Sosua is in the Puerto Plata province of the Dominican Republic.
German Jews settled this little pueblo in the early 1940s. Many streets are named for Ashkenazic Jews.
Sosua is now famous for being a top destination for the single male. The many nightclubs crammed into this small area is ideal for bar-hoppers and party goers. During the day, the Sosua Beach is the ideal destination for those looking to relax, swim, or sober up from a night of drunken debauchery. The residents are very friendly and are always willing to give a hand.
Most visitors will fly in to Puerto Plata's airport (POP IATA). Before going through immigration, you'll have to purchase a "tourist card" for US$10 (think of it as a tourist tax). When leaving the airport you'll immediately be greeted by vendors, money changers and taxi drivers. Since everything is much more expensive at the airport, neither change money nor buy anything.
The taxi fare for the 10-minute ride from the airport is fixed at US$25 per car with little to no room for negotiation. If you already booked your accommodation, ask them for a transport to save a few dollars.
Caribe Tours buses leave every full hour from Santo Domingo, via Santiago and Puerto Plata to Sosua. They stop along the way in all the major cities and towns (about 5 stops). Buses are comfortable, modern, air conditioned (usually turned up to arctic levels) and have a restroom (though usually without toilet paper - bring your own!) The trip takes about 5 hours and costs RD$320 (as of May 2016) for a one-way ticket. Motoconchos and taxis wait at the bus station to bring you to your accommodation.
From Santo Domingo's airport, either turn left into Santo Domingo and follow the road until just until after the elevated express way ends, turn right towards John F. Kennedy Avenue (follow the sign), turn left on John F. Kennedy Avenue and stay on that road for about 3 to 4 hours until you reach Puerto Plata. In Puerto Plata just keep going until you see the first road signs to Sosua.
Alternatively, just when leaving the airport turn right towards La Romana, Bahia and Punta Cana. After a few kilometers take the exit towards Samana (beware, it is on the left side of the road - you go down a ramp and through a tunnel!) and then take the toll-road to Samana for about 2 hours until you reach the point where you either go to the right towards Samana or left towards Nagua, Rio San Juan, Puerto Plata. The overall toll is about RD$420 for a small car - obey the speed limits there, they regularly set up speed traps because the road makes you want to go much faster. In Nagua turn right towards 4 o'clock at the traffic lights where you have to chose between right and left again. Keep on going for another 2 hours through the aforementioned towns (sanity check: water should be to your right!) Nagua itself can be tricky to navigate, if in doubt, ask a local for directions to Puerto Plata.
From Punta Cana you first have to go to Santo Domingo, thus the same two options listed above apply.
From Santa Barbara de Samana take the road towards Santo Domingo until you see signs for Nagua, then follow those. See above for how to proceed from there.
The town is relatively small and walkable. You can also get around using the motoconcho, where you are basically hitching a ride on the back of someone's motorcycle. The price within the El Batey area of Sosua is RD$20 during the day and RD$40 at night, though you will certainly be quoted more if you ask them firsthand. Simply tell the driver where you want to go, hop on, and hand the driver the exact fare when you arrive at your destination and walk away. The motoconcho drivers are everywhere and will actively solicit you for a ride. Do not hop a concho while you are inebriated.
The cheapest way to move between Sosua and the surrounding cities and towns of Puerto Plata, Cabarete and Rio San Juan, as well as the tourist resorts in between, is by guagua (Caribbean Spanish slang for bus), which are small mini-vans operating on the main highway between Puerto Plata and Rio San Juan. At peak hours they pass every five or ten minutes. Short distances (i.e., Sosua to Cabarete) should cost no more than RD$20 to Cabarete, to RD$30 to Puerto Plata. They will pack in up to 25 people per mini-van (this is not an exaggeration!), with passengers almost in each other's laps. Watch your wallet! You may even have someone's cage of roosters deposited on you lap. Then the merengue starts up on the radio and half the passengers pitch in, singing from memory.
Tourist taxis are plentiful but expensive when compared to the other modes of transportation in Sosua. As of March 2009, tourist taxi from Caribe Tours bus station to El Batey run RD$150. A taxi from Sosua to Puerto Plata airport will charge US$25 for the car. Many taxi drivers will attempt quote US$25 per person, so be aware. Note that it is possible to get a ride for as low as US$10, however, you must #1 dress the part #2 speak good spanish. Leave your luggage at your place of stay, and go out dressed like a local (shirtless & sandals) towards the taxi hub. Ask around where for the taxi meeting point . After a few minutes of asking around, a local with a car will eventually ask you where you want to go. Say you want to go to the airport, and that you will pay US$10. Most locals will think this is a good price and take you in their private pickup/car. Included in this price is the 1-3 block drive to your place of stay (to pick up your luggage). Give them the money once at the airport. This is a little more difficult to do with legitimate taxis at the taxi hub.
