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Velero Beach Resort in Cabarete

For a long time, everyone thought Cabarete’s crowd was limited to the budget conscious, windsurf addicts only too happy to crash in tiki huts and ten-dollar hostels.So when Velero Resort opened in 2000, its aspirations as a boutique hotel seemed a little out of place.

But some of those baggy, shin-length shorts that everybody wears on Cabarete Beach must have pretty deep pockets because not only have Velero’s four-star accommodations have become a popular commodity, they’ve started a trend, where today, half million dollar condominiums and million-plus villas are popping up all along the Cabarete shoreline.

“Cabarete used to attract just the hardcore windsurfers”, says Velero’s director, Mario Magnan. “Then the surfing crowd spawned a party crowd and now Cabarete has become the hottest beach in the Caribbean. Everybody’s coming here. It’s amazing.

The luxury of space: set on two acres, Velero’s buildings take up a small percentage of the land

Ever the discreet host, Mario won’t reveal who “everybody” might include booking into Velero Resort. Suffice it to say that last week a private jet flew in from L.A.; last month, Velero’s grounds provided the backdrop for a major swimwear shoot; and not long before that a major network crew had checked in and were interviewing him about the phenomenon that Cabarete has become.

“Not everybody is high profile. But there’s a lot of people who want quality and are willing to pay for it”, he says.

Velero is a complex of twenty-six privately owned condominiums three stories high, cleverly designed and properly equipped to function as a hotel; and to provide short term guests the services they likely wouldn’t get simply renting a private residence.

The $300 dollar for a penthouse that can sleep six is not priced out of orbit, while furniture and finishing makes you feel like you’ve checked into somebody’s house

Set on two oceanfront acres on the eastern tip of Cabarete Bay, balconies leading from each room look over an expansive lawn and an infinity pool set by the sea. The property is ideally located a few minutes walk down the beach from town center: just slightly removed from the bustle.

This affords a sense of civilized serenity at Velero, from where you get a perfect view of the entire expanse of the bay and of what makes Cabarete so incredibly special, that panorama of hundreds of multi colored sails on the water and giant kites in the sky, blasting through the waves and flying through the air on the silent power of the Tradewinds.

Particularly appealing at Velero is the very real feeling of being at home. Originally designed and constructed to appeal to a select group of private owners (half the owners don’t even rent out their units) there is an attention to detail in the handcrafted oak cabinets and trim, detailing in brickwork and fittings, personal touches and individuality in pieces of art and decorations, that all contribute to the sense being in a home and not a hotel room.

And while you’re enjoying feeling at home, the services are all there, too. You can pick up the phone request a personal attention from a 24-hour receptionist, arrange gourmet in-room dining, hire a babysitter, reserve a personal visit from a masseuse or aesthetician.

While there is no restaurant on the premises, a well-appointed beachside cafe serves breakfast. light meals and beverages.

“Cabarete has such a variety of fabulous restaurants, we decided not to provide a dining room”, says Mario. “But our kitchen is prepared to provide private meals and special menu requests.”

A business center, a small conference room, a gourmet deli are a few of the other facilities found at Velero. Room rates, from standard to penthouse, range from $75 to $250 in low season and $100 to $300-plus in the winter months.

For more information visit the Velero web site

Outback Safari takes you to the back country

It’s February and I’m sinking my toes into sugary, warmed-by-the-sun sand, enjoying the slight breeze rustling in the palm trees and the brilliant blue of the ocean. Being a beach junkie, I realize that I’ve come to the right country. The Dominican Republic’s shoreline claims to have 1,600 km of beaches, ranking it among the world’s best. This boast is verified by the hordes of us who arrive to shed winter clothes and head for the beach, dazed by the dazzling sunlight and eager to head into the warm water.

Why then, a couple of days later, am I jostling around in the back of a large size vehicle, following a rugged, jungle road and kibitzing with other winter escapees? For some of us, it seems, no matter how tantalizing the resort is, after a few days of lazy indulgence (although there are loads of activities poolside; more on that later), we love to explore. In Puerto Plata, as well as from the other nearby North Coast towns of Cabarete and Sosua, there awaits a plethora of adventures.

DAY-LONG EXCURSION

On this full-day excursion with Outback Safari, our lively bunch — mostly Canadians — were picked up in the morning from a variety of hotels and everyone is geared up to have a good time as well as learn about the island’s history, culture and geography. And there is something about being in the back of a truck — we are in comfy seats and belted in — that harkens back to fun times as kids. Along with our cheerful guides, there is a lot of joking around, peppered with good information.

