Centennial College at Tubagua Ecolodge

Student travel leader rates Tubagua Eco Lodge safety, services

What makes Tubagua a great place for students? We asked the country director for International Student Volunteers in Dominican Republic 2011-2013 to tell us why Tubagua scored on top of the lodging list for ISV students and this is what he wrote:

Tubagua Ecolodge awarded GreenLeader Gold status by Trip Advisor

Tubagua Ecolodge today announced it has been accepted as a Gold-level GreenLeader  into the TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program, which helps travelers around the world plan greener trips by highlighting hotels and B&Bs engaging in environmentally-friendly practices.

Dominican Republic service learning and experiential education

Dominican Republic service learning opportunity: helping Dominican youth create their own future in ecotourism

Our opportunity-focused service learning experiences puts high school and university students shoulder-to-shoulder with peers, youth who are working in their mountain village to create a sustainable tourism destination, working just with what they have. While sleeping in tiki huts and embarking on numerous adventures in this breathtaking mountain region, students will help local youth become professional tour guides and while doing so gain insight into recognizing opportunities in their own lives.

Contact us below and let’s discuss how we can design a custom itinerary specifically for your students

Caribbean Green study/volunteer student program

A once in a lifetime student travel opportunity

Be part of the change as one of the Caribbean’s most popular beach destinations goes green

PUERTO PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC— After a 30-year boom-to-bust cycle one of the Caribbean’s most famous tourist destinations is undergoing a major transformation as millions of dollars of international development funding are being invested to:

  • develop and re-brand Puerto Plata as a unique travel experience, not simply a commercial, fun’n’sun beach holiday
  • create sustainable tourism opportunities out of some 500 natural and cultural attractions that exist in the region
  • engrain/ensure sustainable and eco-sensitive best practices
  • stimulate tourism into rural villages to help those poor communities
As a teacher, you will have full planning and logistical support

All of our programs are custom-designed to your needs and expected outcomes. The first thing we do is find out as much as you can tell us about the course you are teaching, and what you would like to accomplish as outcomes of the trip, both experiential and educational. We then propose an itinerary that suits the course you are teaching. We provide a budget, pre-trip planning support, and then, throughout your visit, we look after all the details so that you can concentrate on tying the field experiences into your teaching program.

The Dominican Republic is the ideal destination for student travel. While being a developing country, where all aspects of organization and society provide impactful contrasts to what students live at home. Meanwhile, its tourism industry has advanced to where services and security are optimal. Five international airports provide access for the short flight times from the eastern seaboard. And Dominican people, famous for their congeniality, are fantastic hosts and worthy partners for service projects. Drop us a line via the Contact Form on this page, and let’s start the conversation!

As a student, you can be part of this exciting regional project:

  • visit and study the traditional tourism models (resorts, attractions, excursions) and learn the history of a tourist destination, how and why things went from boom to bust
  • visit NGO’s and rural villages, see how local people are working on projects to create their own opportunity, and how international cooperation is helping them
  • study the processes, methodologies, and challenges of community and economic development and how they fit together
  • volunteer and learn Spanish as you immerse and work shoulder to shoulder with young Dominicans in their village to help blaze a trail, build a lookout or create a campsite
  • meet and talk with tourism business owners, community development experts and tourism authorities
  • study the impact of the Dominican Republic’s social programs and policies regarding education, health, and human development
  • submit a team report prepared to local authorities outlining your observations and suggestions

But – it’s not all work!

Along the way, you’ll be “testing” beaches and boat trips, “inspecting” trails and hidden waterfalls, “surveying” tony beach resorts and remote mountain hamlets, “researching” tropical Dominican dishes and “studying” how locals dance bachata.

And you’ll be doing it all, not like just any tourist but as a behind-the-scenes participant, like a journalist with a press pass, as you are received and hosted by dozens of key stakeholders who are working real-time in the re-launching of this major Caribbean destination.

Visit, learn, write your own story…

This program is appropriate for college and university students studying:

  • Tourism
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology
  • Social Sciences
  • Social Enterprise
  • Economics
  • International Studies
  • Community Development
  • Journalism
  • Education
  • Environmental Studies
  • Marketing

All of these disciplines come into play in a once-in-a-lifetime project that is having a historical impact on the most important economic activity (tourism) of the entire province of Puerto Plata. One of the greatest insights will be seeing how all of these disciplines interact, and in discovering that the “answers” aren’t always easy. Your assignment will be to plan with your professor, do the research, and write the story as it applies to your area of study.

