Sosúa, Cabarete and the island of Hispaniola
You love nature? You like to feel the flow of time? Then come to the north coast of the Dominican Republic. With its location, tucked into a beautiful bay, Sosúa is the ideal starting point to discover the diversity of the Dominican countryside while experiencing the international flair of this area.
Sosúa is a coastal town in the north of the Dominican Republic (also called the Amber coast), known nationwide and internationally for its nice beaches and water sports facilities. It is home to 12,000 inhabitants and has a temperature of 32oC (90oF) in the summer months and 27oC (80oF) in winter.
The town is located between Puerto Plata and Cabarete; the International Airport of Puerto Plata, a 10-minute drive from Sosúa, services the area.
Local and international visitors flock to Sosúa mainly for its beach life. Sosúa’s main beach, Playa Sosúa, is one of the finest beaches in the Dominican Republic, one kilometer of soft, golden-yellow sand, sprinkled with coconut and Flamboyant trees. It is tucked in a cove sheltered by coral cliffs and has crystal-clear water.
Only 15 minutes away from Sosúa is surfer’s paradise Cabarete, one of the best wind and kite surfing spots in the world.
What to do & see in & around Sosúa
History of Sosúa
Sosúa was founded in 1940 when dictator Trujillo, seeking goodwill from the international community after having ordered the massacre of thousands of Haitians in the country (Parsley massacre), offered to take in Jewish refugees from Germany who were being persecuted by the Nazis. About 600 of them immigrated, starting to build many homes and to establish what is to this day the DR’s most recognizable dairy company, Productos de Sosúa.
For 40 years Sosúa survived as an isolated and bucolic township. Only in 1980 it finally got connected to the national network of paved roads, and soon thereafter an international airport was built nearby. Thus began a new phase in its development, having become now a tourism destination, thanks on one hand to its welcoming beaches, the warm hospitality of its people and the beauty of its landscape, and on the other to having been integrated into the whole Dominican Northern Region’s tourism map.
Sosúa now boasts a number of hotels and condominiums that cover the whole range of the demand. Most of the original Jewish settlers have moved on, but the dairy that produces the Productos de Sosúa continues to this day, albeit it was bought out by a Mexican multinational. The Sosúa Synagogue has a Jewish museum with photos and memorabilia of the first Jewish settlers. Further traces of Sosúa’s Jewish heritage can be found online on the Virtual Museum of Sosúa.
Sosúa Main Attractions & Sports
Playa Sosúa – the main beach of Sosúa with a breath-taking view towards the coastline of Puerto Plata with the highest peak of the northern mountain chain (Isabel de Torres). Great place for scuba diving.
Los Charamicos – formerly a sleepy fishing village which has in recent years been converted into a business and residential area for Dominicans. The ambiance is typically Dominican: Here you will find tin-roofed shacks, vegetable stands, packed little shops and music everywhere; the typical Dominican everyday life.
Surfer’s paradise Cabarete – only 15 minutes east of Sosúa. Cabarete is one of the best wind- and kite surfing spots in the world, has hosted PKRA World Kite Boarding Championships since 2001 and is running each year in February the Master of the Ocean-surf contest.
Due to its beautiful Caribbean beaches and several water sports’ activities you will never get bored in Sosúa. You can choose from the following activities: scuba diving and snorkeling with Dive Center Merlin, surfing with Buena Onda, kite boarding and windsurfing with Cabarete Windsports Club. Also possible: sailing, paddle boarding as well as playing golf at Playa Dorada, zip lining, horseback riding, hiking or mountain-biking. Or you chill & swim at one of the close-by beaches: Playas Sosúa, Alicia, Chiquita, Laguna, Escondido, Encuentro, and Playa Cabarete.
Baseball or “Beisbol”, as the Dominicans say, is the national sport. There is no Dominican boy who does not dream about being the next Sammy Sosa or Pedro Martinez, the Dominican heroes of the US American Baseball League. Do not miss to watch a game!
Museums & Galleries
You will find the Museo Judeo (Museum of Jewish Heritage) in the center of Sosúa, reflecting Sosúa’s history of the last 70 years.
Casa de Arte is the Culture Center of Sosúa, a popular place to visit if you like modern art. They show exhibitions on painting, photography, sculpture, changing every 3 months.
Castillo Mundo King is an extraordinary and famous art museum in the area built by a private curator that shows Haitian art.
In nearby Puerto Plata, you are able to visit several amber and larimar museums, the fortress San Felipe built in the 16th century at the entrance of the Puerto Plata harbour as well as a botanic garden, located on top of Isabel de Torres Mountain to be reached by cable-car.
Several shops in and around Sosúa can offer you the items, Dominican Republic is famous for: great rum, cigars, jewelry made of larimar and amber, paintings in the Taino style. For clothes and shoes at low price shop “MUN2” in Sosúa or “Tienda Jimenez” in Puerto Plata.