D.R., as it is fondly known, a country of close to nine million, shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. As our Jeep journey follows the El Choco trail, a dirt road that winds through lush jungle, we aren’t surprised that it was visited by Christopher Columbus on his 1492 expedition; nor are we surprised that he described it as “a beautiful island paradise with high forested mountains and large river valleys.” Even today, when all-inclusive hotels line the beaches and more than four million tourists visit each year, the backcountry is a tangle of growth. Along this route, the guide points out mahogany, coffee, cocoa, avocado, bread fruit, mango and papaya trees, among others as well as explaining the varieties of palms — for example, the stately Royal Palm, the bark of which is used for the siding on houses.

This day excursion moved happily along. We stopped to enjoy the surroundings and learned interesting tidbits; did you know that tea can be made from the leaves of lime trees, or that there are 245 species of birds here, making it a special place for birders. (Keep on the lookout for the dew bird, an unusual black parrot.) Our guide explained that there are many restrictions on forestry in D.R., for example, a mahogany tree cannot be cut without permission. Would you have guessed that Dominicans drink more rum than milk and that one of the many varieties of the smooth, dark substance is 75 per cent alcohol?

While that fact sounds like this green isle is all about partying, our guide also explained that Outback Safari contributes generously to the community and focuses on sustainable tourism. Formed in 1997, it provides for schools, orphanages and families, as well as contributing to health projects and road maintenance. Each year the company does the “Santa Run” and distributes thousands of gifts to children in communities nearby.

RULES OF THE ROAD

However, one of the rules of the road here, is not to give candy to the children we see along the way. Rather, bring school supplies or books and if you purchase any Outback Safari souvenirs, a hat or t-shirt perhaps, 45 per cent of the profit goes to charity. The company promotes the purchasing of local products; along the way we have opportunities to buy, and coffee is especially popular.

My favourite stop of the morning was at a family home where the mom brewed us coffee in her outdoor kitchen, a simple but tidy space that has no electricity; a solar panel charges batteries and the fridge uses propane. I spotted a small television but didn’t see a computer. They can only use one electrical appliance at a time but that didn’t seem to bother them. Proceeds from their participation with Outback Safari has been used to put a cement floor in the living room. Several small children played in the yard that had grapefruit, lemon and orange trees. It’s difficult not to feel intrusive; however, everyone relaxed once the children had laughed at some of our attempts at Spanish.

SAMPLING FRUIT

Other stops were made at a fruit plantation for sampling and at several schools that the company sponsors. We didn’t interrupt classes but peeked at the busy classrooms and left school supplies with the teacher. (It’s a good idea to research the tours before you leave home and be prepared to pack a few of items along with your sunscreen.)

At a river stop we dined at an outdoor buffet before cruising to catch glimpses of crocodiles, iguanas and some of the colourful birdlife. The day ends at Cabarete Beach, lauded as being one of the island’s most beautiful, where, if you wish, you can zoom along the surf on a boogie board. This is actually pretty easy — much less dramatic than the windsurfing and kiteboarding that this windy section is acclaimed for — and lots of fun.

CYCLING TOUR

Another day, another excursion and at times I did wonder about my sanity as I cycled a dusty road in sweltering heat. However, my quest was to get some exercise and view more of the countryside and this was working. On this guided trip with Iguana Mama Eco Tours we stopped to chat with children along the way, learned about the plant life as we ate fruit under a tamarind tree and spotted some of the island’s famous birdlife.

You can’t help but be enchanted by the lush greenery; the simplest homes have glorious gardens that boast the bright, red ginger flower and lovely chenille trees with clusters of droopy blooms. This trip, ideal for families and nature lovers, is an easy 10-km pedal along a mostly coastal route. Iguana Mama, based in Cabarete, offers a full range of eco activities, everything from family cruises to hardcore mountain biking.

MIXING WITH LOCALS

Later, I’m back on the beach, deciding that I love the mix of backroads adventures followed by hedonistic pleasures. I especially enjoyed mingling with the locals. One could go on and on about the Dominicans. Firstly, they are easy on the eyes. Many of the men have soft smiles and flash pearly whites; the women are voluptuous a la Jennifer Lopez and the dark-eyed children well-behaved and appealing. Everyone seems eager for you to appreciate their country.

These days the trend in hot weather holidays is to stay at an all inclusive, and even those of us with the heart and soul of a backpacker occasionally partake in these one-stop-shop vacations. What could be easier than an air/hotel/meals and even liquor included along with surf, sand and sun? However, a word of advice. Choose your resort carefully. Be aware that some cater to action-lovers, others offer romance packages (and may be adults only), and there are many that embrace families and make time in the sun memorable for every age group.

VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES

Most of the resorts serve a mind-boggling variety of activities: windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, catamarans, snorkelling, and even introductory scuba diving. There are continuous games and music around the pool — the beach is quieter — plus lively evening entertainment. You can play tennis or golf, learn to hablo espanol or swing to merengue music. (The third week in October Puerto Plata plays host to a wild merengue festival that includes arts and crafts.)

There are more Puerto Plata pleasures. The national pastime is baseball. Every major city has a team and many of the best known names in the North American major leagues are Dominicans — read Sammy Sosa. The season in DR is October to January and many major league teams practise here; you must get tickets ahead of game time.

Make sure you see some of Puerto Plata. As the largest city in the country with about 200,000 people, this seems daunting. However, the area to stroll is the Old City of Puerto Plata with its charming Victorian facades.

Puerto Plata’s old city may whet your traveller’s appetite to see more. You can’t go wrong by heading to the capital city of Santo Domingo to visit its colonial section; many resorts offer a day trip.

It makes you realize that DR is more than just a pretty place laced with beaches. Enjoy the combination. Even if you are not an urban lover, this one that Columbus named La Isabela, will enchant you.

It was the first European city in the Americas and was Spain’s centre of power in the New World. The original settlement, today known as the Zona Colonial, is an 11-block section of the capital city. Cobbled streets snake among faded and reconstructed facades that, like a well aging movie star, trace remnants of a former beauty. You may see sagging balconies but when you peek inside there’s a heavy mahogany staircase and beautifully tiled floors.

Most of the buildings, like the Catedral Pirmada de America, were built in the 16th century. It originated in 1523, has three naves, lustrous stained glass windows and elaborate carvings and works of art.

One could easily spend two days visiting sites from the rusticity of the San Francisco Monastery, the first one in the new world, to the refurbished finery of the Palace of Columbus. The latter was the home of Christopher Columbus’ son Diego, who lived here in 1509 with his family. Sir Frances Drake, among others, ravaged this area; thankfully it has been lovingly restored. The guided tour here is excellent.

IF YOU GO

For more information on the tours in this story: Outback Safari: https://www.outbackadventuresdr.com and Iguana Mama Ecological Adventure Tour: www.iguanamama.com

The average year-round temperature is 25-31 Celsius (78F – 88F); take heavy-duty sun screen.

Currency is the Dominican peso; U.S. dollars are more easily accepted than Canadian dollars and credit cards are widely used.

Do not wear beach clothing, i.e bathing suits or skimpy wraps, in the villages and towns. The locals see it as disrespectful. Shorts are not acceptable clothing in churches.

What to buy: Rum, coffee, vanilla, art and amber are all good buys. The latter is, arguably, among the world’s best. However, do learn how to distinguish between the phony and the real thing, by shopping at a good jewelry store or visiting an amber museum.

What not to buy: Be aware that some souvenirs are made from endangered plant and animal species. One example is any product such as jewelry or items made from sea turtle. All eight types of sea turtles are endangered. Be a responsible shopper.

by Judi Lees, Special to Canwest News Service

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!

Reserve/Inquire This Activity

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.

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

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

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.

“Sober Hotel” offers serenity in Cabarete

CABARETE—After living on St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands for many years, recovering alcoholic John Fitzgerald found it became overcrowded with people, pollution and drugs. In 1987 John moved to the Dominican Republic and started a swimming pool business.

He soon became aware that there were no English speaking AA groups. Not long after, he rented a small home and started “John’s Recovery Guest House” where he and his sponsor, Mike, began holding local meetings.

That was 20 years ago; since then, John has bought a larger home located on the serene Cabarete Lagoon, where he caters to travelers in recovery.

“This project has been very rewarding,” he says. “Helping others has helped me to stay sober and to stay on my path to recovery.”

One of the most important things John learned during this adventure is to make his guests feel relaxed, safe and comfortable from the moment guests arrive. He meets them at the airport and brings them directly to the guest house.

“Come join the serenity in paradise,” he says. “We want your stay with us to be unforgettable, and hopefully, just the first of many.”

Info: www.recovery-vacation.com

Jose O’Shay’s, Yer Irish pub on Cabarete Beach

Bring this page with you! Download our printer friendly Puerto Plata Hot! Guide with loads of information, maps, coupons and more!

Click here to get Puerto Plata Hot!