Typical 2-week program (14 nights, 15 days):

  • School Groups: Itineraries are customized for school groups of 10+, for 1 or 2 weeks
  • 2 travel days (first and last)
  • 4 days / visit, study the traditional tourism model; resorts, locations, attractions
  • 4 days / visit, study sustainable, eco-tourism and community development tourism model
  • 4 days / work on a community service project / help build a campsite, blaze a trail, etc
  • 1 day / de-briefing workshop followed by a community social event

The program can include several Spanish language workshops, relevant documentaries, Q&A with local experts

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

Eco-friendly: how we try to make a difference

Ecolodge Tubagua is helping to bring travelers into the real Dominican Republic, channeling tourism dollars directly to the people and their communities while stimulating jobs and opportunity in rural areas and enabling the kind of interchanges and cultural exchanges between people which can be even more enriching and educational for the visitors as they are for the local people. See The Tourist Highway Project

Tubagua Ecolodge wins the Atabey national environmental award

SANTO DOMINGO, June 30, 2016–Tubagua Ecolodge was one of this year’s seven winners of the Eigth Annual Atabey Awards, a nationally televised program dedicated to raising environmental consciousness in the Dominican Republic. Tubagua received the award for sustainable tourism. Other award categories include community, conservation, training, alternative energy and corporate initiative and personal initiative.
The Atabey Innovation Center is an NGO dedicated to sustainable development through environmental preservation throughout the Dominican Republic and to promoting a national culture of environmental

Tubagua Ecolodge Sustainable Practices

• Our lodge installation takes up less than 10% of the plantation property, allowing for the natural existence indigenous plants and wildlife.
• We have eliminated animal herds and only grow plants and trees.
• Bath and kitchen water is used for irrigation. Toilets flow into a sceptic tank with a deep rock-filled seepage cavity. Guests are expected to cooperate with water and energy conservation.
• Our electrical draw for 36 guests is <5Kw, less than a typical American home.
• We recycle all food residue as fertilizer or animal feed.
• We have recycled thousands of used rubber tires into retention walls and stairs, permanently put to good use by burying, not burning. This type of retention wall is also very drainage friendly, allowing the free flow of ground water and not causing destructive erosion.

• Tubagua supports Community Tourism. We helped to create a community non-profit organization that now receives income from several visitor experiences, including a coffee tour where visitors plant thousands of coffee seedlings each year that get donated to local family growers.
• Tubagua regularly hosts volunteer and service groups who help in the community with medical clinics, school improvements and other projects
• We share our well water with neighbors; a resource they did not have before.
• We have created collaborative garden patches that provide local familities 50 per cent of the crops.
• We purchase as much locally grown produce as possible.
• Our staff is 90% from local communities.
• We use manual labor instead of machines whenever possible.
• Our structures are almost all handmade using for the most part renewable wood and roofing materials purchased from wood farms.

The Tourist Highway Project

The Tourist Highway Project is driving sustainable development and ecotourism along a 30-kilometer panoramic highway that links the popular beaches of the north coast with the scenic mountains and fertile valleys of the Dominican Republic’s interior.

This multi-faceted effort coincides with a regional competitiveness campaign supported by USAID, to re-start Puerto Plata’s economy —virtually exclusively based on tourism— after an alarming ten-year decline, and to re-brand the destination Puerto Plata in keeping with growing traveler demands for cultural and natural tourism attractions other than just sun and sand.

Along this country highway—at once a beautiful scenic mountain drive and an important link between the cities of Santiago and Puerto Plata—travelers can visit amber mines, an organic coffee-growing region and sugarcane plantations; purchase handicrafts and naturally grown produce, pasture-fed meats and dairy products from local farmers at their roadside stands, participate in community festivals; enjoy mountain hiking, cycling trails, river and waterfall trekking, cave exploring, horseback riding and zipline adventures.

The strategic location of this activity-rich scenic highway, at one end beginning just a few miles from Puerto Plata’s beach resorts— the other leading into the country’s second-largest city, Santiago, makes this a highly viable addition to the Dominican Republic’s tourism and travel menu.

Historically the only route linking Santiago and Puerto Plata cities, a new, faster highway was built in the 1970’s. This hilly, secondary road was forgotten until the mid-1990’s when it was rebuilt and branded “La Carretera Turística” by presidential decree and given protected status by the Ministry of Environment. With the opening of Santiago International Airport in the early 2000’s, it was again neglected and fell into disrepair.

In 2009, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) convened with the DR government to conduct a four-year industrial development project to develop rural tourism through private-public participation in Puerto Plata province (TURISOPP). During analysis, La Carretera Turistica was fingered as one of the key regional attractions in the nbsp;province. In 2011, a community-based organization was formed under TURISOPP’s guidance to function as a legally mandated interface between private and public stakeholders.

