Set along a sheltered horseshoe inlet impressed into the eastern end of Bahía de Sosúa, the large resort town of SOSÚA has a bit of a bumpy history, now somewhat hard to detect as few visitors make it past the inviting beaches. It was created in the late nineteenth century by the United Fruit Company, which used it as a port for their extensive banana plantations along today’s El Choco Road. In 1916, following a pattern that would be repeated throughout the Americas in the twentieth century, United Fruit abruptly abandoned their operations in the Dominican Republic, and Sosúa lay mostly derelict until the early 1940s, when Trujillo provided refuge for several hundred Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany, who settled just east of Playa Sosúa and created the barrio known as El Batey. Here, they formed a successful dairy cooperative – Productos Sosúa – which operates to this day.
The first stirrings of tourism came in the 1970s as wealthy Dominicans and retiring foreigners began building winter beach homes in the area. The explosion of sex tourism in the 1980s brought on the real boom, however, as young Dominican women from the outlying rural districts supported families back home by catering to the desires of tens of thousands of travellers. Large-scale hotel development ensued, and much of the traditional fishing and agriculture was abandoned. The wealthy retirees petitioned against this unsavoury atmosphere and, in 1996, finally convinced the government to act; over the course of a year, the national police closed every bar in Sosúa. With its controversial lifeblood squeezed dry, the local economy promptly collapsed, leaving an abundance of empty hotels and restaurants. Slowly but surely the town has risen from its ashes, helped in no small part by low prices but also because it really is a pleasant little town with a great beach. Nonetheless, although no longer the town’s main attraction, the sex trade is still much more noticeable here than in any other Dominican resort along this stretch.Read More
Diving from Sosúa
Diving from Sosúa
Sosúa is the best place on the north coast for diving and home to one of the best diving outfits on the island, Northern Coast Divers, Pedro Clisante 8 (t 571-1028, w www.northerncoastdiving.com). The multilingual staff run daily boat trips to several local hotspots, including the Airport Wall, a 33m wall dive with tunnels, and the Canyon, two walls formed by the splitting of the reef only 2m apart. They also head further afield to the mangroves of Río San Juan and the Caverns of Cabrera (otherwise known as El Lago Dudú). The further away from Sosúa you go the better, since the local area has been sadly stripped of its reefs and there are few signs of nearby sea life. First-time dives start from US$60, with PADI Open Water courses from US$325. The shop can also arrange snorkelling trips as well as pick-ups from nearby resorts and now have affordable self-catering apartments (see Mary Rose). Merlin Dive Centre (t 571-2963, w www.merlin-diving.com) and Big Blue Swiss Dive Centre (t 571-2916, w www.big-blue-diving-sosua.com), both on the beach road, also enjoy good reputations.