds you back with the thrill of a powerboat ride. There are other calmer ways to enjoy a trip to Saona, including a comfortable ferry type boat that speeds you over the ocean.

Air charter excursions that cost up to $200 U.S. dollars have a certain appeal and advantage. Unlike those 15-minute helicopter rides on the Miami causeway, these shuttles of 30 to sixty minutes truly speed up the travel time in a day while providing the chance to see this truly spectacular country from the air. Meanwhile, if your budget doesn’t allow for this luxury, or if you want to pack in more trips for the money, you will enjoy the land based excursions and boat trips that cost from $40 to $100.

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Eco-retreat owner offers helpful services for independent travelers

Puerto Plata: the New Coast of Eco-Style and Activity

The Caribbean’s secret is out: Puerto Plata offers affordable luxury in today’s economy

Puerto Plata, the largest city on the Dominican Republic’s (DR) North Coast, is seen as a shining star for the country’s tourism industry. With the largest number of attractively-priced hotel rooms in the north, championship designer golf courses, shopping, casinos, night life, rejuvenated local beaches and other new developments planned, Puerto Plata is creating a reputation as one of the Caribbean’s most popular emerging tourist destinations in the DR attracting international travelers, sports champions and celebrities alike.

Blessed with stretches of pristine beaches, breathtaking countryside, friendly people, diverse culture, raw nature and luxury, Puerto Plata is great for those travelers seeking a vacation out of the ordinary. In 1492, Christopher Columbus described the region as “the fairest land under heaven.” Over 500 years later, visitors continue to be captivated by the non-stop unspoiled natural beauty.

Just 800 miles south of Florida, Puerto Plata offers travelers rare and preserved beauty with daily flights from Miami, New York, Atlanta and Puerto Rico. Also, weekly charters from dozens of Canadian and European cities make traveling to and from Puerto Plata easier than ever. In addition, Puerto Plata’s centrally located Gregorio Luperón International Airport is less than 20 minutes away from the majority of the area’s hotels making the trip home a breeze.

Known as the country’s most versatile playground, Puerto Plata is an excellent destination for those seeking fun, adventure and enriching activities. Here vacationers can jump river beds on a mountain bike, fight waves on a kiteboard, test their strength on a rock race or rub elbows with the rich and famous who come for the North Coast’s luxurious accommodations.

Travelers with limited vacation time often find themselves hard-pressed to choose from the vast list of activities Puerto Plata has to offer. Top attractions in Puerto Plata include: Ocean World, Playa Grande and Play Dorada Golf Course, Victorian Architecture, Taino Art Museum, San Felipe Fort, Brugal Factory Tour, El Museo de Sosúa, Mount Isabel de Torres Cable Car and the Puerto Plata Jazz Festival. For more information regarding these top attractions click on our Visitors Guide links at right.

In addition to a vast variety of activities, Puerto Plata offers a beach lover’s paradise with the beaches of Playa Dorada, Costa Dorada, Playa Cofresí, Playa Sosúa and Cabarete. “The North Coast boasts some of the world’s most breathtaking white sand beaches surrounded with brilliant shades of turquoise,” said DR Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia. “In 2008, the DR invested nearly $25 million into the rejuvenation of seven beaches, including a five kilometer stretch of beach east of Long Beach city. In addition, the adjacent stretch from Costa Dorada to Playa Dorada and Cabarete on the North Coast has been doubled in size for traveler’s beach relaxation.”

The word is out. Puerto Plata is the “it” destination for adventure and eco travel along with affordable luxury. With its laid back and relaxing atmosphere, culture and desirable warm weather, Puerto Plata is an astonishing place that will delight even the most experienced traveler.