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May/June 2005 | Sos�a, Dominican Republic

May/June 2005 | Sos�a, Dominican Republic

Venture off the beaten path in this lush, laid-back paradise

Lesbian hoteliers Sylvie and Cory operate a charming small hotel in a breezy seaside tourist town brimming with funky shops, home-grown cafés, and tireless nightlife. Their guests range from gay and lesbian tourists seeking gay-friendly accommodations, to straight couples and families looking for a moderately-priced beach vacation.

But don't look for their establishment in Key West or Provincetown, because Sylvie and Cory have hung their shingle on the north coast of the Spanish-speaking, Caribbean nation of the Dominican Republic, in the small coastal village of Sosúa. While not exactly on the list as a "gay destination," queer travelers can expect a friendly easygoing welcome in Sosúa. In a place where European and American tourist dollars are the local bread and butter, neither topless sunbathers nor same-sex couples raise an eyebrow.

If Key West and Provincetown are on your been-there-done-that list, consider striking out to this off-the-beaten-track frontier, an easy direct flight to Puerto Plata from New York or Miami. The Dominican Republic lies just to the west of Puerto Rico, sharing its tropical island address with Haiti--though most of the similarities end there. The Dominican Republic is considerably more stable and prosperous than its neighbor nation, it's culture a rich blend of Hispanic and African influences.

While some stretches of the Dominican Republic's coastline have been bought up by developers and turned into cookie-cutter Caribbean-style resort areas, complete with casinos and all-inclusive vacation packages (Puerta Plata and Punta Cana, to name two), Sosúa retains a more authentic--even funky--personality. Particularly well-suited to gay and lesbian couples and families (looking for an affordable Caribbean honeymoon, anyone?), Sosúa and the surrounding area offer a sun-soaked live-and-let-live atmosphere in which you and your sweetie can create your own custom tropical romantic adventure to remember.

For the sun-seeking traveler with a preference for the shined, refined, and homogenized, Sosúa might be a little rough around the edges for your tastes. Step off the main tourist drag or outside the gates of your hotel complex in this seaside village and you'll find yourself in the middle of the dusty disarray of a bustling third-world locale. But don't let wandering chickens,mufflerless motorbikes, and overstuffed taxi-vans get you flustered.

Sos?a's main beach. Rent a chair or bring your own, and spend the day.

Sosúa's main beach is a lively place, lined with vending stalls offering touristy trinkets and plenty of places to sip rum and coconut juice straight out of a freshly hollowed out pineapple while seated surfside under a palm tree. Swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving can all be easily accessed here. But don't look for upscale shops or precious cafes because this sandy stretch has a decidedly untamed local flavor, outgoing native Dominicans eagerly offering you a better price than the next guy on anything from hair braiding to the use of a surfside lounge chair for the afternoon. A walk down Sosúa Beach is a chance to get sand between your toes while enjoying an entertaining cross-cultural experience.

For intimate gay-friendly accommodations, try Sylvie and Cory's place, The Tropix, a cozy peaceful oasis just a short walk from the town center and the beach. This lesbian-owned hotel features breezy rooms painted in fresh Caribbean colors, situated around lush shady gardens and a small pool. A communal kitchen and an honor-system self-serve bar contribute to the Tropix's homelike atmosphere, making it a place where it's easy to feel that when you're there, you're family. A light tropical breakfast is served by the pool each morning, and a traditional home-cooked Dominican lunch is available for a small charge. Sylvie and Cory are happy to help you plan side trips, nights on the town, or other activities. And if you're a horse-lover, Cory may even take you out on a trail ride in the countryside, or a romp down the beach.

If spaciousness and solitude are more what you're after, the Hotel Paraiso de Colon offers clean basic amenities surrounding an impressively-sized sparkling swimming pool, centered on a generously landscaped gated property. Both establishments offer high speed Internet, personable laid-back service, and exceptionally reasonable rates. Hot Dock's, a thatched-roof open-air bar at the entrance to Paraiso de Colon, is rumored to attract a gay clientele at cocktail hour.