NGO participants, which are variably involved in initiatives addressing the issues of education, environment, health, governability and social enterprise, are united by the goal to stimulate local economy through helping highway communities develop and promote the many ecotourism features that lie along this route.

Projects –

  • Highway repair and preservation
  • The Eco Tourist Highway – self-guided route, signage and publication
  • Handicraft training and co-op stores
  • Highway photo stops
  • Regional zipline co-op
  • Caribbean Center for Ecotourism – training eco-guides and teachers
  • Sonador and other community aqueducts
  • Organic produce co-ops
  • School makeovers – improving the physical condition of rural schools
  • Coffee Reforestation in Pedro Garcia
  • Moringa Reforestation and education
  • Village beautification – preparing for tourism in rural villages / orientation and example-setting for community members
  • Educational support through day camps and after school programs
  • Eco-trail building
  • Fortification of community based organizations and private<>public sector participation

Participants & Stakeholders


  • Yasica City Council
  • Pedro Garcia City Council
  • Montellano City Council
  • Puerto Plata

Local GO’s & NGO’s

  • The Puerto Plata Tourism Cluster
  • Tubagua Residents Association
  • UMPC-MYP (Cultural Heritage Committee for Montellano, Yasica & Pedro Garcia)
  • INFOTEP (Professional Formation, Adult Education)
  • Ministry of Environment
  • Ministry of Tourism
  • Forestry Ministry
  • Ministry of Education

International GO’s & NGO’s

  • Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
  • United States Peace Corps

Local Enterprise

  • Tubagua Plantation Eco Village
  • Yasika Zipline Adventures
  • Jasmine Spa
  • Aramis Yogurt

Voluntourism & Student Group Planners

  • Power Trips Inc.
  • International Student Volunteers
  • Por Amor

Universities & Education

  • Miami U (Ohio)
  • Centennial College (Toronto)
  • University of Maine








Tubagua embraces National Geographic’s geotourism charter

In addition to adhering to the values of this international charter, Tubagua is lobbying Dominican Republic officials to become the first Caribbean country to  get on board

Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.

Geotourism incorporates the concept of sustainable tourism—that destinations should remain unspoiled for future generations—while allowing for ways to protect a place’s character. Geotourism also takes a principle from its ecotourism cousin,—that tourism revenue should promote conservation—and extends it to culture and history as well, that is, all distinctive assets of a place.

The Geotourism Charter: Governments and allied organizations that sign this statement of principles take a first step in adopting a geotourism strategy. Download the Geotourism Charter (PDF). After committing to a geotourism strategy, signatories then work with local communities to determine their geotourism goals.

What Is Sustainable Tourism?

Sustainable tourism, like a doctor’s code of ethics, means “First, do no harm.” It is the foundation for destination stewardship.

Sustainable tourism protects its product-the destination. It avoids the “loved to death” syndrome by anticipating development pressures and applying limits and management techniques that preserve natural habitats, heritage sites, scenic appeal, and local culture.

It conserves resources. Environmentally aware travelers patronize businesses that reduce pollution, waste, energy consumption, water usage, landscaping chemicals, and excessive nighttime lighting.

It respects local culture and tradition. Foreign visitors learn local etiquette, including at least a few courtesy words in the local language. Residents learn how to deal with foreign expectations that may differ from their own.

It aims for quality, not quantity. Destinations measure tourism success not just by numbers of visitors, but by length of stay, how they spend their money, and the quality of their experience.

What Is Geotourism?

Geotourism adds to sustainability principles by building on a destination’s geographical character, its “sense of place,” to emphasize the distinctiveness of its locale and benefit visitor and resident alike.

Geotourism is synergistic: All the elements of geographical character work together to create a tourist experience that is richer than the sum of its parts, appealing to visitors with diverse interests.

It involves the community. Local businesses and civic groups join to provide a distinctive, authentic visitor experience.

It informs both visitors and hosts. Residents discover their own heritage by learning that things they take for granted may be interesting to outsiders. As local people develop pride and skill in showing off their locale, tourists get more out of their visit.

It benefits residents economically. Travel businesses hire local workers, and use local services, products, and supplies. When community members understand the benefits of geotourism, they take responsibility for destination stewardship.

It supports integrity of place. Destination-savvy travelers seek out businesses that emphasize the character of the locale. In return, local stakeholders who receive economic benefits appreciate and protect the value of those assets.

It means great trips. Enthusiastic visitors bring home new knowledge. Their stories encourage friends and relatives to experience the same thing, which brings continuing business for the destination.

Visit the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations web site

See a summary of resources and programs for countries/destinations to work with

Voluntourism: Canadian kids do ‘extreme makeovers’ at Dominican Republic schools

There’s something about the Dominican Republic that’s hooked Judy Warrington.