The taxi ride from the airport to almost any point in Sosua is less than 10 minutes. You will pay about $15US from Sosua to Cabarete but this is a complete ripoff when the guagua runs through town and charges RD$20 pesos per person. Guaguas and publicos run through the main roads. You have to flag them down so they will stop for you.
Car rentals may be had locally and if you prefer to deal with the international chains, stop by the Puerto Plata airport. An economy car may be rented for US$30 per day. Check with your credit card company first to see what coverage they provide because this price is not inclusive of insurance. Local insurance is expensive so most simply rely on the coverage provided by their credit card.
You may also simply take guaguas which are the carro publicos along the main road which are affordable and overcrowded. For instance a taxi between Sosua and Cabarete from the official stop will cost upwards of US$20 while a guagua will cost about US$1.50. Similarly you can get to the airport for US$30 from a taxi at one of the stops which has set fares or take the carro publico for less than US$2.
Before you venture out on your own, or even with a group of people, be aware of men or boys who are looking to help you find what you need. While walking you will be approached with offers of help with changing your money, finding a restaurant or finding a nice bar or gift shop. On the beach you will be offered assistance with getting a lounge chair or having a drink or food from one of the many beach stalls fetched for you.
In the vast majority of cases these folks are harmless and can be a wealth of information. If you decide to use their services you will be charged a small fee above the asking rate for any item you purchase, eat or drink, and that fee will be passed to your helper after services are rendered. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Sosuans are accomplished capitalists and they also are a lot less well off than you! If you already know exactly what you want and a "tag-along" Sosuan is starting a conversation with you while you are walking along, be firm in telling him that you need no help! If you are first timer offer the propina man a small fee up front for an hour or for the day and he will become a wealth of information for you.
Do not, under any circumstances, use a propina man for money changing. Money changing operations are well signed and easy to find.
Playa Sosua is the town's main beach. It is a fun, colorful and lively beach which is approximately one kilometer long, with a row of shacks along the back, selling food, drinks and souvenirs. At one end of the beach is the El Batey neighborhood, which was founded by a community of about 600 Jews exiled here from Eastern Europe during World War II. It contains the small synogogue, still occasionally used by Jews from the surrounding communities, as well as a small museum documenting the history of the Jewish community in Sosua, both set in a tidy tropical green lawn adjacent to Casa Marina Resort. The synogogue has services on Friday evenings about once per month - check with the museum whether there are services the week you are there. Batey no longer has an active Jewish community and is currently the tourist section of town, containing several all-inclusive resorts, as well as a number of smaller hotels and guest houses.
At the other end of the beach is Los Charamicos, which is the local's neighborhood and somewhat more run-down and lively than Batey. For an authentic cockfighting experience go to Club Gallistico, in Charamicos. It is along one of the main streets but you will have to ask for directions. Cockfights are on Saturday afternoons and sometimes on other days of the week. It is best not to venture alone into the alleyways of Charamicos as they are unsafe. The main streets are OK during daytime but care should be taken at night.
The beach is very popular and offers the best local option for the snorkeling enthusiast - snorkelers should swim out to the reef that lies about 100 m from the shore. A beach chair rental should cost about RD$60. Refuse to pay any more. Equipment can also be rented there. There are lots of gift shops where you will be quoted absolutely laughable prices (see the "Buy" section below).
There are two other beaches in town. Playa Alicia is accessible from the On the Waterfront restaurant. This beach is quieter and more sterile than Playa Sosua, and is thus a good option for those who want to trade a bit of local color for a more relaxed experience. The town's third and smallest beach is accessible from the Sosua by the Sea hotel.
As in the other towns on the North Coast, tour operators offer numerous excursions to surrounding sites and nearby adventure activities at reasonable prices. These include whale watching (December to March), jeep tours, waterfalls and swimming holes, deep sea fishing, whitewater rafting, snorkeling, mountain biking, horseback riding, interesting beaches, as well as tours of Puerta Plata, Santiago, Santo Domingo and the border area of Haiti. Check with a tour operator near your hotel for available excursions. The range of tour options and the trips themselves are almost identical among the various tour operators.
