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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.

New port welcomes 5,000 visitors a week to Puerto Plata

Since its first ship docked in October 2015, the Amber Cove Cruise Center has been welcoming more than 5,000 passengers per week to Puerto Plata while adding hundreds of workers to the region’s payroll.

When passengers disembark, their first sight is a verdant mountain range, which provides a scenic backdrop as they make their way into the 30-acre port.

Carnival Valor visits Amber Cove Cruise Center

Carnival Valor visits Amber Cove Cruise Center

Carnival Corporation’s $65 million development was designed with architectural elements that blend the bright and breezy Caribbean style with the North Shore’s colonial heritage, such as distinctive turrets similar to those at nearby San Felipe Fort, a 16th century landmark in Puerto Plata.

Named after the fossilized resin that’s common in the area, Amber Cove offers an extensive shore excursion program with dozens of landside experiences for passengers to enjoy during their daylong stop. Choices include beaches, water sports and special culinary, cultural and adventure options. Ocean World, one of the region’s largest marine adventure parks, offers guests many ways to experience and interact with a variety of marine animals.

Cruise passengers also have easy access to historic Puerto Plata, named by none other than Christopher Columbus, who established the nearby La Isabela settlement in 1493 during his second visit to the island. In Puerto Plata, visitors can check out museums and artist studios; view classic Victorian architecture; experience rum and cigar factories; or stroll along the scenic malecón, a three-mile, beach-side boardwalk dotted with bars, restaurants and shops.

Passengers who remain at Amber Cove are hardly high and dry. One of the central attractions is a 300,000-gallon pool, complete with swim-up bar surrounded by 30 submerged barstools. A spiral waterslide and zipline are also popular at the Aqua Zone.

Visitors can rent kayaks, standup paddleboards and canoes to explore the blue-green waters of the Bay of Maimón. They can also travel via speedboat to Paradise Island, one of the Caribbean’s top spots for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Passengers can rent over-water bungalows. Photo by Matt Bokor

Rental bungalows are available. Photo by Matt Bokor

For a luxury experience, private bungalows are available for six to 20 guests, complete with the services of a personal chef, bartender and staff. Seven pastel-colored, thatch-roof cabanas are perched over the water, linked by a wooden walkway; others are nestled poolside and hillside.

There’s shopping, of course, such as a Dominican artisan market with a dozen booths stocked with locally produced crafts, amber and larimar jewelry, cigars and coffee among the usual selection of souvenir caps, T-shirts and trinkets. Another four kiosks with Dominican products are sprinkled throughout the development. Plus there are freestanding jewelry, apparel and travel stores, a pharmacy, and a tempting duty-free emporium.

Amber Cove’s drinking and dining options include two full-service Coco Caña restaurants, bars and shops; the hilltop Sky Bar, which offers a panoramic view of the bay, port and pier; and pool-side and cabana-side bars.

Even before it opened, Amber Cove represented an economic shot in the arm for the North Coast, starting with three years of construction to revive Puerto Plata as a cruise destination after a 30-year hiatus. Today some 600 people work there — 92 in port operations and management, with 500-plus at the shops, restaurants and attractions.

Port encompasses 30 acres

Port encompasses 30 acres

Overseeing it all is Amber Cove General Manager Mouen Al Mawla, better known as Mo, a veteran of the hospitality industry — putting to good use his hospitality degree from Cornell University.

Born in Lebanon, Mo was raised in Aruba and has lived in New York, California and Florida. Before becoming Amber Cove’s first general manager, he was director of operations and food and beverage for the Bristol Hospitality Group in Panama.

His global travels had already taken him to La Romana, Punta Cana and Santo Domingo but not until Mo landed the Amber Cove job had he experienced Puerto Plata.

“I came to work, it was my first visit and I fell in love with the place,” he said.

And that’s how the Dominican tourism industry hopes all Amber Cove visitors will react when they discover the North Coast.

Puerto Plata amphitheater on target for March completion

Construction of a waterfront, 3,500-seat amphitheater in Puerto Plata should be completed by the end of March 2015, according to a recent update from the Ministry of Tourism.

Artist's rendering of new Puerto Plata amphitheater. Image courtesy of Ministry of Tourism

Artist’s rendering of new Puerto Plata amphitheater. Image courtesy of Ministry of Tourism

Adjacent to the historic San Felipe fortress, the nearly $6 million (USD) project is reshaping the entire Puntilla del Malecón, which will become even more of a cultural destination for tourists and locals alike.

