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








Filed Under: Social ImpactBlog

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