Dominican Republic’s north-west gets a makeover

The north-west of the Dominican Republic has undergone a make-over in recent years with more sand on its beaches, new hotels and less garbage along its highways. These are just a few of the signs that the region around Puerto Plata and Sosua is becoming attractive again for foreign tourists.

About 10 years ago, the region was making headlines in the tourist trade for its rock bottom prices. Then, investment suddenly dried up, hotels fell into disrepair and beaches became gradually dirty and uninviting.

But that’s a thing of the past and Puerto Plata now compares favourably with the more expensive holiday resorts at Punta Cana and Cap Can in the east.

Those resorts have picture perfect beaches that were designed on an architect’s drawing board, but the Dominican Republic’s north-west has managed to retain its vibrant local flavour and atmosphere.

A common sight around Puerto Plata are fishermen slamming domino pieces onto wobbly bar tables. The area’s discos also have more locals on their dance floors than tourists.

Getting around the region on one of the many small buses and collective taxis that ply their trade can also turn into a unique experience.

A decade ago that was a different story. A walk along the sea shore at Puerto Plata would have been a disappointment with hardly any sand, polluted water, beer cans and plastic containers littering the roads and streets.

But the region has managed to reverse that image and Long Beach is cleaner and wider than ever before thanks to 100,000 cubic metres of sand that were pumped onshore.

If you have the inclination, you can walk along the city beach to the holiday resort at Playa Dorada, the oldest in the country.

Playa Dorada has 14 hotel complexes and more than 4,000 rooms for guests. There has also been investment in tourist infrastructure with new golf courses, night clubs and shops.

Extra sand was also pumped onto the resort’s beach as well as the strand at the surfer village of Cabarete. Sosua’a beach is also due to be improved with more sand.

The busiest time of the week on Long Beach is Sunday afternoon when teenagers dance to merengue and local families picnic beneath the trees. There are plenty of pavilions with refreshments such as ice cold beer, rum and grilled fish.

The restored fortress of San Felip at the end of the promenade is a favourite spot for young people to come and flirt with each other.

Through the openings in the fortress’s embattlements there is a view of the harbour and the wider Caribbean Sea.

“Our promenade is really beautiful now. Puerto Plata has been transformed,” says Jose Camacho, a restaurant owner.

Meanwhile, midnight has come and with it closing time in one of Puerto Plata’s budget hotels. Although some of the slightly intoxicated guests are causing trouble, the barkeeper remains friendly and as cool as the situation demands.

Later he says, “We are not allowed to hit any of the guests”.

Just five minutes walk away from that scene, a couple are sipping Champagne beside a pool reflecting moonlight.

“Many people thought we were crazy because we wanted to build a high-class hotel like this in Puerto Plata,” says hotel general manager Roberto Casoni. But Casoni believes the region can look forward to a prosperous future thanks to tourism.

Nightlife in Sosua is more laid back than it used to be. The locals complained about the noise and some of the bars were forced to close their doors permanently.

Cabarete has a spectacular attraction for visitors – an evening walk along its fine sandy beach with the moon and stars competing for attention with the lights and lanterns of the village’s restaurants.


Filed Under: Old News

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