Another facet of the project, which began in early 2014, includes repairs and repainting of historic, Victorian architecture that is sprinkled throughout Puerto Plata.

As Tourism Ministry leaders had hoped, the work will be completed well ahead of the opening of the new Amber Cove Cruise Center, just west of Puerto Plata at the Bay of Maimon. The first cruise ship, the Carnival Victory, is scheduled to arrive for a daylong call on Oct. 6. Thousands of passengers will disembark for excursions throughout Puerto Plata province.

Construction of amphitheater. Photo courtesy of Ministry of Tourism

Construction of amphitheater. Photo courtesy of Ministry of Tourism

Damajagua volunteer Joe Kennedy re-elected to Congress

U.S. Rep. Joseph Patrick Kennedy III, a former Peace Corps volunteer who worked on sustainable tourism for Damajagua Falls, has been re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kennedy, a Democrat who represents Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District, coasted to a second term on Nov. 4 with no opposition.

Joe Kennedy

Joe Kennedy waves to crowds at the Boston Pride Parade on June 14, 2014. Photo: Joe Kennedy for Congress Facebook page

As a Peace Corps volunteer from 2004-2006, Kennedy used his business acumen and his connections to prevent the stunning Damajagua Falls attraction (27 Charcos) from being monopolized by private tour companies, which were paying local guides only a few dollars per trip.

He worked side by side with community members in the Damajagua Falls Guides Association to win a government concession that secured local control over the site and ensured fair pay for the guides, among other improvements.

Kennedy recounted his experience as part of an October 2014 article in America magazine:

“We convinced the government to put the park under local control, allowing the community to set wages and craft safety precautions. We raised money and built a small business to run the park operations with more local autonomy,” he wrote. “We set up a community reinvestment fund so that a portion of every entrance fee went into the local neighborhood—to build a bridge, buy a school bus, bring clean water to the community.”

Kennedy, who is the grandson of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, came to work in Puerto Plata after graduating in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University. After leaving he completed a law degree at Harvard Law School in 2009. He was an assistant district attorney in Middlesex County in Massachusetts when he ran for his first term in 2012.

Joe Kennedy III

Congressman Joe Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. Photo: Congressman Joe Kennedy III Facebook page

Columbus’ cursed colony 500+ years later

By Matt Bokor

Located on the northwest coast of the Dominican Republic, remnants of the first European town in the Americas tell the story of how Christopher Columbus and his large entourage lived—or tried to—after the Spaniards’ second arrival in 1493.

Cemetery at La Isabela

Cemetery at La Isabela. Photo by Matt Bokor

The admiral named the settlement La Isabela, after his benefactor, Queen Isabela of Spain. However, the seaside spot about 30 miles west of modern-day Puerto Plata didn’t last long.

Visitors to sun-baked La Española National Park, which encompasses the settlement’s relics, will find excavated foundations of homes, a church, storage buildings and several other structures, including Columbus’ citadel and portions of the wall that surrounded the roughly five-acre outpost overlooking the Bay of Isabela.

Perhaps most striking for tourists today are the many gravesites, including one with the skeleton fully exposed.

The informative La Isabela Museum onsite exhibits numerous artifacts and narratives about the settlement’s turbulent, five-year history, which goes like this:

With goals of establishing a Spanish base in the Americas and finding gold and other precious metals, Columbus arrived with a fleet at 17 ships and some 1,500 men, along with horses, pigs, seeds, tools and other materials for carving out a community.

The explorers also introduced rats and diseases—smallpox, measles and typhus—which with warfare and enslavement doomed the native Taino population.

The Spaniards grew increasingly hungry, sick, disillusioned and even mutinous as their crops failed and their gold expeditions proved fruitless; hurricanes in 1494 and 1495 sunk several ships.

By 1498 the settlement had been abandoned in favor of a new location on the south coast—Santo Domingo.

Historical archaeologists from the Florida Museum of Natural History collaborated with the Dirección Nacional de Parques de la República Dominicana and the Universidad Nacional e Experimental Francisco de Miranda in Venezuela to excavate and study La Isabela between 1989 and 1999.

The results of that work can be seen onsite at the La Isabela museum and online at flmnh.ufl.edu … just type La Isabela in the search field.

National Geographic Television produced the documentary “Columbus’ Cursed Colony” about the debacle at La Isabela in late 2011.

La Española National Park is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; admission is 100 pesos (about $2.50 USD). Guided tours (in Spanish) are available for an additional fee.