- Merlin Dive Center (at the entrance to Playa Sosua). Offers all of the standard diving fare, including snorkeling, beginner dives, advanced dives, etc. They are a highly professional outfit who will take you for pleasure dives or you can get qualified with them for a very reasonable price compared to the UK.
- Sosua Beach (Playa Sosua), Highway 5, Sosua. 7am - 7pm. Sosua beach is the main attraction of Sosua, a beautiful golden sand semicircle of turquoise blue water set in a bay of the same name. There are many gift shops, restaurants, bars, and tour operators available for visitors. It has shallow waters in many areas, so clear you can see bottom fish from a boat.
Tourists are always quoted prices inflated by a factor of at least 2, sometimes even 5 or 6. A good rule of thumb is consider how much you would pay at home for a similar item. If you are tired of haggling, just offer a price and walk away if they don't agree. Chances are they run after you and sell for the price offered.
Most of the souvenir shops sell the same ubiquitous Latin American fare. Sosua also has a large number of Haitian paintings for sale. Many of these oil paintings are the same in each shop. Occasionally some good quality artwork can be found.
Cigars of course are popular but prices vary. Very good Dominican cigars (torpedo size) can be bought for USD3 per piece if bought directly at the factory and with lots of haggling, add USD1 or USD2 markup for the local vendor to arrive at a realistic price - but you will without doubt be quoted USD10 to USD15 and have to haggle a lot. Only buy cigars at souvenir stores, stands on the beach or from beach vendors if you really know cigars and can tell real ones from fakes. Cuban cigars may be purchased but beware that many of the Cuban name brands also have Dominican manufacture, though the quality is said to rival that of Cuban ones. When buying boxes, always inspect their content before paying or you might end up with cigars made from worm-punctured leafs even when the factory itself has a good name.
Authentic leather goods are not available in any tourist oriented shop or beach shack in Sosua. Imitation leather is the rule of the day. Authentic leather goods are better found in Santo Domingo.
If you head away from the beach to the main road there is a large supermarket where the prices for lots of goods are a lot cheaper - except for fruit which is best bought in dedicated fruit stores.
Sosua has a lot of restaurants and you can find authentic German food, Italian food, English fare, and of course, if you look for it, traditional Dominican cooking. Many Dominicans can cook food rivaling New York City restaurants on not much more than a hot plate and an open flame. Service time varies in between restaurants and in between different nights. Often the same restaurant will be very slow one night (coincidentally when the boss in not around) and excellent the next.
- Britannia Pub, Pedro Clisante 9, ☎ . 08:00 - 23:00. A great place for a few drinks and a delicious meal. Breakfast is of large portion and don't forget their famous fish and chips. Take heed of the specials which tend to be excellent. They also serve the coldest Presidente in Sosua and have one of the best happy hours in town. Wifi is available.
- El Choco. German food located just outside of town on the main road.
- Josef's Bar and Grill (located behind the Sosua-by-the-Sea Hotel). Th-Sa, 7PM until late. Located amidst perhaps the most impressive setting of any of Sosua's restaurants, this establishment has four tables set on a spit of land with waves crashing literally feet away. The food is prepared creatively with excellent presentation and an interesting mix of flavors. Note that there is a hotel restaurant located adjacent to this one, so be sure to make it clear that you want to eat at Josef's, otherwise the menu and vista will be significantly less impressive. One helpful tip: while the setting is romantic and inspiring, on nights when the sea is rough consider avoiding the last table located closest to the water. US$15-40 per person.
- Morua Mai (right across from P.J.'s). Great for fine dining, one of the top 3 restaurants in Sosua.
- On the Waterfront. An upscale restaurant which has excellent food on a cliff overlooking the bay. The open-air setting is ideal for watching sunsets or romantic evenings. Happy hour is from 5-7PM. US$20-45 per person.
- P.J.'s. Sosua's version of a diner, large menu with adequate food, but nothing to rave about. 24-hour service is available during the high season.
- Pica Pollo. The fried chicken at lunch is not to be missed and is quite affordable. Shouldn't cost more than US$4. Best served with fritos (fried bananas - taste like french fries) or arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans).
- Rocky's. Provides a kind of hostel atmosphere with good food and very affordable prices, if you are unfamiliar with Sosua this is a good place to start. Try the ribs at Rocky's, served beginning at 5PM, and be patient. Enjoy a beer or two and strike up a conversation with a fellow tourist or expatriate while you wait. Rocky's breakfasts are large and satisfying, and every table is appointed with a fresh pot of coffee for you to enjoy. Wifi is available and computers are situated in the restaurant for you to check your email or surf the internet for a very small fee.
