Travel => Dominican Republic => Topic started by: flopnfly on December 22, 2006, 07:12:00 AM

Title: Puerto Plata gunning for the tourist dollar
Post by: flopnfly on December 22, 2006, 07:12:00 AM
Puerto Plata gunning for the tourist dollar
 Unsavory public beach cleaned up
 Minister Promises more for visitors
 October 07, 2006
 Robert Crew
 PUERTO PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—As a boy, Felix Jimenez loved the public beach at Puerto Plata.
 "When I was a child, my favourite beach was Long Beach," says Jimenez, now the country's Minister of Tourism.
 But that was more than 30 years ago and time proved less than kind to Long Beach. Untreated sewage poured onto it from nearby barrios and the sand gradually washed away into the Atlantic.
 The beach also gained an unsavoury reputation as a favourite haunt of drug dealers and prostitutes.
 "It was such a waste," Jimenez says.
 But Long Beach has now reopened after a $7-million (U.S.) regeneration project, financed by an airport tax plus investment from the private sector. The sewage now flows into a treatment works and one million cubic metres of sand were pumped onto the beach, to create what Jimenez described as "a new Long Beach and a new Puerto Plata."
 And the revamping of the Long Beach area will continue. New bars and restaurants will be created on a 40-metre wide dock jutting out from the malecon (boardwalk) and the area spruced up.
 Along with the new, there's the old. Puerto Plata is dates back more than 600 years and was founded in 1496 by Bartoleme Columbus, Christopher's brother. As Jimenez points out: "It is not only a city of beaches, but a city of history."
 And for tourists interested in history, it has several attractions, notably an elegant 19th century-style gazebo in the central park, with some lovely — if slightly neglected —Victorian gingerbread houses all around it.
 "Our beautiful Victorian gazebo is the symbol of Puerto Plata," says the Ministry of Tourism's Carlos Batista, who explained that the town burned down in the 1850s and architects from the British Caribbean were brought in to rebuild it. "There are more than 200 Victorian-style houses in this town."
 Close by is the Museo Ambar, the pleasant amber museum, housed in a glistening white maison that was built at the start of the 20th century by one of the town's wealthiest tobacco families. Here they'll tell you the story of amber, show you numerous examples and teach you several ways to identify real amber from plastic knock-offs. (One is that amber doesn't float in salt water.) The prices for amber jewellery are reasonable, too.
 There's more history at the 16th-century Fort San Felipe, which was a prison for much of its existence and had several notables — including Juan Pablo Duarte, the "father" of the country — as its involuntary guests.
 It is a little bare bones, with a few carriageless canon here and there. But there's a small military museum inside, with coins, shackles and other items. It's worth a quick visit.
 More impressive is the cable car ride that whisks visitors to the top of the 793-metre Pico Isabel de Torres.
 There's not only a fine view from the top but also a figure of Christ with outstretched arms, an imitation of the more famous (and slightly larger) version that gazes over Rio de Janeiro. Other attractions up top include a butterfly conservatory, a botanical garden and a wedding chapel.
 The local Brugal rum factory offers a not-terribly-interesting tour but excellent drinks afterwards.
 Dominicans are adamant that Brugal is the best rum in the world, says Batista. Only 20 per cent is exported, to other Caribbean islands. "The other 80 per cent we drink here, with friends like you."
 The government is keen to add other attractions — which the town sorely needs to become a major tourist attraction. A new access road is being built to Mount Isabel de Torres. "It will be ready in about two months," Jimenez promised.
 He also announced that an amphitheatre would be built beside the fort, similar to the one at Altos de Chavon in the south of the island. That amphitheatre holds 5,000 and is used for concerts, exhibitions and craft fairs.
 And a casino and marina are nearing completion at the Ocean World Adventure Park just west of Puerto Plata. The marina, described by a park official as "the missing link between the Bahamas and Puerto Rico," will have 120 slips and space for ships up to 200 feet long.
 "More than 50,000 cruise ships pass by Puerto Plata every year," Jimenez notes.
 The Long Beach restoration project is not the only one in the area. Similar work is underway in Cabarete, Juan Dolio and Boca Chica, at a total cost of $18 million.
Title: Re: Puerto Plata gunning for the tourist dollar
Post by: Bulldog on December 22, 2006, 11:07:00 AM
Well buying some garbage bags and cleaning up the litter on the roads when go a long way   :(