In April, Warrington returned from her 18th trip to the impoverished Caribbean nation, which shares its island landmass with Haiti.

Dominican Republic may be a great spot for a vacation, but that hasn’t been its draw for Warrington.

“Despite the challenges of the rains, roads, lack of infrastructure, lack of hydro, running water, access to medical care, high costs, devaluing peso, they [the people there] still have a joy about them, a spirit about them, and a love of life. A happiness that really extends the warmest welcome to visitors,” she said glowingly.

“We teach our children not to speak to strangers. In the Dominican Republic, it’s the opposite.”

Warrington has always been interested in the service of others, which is why she founded Power Trips, a volunteer-run organization devoted to Dominican Republic’s development. She left her home in Oakville on Good Friday and stayed in the Dominican Republic for more than a month to lead two 14-day trips. The first one consisted of 80 people – 63 of which were students, and the rest, mostly teachers. The second trip attracted 30 participants from Strathscona-Tweedsmuir School in Calgary and Collingwood School in Vancouver.

It was the way the students preferred to spend their March Break.

“I considered coming on this project because I wanted to experience a challenge and make a change. I also felt like it was time to do something useful during my March Break instead of being a tourist in some country,” wrote student Andy Doyle in his assessment of the trip.

It’s a win-win situation.

When Warrington isn’t on the island, she is sending as much as she can in the way of school supplies and medical equipment. With the help of local schools, she’s sent two 40-foot containers. Nothing is too big (or too small)- Warrington will even accept teacher’s desks.

Warrington was introduced to international service opportunities at Appleby College, a member school of the Round Square. Round Square is an organization that leads students on the path to self discovery in ways that extend beyond the walls of the classroom. Warrington went on to lead students on trips to Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Costa Rica.

In 2004, she created Power Trips as a legal entity. She says she chose Dominican Republic because of its closeness, and “the fact that it has as much poverty in some areas as I know there is in Africa.”

“What differentiates us from many other organizations is our interest in empowerment. We don’t want to create dependency on us,” she said.

“We do service that is smart, sensible, and sensible to the local community and its needs, that is going to lead to self-sustainability.”

Warrington is partnered with the Rotary Club of Oakville, as well as local organizations.

“They act as our guides, friends, direct line.”

During her last visit, the teams worked on four extreme school makeovers, including a women’s training centre, which entailed purchasing material locally, renovations, installing security bars and roofs, fixing “banyos” (bathrooms), making blackboards, shelving, painting, decorating, and hiring people to pour concrete floors. Sounds tiring, yes, but for Warrington, a retired teacher, it’s a typical day in the life.

With classes still running in March in the Dominican Republic, she and her volunteers ran tutorials for the children, and created safe children’s play areas – mud playgrounds was all they had.

She also partnered with two leading childcare health providers – The Dominican Institute for Integral Development (IDDI) and The National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI) – to run health clinics. Dominicans were given free medicine, and thousands of toothbrushes and toothpaste were handed out. There was HIV testing, and workshops on the environment, garbage (a problem there) and sexual disease. An eye clinic was set up to identify children with clinical needs, and eyeglasses were distributed.

Dominicans were also given thousands of used soccer balls and uniforms.

Warrington was a teacher for 35 years, mostly in Halton and Peel. She’s taught at elementary school, secondary school, and a commercial re-training program at Sheridan College.

She’s been married for 43 years, and says she’s always been comfortable and privileged.

Her husband, an accountant with his own business, is also involved in her pursuits. He participated in the August project. Her daughter-in-law teaches at the University of Calgary and is hoping to develop a professional education program in the Dominican Republic, in conjunction with the University of Calgary.

Her projects have been a success with students, who accompany her on the trips. They visited a cigar factory, hospital, seniors’ centre, deaf children’s school, clinic and Mirabal Museum, and walked with a refreshed outlook on life.

Warrington no longer stays in hotels with her volunteers. The students weren’t comfortable in the kind of accommodation hotels provide.

“It didn’t fit,” said Warrington. Instead, they stayed at a retreat centre with basic and rustic lodgings. The views, however, were incredible – it’s located on the top of a mountain between Puerto Plata and Sosua.

Local cooks prepared Dominican cuisine during the trip.

“We are very careful about what we eat,” said Warrington.

Perhaps the only complaint the students really had in their evaluations was there weren’t enough vegetables.

Besides that, they walked away with a refreshed outlook on life.

“After this trip, I have a much greater appreciation for how much a small action can affect someone so much. I will also be much more willing to live in the moment and “go with the flow.” I have a feeling that these lessons will stay with me forever,” wrote Elizabeth Watt from St. Clement’s School.


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