- Tick Tack. Most restaurants open at 8AM, but for those looking for food at an earlier hour this German-run internet cafe has good coffee and an affordable plate of scrambled eggs.
- Casanova's. Delightful beachfront restaurant with varied menu, excellent service and free wireless internet access.
- Jolly Roger Bar & Grill, 11 Pedro Clisante. Offers drinks, food, and a lively atmosphere. There is bingo every Tuesday at 2pm, darts on Friday nights, Thieves Market every other Saturday where you can find some great deals, and a guest chef night on Sundays for RD$250. They also have a good happy hour. Wifi is available.
- Bologna Restaurant. the finest Italian restaurant and pizzeria in Sosua
- 1 El Toro Negro, Caseta #107 Sosua Beach, ☎ , e-mail: ElToroNegroSosua@gmail.com. 10AM to 8:30PM. Authentic Mexican food on the Sosua Beach. Excellent drinks and beautiful surroundings. Full . and Open all day and as late as you want. Dine-in, take out and delivery. US$5.
- 2 Big D's BBQ, 109B Sosua Beach, ☎ . Noon-6PM. Best BBQ around, ribs and chicken that fall off the bone; also featuring excellent sides and the always welcoming Big D himself. If not open at his beach stall he's manning the Victoria House Hotel's Bourbon Street Grill at the end of the beach.
Presidente and Bohemia, once virtually the sole choice besides rum drinks, are now being challenged by Brahma, another locally brewed beer (of Brazilian origin), and by Quilmes (an Argentinian beer). Several of the bars now stock European and American beers at a premium price. Brugal, the local rum with its company headquarters on the eastern outskirts of Puerto Plata, will be placed in your rum drinks unless you have the savy to ask for the Barcelo (another local rum which is of far superior quality.) Mixed drinks tend to be rum based and cost more than beer but "when in Rome." Many of the restaurants and bars have a happy hour from 4-7PM which is often 2-1 drinks.
On the beach, there is an endless array of restaurants (along with the souvenir shops stuffed with the same goods) which serve drinks and each small swath of beach has a different person who provides concierge service for a modest fee (US$0.30 per drink). As one leaves the beach there are a number of expatriate bars and restaurants clustered towards the end of Pedro Clisante closest to the beach. The Checkpoint Pub is popular during the day. The Brittania restaurant has an excellent Happy Hour. Beside that is "The Jolly Rogers", owned and operated by a pair of Canadians, Patti and Kelly. They offer weekly trivia and bingo, a happy hour, live music, and sports on TV. Rudy's has a weekly karaoke night. There is a substantial international community who frequents these establishments which lends a cosmopolitan feel to this end of town.
As one heads away from this expatriate area, Pedro Clisante is dominated by discos and bars which are companionship friendly. This end of town rather than being reminiscent of San Sebastian in Spain harkens to the nightlife of Manila. The Club Classico is the fountainhead of Sosua nightlife with the burgeoning Sosua Life just a few blocks away. Sosua is a friendly Town, prices and ambiance vary greatly within the town.
- Casanova's. Excellent food and beautiful setting as a beach front restaurant. Service is excellent, located in Cabarete beach.
- Gaudi Tapas Bar, Pedro Clisante #12. Spanish restaurant serving a wide variety of tapas, drinks and fine food. Located in the Village Square plaza where years ago operated the famous Casablanca bar.
Budget hotels start at around US$25 per night, while the all-inclusive resorts can range in price up to several hundred dollars per night. Most hotels will agree on a discount when you book for a week (10-20%) or a full month (up to 50%), especially in off-season. Since sex-tourism is a major factor in town, hotels are divided between a strict "no working girls"- and a very liberal policy - ask before booking about their "guest policy" so you can make sure you stay in a place that floats your boat.
Most hotels offer free WiFi, though, if you book after arrival, it makes sense to check connectivity and speeds in the offered room because not all have reliable/fast connections.
- Rocky's. Both hotel rooms and condos have A/C, but the condos are the best. They're like a small apartment replete with stove/oven, full size refrigerator, cable TV and WiFi. His hotel has WiFi also. Hotel rooms are US$25 per night and condominiums are US$45 per night..
- 1 Perla de sosua, Detras del Banco Popular, la propiedad # 7 (Behind the popular bank), ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. 8AM to 6PM. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Perla de Sosua consist of studios, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom vacation condos, apartments type hotel rooms. Most with cooking facilities or kitchens, Some with full sized living rooms, balconies and separate dining rooms and all have air conditioned bedrooms, safes, ceiling fans. Linen, and cleaning services provided, pool and community terrace on premises, along with free wireless internet access and free telephone calls to the USA and Canada. Hotel rooms start at US$30 per night and US$180 per week..