Although La Isabela is relatively close to Puerto Plata, the drive takes about 1.5 hours.

Whale season Jan 15 – March 25

SAMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—Kim Beddall left her hometown of Pickering, Canada, in 1983 after answering a newspaper ad looking for someone to teach scuba diving in the Dominican Republic.

“I wanted to live where it was warm and go on ski vacations, instead of doing it in reverse,” she says with a grin.

But Beddall soon found that while the weather was wonderful on the peninsula at the north-eastern end of this popular Canadian destination, the diving was hardly spectacular. It was only in talking to local fishermen that she discovered something else.

“We have whales here,” they told her. “We don’t know why they come or what they are doing here, but we have whales.”

In fact, as Beddall was to discover later, the Dominican Republic is home to a huge number of North Atlantic humpback whales that arrive in late December and leave in mid-March each year, mating and calving in the wide, sheltered bay.

So, after watching and studying the whales for a few years, Beddall bought herself a little fishing boat and started taking tourists out in the bay. There they heard the humpback’s solitary courting song and saw a dramatic display of whales breaching, diving, lob-tailing (smacking the surface of the water with their tail) and flippering (rolling and hitting the water with their flippers).

These days, Beddall’s boat is the 50-foot fibreglass Victoria II which can hold 60 people.

“Over the years the boats got a little bit bigger and better,” Beddall says. “This one is very comfortable and you have 360-degree viewing from both decks.”

An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 whales visit Samana Bay throughout the season, alone or in pairs.

“They are eating one ton of small fish in the North Atlantic on a daily basis, so you don’t want to hang out with many friends,” Beddall notes with typical dry humour.

“They maintain that loose social structure, except when there’s fertile female. Then you can get anytwhere from two to 20 males, fighting it out for the right to escort the female.”

And thanks to her pioneering work, whale-watching is now big business in Samana, with eight established companies and about a dozen “independents,” as Beddall calls them. Some of her employees have been with her for 14 years, she says, and others have gone on to found whale-watching companies of their own.

“Technically I suppose I would be considered the founder of whalewatching in Samana,” she say. “It’s been really exciting to see it develop and to see the economic impact on the area.”

Beddall estimates that whalewatching along the whole north coast of the Dominican Republic generates about $8 million (U.S.) a year.

And it is the economic benefits that she stresses in her fight to enforce whale-watching regulations, such as how many boats can watch whales at any one time and how close they can get.

“In developing countries you need to give your resource an economic value — I can buy clothes for my kids, I can fix my roof. And if the whales don’t come back, you lose your income.”

The rate of compliance is about 70 to 75 per cent rate, she says. “Some people are a little less disciplined than others.”

But she’s satisfied with what’s been achieved so far. “Samana Bay is the third most important reproductive area for whales in the North Atlantic and we are considered one of the top ten places in the world to watch whales,” she says with pride in her voice.

But one small regret remains.

“I have taken people from all over the world whale-watching, but very few Canadians,” she says. “I am crazy to have Canadians on board.”

by Robert Crew / Toronto Star

BOOK THIS / INQUIRE

Ocean World, the world’s first fully interactive marine park

by Ron Añejo – The POP Report

PUERTO PLATA- The brand new, $30 million Ocean World located in the exclusive Cofresi resort area isn’t about just sitting around and watching “Flipper” dance on his tail in the water — it’s about jumping in and dancing with him.

And it’s not about strolling past gigantic aquariums teeming with coral reefs and tropical fish and sharks— it’s about actually getting inside the aquarium and swimming with them.

“This is the first park of its kind, where you’re interactive with all the animals sea lions, dolphins, sharks, stingrays, tropical fish and tropical birds,” says Eric Bogden, director of operations.

Eric is an18-year veteran of Sea World parks in the States. He was netted by Ocean World’s owners to manage the design and completion of this unique park’s exhibits.

This is the second park operated by the same owners. Their first one, Dolphin Encounters, is a huge success located on Blue Lagoon Island near Nassau.

Ocean World is brand new and some of the exhibits will open over the next several months. “We’re training the sharks right now. Just this morning I had one sitting on my lap,” says Eric proudly. When the shark pool is ready, your friendly shark will stick his jaws out of the water for a photo op with you.

Open a scant six months, the dolphin swims and encounters are already selling out, attracting more than 100 people per day. Dolphin Swims, the ultimate experience where you actually get towed around the lake by a friendly pair of dolphins, are limited to 10 people twice daily, and are sold out more than a week in advance. And while we had to settle for a Dolphin Encounter, where up to 30 can participate; it turned out to be an unforgettable experience just the same.

