The North Coast Feature
Tim Hall—A Quintessential Expat
Tim Hall first came to the Dominican Republic in 1983 as a journalist to write a feature for the Toronto Star about Playa Dorada, the new tourist destination in Puerto Plata. He was a young Canadian lad, who, like so many who have chosen the expat life, came back again and again until he finally stayed.
Tim began by writing for the country's only English-language newspaper, Santo Domingo News. He went on to publish a local Spanish-language newspaper and to produce a tourism-related TV show. Although his talents as a scribe are still in demand, Tim has learned the lesson of the Caribbean: survival depends on wearing more than one hat.
His restaurant, Café Cito, gained renown during its time as a fun, funky expat hangout. In 2008 he opened the doors of the Tubagua Plantation Eco-Village in the mountains behind Puerto Plata. He is also the North Coast's Canadian Honorary Consul. As he explains, "I was appointed in 1988, after a phone call that woke me up on my 30th birthday. It's been two decades now and there's lots of stories to tell."
As he recalls, "In 1982 charter flights started bringing planeloads of tourists to Playa Dorada, to this virgin region where they built the country's first all-inclusive resorts. During that first tidal wave of tourists, local fishermen were getting pulled off their boats to wait on tables, delivering dinners like surf 'n' turf, and getting raked over coals by some fancy tourist when a steak wasn't medium rare. At the time, nobody knew about medium rare. Yet Dominicans have amazing resilience, and the ability to smile, whether the tip is 10 pesos or 10 dollars."
Today, interesting new things are happening in the region, he says. "People are learning this isn't just a beach resort destination; there is a growing interest in ecotourism, and people are discovering the real Dominican Republic. They're also realizing that there's a real sense of community for visitors on the North Coast." Tax and cost-of-living benefits are attracting more expat retirees, including a strong contingent of boomers. And Tim is a central figure in the area.
"One of the things I enjoy most is sharing the things I've discovered living here. the best local rums and the hand-rolled cigars that are among the top in the world. the fresh foods and local recipes. the hidden-away places that most tourists don't get to see." For example, his standing offer at his Tubagua Eco Village is that if you spend your first two days there, Tim will use his insider's knowledge to help custom-plan the rest of your trip and loan you a cell phone for 24/7 trip support.
Tim lives with his Dominican wife, Beatriz, and their four children at their 12-acre eco-resort. Thinking over the life he has built for himself, he says, "Living in the islands doesn't provide typical financial security, such as a pension to look forward to. And I haven't afforded a BMW, but my life pretty much belongs to me." And his future plans? "This ecovillage is turning out to be as funky and fun as Café Cito—but with a spa and cabanas and a knockout view. Now that it's up and running, I might take off a few hats."