Food, glorious Food
Sosúa offers plenty of restaurants. The best place for local food can be found in a comedor (typical eating places), for example the one inside “Captain Bailee”-restaurant close to Banco Popular in El Batey. You can have lunch there for about USD 3.- It is open Monday to Saturday between 11AM and 1PM.
A bit more expensive but also affordable is “Cafe Tropical”. The buffet-style restaurant with air-conditioning offers good quality food till 3PM. The average dish costs USD 6.-
In Los Charamicos, the greatest regional fish and seafood dishes are served. The best place to go is the small restaurant “Pescaderia Buen Sabor” just across from the Caribe Tours bus station.
For international food, try restaurant “Captain Bailee”– it offers a wide range of food choices in a Caribbean ambiance.
Also popular are “Elefante Rosso” in Pedro Clisante Road or “Pizzeria Bologna” in Alejo Martinez Road for great pizza and pasta.
The best place in Sosúa to enjoy a cup of coffee (Dominican: “un cafecito”) and a delicious homemade Italian Tiramisu is café “Steven’s”, run by a Italian family. The little café is in an absolutely fantastic location: right above Playa Alicia with a stunning ocean view along the coastline up to Puerto Plata. Great for sunset watchers, too!
Another great place for sunset romantics is “El Gordo” (Michael Stone’s) on top of the cliffs of Los Charamicos.
In Cabarete in “LAX” or “Casita de Papi” you can eat directly at the beautiful main beach while watching the kite and windsurfers. “Mojito Bar” offers great sandwiches and fresh juices at a decent price.
Learn Spanish in the Dominican Republic
If you want to really immerse yourself in the local culture, be able to talk and interact with local people, it’s really helpful to have some Spanish knowledge.
At IIC Spanish School there are group courses and private classes staring every Monday on all Spanish levels, starting from a complete beginner-level.
You can have a look at the Spanish course types here.
Music & Theatre & Dance
Dominicans love music and dance. Of all the rhythms that have enriched their cultural heritage, the Merengue and the slower Bachata are the collective expression of the Dominican soul.
In Puerto Plata, dance and music performances are held regularly in the new amphitheater at the Malecon. “The Meeting Place” hosts theatrical performances, exhibitions and workshops.
The cinema in near-by hotel resort Playa Dorada, the “POP Cinemas”, shows mainly movies in Spanish, some with English subtitles.
After Dark: You will find many places where you can experience and enjoy Dominican music. Dominican night life typically starts around 10PM. People gather in the centre of Sosúa or at Cabarete beach, in the villages around in so-called Rancho Típicos or at gas stations/car wash.
In Sosúa, there are couple of places to go out and have fun like “Mamajuana”, Club “Skybox” in Ahnvee Resort and “NYC Drink”. Karaoke nights are most popular at “Jolly Rogers” (Thursday) and at “Nelson’s Lounge & Bistro” (Saturdays) across from supermarket Super Pola.
Hot spots in Cabarete: “Ojo Club/LAX” (Thursdays, Saturdays), Karaoke night at “Voyvoy” (Mondays), Live Music night in “La Chabola” (Wednesdays).
The music played at Cabarete discotheques is mainly Merengue, Bachata, Reggaeton, and R&B/Pop, later at night then mixed music.
What’s on throughout the year?
January to March:
Whale watching in Samana – one of the world’s best spots to see humpback whales. There are many excursions from all the cities in the Dominican Republic to Samana peninsula to watch the whales.
Carnaval Vegano – visit on Sundays the famous Dominican carnival parades in La Vega, Santiago, Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo.
Master of the Ocean – see the best surfers competing in Cabarete (surfing, kite boarding, windsurfing).
Merengue Festival Puerto Plata – a weekend full of live music on the Malecon at the ocean.
Getting around in the Dominican Republic
Climate, Weather and best Travel Time
The average temperature is 28°C (82°F) which means that you will encounter ideal holiday conditions all year round. The country has different climatic and vegetation zones: a tropical, warm-humid climate at sea level, a moderate climate in the mountains. The rainy season in the north is from November through January, in the south July through September. Short, heavy rainfalls are possible all year round, tropical storms occasionally in August/ September.
You should bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a cap as sun protection, also a light rain jacket, light long pants and a pullover for evenings on the beach. Mosquito spray can be bought best in the country. Also, remember to bring solid shoes that can get wet and dirt for excursions into the country side or when you are out in the rural areas in general where usually roads are not paved.
When going out, Dominicans in general like to dress up. Some places require decent clothing; e.g. the discotheque JetSet in Santo Domingo won’t allow visitors in shorts, sneakers or flip-flops. When visiting churches, shoulders and knees should be covered. Topless or naked bathing is not appropriate in Dominican culture.
Alcohol consumption/ drugs
Due to the legislative rules here in the Dominican Republic alcohol is allowed to consume and buy at the minimum age of 18 years.
Narcotic drugs are illegal. The possession of any quantity of marihuana, cocaine, hallucinogens, barbiturates, amphetamines or other narcotic drugs is a punishable offense and is severely persecuted.