- Casa Cayena. Quiet US$60-80, depending on the season.
- Hotel El Colibri, Calle Pedro Clisante 141 El Batey, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel El Colibri is the place to be if you want to enjoy the Dominican lifestyle and if you want to explore the beautiful countryside. El Colibri is well known for the hospitality and personal attention given by its Dutch host/ess and the Dominican staff. One of the few hotels in the town that is still very family friendly. Monique and Steven, the owners, take great care in maintaining the property and ensuring guest comfort. English, Dutch and Spanish are all spoken by staff. US$40-60 depending on the season.
- New Garden (formerly Garden Keti). Among the best of the smaller and more inexpensive hotels. A new wing has recently been added with rooms that include a jacuzzi. For security, there is an armed guard at night. It is walking distance to many bars and nightclubs. US$45-60.
- Tropix Hotel, 7 Camino Llibre, El Batey, ☎ . Check-in: noon, check-out: 1PM. Tropix is super friendly and casual, and a 5-minute walk to the center of town, 10 to the beach, but nicely hidden away in beautiful gardens surrounding a pool. The accommodations are simple, clean and cheerful. It was one of the first hotel/guesthouses in Sosua and has a lot of repeat guests who've been coming for years. Wi-Fi and a great breakfast! US$30-50.
- Casa Marina Beach Resort, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. The biggest all-inclusive in town, located next to Playa Alicia. If you search online you can sometimes find deep-discount packages as cheap as US$500-1,000 for a full week.
- Piergiorgio Palace Hotel, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This large, colonial-style hotel is located on a cliff above the water, and offers a massive and impressive lobby, clean and functional rooms, and plenty of secluded cliffside grottos for romantic moments or quiet contemplation. There is a bar and restaurant onsite with friendly and attentive staff, and while the food isn't bad it is pricier than comparable meals in town. A large breakfast buffet is included in the room rate. US$95-125 for standard rooms, suites from US$250.
- Sosua Bay Resort, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Located next to Playa Sosua, this all-inclusive resort offers two lodging options: the more modern Sosua Bay Hotel, and the more colonial Victorian House.
- Sosua-by-the-Sea. The most inexpensive all-inclusive, with walk-in prices for under $100 per night in the off season.
- Sosua Villa Rentals (Golden Treasures), Batey, Sosua, ☎ , toll-free: . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. The largest selection of villa rentals in Sosua, ranging from luxury to affordable.
Be prepared for the heat. The Dominican Republic is sub-tropical and warm all year. Expect a little sweat on your brow.
Prostitution is common in Sosua, so men should expect to be propositioned by women offering "massages" with extra favors. In general these individuals will not be overly aggressive, so if you keep walking and say "No Gracias" there shouldn't be any problems. In bars, men will have lots of women vying for their attention - keep in mind that they are not smiling at you and grabbing at you because they are suddenly in love with you. AIDS and STDs are a concern, so take precautions. If you engage in sexual activities, make sure to agree on a price upfront.
Crime at night happens and it is best to only take as much cash as you'll need and no credit cards at all. If you get robbed, do under no circumstances resist - weapons are ubiquitous and a life is taken easily (especially when murder charges can be dropped for a substantial bribe).
Do not leave valuables in plain sight in your car.
For transport during the night it is best to have a taxi- or motoconcho-driver's number and to use the same guy every night.
The nearest towns are Puerto Plata to the west and Cabarete to the east. Further eastward it is possible to see Dominican Republic without the expatriate crowd. As you leave the civilization of Puerto Plata, Sosua and Cabarete, European-style restaurants and supermarkets become rare as to other first world conveniences such as the internet cafes which abound on every third corner in Sosua.
If you are looking for a less trammeled vacation experience, drive out to Samana (4 hours) or consider staying in Las Canas, which is 35 minutes to the east but feels like it is a million miles from civilization. Private villa rentals are available with a beach that you can walk on for hours without seeing anybody.
Read section "Get around" above for ways of finding US$10 fare to Puerto Plata airport.
- Cabarete - 10 minutes to the east, this town offers a massive number of resorts and some of the best kitesurfing and windsurfing in the Caribbean.
- Puerto Plata - 15 minutes to the west, this town is the area's largest.
- Santa Barbara de Samana - about 3 hours to the east, famous for whale-watching but in itself a worthwhile destination