North Coast Attractions and Things to Do – Part 1
Bordered by the foothills of the Cordillera Septentrional to the south and the Cabarete Lagoon to the North, the park guards 77 square kilometers (48 square miles) of pasture land, lagoon, jungle, tropical plants, Caribbean birds, caves, and abruptly jutting hills. Many of the freshwater springs encountered in the park have subterraneous origins deep in the belly of the earth.
Unlike much of the Lesser Antilles islands, the majority of the Dominican Republic does not have volcanic origins. The subtle collision of tectonic plates below the Earth’s crust around 50 million years ago pushed the ocean floor up in jagged points. Years of erosion have rounded the points giving the foothills seen from Cabarete the appearance of a green upside-down egg crate. Once in the park, it is obvious that these hills are actually old coral reefs.
An area of astounding beauty and many hidden secrets, the Area Protegida Cabarete and Goleta should not be missed. Accessible from either end of Cabarete, a visit can last from just a few hours to the entire day. It is VERY easy to become disoriented in the park due to the dizzying maze of unmarked footpaths and the extremely lush vegetation. We highly recommend that your first visit be with a reputable guide company. The funky named and internationally renown, “Iguana Mama”, leads 1 hiking and 3 mountain bike trips in and around the protected area. At the Callejon entrance, there is also the Cabarete Caves Company, which offer 1.5 hour tour suited for all ages. It leads through
impressive areas and hillls accomanied by very interesting explanations.
HOW TO GET THERE: While there are several dirt paths and small rocky mule trails leading into the Area Protegida Cabarete y Goleta, there are two main entrances. Located on the eastern side of Cabarete at the end of the “Callejon de la Loma” road, about a 15-minute walk from the center of town, visitors may gain access to the park at the “Cabarete Caves” office. For a more remote experience, a 5-km (3-mile) ride in guagua or carro publico heading west out of town will bring you to the roadside community of Islabon. Just before the
Islabon bridge, a small road proudly bears the sign “Area Protegida Cabarete y Goleta” at its entrance on the right-hand side. A 5-minute walk brings you to the park entrance. Visitors should expect to pay RD$50 per person to a National Park official for admittance at both entrances.
Cost of the tour: $20 Adult, $10 Child (smaller children can go free). Open every day.
THE JEWISH MUSEUM OF SOSUA (MUSEO JUDEO)
In 1938, when no other nation would welcome Jewish refugees, Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican Republic strongman, offered to take in 100,000. Between 1940 and 1945, 5,000 Dominican visas were issued, but only 645 Jews actually made their way to the Dominican Republic. The refugees settled in the tiny seacoast town of Sosua, then just jungle land, that Trujillo had established with funding provided by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Upon arrival, every new Jewish settler was given 80 acres of land, 10 cows, a mule and a horse. Although most of the settlers were German or Austrian Jews and had professional or craftsmen’s backgrounds, they quickly picked up the agricultural life offered by Sosua and established a successful Jewish cooperative—Productos Sosua—that today produces most of the county’s meat and dairy produce.
Trujillo’s generosity probably stemmed mainly from his eagerness to have the Western nations overlook his brutal massacre of 25,000 Haitians in 1937, and his desire to “whiten” his race. He believed that the young European men would marry Dominican women and produce light-skinned offspring. He was correct in this in that most settlers were single young men who did marry Dominican women. The children usually considered themselves Jewish and many stayed in Sosua.
Today, only about 30 of the original Jewish families remain in Sosua. By the 1940?s, most of the nearly 700 inhabitants had moved to either New York or Miami. Although no longer in the Dominican Republic, the Sosua Jews have maintained a tight-knit community. Until 1980, the town was still entirely Jewish; however, with the opening of the international Puerto Plata airport four miles west of Sosua, the village has turned into a major beach resort.
Today the town has 3,000 full-time residents, with about 70 Jews. Those who did remain in Sosua and held onto their land, have made a fortune. Erik Hauser, an original settler from Vienna, now owns an entire block of the lucrative downtown area, where hotels and restaurants were built on his original 80 acres. He is Sosua’s wealthiest resident.
Sosua has one functioning synagogue that holds services every other Shabbat and on the High Holidays. Passover Seders are held in community members homes and an annual Purim carnival is a major community event. The small Jewish community also has a museum dedicated to preserving the history and story of the town’s original Jewish settlers.
Some expats say that the name of the town Sosua comes from the legend: “The first Jewish man to arrive here was named Joshua, but none of the locals could pronounce it correctly. They would say they were going over to Josua.” – Sosua.
The Sosua Synagogue has a museum with photos and memorabilia of the first Jewish settlers. You can also attend services there.
The Jewish Museum ( Museo Judio ) located next to the Casa Marina Hotel
To be continued…
Category: DR Living |