“These animals are super sociable and want to have a good time,” explained one of the three trainers who were assigned to our group. “So the more you whoop it up, clap and have fun, the more they will respond and interact with you.”

Indeed, this isn’t about sitting in bleachers and watching animal tricks from a distance. This is about getting into your bathing suit and sitting with just a couple dozen people on a floating deck, with three trainers attending and three dolphins sharing an enclosed pool not much larger than a jacuzzi.

This is about standing in shallow water as a 400-pound dolphin comes up erect in front of you. You hold his fins, and, as the trainers whistle a quick five bars of merengue, you feel the power as he dances in your outstretched arms.

This is about standing in shallow water as Boomer, the newest arrival at Ocean World, comes right up to you for a hug, pressing his body against your chest, head on shoulder. And you feel the strength, the power and the gentle affection of these incredible mammals as they wiggle their snouts against your cheek for a friendly kiss.

“I was amazed with the quality of the whole event,” said Jan Maclean, a veteran diver who has swam with dolphins and whales in the open sea. “It was obvious the trainers were completely wrapped up in what they were doing. They really care about the animals”

“I found the setting to be spectacular,” said Jean Hall on vacation from Montreal. “It looked like a magazine picture of the Caribbean. I’ve never been to a place where the public is invited to touch, dance, stroke and feed the animals. Being that close to such a large animal, standing stomach to stomach with him was incredible.”

Ocean World has become a must-see in Puerto Plata. It’s open every day but you’d do well to reserve in advance.

***

OCEAN WORLD ADVENTURE PARK is the most advanced marine interaction park of its kind.  Boasting the largest man-made dolphin habitat in the world, Ocean World is a must-see attraction for everyone visiting the Dominican Republic.
Guests of Ocean World Adventure Park have the opportunity to touch, pet and feed dolphins, sea lions, sharks, stingrays, exotic tropical birds, meet tigers, walk through a tropical rain forest and much more.
Ocean World Adventure Park emphasizes personal experiences between guests and marine animals through interactive programs.  There are only a handful of such facilities in the world, and none that rival the variety and quality that Ocean World Adventure Park provides.

Sea Lion show & Encounters. The Patagonian Sea Lions featured in this program originated from Uruguay.   Two of them are male and six are female.  Guests are provided with an opportunity to touch, feed, pet and play with these wonderful animals in the Sea Lion Encounter Program. The Sea Lion Show draws great reviews as guests watch the animals perform amazing behaviors and stunts.
Sea Lion Facility Features
•    Total Area 780m2
•    Stadium seating 350 guests
•    Water volume 60,000 gallons in 4 pools
•    Filtration system high rate sand filters, protein skimmers, ozone treatment

Snorkel Reef. In the coral reef aquarium, snorkelers swim in a colorful reef teeming with hundreds of exotic fish.  The snorkeling here is available everyday of the year.  Visitors are most likely to encounter angel fish, puffers, grunts, tangs, jacks, butterfly fish, spade fish, look downs and lobsters.
Snorkel Reef Facility Features
•    Total area 305m2 and 2.0m average depth
•    Water volume 150,000 gallons
•    Estimated number of fish 2,000
•    Filtration system, high-rate sand, protein skimmers, biologic, ozone treatment, temperature controlled
•    Split level underwater viewing panels 1.5m high and 15m long

Dolphin Swims and Encounters. For many guests, the highlight of a visit to Ocean World Adventure Park is the rare opportunity to swim and play with beautiful Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.  The Dolphin Swim experience begins with a brief orientation and educational program.  Then guests enter the water for their introduction to dolphins.  Guests learn about dolphin behavior and discover how Ocean World Adventure Park trainers use hand signals and positive reinforcement to communicate with them.  Taking the experience one step further, guests encounter, kiss, hug, pet, and feed dolphins one on one in their environment.
West Dolphin Lagoon Features
•    Total area 2,400m2
•    Volume 4,000,000 est. gallons, up to 4.5m deep
•    Filtration turnover rate 4 hours
•    Stadium capacity estimate 450 seats
•    Filtration system high rate sand, protein skimmers, ozone treatment
East Dolphin Lagoon Features
•    Total area 24,000m2 average depth 3.5m
•    Water volume 14,000,000 gallons
•    Turnover rate 4 hours, 24,000 gallons per hour
•    Filtration system, protein skimmers, ozone injection, system first of its kind in the world
Ocean World Adventure Park’s dolphin habitat is the largest of its kind in the world.

