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Outdoors

Dominican Republic adventures

What's the most popular activity at the Dominican Republic's luxurious Sun Village? Doing absolutely nothing. Nestled along the Dominican Republic's north coast on Cofresi beach, the resort is about 45 minutes from the Puerto Plata airport and makes a great first impression. Its stunning open-air lobby is a soaring space, with its own bar and a view of the first of seven swimming pools fronting the Atlantic Ocean.

This place is built for sloth. Whether a standard room or a luxurious private villa, all accommodations feature large balconies where you can while away the day, exerting yourself only to lift a glass or inhale the exotic aromas of the well-manicured grounds'tropical vegetation. There are four restaurants on the property: Malibu Café, a large buffet hall; Lemon Grass featuring Thai food; Sonora Café specializing in Mexican cuisine; and Citrus, which serves up California-inspired food. A beachside grill offers burgers and hot dogs, while the comfortable Aqua Lounge makes a mean pina colada. If you can rouse yourself for revelry, you can always work off your indulgence at the disco. Or, better still, book anything from a deep tissue massage to aromatherapy treatments and pedicures at the full-service spa.


Sun Village

Sun Village Beach Resort: Cofresi Beach, 1-888-446-4695

Sure, the pace at Sun Village is decidedly laidback, but for those so inclined, there are tennis and basketball courts, foosball and pool tables. And as tempting as a purely slothful vacation may be, it's worth checking out some of the more adventurous activities available on this remarkable island. The Dominican Republic dominates two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Caribbean, and boasts one of the most progressive environmental conservation programs in the world. (The country is party to numerous international environmental agreements addressing such issues as biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species and marine life conservation). And, as it turns out, there are plenty of thrilling ways to enjoy the Dominican Republic's large, lush landscape.

Canyoning

Among the numerous off-resort options for adventure seekers is the Dominicana Jones Jeep Safari. The daylong excursion covers a lot of ground and offers a wide range of experiences. As the truck climbs higher into the mountains, it makes a few stops along the way, beginning with a visit to a rural Dominican family that treats guests to a cup of freshly ground coffee. In typical Dominican style, sugar is added to the beans before roasting, resulting in a sweet, dark brew. Further into the hills, an art bazaar sells intricate carvings made out of richly stratified pieces of petrified stone.

The highlight of the excursion, however, is yet to come. The truck continues its ascent into the mountains toward the Damajagua waterfalls. A half-hour walk takes us through thick subtropical jungle along a well-worn trail with signs denoting the various trees: avocado, Hispaniolan mahogany, West Indian cedar, American muskwood. Eventually, we reach the first of what is a series of 28 waterfalls. We are going canyoning. This involves much wading, a bit of light swimming and a lot of climbing. The effort is rewarded on the descent as we alternate between sliding down smooth, curvaceous rapids and leaping from towering precipices.

Dominicana Jones Jeep Safari: Plaza Sirtaj, Local #4, Calle Principal #5, Costambar, Puerto Plata, 809-970-7151

White water rafting


Rancho Baiguate

The next day's excursion will take us to the adventure centre known as Rancho Baiguate. Recently awarded the Green Button Award for ecological enterprises by the Dominican Republic's ministry of tourism, the ranch offers a number of adventure programs – from trekking and mountain biking to five-day excursions to the top of Pico Duarte, the tallest mountain in the Caribbean.

One of the most popular activities is whitewater rafting. The Yaque del Norte River is the largest in the Caribbean and provides enough heart-stopping thrills to get even the most jaded adventure seeker's adrenalin rushing. The trip takes about two hours and alternates between leisurely drifts and terrifying plunges down roiling cataracts. The price includes lunch and safety gear as well as a brief lesson from the experienced guides who ensure that everyone emerges unscathed.

Rancho Baiguate: Jarabacoa, 809-574-4940

Ocean World

Sun Village is located next to the $42-million Ocean World adventure park. Here guests can interact with sharks, rays and sea lions and swim amid countless tropical fish in the giant reef aquarium. You can feed toucans, macaws and cockatoos in the tropical bird aviary or admire the pair of Bengal tigers in their lush enclosure. A highlight of any visit is the opportunity to swim with a pair of bottlenose dolphin. But be sure to book your spot at least three months in advance; it's an understandably popular attraction.

Ocean World: 809-291-1000

(Sean Wilson is an incurable romantic who always flirts with flight attendants.)

Getting There

Starting December 17, we will offer three weekly non-stop flights between Toronto and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with convenient connections to/from all Canadian gateways. Book now. Don’t forget your sunny adventure isn’t complete without our great deals on your car rental and hotel stay in Santo Domingo, as well as surrounding areas!

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Main Photo: PHOTODISC / GETTY IMAGES

November 2005