Ten cabins by the river.

One women’s group.

A rural community in the central Cibao Valley, sitting in the foothills of the Dominican Republic’s Cordillera Central mountain range, called Los Calabazos.

Located 20 minutes’ drive from Jarabacoa, a popular mountain resort town, and just two hours and a half south of Puerto Plata’s beaches, Sonido del Yaque is a community-owned lodge, run by women who all belong to the same family and community.

It’s a fully sustainable operation: the lodge runs on hydroelectric power, thanks to the nearby Yaque del Norte, the longest river in the Dominican Republic.

After hiking down a series of steps from the main road, you’ll reach the cabins, surrounded by a lush flower gardens and set in the middle of a sprawling countryside where fruits and vegetable trees that grow abundantly. A river runs right along the lodge’s property for easy swims and nature hikes, with the sound of El Yaque del Norte River as its steady, soothing soundtrack.

Los Calabazos and where Sonido del Yaque sits is also where river rafting was born in the Dominican Republic. Around this lush area, where the weather feels like an eternal spring, you’ll find hiking trails inside two national parks – including one that leads to Pico Duarte, the tallest peak in the Caribbean – tours to coffee plantations, horseback riding (a tradition in these parts) to a number of stunning waterfalls and river swimming holes and parks galore.

Local restaurants are plentiful in downtown Jarabacoa, though no experience could beat the traditional Dominican meals that the women cook at their on site restaurant during your stay.

The most memorable part of your stay will be the generations of Dominican women you meet here, particularly the founder of the lodge: Doña Esperanza. Hers is a tale of overcoming limitations – including missing out on a formal education when she was sent away at eight to live with a woman who was not her mother – and going after your ideas and dreams, no matter how outlandish they might seem.

The Champion: Doña Esperanza Marte

We hope you enjoy and share this moving story of community success through tourism – the first profile in Part I, The Champions. Pay attention to what Doña Esperanza shares about the impact of Sonido del Yaque on the lives of the women who run it, and listen to her recent message – at the end of the video – about the effect of current pandemic on their lodge and how she feels about the future.

Esperanza Marte – founder of Sonido del Yaque Ecolodge. A sustainable tourism champion in the Caribbean.

Follow and support Sonido del Yaque on Instagram and Facebook. While the lodge is currently temporarily closed to visitors, they plan to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

Did anything surprise you about the lodge or Doña Esperanza’s story? Have you ever stayed at a community-owned lodge in the Caribbean? Share, comment and leave your questions here.