Shark Encounters. The sharks at Ocean World Adventure Park are an exciting variety of nurse, bonnet head and brown sharks; all indigenous to local waters. This rare award-winning interactive program includes touching, petting, feeding and snorkeling with the sharks.
Shark Pool Features
•    Water volume 200,000 gallons
•    Total area 360m2 and 2.5m deep
•    Filtration system high rate sand, protein skimmers, ozone and U.V., biologic filtration and temperature control
•    Two viewing windows 2m high and 8m long
•    Artificial reef structures decorate the bottom
•    The only shark pool specifically designed for human shark interaction

Stingray Encounters. Guests wade into the Stingray Basin, float and interact with the stingrays.  These fishes, which glide gracefully through the water, will provide you a really unique and memorable experience.
Stingray Basin Features
•    Total area 142m2
•    45,000 gallons of filtered sea water
•    2 separate water falls

Rainforest & Aviary. Ocean World Adventure Park has created the perfect rainforest.  The exotic tropical oasis is complete with waterfalls, sandy beaches and rocky lagoons.  In this area there exists a large free flight aviary, where guests are able to feed, touch and mingle with over one hundred colorful tropical birds.  Aquariums here feature exotic and unusual freshwater fish including arapaima fish.
Rainforest Features
•    Total area 3,650m2
•    Aviary 156m2 walk-through facility with tropical trees and waterfalls
•    Large Amazon fish exhibit of 24,000 gallons, 1.5m high 8m long view panels
•    Small Amazon fish exhibit of 25,000 gallons, demi-tube underwater view 7m long

Tiger Grotto. The highlight of the Tropical Rainforest is the tiger grotto.  Here, guests are invited to take a refreshing dip in the water next to the tiger habitat separated only by glass!  The pool stretches out toward what is reminiscent of ancient ruins overgrown with thick vegetation and waterfalls.
Tiger Grotto Features
•    26,000 gallon pool and total area of 450m2
•    Four rapid flow waterfalls
•    Rainforest stream entry
•    Swim cave

Trainer for a Day. Trainer for a Day will ensure a true dolphin trainer’s experience. From playing animal chef to issuing dolphin commands during a regular program with regular guests!!  Education is a significant and valuable part of this unforgettable day.
Trainer for a Day Features
•    Includes Ocean World T-shirt, hat, Trainer for a Day Certificate
•    Lunch with the Trainer
•    Dolphin Encounter interaction as a guest

SCUBA with the Dolphins or Sharks. New and exciting programs have begun at Ocean World Adventure Park; the fantastic once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to interact with dolphins or sharks underwater.  In these incredible programs visitors put on a wet suit and SCUBA gear then become immersed in an underwater paradise. The staff of Dolphin SCUBA offers instructional programs that prepare guests with the PADI open water SCUBA certification required for these programs.
Depending on experience levels; programs feature 5 different SCUBA adventures.

A ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE!

Click here to inquire or reserve

Click here for some interesting Facts about Dolphins

Adventure travel in the Dominican Republic

Two hours into the mountains, Maxima Aventura is a wilderness dude ranch for adventure travelers and extreme sports enthusiasts

By Ron Añejo

There’s something wrong with the picture when you find yourself in the tropics kicking pine cones across the lawn. There’s something wrong with the picture when your feet are on solid rock, but the view over your shoulder is 200 feet straight down. And there’s something wrong with the picture when a pleasant bus ride through tobacco fields and sugar cane plantations suddenly turns into a rum-soaked, wet T-shirt contest.

Call it extreme adventure mixed with extreme partying in an extremely unusual part of the Caribbean. Call it extreme brainwork at the end of the day when you have to accept that it all actually happened, and here you are.

Of course, not all of it is for everybody.

Rappeling in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic: the Jimenoa River gorges down over 200-foot vertical dropsMany people who come to the Dominican Republic for a Caribbean holiday would prefer to just sit around their all-inclusive resort, couch potatoes cum beach potatoes, waiting for the next buffet to open, knocking back their thimbles of beer at the open bar, grateful for the advice that it’s safer to stay on the resort property, thrilled with the city coach tour that goes past the rich people’s houses and the poor people’s veggie market.

Not everybody gets off on the idea that, being on the second largest island in the Caribbean, you can hire a van and driver and head off into the mountains, and just a couple of hours away from the sun drenched beaches, discover a place like Jarabacoa (Hara-ba-cóa), where the fertile hills and valleys and see-your-breath-at-night temperatures make it feel like spring time in New England.

