RSSArchive for October, 2016

Cable car delivers a picture-perfect outing

For impressive views of Puerto Plata, its harbor, sparkling coastline and verdant hillsides, climb aboard the only cable car in the Caribbean and indulge in a panoramic feast.

Puerto Plata cable car. Photo courtesy of Dominican Ministry of Tourism

Puerto Plata cable car. Photo courtesy of Dominican Ministry of Tourism

The Teleférico (Spanish for cable car) shuttles passengers up the 782-meter (2,565-foot) Isabele de Torres Mountain, named after the benefactor-queen of Christopher Columbus. An imposing view from most anywhere in Puerto Plata, the mountain has been declared a nature reserve due to its great variety of flora and fauna.

The pleasant, eight-minute ride eases visitors out of the base station and up and over rooftops, schoolyards and playgrounds. Before long only dense, tropical greenery lies ahead, and, as the ascent progresses, a broad, coastal vista unfolds.

As the 20-passenger car steadily climbs, the weather changes, too, with the temperature dropping pleasantly.

Foggy mist may obscure views on the mountain approach, giving travelers an eerie sensation as the cabin glides through a white-cotton blanket. When the station nears, a 10-meter (33-foot) Christ the Redeemer statue comes into a view from its perch at the summit.

The smaller version of Brazil’s famous 30-meter (99-foot) sculpture stands with outstretched arms atop a white dome, built as a small fortress in the days of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. Gift shops now pack the space.

In addition to the stunning views of the shimmering Atlantic coast, a lush tropical garden and lagoon also await at the peak, as do a full restaurant and walk-up refreshment stand (soft drinks, cocktails and snacks). Restrooms are available both at the base and peak. Visitors can spend a few minutes or a few hours enjoying the tranquil setting.

Opened in 1975, the Teleférico operates seven days a week, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $10 (USD) for adults; free or reduced admission for children. Visitors can also take a difficult hike to the summit or arrive by car, but there’s nothing like the round trip aboard the cable car.

Find a little of everything on the Malecón

Looking along the scenic Malecón in Puerto Plata. Photo courtesy of the Dominican Ministry of Tourism

The Malecón hugs the coast in Puerto Plata. Photo courtesy of Dominican Ministry of Tourism

A must-see destination on the North Coast, Puerto Plata’s Malecón is a scenic, three-kilometer (one-mile) promenade hugging the Atlantic Ocean and its golden-sand beaches.

Lined with small, friendly bars, the route begins at La Puntilla park, anchored by the historic San Felipe Fort, a 16th century landmark, and a 24-meter (78-foot) lighthouse, built in 1879. A new amphitheater, which accommodates up to 4,000 patrons, also occupies the site. A sculpture of military hero Gen. Gregorio Luperón on his horse greets arriving visitors.

The Malecón culminates at the stretch of shore known as Long Beach, named by U.S. military occupiers in the early 1900s. A bronze replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David stands at a nearby intersection.

There’s plenty to see along the way. Photo ops include mighty Neptune, Roman god of the sea, who overlooks the city from a rocky perch offshore; colorful fishing boats bobbing in the shallow surf; and the city’s historic fire station, an architectural gem.

Snacks and cold drinks are never out of reach, as small, friendly bars line the wide, breezy walkway. Strolling vendors sell candies, shaved-ice drinks, fresh coconut milk and more.

Under the shade of sea grape and almond trees, locals play spirited games of dominoes while others — Dominicans and expatriates alike — enjoy a peaceful spot to meet and mingle. Joggers and cyclists use a protected lane alongside the malecón.

Soon after sundown, the beachside joints lock their shutters and the activity shifts to the other side of the four-lane highway, where bars, dance clubs and restaurants cater to nighttime crowds.

Planning for the Malecón dates to 1917 but not until 1971 were the broad avenue and ample sidewalk built; the route was remodeled in 2006.

Esperanza Spalding headlines 2016 Jazz Festival

Esperanza Spalding_Photo by Holly AndresFour-time Grammy Award winner Esperanza Spalding will be among the outstanding performers as the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary with five nights of free concerts Nov. 8-12.

Presented by the Dominican Ministry of Tourism, the popular event has been attracting audiences of 10,000+ music lovers, making it one of the largest jazz festivals in the Caribbean.

For its 20th edition, the festival will make its first appearance in the nation’s thriving capital of Santo Domingo, where it will open on Tuesday, Nov. 8, on the breeze-swept Plaza España in the heart of the Colonial Zone, a UNESCO World Heritage site. From there, the event moves to its traditional venues on the North Coast.

This year’s featured performer is Spalding, an American bassist who at age 31 has already recorded seven collaborative and five solo albums while picking up four Grammys.

The all-star lineup includes saxophonist Lihi Haruvi (Israel), the Tia Fuller Quartet (USA), the Patricia Zarate Quintet (Chile), Pat Pereyra and her band (Dominican Republic), the Berklee Global Jazz Institute with special guests JoAnne Brackeen (piano) and Grammy Award-winning drummer Terri Lyne Carrington (USA); vocalist Sabrina Estepan (Dominican Republic), The Big Band Conservatory of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), a special quartet with Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington, Ingrid Jensen and Linda Oh (USA), and Enerolisa Núñez and her group (Dominican Republic), who will perform folkloric Dominican music.

In addition to their evening performances, many festival artists conduct daytime workshops for Dominican children, teaching them a few basic concepts and introducing them to the magic of creating music themselves.

Several hundred children attend the workshops, which are presented through the festival’s affiliation with FEDUJAZZ, a nonprofit foundation that provides music education for Dominican youth. Enrollment in the FEDUJAZZ music program in Cabarete recently expanded to more than 200 students.

Here is the schedule for this year’s festival; all concerts start at 8 p.m.:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 8, at Plaza España in Santo Domingo.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 9, at Centro León in Santiago.
  • Thursday, Nov. 10, at Parque Independencia in Puerto Plata.
  • Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11-12, on the beach in Cabarete.

Since its debut in 1997, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival has presented internationally renowned Latin Grammy and Grammy Award-winning musicians such as Ignacio Berroa, Joe Lovano, Chuck Mangione, Ray Baretto, Néstor Torres, Chucho Valdés, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Arturo Sandoval among many other talents.

The 20th annual Dominican Republic Jazz Festival is presented by the Ministry of Tourism, and sponsors include Ron Macorix, JetBlue, the United States Embassy, Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Gratereaux Delva & Associates Law Firm, Sea Horse Ranch Luxury Resort, Ultravioleta Boutique Residences, Millennium Resort & Spa, Casa Linda, the Municipality of Sosúa, the Ministry of Culture, CICOM, Cibao Recycling, BanReservas and the National Gallery of Fine Arts.

The festival is free, but VIP tickets are available and include priority seating, complimentary beverages and other festival perks, with proceeds benefiting FEDUJAZZ. For more information visit www.drjazzfestival.com