12 seaside holes wow Dominican visitors

Most golfers know the Dominican Republic as the home of a lot of major league ball players, and a place with a well-known golf resort, Casa de Campo.
What they don’t know is that the Dominican Republic also has a spectacular new resort golf course that includes 12 ocean-front holes with cliffs like Pebble Beach.
Playa Grande is not just a good course. It is a great golf course! If it were in Florida, it would sell out every day in the winter at $150 green fees, maybe $200.
Assuming it gets the exposure it deserves, and continues to get the care it already does, it is destined to become known as one of the great courses of the world.
It’s not just oceanfront, with holes along the beach. The course is high above the ocean, played along 100-foot bluffs. That makes it immediately comparable to Pebble Beach, a thought that sounds almost sacrilegious. But Pebble has six holes on the oceanside bluffs (6-7-8-9-10-18). Playa Grande has 12.
This course, as far as I was able to determine in three times around it, has no negatives. It has the spectacular oceanfront setting, it has hills, and it has the widest possible choice of tees ranging from over 7000 yards to 4488.
There are now only three sets of tee markers, the conventional blue, white and red, at yardages of 7046, 5917, and 4488. But there are five tee positions on each hole, and adding a wider choice is merely an issue of putting down more markers.
It was given a long time to grow in and fairways are lush. It is tastefully landscaped with native flowers, as are many Caribbean resorts. Greens are huge, varied in shape, and steeply sloped, but with few tricky undulations. Generally, what you see is what you get.
The cliche “challenging for the best players, but playable for everybody” actually applies here. From the back tees, a player going for the shortest route must carry over corners of ocean on six holes (3-4-7-12-14-18). But from shorter tees, fairways are extremely wide, and all greens except the seventh are open for a run-up shot. Most golfers, playing conservatively, will post a score of below their average number at home. At how many great courses of the world will that happen?
The course carries the signature of Robert Trent Jones, Sr., who visited the property in 1992, and was said to have actually cried when he was subsequently called and told that he had been chosen to be the architect. The course took from ’93 to ’97 to complete. Jones did the routing, and his associates did the on-site work, but Jones, 92, has not seen the course since it was finished. Hopefully, he’ll get the chance, because in years ahead, it could be known as his best.
Bunkers bear Jones’ signature — leaf-shaped — but except for greens and bunkers, very little land had to be moved. The hills and the bluffs are things that were made by God with a golf course in mind, and hidden away waiting to be discovered.
The decision to leave greens open in front was wise. With the course of this beauty and visual distraction, it would be sinful to have a well-played hole tarnished by something so mundane as a bunker.
Very few new trees were added in building the course. Most of what’s there are huge cliff-side ones which may have been there for centuries.
Trees are an issue only on the left side of the ninth hole at the bluff’s edge, in the fairway of two interior holes (10 and 16), and on the 12th hole, where all tees except the ladies, require a carry over a deep tree-lined ocean inlet.
Most memorable holes to this writer are the 4th, 12th, and 18th, all of which are par fives. Playing carefully, and from the 5900-yard yard white tees, I was able to reach all three of them in regulation at least once, and all three with wedge third shots. From the back tees, a professional could conceivably go for all three in two, but 12 would require a heroic drive, and 4 and 18 a good drive followed by a heroic second shot.
The Dominican Republic has a stable, democratic government, Spanish speaking. The course, like several others in the country, is owned and operated by the government’s Central Bank. It’s clubhouse and pro shop are modest and austere. But the back nine is wrapped around the resort and golf is included in the Caribbean Village Playa Grande all-inclusive packages. The bank and resort work closely together, and once the course is accepted as the national resource that it is, a more appropriate clubhouse seems likely to be built.
Playa Grande is located on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Access is by American Airlines to the Puerto Plata airport, and the resort will arrange for you to be met by a shuttle for a 50-minute shore-line ride to the resort. If you want to see a little more of the country, rental cars are available.

Written By CHARLEY STINE

(Reprinted from Florida Golf News)

941-439-3381 Fax: 941-439-4286

Regional Fact Sheet

DESTINATION OVERVIEW: The Dominican Republic comprises the eastern two thirds of Hispaniola island and is the second largest country in the Caribbean with an area of 30,000 square miles. It is bordered on the North by the Atlantic Ocean and the South by the Caribbean Sea.

Over 400 kilometers of sparkling beaches span the South, East, Southwest and North coasts. These include the beaches of Boca Chica, JuanDolio-Guayacanes, La Romana, and Bayahibe in the Southeast; Punta Cana and Bavaro in the East; Paraiso and Enriquillo in the Southwest; and on the North Coast, Puerto Plata, Sosua, Cabarete Playa Grande and Luperon.

The Dominican Republic has sixteen national parks protecting and conserving its wildlife and natural resources. Meanwhile, the thrill of adventure is nowhere more alive than along the country’s north coast and mountain region. For those seeking adrenaline pumped action, or just a brand new experience, there is river rafting for shooting the rapids; mountain biking for master single track terrain; caving; and canyoning.