And of course, not everybody wants to party the way we did that day. Bird watchers and nature nuts also love to discover Jarabacoa, where strawberries and snow peas grow, where you can take mountain hikes and drink fresh fruit juices. It’s just that the group I happened to be with can pretty much be described as The Party of Puerto Plata. These are the people who in their daily course of work are called upon to create the fun that the tourists take home as lasting memories. They take them sailing, they take them diving, they run local bars; all the while having to maintain the safety and security standards required by the big corporations that send the tourists to town and who don’t want to get sued over anybody getting into trouble over having too much fun. So, for the people I went to Jarabacoa with, their workaday life is like spurring the hell out of a party horse while constantly hauling back on the reins.

Travel tip: too many pitstops and you'll miss dinnerUnderstandable then, with a weekend opportunity to let go of them there reins and blow off some adrenaline, meditation and tai-chi were not high up in the order of priorities.

Our destination was Rancho Baiguate (Buy guát-eh) in Jarabacoa. We were going to try out a part of their program that they call Maxima Aventura. Maximum Adventure.  We, the people who do the beach and ocean thing for the tourists, were going to visit the people who do the mountain and wilderness thing.

Rancho Baiguate is like a dude ranch for adventure travel. Some thirty simple but very comfortable rooms are housed in small buildings set among manicured gardens. The country-style dining room serves hearty, country-style Dominican food. There is a sitting around area, a bar and a gift shop selling cheap t-shirts alongside hand rolled Dominican cigars. Across the lawn and over a walking bridge they have an Olympic size pool. The air is fresh and cool. With nighttime temperatures around forty degrees Farenheit, you sleep comfortably, cuddled up under a thick blanket.  Here, the sound of the river to lulls you to sleep, instead of the hum of an air conditioner.

***

True to the Caribbean concept of time, we spent two hours at our designated meeting place, Pat’s Rum Runners Bar, where everybody knocked back cuba libres and Presidente beers while waiting for everybody else to show Jenny was often the brunt of our caring attentionsup. We finally left, with hoots and hollers and a full cooler and large cups very unlike the thimbles you get in the hotels, and it was only a matter of time, with La Vida Loca blaring from the boombox, that somebody would get the type of urge that could start the type of wet t-shirt contest that only subsides when all the rum splattered on the ceiling of the van finishes dripping down on your head. Accounting for the pit stops, by the time we got to Santiago – half way – we were already four hours late for the nice dinner that Rancho Baiguate had prepared for us.

Burger King in Santiago was not prepared for our fifth pit stop. When all twelve of us fell through the front door and somebody jumped on a The Burger King staff just ducked their heads and let the storm blow throughtable and blew a blues number on his harmonica while we took pictures of ourselves behind the counter with the Burger King staff, we had to wonder whether the  personnel’s absolutely cool and collected reaction was due to advanced assault training, or pure shock.

Travel tip: visitors are well advised to arrive at Rancho Baiguate by sundown, and not wake up the manager at one-thirty in the morning and register at the front desk smelling like a rum factory; there are better ways to elicit a warm welcome. This poor guy, his lack of assault training notwithstanding, became much more congenial as soon as we realized, after his very patient explanation made the next morning through gritted teeth, that if we were going to go cliff climbing perhaps we shouldn’t be drinking the leftover Presidentes from the cooler in the back of the van, before breakfast. Empathy set in after we got to thinking about the things we say to – and about – those beach and ocean tourists who, on a rage of 151-proof rum, propose to go sailing and diving or otherwise take on Mother Nature. More than one corpse has been pulled out of the sea over this. Thus, everybody made the switch from extreme party mode to a more reasoned, extreme adventure mode.

On the wall of the sitting area at Rancho Baiguate there are maps and posters of all the things you can do there. Wilderness horseback riding. Trail hiking, in the vicinity of the ranch and even up Pico Duarte, which at 10,000 feet is the highest mountain in the Caribbean. They have all-terrain four wheel vehicles to blast around the countryside. You can do white water rafting and go river tubing. There is cave exploring and cliff climbing. There is hang gliding, and a picture that announces the imminent arrival of hot air balloons. Rancho Baiguate caters to both overnighters and to day trippers from the beach resorts, from amateurs like us to extreme adventure enthusiasts who can pack as much into their sojourn as their stamina will allow.