The official currency of the country is the Dominican Peso (RD$). The exchange rate is at present about 1 USD = 53 RD$.
US-Dollars are accepted in tourist areas and bigger cities. In some places there, you can also pay with your credit card. Banks and exchange offices change cash. Re-exchange is only possible at a loss. Cash machines accept ATM-/ debit cards and, depending on the bank, ec/maestro-cards. Please check with your home bank.
In general wifi internet is available in most of the bars and restaurants. There are 2 main GSM network providers in the country: Claro and Altice. To have the internet as a mobile data all the time with you, you can simply buy a local sim card. The sim card cost is around USD 3.- and to charge it with 1GB of internet (that can be used in 30 days) is around USD 8.-
Please remember that Internet access in the Dominican Republic is still not all the time available or reliable.
The Dominican Republic is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on USA East Coast Time. The country does not adjust to daylight saving time.
The voltage is 110-120 V/60Hz, the same electrical system as in the USA and Canada. Flat-pronged plugs are common practice; you need an adapter to run electrical appliances brought from Europe. Frequent power failures are unfortunately part of the daily agenda but usually there is a private emergency power supply.
Drinking water / Water pressure
Due to the hot, humid climate it is important to take a lot of liquids. Tap water is not recommended for drinking. Water pressure varies significantly in the country. You may encounter days/times with high and low water pressure.
The country runs a very good and low-priced public transportation network. Coach transportation lines cover the long routes between major cities while gua-guas (mini-buses) and carro publicos (public taxis) go along the main roads into the city neighborhoods and from town to town. Motoconchos are motorbike-taxis; they are mainly used on short distances within a town/ between villages. There are usually no specific carro/ gua-gua stops. Just step aside the road in the direction you want to go and wave your hand. The next free carro/ gua-gua will stop. When you want to get off the car, say to the driver “donde pueda” and he’ll stop. Only take carros with a sign on top of the car roof.
Security and intercultural differences
Compared to other Caribbean countries, the Dominican Republic is still one of the safest places. Travelers should follow the common rules for being in a foreign country like: be aware of your environment, do not carry valuables or expensive jewelry, do not publicly carry your cell phone and/or your expensive camera in your hand, carry only a copy of your passport/ID, take small amounts of cash with you, go out in groups, and avoid lonely, dark streets and certain districts (in Sosúa: La Piedra). Avoid long walks at night and use a reliable motoconcho instead.
Regarding intercultural encounters please be aware of the difference between your and Dominican culture, in particular between genders. Some men might address girls through whistling or calling them “chica”, “gringa” etc. If they don’t call you by your name, ignore it. Learn to say no in a firm, but polite and non-aggressive way. Avoid wearing extremely sensual clothing.
As in other countries of the third world, there exists poverty prostitution as well in the Dominican Republic, especially in tourist-areas like Juan Dolio, Boca Chica or Sosúa. It makes the huge difference between rich and poor visible in the Dominican Republic. By law, (male and female) prostitution itself is not prohibited, but organizing prostitution or using the services of a prostitute is.
No particular immunization is required by law for travelling to the Dominican Republic. You may decide to get vaccinations – please follow the recommendations of your State Department, your National Health Agency and contact your doctor for more detailed information.
If you like to bring your laptop, notebook, smartphone, or other (expensive) electrical devices, please consider checking with your travel insurance that damage, robbery, or loss is included. The climate is very harsh on electrical devices, and the students should also be aware of the possibility of theft and pick pocketing when travelling. We don’t recommend bringing exclusive goods in whatever form (jewelry, clothes, etc.).
We recommend purchasing travel cancellation, baggage and travel health insurance.
Airports and International Airlines
Various scheduled and chartered flights go to the Dominican Republic like: American Airlines, Continental, Delta, United, Spirit and JetBlue from USA; Air Canada, Sky Service, Air Transat, West Jet from Canada; ThomsonFly from Great Britain; Condor, EuroWings from Germany; Iberia from Spain and many more. The major ports of entry are: Santo Domingo (SDQ), Puerto Plata (POP), Punta Cana (PUJ), Santiago de los Caballeros (STI), La Romana (LRM).
In general, foreigners travelling to the Dominican Republic need a valid passport or equivalent national identity document. All non-resident travelers need to show a round trip ticket as proof of their departure. Citizens of the US, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain and several others do not need a visa. You are allowed to enter the country after purchasing a tourist card for USD 10.- The tourist card allows you to stay for 30 days. A scaled charge applies for longer stays. Please contact your local embassy or your state department for more detailed information.
If you would like to comment on something from the above or you have your own advice for the people travelling to the Dominican Republic or you simply would like to add something – please leave a comment below.
On our website www.iic-spanish.com you will find plenty of further useful information.
Useful English speaking sites about country & people
www.lonelyplanet.com – Travel guide
www.dict.cc – Online dictionary English-Spanish
Official website of the Dominican Tourism Ministry