Life on Route 25

Dominican Republic medical mission trips

Project Helping Hands director of operations Ken Weaver cradles a baby while on a medical mission trip in the Dominican Republic, where in July almost 1000 needy inhabitants were served in rural villages and bateyes

Medical mission trips to the Dominican Republic provide health care providers with a way to give back by reaching out into small rural communities where medical care is often non-existent.

More than a third of the country’s total population lives in poverty, and almost 20 per cent are living in extreme poverty. In rural areas poor people constitute half of the population. The poorest of the poor include Dominicans of Haitian origin living in the border areas. They are particularly vulnerable, and they suffer not only from low incomes and poor living conditions but also from social exclusion. In all groups, women who are heads of households and children are extremely vulnerable. Because they are without proper documentation such as birth certificates and identity papers, about 20 per cent of the poorest Dominican families do not benefit from most types of social assistance programs.

The country suffers from marked income inequality; the poorest half of the population receives less than one-fifth of GDP, while the richest 10% enjoys nearly 40% of GDP. High unemployment and underemployment remains an important long-term challenge.

The persistence of rural poverty is the result of several factors, including government priority given to developing the tourism, industry and services sectors during the last decade. Agricultural productivity is low. The country’s poor farmers have little land and their production is too low to enable them to maintain their families. A large number of small-scale subsistence farmers and their families have to seek off-farm employment or another income-generating activity to supplement household incomes.

Join Project Helping Hands during medical mission trips to Dominican Republic each June and November. Write to us to find out more

Daytime adventures in the northern mountain range

Undoubtedly the richest way to experience the Dominican Republic is on foot and close to nature. Situated just 20 minutes from Puerto Plata, Tubagua Plantation Eco Village is an ideal starting point, offering a comfortable setting, meals and comfort facilities for day visitors. A variety of trailheads lead out into the mountains directly from the lodge. None of these trails have been blazed for tourism, rather these are the paths used every day by locals to travel between their farms and villages.


God's Swimming Pool

Ancient Pathways


This section is under construction. For more information on any of these activities please use the contact form on the right of this page…. thanks!



What to bring

Comfortable walking shoes, sneakers or hiking boots. Water shoes or waterproof shoes where river trekking may be involved. No loose sandals! Extra socks, backpack, camera, towel, insect repellent, empty water bottle.

Another nice picture

Ancient Pathways


  • 4 hours on natural trails and country roads with moderate uphill climbing
  • Highly informative guide
  • Lunch en route
  • Swim at God’s Pool

Winding through the hills are the footpaths, country roads and mountain trails that locals have been using all the back to the time of the indigenous Taino Indians. Along this route you’ll pass learn about the local fruits and flowers as you walk through cane fields, lush forest and remote villages where you can meet the people who live there (our guide’s friends and acquaintances). Along the way we’ll stop for a refreshing swim at God’s Pool.

Departure from Tubagua Base Camp (Eco Lodge) at 9:30 a.m.  Snacks and bottled water on the trail. Returns 1:30 p.m. for snacks and some time to swim, relax and enjoy the spectacular views at the base camp.

Book this trek using the reservation form on this page.

This section is under construction. For more information on any of these activities please use the contact form on the right of this page…. thanks!


God’s Swimming Pool


  • Swim in a series of 6 spring-fed natural pools
  • Nobody else around
  • Highly informative guide
  • 2 1/2 hours on natural trails with moderate uphill climbing

Today you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled on the Garden of Eden. After an hour or so of strolling along farm trails and through breathtaking, expansive views, we descend into a small gorge to a crystal clear canopied river. You can follow the trail that follows the river or rock-hop up the middle to where suddenly you come to a beautiful pond fed by a rushing cascade. A little more climbing takes you up to two natural diving and rock-jumping pools, several natural jacuzzis and a couple of lover’s caves.

Departure from Tubagua Base Camp (Eco Lodge) at 9:30 a.m.  Snacks and bottled water served on the trail. Returns 1:30 p.m. for a hearty lunch and time to relax and enjoy the plantation pool, gardens and pathways.

Book this trek using the reservation form on this page. 

This section is under construction. For more information on any of these activities please use the contact form on the right of this page…. thanks!

More Photos












Birds, Bees, Flowers, Trees


This section is under construction. For more information on any of these activities please use the contact form on the right of this page…. thanks!

Caribbean bird watching in Dominican Republic

Caribbean bird species in the Dominican Republic





For Caribbean bird watchers the Dominican Republic is a fertile destination. You will find that most articles refer to the unpopulated southwest regions to go birding, where access is difficult and services are scarce. However, Caribbean bird enthusiasts are discovering a prime region in northern Dominican Republic where birding conveniently combines with other vacation activities.  This report was prepared by a guest at Tubagua Plantation Eco Village, Vincent Rey. You can correspond with him directly at:  stagnatile at

Staying at Tubagua Plantation Village is a great way to view some of the Hispaniolan (HE) and Carribean bird endemics (CE). The nature around the lodge is stunning and you will enjoy fantastic scenery.

A walk around the property will provide some good views of Antillean palm-swift (CE), black-whiskered vireo, mangrove cuckoo, lizard-cuckoo (HE), plain pigeon (CE) and Greater Antillean mango (CE).

Hiking the trails around the lodge in the morning will yield great views of other birds. The trails start right at the lodge and go uphill and downhill in both forested and more open areas. You can go on your own but it is better with a local guide who knows the trails well. You will observe white-winged doves, zenaida doves, plain pigeons, and also white-crowned pigeon. If you are lucky enough, you will spot a ruddy quail-dove. you are also likely to see the white neck crow (HE).

During your hike you can also see the Hispaniolan oriole (HE) and get good views of yellow-faced grassquits and of vervain hummingbirds (HE), the world’s second-smallest bird (after the Cuban bee hummingbird). Some other great birds include black-crowned palm-tanager (HE) and the much sought broad-billed tody (HE) which is always a pleasant sight.

Make sure to stop at the bridge in Camu, some 2 miles north of the lodge, to observe the colony of cave swallows that nest under the bridge.

Palmchats (HE) and Hispaniolan woodpecker (HE) are common around Tubagua, and you can also see easily red-legged thrush (CE), Greater Antillean grackle (CE), and other, more common birds such as smooth-billed anis, limpkin (carrau), shiny cowbirds, northern mockingbird, grey kingbird, cattle egret, common ground dove, bananaquit, turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk and green heron.

The northern mountain range also hosts its share of transient birds from North America, especially warblers (including American redstart, cape-may warbler, black-throated blue warbler, black-and-white warbler, …)

For the scaly-naped pigeon (CE), which lives at higher elevations, you will want to go to the park Loma Isabel de Torres, some 20 minutes drive from the lodge.

Tubagua is a great introduction to birding in Hispaniola, especially if you do not have time or the logistics to go birding in the Sierra de Bahoruco. Our English-speaking guide is quite knowledgeable about the birds in the area, leading birders on easy hikes of four to six hours through surrounding mountains and forests.


See a gallery of endemic Hispaniola birds

Click on image for a gallery of endemic Hispaniola birds


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