You don’t have to think extreme to enjoy Jarabacoa. Lots of people go up on one-day bus tours to visit the region. The drive over the mountains into the fertile Cibao valley, through the bustling city of Santiago and then up into the pine forests behind La Vega, makes for a pleasant ride, a veritable eyeful of things to see, to photograph, to contemplate. Many such tours make a stop at the Jimenoa (Him‘n’Noah) Falls, where you park and walk up a series of stairs and over wooden hanging bridges until you get to some picturesque, scenic pools fed by a waterfall that gorges out over a 200-foot precipice. You find yourself standing in the bottom of a huge gorge, where an electrical generating plant some three stories high was taken out by Hurricane George. And as you stand there, there’s something wrong with the picture of how important you think you are when you realize that not long ago, the water, blasting with unbelievable force, had completely filled up this gorge and engulfed that entire generating plant, leaving huge pieces of it strewn down the river like so many cast iron and prefab concrete matchsticks.

It’s a little more dramatic, though, when you stand directly below that straight-down, 200-foot rock cliff and think about the fact that you arrived at those lovely freshwater pools by way of the cliff itself. That is, by hanging on a rope running through a clip in a waist harness and literally walking down that 90-degree incline. It’s extreme, to look up, and contemplate that you just did that.

Okay, we all swim, dive, and we’re good at bending elbows. But not of us are particularly fit. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough for us to take the bus, saunter up suspension bridges and splash around in pretty pools.

That morning at Rancho Baiguate, after realizing we shouldn’t be drinking beer for breakfast, we ate eggs and toast and fruit and dawned wetsuits and jumped on to the back of a safari jeep that took us high up the mountain. We all got a little nervous when the jeep almost tipped as the driver hooked a left on to a steep dirt trail and parked.  Then we walked, for about twenty minutes, down a narrow path that challenged our rubber legs, to where we came out of the woods into an incredible basin fed by yet another 200-foot waterfall, of crystal clear water falling out of the sky and rushing around massive boulders that once upon a time had come crashing down from where they had been part of the cliffs that towered above us. Splat.

So there we  were, the beach and ocean guys, without a clue as to what awaited us. At this point Kelvin, our guide, and his two assistants, who we planned to give a rough time to but later became very dependent upon, started fixing ropes to a tree and throwing them over a 40-foot, 45-degree rock face. Kelvin showed us how we should try to keep our feet above our shoulders as we fed the line through our harness. All was well and good as each of us made our first attempt at walking backwards over a cliff while hanging on to a rope, this one being a perfect beginners experience that gave us confidence to tackle the next one, which we all knew would be harder, but not how much harder.

Despite the cool nights, daytime is warm and sunny in Jarabacoa and this was a perfect weather day. As we hiked over rocks and swam along the river, the water was refreshingly cool. We were surrounded by nature, nothing was too strenuous, everything felt good.

Until I found myself hooked up again, looking over the next cliff.

My feet were planted firmly on the edge of the precipice. My hands gripped the soft rope that hung over the cliff. Kelvin was beside me, and I was ready. And then, ass out over the abyss, I made the mistake of looking down. My eyes bulged, my sphincter shrank and my heart went into serious conflict with my mind. All I could see, directly below me, were very large expanses of rock and the very tiny people who had gone down before me, now lying back and watching the show. There was definitely something wrong with the picture, but they were all down there and several more were waiting their turn. There was nowhere for me to go, but down.

Eyes back to the rock, feet in front of me, let the rope out slowly, down I go. And then the rock face juts back in and now I’m in mid air, hanging, my hands around the rope being all that’s keeping me from plummeting to the rocks below. Don’t look down. Slowly, easy does it. And then my feet are on the ground. Easy did it! And I sit back, rest on the rocks, water gushing around me, watching the others confront their fear, feeling the exhuberation on their faces when they too hit horizontal ground.

Finally everybody is safely down, waiting for Kelvin, our guide, to follow. With all eyes  looking upward he makes his appearance, hanging face down over the abyss, waving hello. And then, in what took most of us an arduous two minutes to negotiate, Kelvin simply strode down the cliff like it was a walk in the park, and in about three seconds he was standing among us, smiling. Sheeiiit.

