Puerto Plata & The North Coast: From the Birth of DR Tourism to Expat Haven
Where tourism began and expat life was born in the Dominican Republic
This is it. Where all inclusive hotels; excursions through the jungle; a watersports Mecca, sunburned tourists; and the idea that the Dominican Republic could be a vacation home and retirement oasis all began over 30-years ago.
Most agree that the north coast is the prettiest part of the island with lushly forested mountains, lagoons, incredible beaches and incredible vistas. In 1492, Christopher Columbus was the first tourist. His famous three ships made landfall in Puerto Plata -naming it La Isabela. The city is a like a time capsule boasting the largest collection of 19th century Victorian-style houses in the Caribbean. The San Felipe Fort is one of the oldest military colonial period fortresses in the region, dating back to 1577. The port quickly flourished and became a major trade centre; however, with the discovery of other areas, the city fell to financial ruin and largely became the hangout of pirates and a centre for smuggling. By the second half of the 18th century the city was powered mostly by merchant vessels, but by far the biggest boom of all has been tourism, which took off in the 1980’s and has shows no sign of stopping.
But to LIVE in the Dominican Republic? How did that idea start?
Well… I think the expat boom can mostly be laid at the feet of Old Man Winter. The north coast simply has the perfect climate (average 28 degrees Celsius and no hurricanes). This is an idyllic place year round, but if you want to escape winter, it just can’t be beat. Anywhere it’s cold, you will find people from those countries here.
In the Sosua area, Jewish settlers created a new home for themselves after WWII. An entire town was carved out of the jungle. In the 1980’s, German and other Europeans realized that the north coast offered the right mixture of weather, government stability, low taxes and foreign friendly investment. Real estate prices were extremely reasonable and thus the expat community was born. Americans also have been a constant group in the Dominican, particularly those from the New York area, as many Dominican’s have family who have emigrated there. Now, cold Canadians make up one of the largest nationalities making their home here, either part time or full time.
The Dominican government realized that ex pat communities are good for the country. Service industries are formed (employing local staff), products are consumed, and an entire economy is born. This government has always been expat friendly and makes it easy to obtain residency, come and go, get money in and out of the DR and gives foreigners the same legal rights as a Dominican in real estate ownership/transactions. Fully owned real estate and secure investment has made this a place foreigners from around the world feel comfortable investing, and welcomed by the DR as a whole.
Affordable real estate, large, active community of expats, and gated communities that offer lock up and leave services have made owning and living here simple. Many of us use our properties to earn rental income when we are not here. It’s a win-win way of life.
Come as you are – we’ll like you 🙂
Steadily over time, the area has grown to encompass every nationality from around the world. What’s interesting is that everyone gets along. In this time of so much racial, cultural and religious tension, this is a community where none of those things matter. It really makes no difference if you are Canadian, Russian, or Dominican, black, white or oriental. You are welcome here.
A new kind of tourism?
Renting the “whole house” or the “entire place” are new concepts promoted by travel giants Airbnb and Homeaway. What we on the north coast of the DR know is that this type of tourism has always been very popular. While we have our collection of all inclusive resorts and hotels, we also have many, many vacationers who want their privacy and rent condos and villas. We have such excellent infrastructure and services, being more on your own is safe and easy. There is no problem renting a car and getting to a modern grocery store. There are innumerable restaurants to choose from. Banking, shopping and hospitals are similar to North America. You can always find someone who speaks English to help you. There is so much to do with waterfall tours, jeep safaris, snorkeling, kiteboarding/windsurfing, golfing, floor hockey, bingo….or you can just lay by your pool or soak up the sun at the beach and listen to the waves…
Puerto Plata may be the birthplace of DR tourism,
but for us expats, it is simply home.
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