La Puntilla de Pier Giorgio Restaurant. Cliff-hanging upscale Italian dining.

In the center of the village, The White Horse (Calle Duarte Esq. Alejo Martinez; 809-571-3530) serves up a serious cappuccino, along with Internet access and prime sidewalk seating perfect for hours of people-watching. The Atlantico Restaurant (Los Charamicos; 809-571-2878), on the Charamicos side of town, features open-air seaside tables, ideal for an unforgettable romantic dinner. If savoring haute cuisine while perched on the precipice of a plummeting seaside cliff is your idea of a good time, consider booking a table at the dramatic La Puntilla de Pier Giorgio (Calle La Puntilla 1; 809-571-2215). This upscale Italian restaurant features a truly stunning setting, with private tables occupying individual stone balconies built atop steep natural stone cliffs dropping several stories to the pounding surf below. Commit the faux-pas of letting your cell phone or room key slip out of your pocket and drop to the floor while seated here and it may just be doomed to sleep with the fishes for eternity.

While most island nations may be known for their seafood and vegetable-based cuisines, top on the list of this seaside village's culinary specialties is--of all things--filet mignon. In 1938, hundreds of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany resettled in this Caribbean village, and initiated a dairy and meat industry that thrives to this day. The village of Sos?a continues to supply most of the beef and dairy products consumed in the Dominican Republic. A generous butter-tender filet grilled to perfection which could easily run upwards of $25 in the U.S. can be enjoyed here for a modest $10 to $15. Many of the main drag's open-air caf?s sport a German or British ex-pat flavor, their sidewalk sandwich boards advertising such daily specials as weinerschnitzel, and steak-and-kidney pie.

Not into red meat? If a Fish Orgy is more your cup of tea, flag a taxi to Vento in nearby Cabarete, where the signature menu item of the same name goes down in many seafood-lover's books as the sexiest meal of fresh fish they've ever feasted on. Cabarete features a rich array of restaurant options, from pizza to paella, all sharing breathtaking frontage along a windy stretch of palm-lined beach which happens to also be one of the world's premier windsurfing and kite flying locations. If Sosúa is a village where local culture and tourist culture co-exist, then Cabarete is it's big cousin, having given over every inch of its downtown area to shops, cafes, and adventure sports activites. While there are no explicitly gay or lesbian clubs in either town, Onno's (Cabarete Beach; 809-571-0461), and The Bambu Club (Cabarete Beach, 809-982-4549), are said to offer some measure of gay nightlife.

As with any developing nation, the most active gay scene is usually to be found in the larger cities. Santo Domingo, though a several-hour drive from Sosúa, offers the most established gay cultural offerings. On the right night, a visit to Llego (Jose Reyes N. 10, Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo; 809-689-8250) or the Atlantis Disco (Ave. George Washington 555, Malecón, Santo Domingo; 809-685-2011) may just land you at a drag or male strip show. Plan your Sosúa getaway for late February/early March. It may be worth taking a side trip for a few days to experience Santo Domingo's festive Carnival extravaganza, where the city lights up with elaborate parades, flashy floats, and plenty of live merengue music to get everyone up and dancing in the streets.

While Sosúa probably won't appear on any list of gay/lesbian meccas anytime soon, this funky seaside village supports a rich mix of cultures living peacefully side-by-side. A stay at the intimate lesbian-owned retreat The Tropix gives the gay or lesbian traveler a comfortable and welcoming place to let his/her hair down. "Where's the gay community in Sosúa?" Sylvie chuckled as she unhurriedly skimmed stray leaves and flower petals from her pool sparkling under tall palm trees and lush greenery. "You're looking at it."

The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. We suggest that you confirm all details directly with the establishments mentioned before making travel plans. Please feel free to e-mail us at if you have any new information.
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