Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top Beaches near Puerto Plata: Sosua

Playa Alicia (Playa Santa) of Sosua
More tranquil than Puerto Plata and Cabarete, but still with its unique sense of coastal charm, Sosúa attracts a slightly older and less rowdy crowd than its frenzied neighboring cities. The city center and the beaches are small, and therefore is easily navigable on foot. Playa Sosúa connects Sosúa's two distinct barrios: Los Charamicos in the west, less developed and with very few foreigners, and the now ironically named El Batey, the "downtown" and more tourist-oriented section of Sosúa.

Sosúa's short history has a fascinating origin. In 1940, the dictator Rafael Trujillo offered asylum to about 700 Jewish refugees in this tiny farming village. Though most have left, they began Sosúa's development, and it is now one of the larger towns on the North Coast. Its international nature lives on, as tourism is the roaring engine of Sosúa's commerce.

Where to Eat

Finding authentic eats right by the beach can be tricky. Luckily, there is Batatica (“small sweet potato”), named after a local who went by that nickname. Tucked off the main drag, this spot draws a purely Dominican crowd. The conch shell and fish are specialties, and the prices are the best in town. RD$125-175; 133 C/ Pedro Clisante (Note that the restaurant is actually located on a side street off C/ Pedro Clisante marked with a large sign; every mototaxi driver knows where to find it if you are unable to); 809-571-1558

Waterfront Restaurant
Waterfront Restaurant
The fancy awning, upscale décor, and bluff-top location shouldn’t scare off, but rather welcome budget travelers. Though Waterfront is a classy establishment, the charming owner complemented his upscale fare with half-price daily specials, and smaller items for less than RD$200, as well as a generous happy hour from 5 to 7pm. Tantalizing and unique dishes include calamari in ink over black rice, or the extravagant plato de cinco mares with shrimp, crayfish, conch shell, calamari, and fish. RD$100-600; 1 C/ Dr. Rosen (where the street ends); 571-3024;            829-755-6068; sainz.andres@gmail.com; Free Wi-Fi

Where to Sleep

Hotel El Rancho
Tacky isn’t a problem unless you make it one, so don’t mind its presence here, where kitsch equals fun. El Rancho offers 17 comfortable poolside rooms with tropically bright interiors. Groups and those with a larger budget ought to look out for the apartments with kitchens and the sweet penthouse. Check out the casual snack bar, serving fast food and drinks, located in the lobby. US$40-155; 36 C/ Dr Rosen; 571-4070; www.hotelelranchososua.com/3.html

Patio of Piergiorgio Palace Hotel
Piergiorgio Palace Hotel
Assuredly the most charming hotel in Sosúa, this hotel was built in the Dominican image of the neo-Victorian style, right on water’s edge. Rooms are well-lit, with a view of the ocean. They are elegantly simple, compared to the grandeur of the rest of the hotel: perfectly manicured gardens, leafy trees, gurgling fountains, and multiple white balconies peer over the seawall. US$95-250; 809-571-2626/2786; piergirorgio@codetel.net.do; www.piergiorgiopalace.com

What to Do

Playa Sosúa
Full of families, expats, and loquacious vendors, Playa Sosúa is the archetypal Dominican beach. Though not very broad, the beach stretches far, connecting the two major barrios of Sosúa,  and bringing in tourists, merchants, and locals to enjoy sand and sea. As it curves inside a bay, the water is calm, perfect for a leisurely swim. Snorkeling is therefore especially popular, as the reef reaches almost to the shore, providing a haven for marine life.

Playa Alicia (Playa Santa)
This cozy beach is a short landing of sand below steep and rocky cliffs. It is most accessible from a staircase by the Waterfront Restaurant, offering stunning views of the sea from on high. The beach spontaneously (and mysteriously) appeared in 2002, when an underwater earthquake supposedly moved a sand bar, causing the ocean to recede and leaving this tidy little beach in its wake.

Merlin Dive Center
For beginner scuba divers and snorkelers, a lesson is a must to take advantage of the wealth of tropical underwater beauty. Merlin offers both intro classes and trips and dives for all levels of expertise, as well as daylong to weeklong certification packages. Las Caobas, at the beginning of Sosúa beach; 809-545-0538; info@merlin-diving.com; merlin-diving.com

Museo Judío
Museo Judío
Small in size but long on chutzpah, the Museo Judío in Sosúa documents the fascinating history of the spirited group of Jewish refugees who slipped through the grasp of Hitler's Europe and thrived in a strange, foreign environment. The museum showcases pictures, artifacts, and articles in a half-dozen languages along the walls of the building. The synagogue used by the community still stands, warm with wood and earthy colors; ask the guard to open it for a short, self-guided tour. There are prayer services on select holidays. RD$100; Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm and 2pm-4pm, Sat 9am-1pm; C/ Alejo Martínez by C/ Dr. Rosen; 809-571-1386

For better or worse, Sosúa has earned the reputation of being the red light district of the North Coast. That being said, where that exists, there is bound to be decent nightlife. The center of town is full of bars and restaurants, especially along C/ Dr. Rosen, C/ Alejo Martinez, and C/ Pedro Clisante along the beach. Always take care in poorly lit areas, but downtown Sosúa is generally safe.

For a full description of where to stay, eat and have fun, check out the complete Sosúa  Chapter in Dominican Republic (Other Places Travel Guide)!   

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