Ethical travel in the Dominican Republic–both socially and environmentally–is much easier than you might realize. Where to begin? Venture beyond the tourist zones and sign up for an excursion with one of the rural cooperatives that have mushroomed around the country. These inspiring entrepreneurial groups offer visitors experiences unique to their respective villages and towns—from cacao plantation visits to off-the-beaten path hikes. The income generated helps fund jobs and is reinvested into the cooperative.
This evolving, exciting concept of community tourism is a win-win for travelers looking to experience the real Dominican Republic and locals working to secure a sustainable future. Find more information online at dominicantreasures.com.
Take a community tour through the Community Tourism Network of Puerto Plata (Red de Turismo Comunitario, tel. 809/696-6932). They offer seven experiences unique to the province’s various towns:
- Dominican baseball: Visit Bartolo Colón’s home town and the stadium he built for his community.
- Cacao: Learn all about the production of organic cacao in the DR. Plant a pod, sample some chocolate, and get a chocolate mud treatment!
- Merengue: Spend the day immersed in all things merengue in a village that has produced generations of traditional merengue musicians.
- Columbus’ first home: Enjoy clifftop views and tour the ruins of Christopher Columbus’ home.
- Manatees: Hike two trails, paddleboard among the mangroves, visit a secluded beach, and witness dozens of manatees from a lookout tower at the Estero Hondo Marine Mammal Sanctuary.
- Amber: Tour the only place in the world where blue amber is found and where amber is actually mined.
- Coffee: Learn about the production of organic coffee in the DR from bean to cup.
Stay in green lodging near the Rio Yaque del Norte at the Sonido del Yaque (Sonido del Yaque, tel. 829/727-7413, firstname.lastname@example.org), run by the Club de Mujeres Nueva Esperanza, a cooperative of 30 women. They offer 10 rustic cabins tucked into the lush countryside, which are off the grid, using renewable energy and water sources. They also have a riverfront restaurant that provides organic, locally-sourced meals and they also provide local excursions.
Arrange a homestay with local cooperative COOPDECI (Cooperativa para el Desarollo de La Ciénaga, tel. 829/560-3560), based in La Ciénaga. You’ll get your own room and bathroom in the house of a cooperative member, and a unique perspective on the DR.
The cooperative also manages a tour operating arm, Guanaventuras. Tours are with a licensed local guide, who can take you on a range of excursions, including snorkeling in La Ciénaga, hiking to the Cueva de la Virgen on an exclusive trail, and visiting the larimar mines.
You can learn to make artisan marmalade with the women, or grab lunch at their local restaurant, Delicias Mi Siembra.
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Dominican Republic.