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A CARIBBEAN TREASURE QUEST - GEMS OF THE SILVER COAST
 
(2011 - Fall/Winter Issue)

Writer: MARK STEVENS



In a little shop on a side street in the town of Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic (D.R.) the proprietor holds a gracefully-molded bracelet to the light and grins at us. 

The light catches its highlights, a translucent oval the colour of honey. The jeweller shoots a machine-gun patter of Spanish at his assistant who picks up a necklace made from silver, featuring a blue-green gem that looks like the colour of the ocean itself.

“This,” he says in heavily-accented English, holding up the first piece, “is amber.” He reaches for the other piece. “And this is larimar.”

When Christopher Columbus got here around 1492, whether due to the shimmering sheen of the water’s surface, the glitter of the sun that made the trees decorating the mountains here seem like so many silver coins, or because he knew prophetically this region would one day offer untold riches for the Caribbean visitor, he called this the Silver Coast.

A SilverPort

Welcome to the crown jewel of that coast: Puerto Plata—the Silver Port.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. A harbour named silver and a treasure of beaches headlined by Playa Dorada—Golden Beach—would be a veritable vault of gems no matter what their names.

While Canadian visitors flock to Punta Cana, a prime destination for freezing northerners whose ideas of buried treasure tend to basting on a beach and quaffing El Presidente beers or drinks infused with Brugal rum, visitors to the Silver Coast will find a king’s ransom and have a great time in the bargain.

Board a sailboat for a mariner’s-eye view of brown-sugar beaches shaded by towering palms with emerald and jade mountains rising up to the south as a background. Don a snorkel mask and fins and explore the underwater treasures you’ll find here.

Stroll the streets of Puerto Plata itself: sample a mamajuana, a local libation of rum and herbs that is said to get the libido flowing. Browse the jewellery shops or either of the two craft markets. March into a colonial Spanish fort and get a conquistador’s-eye view of the harbour itself, along with a healthy dose of local history. Then relax in the square along with locals before you meditate in the Church of San Felipe—another precious gem.

Beyond Puerto Plata

Go further afield and ride the chairlift to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres with its 792-metre peak and statue of Jesus Christ.

Head east to a bustling beach village called Cabarete, where even now they’re setting up a stage right on the beach for the annual jazz festival, where windsurfers and kite boarders skim the waves off a perfect arcing beach and spectators watch from bistros shaded by multicoloured umbrellas and royal palms.

Or go back to nature. Take a rainforest hike and discover the pool at the base of a waterfall. Go horseback riding or bounce around on an ATV. Or go airborne in an emerald cathedral where you defy gravity on a zip line.

For these are the gems of the Silver Coast. For if anywhere in the D.R. could be said to be the “It Place”—a must-do Caribbean treasure quest—it would have to be this coast.

The Place to Be

So it’s no coincidence that that’s the name Nolitours has given to a brand-new initiative that lets you experience a treasure trove of beaches, but also lets you go beyond the sun and sand.

The town is silver and the nearby beach is golden. But come this winter as part of Nolitours’ “It Zone” and your experience will be nothing less than diamond-studded.

Six area properties will be participating in this All-Inclusive offering beginning in November. Sure you’ll be able to stay at your favourite beachfront hotel and dine to your heart’s content while washing it down with your favourite vintage. But with the
“It Zone”—the place to be this winter—you’ll get so much more.

It’s a treasure trove of additions, excursions and add-ons, all for the same one-stop price.

Participating area hotels—Allegro Puerto Plata, Grand Paradise Playa Dorada, Barcelo Puerto Plata, Casa Marina Reef Resort Cameleon Select, Celuisma Playa Dorada and the Grand Ambar by Lifestyle Cameleon Gold (opening December 1)—will boast special features such as daily Happy Hours in a specially-designated area and staff-led activities. If you want to get out and about, they offer excursions ranging from jungle treks on ATVs to zip line tours. Or head over to Cabarete to one of the D.R.’s best beaches for all kinds of water sports.

But the fun doesn’t end when the sun goes down. They’ll have bands and DJs, dance lessons and special weekly barbecues. And once a week, on a private beach, guests will be transferred to the White Party event hosted by the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, which will include snacks, cocktails, live music and even fireworks.

Pub-crawls are part of the agenda—both in Puerto Plata itself and in Cabarete, where the bars and nightlife are as ubiquitous as the wave-jumping windsurfers.

Or treat yourself to a round of golf, for the package will include discounts on both golf and spa packages.

In short, the gems of the Silver Coast are many. So much so, in fact, you can even try to expand your own treasure chest because guests also receive $50 match-and-play casino credits.

When you book your D.R. adventure with Nolitours, you’ve made landfall on the Silver Coast.

But you’ve also uncovered a king’s ransom of gems.

 
 
 
 
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