A GREAT DAY IN THE NORTH: CHARM AMIDST THE CRUISING IN SOSUA, D.R.

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Playa Sosúa

SOSUA OFFERS TOP-QUALITY SUN AND VIEWS—AND FOR BETTER OR WORSE, HANKY-PANKY FOR A SHEKEL.  The loftier charms of the North Coast life lie in the coast’s other towns. I only ever came up to these towns very early in my childhood. What I remember of Sosúa and Cabarete were seemingly untouched swathes of gorgeous beachside country which only swarmed with international visitors when the occasional surfing competition took place. On my last visit to the North Coast, however, I realized that these towns were where any kind of scene existed.

The city and the South coast are great, but there’s something about the higher elevations of the North that butt right up against the gorgeous turquoise of the Caribbean Sea that gives it a mesmerizing appeal. Its dramatic vistas and its removal from the big city aires of Santo Domingo are probably what have made it such a favorite of expatriates.

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Cabarete is now even more known for its palatial all-inclusive resorts and seductive five-star hideaways than for its surfside vibes. That distinction has been left for Sosúa and its famously swarthy strip, the Calle Pedro Clisante. At one time in its past, Sosúa was one of the areas that Trujillo offered to Jewish refugee families for relocation from the terrors of Nazi Germany. Although over 700 people settled and made a go of building a community in these parts, just over 20 of those original families remain and many of the settlers ended up emigrating away over the decades, selling their property to development interests

.Sosúa’s current distinction is as a longtime standby for expatriates of all stripes, most especially Canadians in search of a frugal way to take in plentiful sun, gorgeous views, cheap brews and well, ass. Just as much as Boca Chica and Juan Dolio are rife with a steady flowing sex tourism industry for Italians and Swiss eager to indulge in their taste for black skin, this North Coast town plies its trade with the desires of Canucks and Americans in search of the same.

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Among the typical dirty old men camped out at the smaller local bars on the strip roamed several groups of African-American men on fraternity reunion weekend trips. Seemingly, only the various members of Omega Psi Phi were present. My mother told me that they come down so frequently to court the young working girls here that JetBlue flights to Luperón International Airport are known as JetBlack.

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On this trip, we were to help out my mother’s friend of many years as he endured another weekend with his flailing French restaurant. The restaurant had weathered a ton of transformations due to heart-stopping staff turnover and menu changes. There was the slow realization that on such a quaint seaside strip in which Viagra was a hot-seller and focused bouts of day-drinking rendered poutine and fried Mars bars as the only sensible food options, that perhaps no one on the strip wanted to languidly dine and chat a la Français. The restaurant sold excellent wines, and once every two days the odd French couple would amble out from their hillside villas to tip some glasses and take home some bottles of the stuff, but the price point and the offering turned off the rest of the onlookers.

The garden outside the villa where we took up in Cabarete.
One of the trees in the garden outside the villa where we took up in Cabarete.

My mother and I took the weekend in stride and just helped out as best we could to wrangle customers, set up and break down, and really just enjoy her friend’s company. I’m not even sure if he was still interested in running the place, as we’d only amble up to the restaurant at 4pm to open the place. Our morning and mid-afternoon hours were occupied by long hang sessions at his rented villa in a Cabarete gated community, or by leisurely strolls to find the perfect beachside lounge set-up along the 3 Kilometer-long Playa Sosua.

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That walk offers pleasing views of the beach from under the canopy of the various palm, flamboyant and almond trees, as well as scores of little beachside stalls and shacky bars. Clusters of dogs lay around the various encampments along this walk and families of all stripes—European or Canadian tourist, Dominican local—earnestly sit around a shaded table to pick from iced buckets of Presidente beer and plates of steaming pescado con coco.

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In the odd hours that we weren’t so busy at the restaurant, I walked around the strip and into the fondo (the back barrio of the locals) to see what I could find. Even among the odd 20-foot cow fields that dotted the fondo stood gracious homes that did away with the imposing height and theft deterrents of homes down South. Closer to the center of town down La Puntilla road, graceful homes with Victorian influences and ivy-wrapped walls stood below swaying Norfolk Island pine trees and I was enchanted by the cool bursts of breeze that countered the sticky warmth of the Sosúa evening.

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Walking past the Casa Goethe German language institute on the corner was Los Balcones resort and its elegant frontage: a beautifully corniced Victorian mansion all in white among the nispero trees.

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A motoconcho zips up La Puntilla road past the Casa Goethe language institute.
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Outside the enchanting Los Balcones resort.

Next to it was an empty lot overgrown with tall grass, with a clear view to the ocean. I heaved a sigh when I caught that glistening spot of blue before I realized that there was a little trail cut into the wild lawn that seemed to go all the way to the water.

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I darted through its zig-zag until it crested at craggy mounds of hard coral—which ended as a high cliff overlooking that gleaming sea.

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Someone built a stubby staircase that led all the way down to the sea’s edge some 50 feet down, but I just set myself down at the top of those steps and caught the most amazing view of the sea that I’d ever seen.

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I would stare back at the garden to think of how amazing my little discovery was.

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I’m not a big traveler on a global scale; I’ve had my hide parked in New York City for the last 15 years with only quick trips across the U.S. and a rare visit here to the D.R. My thrills are hard won, and its little secrets like this that I live for. I hope to find more of them.

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