Local Color: Getting Around

" Most travelers headed for Cabarete fly into Puerto Plata, half an hour away. Vans or taxis shuttle to Cabaretes hotels.

" Avoid flying into Santo Domingo, if possible. Its a four-hour ride north.

" Guests who want to sightsee in the area board local minibuses that travel all day long between Puerto Plata, Playa Dorada, Sosua and Cabarete.

" Tourists must purchase a $10 tourist card in cash upon arrival at the airport; the $10 departure tax usually is included in the airline ticket cost.

CABARETE, Dominican Republic -- The name of the hotel chain is a good indication of the recreational activities offered at its properties -and the market the chain is chasing.

eXtreme Hotels -- theres just one now, but plans are afoot for more -- is a visible signal of the growth of the active sports- tourism market.

Activities such as kiteboarding, ramp skateboarding and surfing, canyoning and mountain biking appeal to the extreme sports enthusiast, although the list virtually is without limit as long as vacationers hanker for new challenges.

Credit must be given to entrepreneur Bill Lee, founder of eXtreme Hotels, for knowing how to define his market segment.

Our goal is the concentrated adrenaline vacationer who wants an intense workout by day and an equally fun time by night, he said.

Lee, a 33-year-old former Internet CEO, founder of West Coast Holdings investment firm and current head of a high-tech company dealing with the obliteration of spam, said the hotel concept was born from his personal search for world-class surfing locales that offer instruction, accommodations and nightlife.

I traveled a lot for business. When I traveled for leisure, Id go to Google to find a place to windsurf, then Id have to find a place to rent equipment and a place to stay and a place that had local nightlife, he said. No one was putting the key ingredients together under one brand in the action sports world.

Sensing the niche, Lee hit upon creating the eXtreme Hotels brand and began his search for the location of his first property.

His criteria were pretty simple. Each hotel will have a world-class location that caters to action sports and offers fun, exciting nightlife nearby, he said.

I checked out sites in Dubai, Brazil, Hawaii and Mexico.

Bingo.

Enter eXtreme Cabarete, Lees flagship property which he purchased as a rundown hotel a year ago on Kite Beach in Cabarete on the Dominican Republics north shore, arguably one of the worlds best sites for kiteboarding and windsurfing.

Lee first envisioned the property as his own home but then saw its possibilities as a hotel and hub that catered to action- sports enthusiasts.

He spent a year renovating it, converting it to 20 moderately priced rooms ($70 per night, single or double; 20% commission), and hauling in all sorts of water-sports equipment.

The official launch and opening celebrations began March 12 with demonstrations by premier athletes from the skateboarding, surfing, kiteboarding and tow surfing worlds.

Lee hired Diana Stoecklin as general manager.

Shes from Switzerland, speaks six languages, is an action, active person. In fact, everyone on staff is into water sports.

Thats exactly what eXtreme Cabarete is all about. Guests can kiteboard and windsurf. Skateboarders have the worlds first below-ground professional skateboard ramp called Six Feet Under, a 39-foot-by-49-foot fun ramp designed by top European skateboarding pros.

Cabarete, Dominican Republic, is known for the winds and waves that produce perfect conditions for surfers, windsurfers, kiteboarders and other extreme sports enthusiasts. Photo courtesy of Extreme Hotels/Ryan Riccitelli.Were right near Encuentro Beach, where the annual Latin Surf Classic takes place each summer, and right in front of Six Feet Over, a reef break for intermediate to advanced surfers, Lee said.  Scuba diving, canyoning, river rafting, mountain biking and hiking also are nearby.

Bookings are great, Lee said. We already have sellout periods. Windsurfers say the best months for the sport are June through August. Surfers say the best waves occur from January through March. Kiteboarders just want good wind conditions all the time.

Lees already planning to add up to 30 condominium units next to the hotel, beginning this fall.

I want to keep this small so I can cater to my guests. Families are definitely welcome, and we have instructors for kids, he said.

Hes scouting out locations for his next hotels, including sites in Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama for surfing and kiteboarding, Chile for snowboarding and Nevada for snowboarding and rock climbing.

Plans are to open other eXtreme hotels within the next two years.

Local Color: Hotel Haunts

  • Kitexcite is on the site of the hotel. The leading kite school in Cabarete, with 14-plus certified instructors, has new and used gear for lessons, rentals and sales. Kiteboarders get special attention at eXtreme Cabarete, with kite lockers, beach showers, air pumps, equipment areas and on-site repairs. To check wind conditions, the hotel maintains a wind-forecasting Web site and live Web cams.

  • The eXtreme beach bar and lounge has pool tables, TVs and gaming areas as well as free wireless Internet and is good place to hang out before venturing down the road to Cabaretes scene.
  • To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to[email protected].

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