North Coast of Dominican Republic
The North Coast extends between two very different cities: One is Rio San Juan on the east, the second is Monte Cristi, surrounded by dry desert bushes, which is logical stand at the way to visit Haiti. Río San Juan is a sleepy little town that sees few tourists, and yet is a good base for spending time on Playa Grande, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.
Puerto Plata (pop 147,000)
Puerto Plata, the largest city on the coast, has a much older past – Columbus founded the city in 1493. As he approached the bay, the sunlight reflected off the water so brilliantly it resembled a sea of sparkling silver coins.
Columbus named the bay Puerto Plata (Silver Port). He also named the mountain that looms over the city Pico Isabel de Torres (799m), in honor of the Spanish queen who sponsored h is voyages. An important port for the fertile north coast, Puerto Plata – and, indeed, the entire north coast – was plagued by pirates. It eventually became more lucrative for colonists to trade with the pirates (who were supported by Spain’s enemies, England and France) rather than risk losing their goods on Spanish galleons.
Such trade was forbidden and enraged the Spanish crown. In 1605 the crown ordered the evacuation of Puerto Plata – as well as the trading centers of Monte Cristi, La Yaguana and Bayajá – rather than have its subjects trading with the enemy. The north coast remained virtually abandoned for more than a century, until the Spanish crown decided to repopulate the area to prevent settlers from other countries – namely the French from present-day Haiti – from moving in. Puerto Plata slowly regained importance, suffering during the Trujillo period, but eventually reinvented itself as a tourist destination.
The early 1990s were golden years for the city, and for the first time tourism revenues surpassed those of its three main industries – sugar, tobacco and cattle hides – combined.
SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES
Museo del Ambar Dominicano
The Museo del Ambar Dominicano (Calle Duarte 61; 9am-6pm Mon-Fri) presents an excellent exhibit on this prized resin. Guides walk visitors through the display, explaining the origins and history of amber and answering any questions. They claim a visit here by Steven Spielberg was the inspiration for the movie Jurassic Park. The collection is impressive and includes valuable pieces with such rare inclusions as a small lizard and a 30cm-long feather (the longest one found to date). Tours are offered in English and Spanish. A gift shop on the ground floor has a fine selection of amber jewelry, but is open only in high season (December to March).
SOSUA (45 000 pop)
Sosúa does offer a pretty, yellow-sand beach on a calm bay, ideal for swimming and snorkeling, plus some decent diving nearby. There’s a good selection of hotels and restaurants, on average cheaper than trendy Cabarete, just 20 minutes away. Despite its more confronting qualities, Sosúa is a good base for exploring the n orth coast.
SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES
Sosúa has two beaches. Playa Sosúa is the main beach, a long stretch of tawny sand backed by palm trees and often crowded with Dominican families and long-term visitors staying in local hotels and condos. To get there take the downhill road between the Ruby Lounge and La Roca.
A much better beach is Playa Alicia, located just around the corner at the end of Calle Dr Rosen. A broad half-moon of yellow sand lapped by blue water it began to appear spontaneously around 2003 below the Hotel Waterfront – it’s named after that hotel owner’s mother.
To get there, walk to the Sosúa By The Sea hotel and enter the parking lot. At the end on the left is a door, and a narrow alleyway provides beach access to the public.
MUSEO DE LA COMUNIDAD JUDÍA DE SOSÚA
The Museo de la Comunidad Judía de Sosúa – 9am-1pm, 2-4pm Mon-Fri), near Calle Dr Rosen, has exhibits describing the Jewish presence in the DR. At the multinational Evian conference in 1938 the DR was the only country to officially accept Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi repression in Germany.
Around 350 families of refugees were settled in and around Sosúa. Most stayed only a few years – few were farmers by trade – but those who remained have been very successful in the dairy business, and Sosúa cheese is well known throughout the country. The museum has signs in Spanish and English, and is worth a stop.
Once an agricultural town is now the main city of the Dominican extreme sports. You’ll find here a grown beach town with the best hotels and restaurants. Cabarete is a city with one street that passes through its center. And almost all hotels, restaurants and shops are on this main road. Cabarete has from the island the best wind and waves and thus it became the largest center of water sports like surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding etc.
When you walk down the only street in Cabarete, you will hear a jumble of five or six languages. Atmosphere of foreign countries is so strong that Dominicans from the capital come here over the weekend to watch the tourists, so they themselves become tourists.
SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES
The main attractions are the beaches of Cabarete and not only because of the sand and the sun, on each of those operates different water sport and they are great places for observation of beginners and advanced athletes.
The caves are part of a national park El Choco in caves located crystal stalactites up to 25 meters of long, and also you can have a swim in a small lake inside.
Cabarete is one of the best places in the world for kite surfing, the beach is why there are several schools of kitesurfing and equipment rentals. Every year, in the last week of February, here is placed the Master of the Ocean – Triathlon, Surfing, Windsurfing, Kitesurfing