For six months of the year, Owen Hughes spends his days wandering down to palm-tree-lined Sosua Beach, one of the most beautiful in the Dominican Republic. Sitting at a table in the shade of the palm trees, or enjoying the occasional swim or snorkel in the warm, turquoise water is a nice contrast to the cold winters back in Ontario.
The best part? “My total expenses are about $1,000 per month,” he says. “This includes monthly expenses of $375 for a studio apartment with a loft, with utilities and internet costing less than $40 more. Having the same apartment every year means I know my neighbors and have a community of friends. I book it for the next year before I leave for the summer.”
Five years ago, in Canada, Owen asked himself, “Do I have to be here in the winter? Why not go somewhere warm?” It only took a few hours of research for Owen to come across the Dominican Republic. “It looked okay, so I thought, why not give it a try?”
For his reconnaissance visit, he spent one month each in the towns of Sosua and Cabarete, both on the north coast with easy access from Puerto Plata International Airport. He found Sosua—with its protected beaches, rivers for freshwater sports, waterfalls, and hikes through lush vegetation—more suitable to him than the surfer’s paradise of Cabarete. So he returned the following year for four months, and he now stays six months, from October through March.
“I enjoyed Cabarete, but there’s a little bit more to Sosua. It is larger, with more amenities, restaurants, shops, things to do, and a broader demographic. The beach is also more protected, which I appreciate, since I am not a strong swimmer but I like to snorkel.”
“With the money that I had been paying for the apartment back home, heat, and electricity, I can now be in the Dominican Republic during the months that I am not working anyway. And I still get to spend the best months in Canada, when I do have some income there,” says Owen. He is semi-retired, working as a part-time handyman and cameraman when back in Ontario.
Though home to less than 10,000 people, Sosua still has a wide variety of restaurants that offer inexpensive meals. This allows Owen to eat out three or four times a week. A breakfast at the German restaurant, La Costera, costs $5 for enough food to cover the table, and includes the main course, juice, coffee, and a small fruit salad. For take-out meals, roasted pork costs $6 a pound and a fried chicken dinner from a street vendor costs about $4.
“Sosua is very convenient in many ways. I fly direct from Toronto to Puerto Plata and take a cab for $20 to my apartment,” says Owen. When asked how he spends his time in Sosua, Owen says, “I just enjoy my time and see what comes up. I go to friends’ homes for dinner, and sometimes go with my Dominican friends to visit their families in the mountains.” His growing circle of friends includes expats and annual visitors from Germany, Canada, the U.S., Italy, and France, as well as local Dominicans.
Being a regular part of the community means insider knowledge that lowers his cost of living and improves his standard of living. He has learned which restaurants offer happy hours and daily specials; for a nice evening out, for instance, Waterfront Restaurant pairs a beef tenderloin ($21) with a stunning sunset view.
“The cost of living here also gives me luxuries that I would not have in Canada, such as a cleaning lady and having my laundry done for me,” Owen says. “And it’s so nice having such an easy lifestyle, without having to deal with Canadian winters.”
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