We had just impressed ourselves with our courage, and were recovering from our fear, of negotiating a 75-foot verticle drop. Phew! At that point it would have been nice to swim through a few more channels, maybe do a couple more jumps into calm pools of fresh water, before taking on the next cliff. But after this last extreme attack on our brainwaves we discovered that our next challenge lay only 100 meters away. Within no time the smooth rocks we were walking on came to a precipitous end, and, far, far below we could see the park-like setting of pretty pools and snack bar and wooden suspension bridges that bring everybody else to Jimenoa Falls. And down there we could see the people, very small indeed, that we would be among, hopefully, after one more, wrong-picture experience, this one three times higher than the last.

More intense than actually doing it is the thinking about it beforehand. The science behind rappelling is quite basic. What they don’t tell you is that the guy down below who is holding your rope can actually stop you by pulling it taut, and that he controls your descent simply by adjusting the tension on the rope. You can’t fall, but tell your brain this when your only foothold is a smooth, straight up-and-down surface and your ass is 200 feet above the grass and your arms, much more adept at elbow bending, are the only thing between you and the grass. It’s hard to act cool upon arrival. But we all did our very best.

There was something very different about the picture, of twelve party animals out for a blast, returning to Rancho Baiguate, sobered by the extremeness of nature and by the challenge to our respective heads. We got back to the ranch, truly subdued, truly rewarded, respectful of what the what the guys who do the mountain and wilderness stuff do, adrenaline spent, ready to take on the next wave of beach and ocean tourists.

Read…. Dominican Republic Base Camp Network

Bravissimo! Nightclub Show

Ocean World Marina guests enjoy a wide variety of services and truly unique experiences unmatched in the region. By day our visitors enjoy our exciting marine park; by night they can have a sunset dinner overlooking spectacular ocean vistas in several restaurants and bars, enjoy a Vegas-style tropical show, or try one’s luck in the Caribbean’s most glamorous new themed casino.

So if you’re in the area be sure to plan for a great night out at Ocean World. You can book a package including dinner, show and transportation for only $89. See below

OCEAN WORLD CASINO overlooking the Marina is the most exclusive Casino in the Dominican Republic. Guests experience Las Vegas gaming in the setting of a true Caribbean paradise.
Here one can enjoy a choice of the most popular table games and slot machines in luxurious surroundings.
This glamorous building is adjacent to the famous Ocean World Adventure Park, the newest and largest marine park attraction in the Caribbean.
Ocean World Casino Features
•    Open daily starting from 7pm
•    Complimentary national drinks, snacks and cigarettes while playing
•    Valet parking
•    Slot Machines and Table Games (Black Jack, Caribbean Stud Poker, Roulette, 3 Card Poker, Craps, Texas Hold’Em, Baccarat)
•    Scheduled Tournaments every Tuesday and Saturday at 7pm

OCTOPUS BAR & GRILL, the restaurant overlooking the Ocean World Marina, is specialized on light and grilled snacks. Serving premium beverages and variety of premium drinks and refreshing cocktails, this is the perfect place to enjoy drinks with friends.
Octopus Bar & Grill Features
•    Open daily from 9am to 1am, for lunch and dinner
•    Terrace sitting area
•    Pool facilities
•    Swim-up bar
•    Plasma TV

POSEIDON ‘A-LA-CARTE’ RESTAURANT. This stylish modern setting combines sleek architectural features with a fusion of oceanic artifacts, creating an incredible ambiance. This different hot new concept in dining features various mouth-watering international cuisine favorites with a special focus on succulent seafood choices.
Poseidon A-la-Carte Restaurant Features
•    Open Tuesdays through Sundays from 7pm until 12am.
•    102 seats inside
•    Air conditioning
•    International cuisine specialized in seafood
•    Scheduled culinary activities

BRAVISSIMO SHOW is a Las Vegas style dance show with a tropical flair.  Gorgeous performers take guests on an enchanted journey throughout the Caribbean by presenting their interpretive dance collection from throughout the destination, with more that 100 costumes that will leave you breathless.
Bravissimo Features
•    Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 9pm
•    Thursday at 10pm
•    26 dancers
•    No pictures/filming permitted

LIGHTHOUSE LOUNGE & DISCO is with no doubt the most spectacular and classy Lounge & Disco Bar of the island, completely dressed in white, with comfortable sofas where you can relax and enjoy the unparalleled view and the best music.
Lighthouse Lounge Features
•    Open daily from 9am until sunrise
•    Spectacular ocean view
•    Wednesdays: Karaoke
•    Fridays: Ladies Night
•    Saturdays: Party Night
•    Also available for private events

Price:

Show Only $45

Dinner, show and transportation $89

Book Online

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

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

Mel Tours

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Isaira Excursions & Transfers

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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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