PASSPORT AND VISA REQUIREMENTS: Visitors should reconfirm travel documentation with the nearest Dominican consulate. In general, passport bearing visitors from Argentina, South Korea, Ecuador, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Peru, UK and Uruguay are exempt from visas or tourist cards.

Tourist Cards (sold at US$10) are required for citizens of Albania, Andorra, Antigua, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Chile, Curacao, Denmark, Dominica, Slovenia, Spain, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Russia, San Marino, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Sweden, Switzerland, Surinam, Tunisia, Turks & Caicos Islands, United States, Trinidad & Tobago, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. Nationals of other countries may require visas. Passports are the preferred travel document.

Citizens of the US may enter with passport or with an original birth certificate and additional photo bearing document (such as voters registration or drivers license.)

LANGUAGE: Spanish is the official language. English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas. Traffic signs and most menus in restaurants are in Spanish, although menus in tourist regions tend to be multilingual.

AIRLINES: Air Atlantic, American Airlines, Continental, Queen Air, Tower Air, Inter Caribbean flights are operated by: Air Guadeloupe, American Eagle Copa, Dominair, TCCA, ALM. Aces, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeropostal and Lanchile provide service to South America. To Canada: Air Transat, To Europe: Air France, Air Europa, Air Portugal, AOM, Britannia, Condor, Hapag Lloyd, Iberia, LTU, Martinair.

AIRPORTS: Seven international airports: Las Americas (20 minutes east of Santo Domingo); Puerto Plata International Gregorio Luperon (15 minutes from Playa Dorada, Puerto Plata and Sosua); Punta Cana (serving the far east); La Romana; Maria Montez in Barahona (the country’s newest); and two smaller ones in Santiago and Herrera.

FLIGHT TIMES: New York: 3 hours, Miami: 1 3/4 hours, San Juan: 45 minutes, Toronto: 4 hours, most European cities: 8 – 10 hours.

DEPARTURE TAX: US$20.00

CURRENCY: The rate of exchange fluctuates around RD$33.00 = US$1.00

BANKING HOURS: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Mondays to Fridays. ATM’s in many branches Some banks are now opening on Saturdays.

ELECTRICITY: 110 volts/60 cycles, same as the US

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
01JAN – New Years Day
Closest Mon or Fri to 06JAN – Epiphany Day
21JAN – Our Lady of Altagracia Day
Closest Mon or Fri to 26JAN – Juan Pablo Duartes Birthday
27FEB – Independence Day
21APR – Good Friday
Closest Mon or Fri to 01MAY – Labor Day
Closest Mon or Fri to 16AUG – Dominican Restoration Day
24SEP – Our Lady of Mercedes Day
Corpus Christi Day
Closest Mon or Fri to 06NOV – Constitution Day
25DEC – Christmas Day

FESTIVALS:
Week of Independence Day (27FEB) – Carnival
Last week in JUL to first week in AUG – Merengue Festival
Second week in OCT – Puerto Platas Merengue Festival
Early DEC to Epiphany Day (06JAN) – Christmas Celebrations

Information provided by the Caribbean Tourism Organization – CTO

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Cafe Cito, Puerto Plata’s Jumpin’ Joint!

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Mel Tours

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An elegant setting at Waterfront Restaurant

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Rocky’s Bar & Hotel in Sosua

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Isaira Excursions & Transfers

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Cita Del Sol

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Aleph Restaurant

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Fun City Action Park

Fun City, the largest go-cart park in the Caribbean, features 3 great racing tracks,gocart, sprint and cyclone, as well as a kids playground, bumper cars, pichers challenge and more! Check out our unlimited racing pass and spend a day with us! Great family fun!
Free taxi transportation from your hotel and back!

FUN CITY ACTION PARK

Puerto Plata-Sosua Hwy Km 8 near Playa Dorada Tel: 809-320-1031

Email: info@funcity-gokarts.com
Website: funcity-gokarts.com

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Luzcace

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Cigar Discount

FIND THE BRANDS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR
FREE DELIVERY TO YOUR HOTEL!
EMAIL US, BUY ONLINE OR VISIT OUR SHOP

Cigar Discount offers you a wide variety of FIRST-QUALITY Dominican Cigars, for the best prices available in Puerto Plata. We have all the major brands and offer you free delivery to your hotel, you can purchase online direct from our website, or visit our shop

Plaza Turisol No 40 Puerto Plata
Tel: 809-320-8243

Email: marclorez@codetel.net.do
Website: zonapuertoplata.com


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