LA ROMANA, 37km east of San Pedro, is slowly developing into a low-key tourist destination, thanks to its appealing riverside setting, increasing numbers of good restaurants, bars and cafés as well as its proximity to sights such as Isla Catalina and the Cueva de las Maravillas. Since the time the South Porto Rico Sugar Company built the mammoth Central Romana mill in 1917, La Romana has been a one-company town; the mill was the only sugar operation not taken over by Trujillo during his thirty-year reign. If you’re here in the harvesting season (Dec–March), you’ll hear the train hooting as it arrives from the surrounding plantations, laden with sugar cane. The mill was eventually sold to multinational Gulf & Western in 1967, which used the substantial profits to expand their holdings in the area, constructing the lavish Casa de Campo resort just to the east and convincing the government to open the first of the country’s industrial free-zones here. The mill and the resort, sold in the 1980s to the wealthy Fanjul family of Cuba, help make this one of the most highly employed parts of the country. Party time for the fiestas patronales occurs in the last week of August.

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