Puerto Rico’s northwest corner is a jewel of a destination for water sports such as sports fishing, surfing, and sailing. Now, after a decade of planning, this region will finally have a full-service world-class marina facility that will enable visiting and local yachtsmen alike to access much-needed facilities that can be reached via an easy leapfrog cruise from the Dominican Republic, eastern Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands.
Discovery Bay Resort & Marina, to be built on 270-acres between the towns of Aguadilla and Aguada on Puerto Rico’s northwest corner, will be an estimated $300 million residential, commercial and nautical tourism village development when finished.
“The Caribbean is a hot spot for cruising,” says Thomas Cordero, president of Cordeco Northwest Corp, the company that owns the land. “Once you get to the Virgin Islands, there are relatively good marina facilities within a day’s sail right down the Caribbean island chain. This ladder isn’t the case to the north. Cruisers who sail from Florida, through the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos to Puerto Plata have to travel all the way over to San Juan or Puerto Rico’s east coast before finding a marina. Our development will short-cut this trip by providing a full-service stop along the way that bridges the gap between the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.”
First phase of the development will include a state-of-the-art marina with 500 floating dock slips for vessels of up to 180-feet in length, along with a dedicated yacht club. There will also be a full service dry dock and repair yard for vessels up to 75-feet in length, and a dry-stack facility for up to 500 vessels.
“We expect to finish up our preliminary environmental impact studies by January 2009,” says Cordero. “Then, we anticipate the final permitting will be complete and construction underway by the end of the year.”
The first step in the construction process will be to build two levees, one earthen and the other sheet pile. These levees, something that FEMA has given a nod to, will help to prevent catastrophic flooding to both the marine facility and to the communities of over 3,000 households located on this natural flood plain, which is fed by the Culebrina River and Madre Vieja Channel. Between the levees, contractors will excavate in order to create an inner harbor for the marina.
“Our studies show that an inner harbor marina creates less interruption to marine life such as manatees and to sea grass beds, than does a coastal development,” says Cordero.
The first phase is expected to take one to two years to complete.
The second phase of the development will include the hotel complex, which is slated to encompass 300 total units – 160 rooms and 170 timeshare units, residential hotel units and/or condo units. This phase will also see the construction of a casino, spa, conference center, beach club, helipad, pools, restaurants and commercial entertainment areas for visitors, residents, marina owners and their guests. Finally, this ambitious project will also include a total of 737 residential units – apartments, townhouses and condominium units.
The completion of the entire project, phases one and two, is expected to take between seven and eight years.
“We foresee more boaters coming to the Caribbean because they will feel comfortable with being able to find a safe port, fuel, repair, provisioning facilities and more, along the way,” says Cordero. In addition, he sees year-round seasonal demand.
“There’s good surfing and whale-watching in the winter. In the summer, we anticipate more local boaters, both power and sail, as well as sports fishing and scuba diving,” he says.
Once Discovery Bay Resort & Marina is open, Cordero adds, “There will no longer be a void in this nautical landscape.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.