How to do Puerto Plata beyond the resorts and busy beaches
Restaurant Casita Azul, Puerto Plata
Photo: Carlos Karlos
Affectionately called the Darling of the Atlantic, this glittering city is home to some of the Caribbean’s most sought-after beaches. Puerto Plata is the place that put the Dominican Republic on the international tourist map, and offers travelers everything you could want in a Caribbean vacation, all packed into one incredible location.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to Puerto Plata every year to lounge around on private beaches inside five-star, celebrity-studded resorts. Here’s how to leave them all behind.
Parque Central, Puerto Plata
Photo: Carlos Karlos
Puerto Plata boasts beautiful beaches and awesome nature spots including cloud-capped mountains, lush forests and raging rivers, as well as rich underwater sites. Thrill-seekers can go snorkeling at Cayo Arena or canyoning the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua, ziplining, sailing, horseback riding and even white-water rafting! Nearby Cabarete is a world-famous hub for kitesurfing and windsurfing and a favorite bohemian hideout of surfers.
Damajagua Waterfall, Puerto Plata
Photo: ovbelov / Shutterstock.com
Nature and Wildlife
Awed by the blanket of mist shimmering over the lush mountain top of Mount Isabel de Torres, reflected along a vast shoreline of unbelievably white sand, Columbus dubbed this area Puerto Plata - “the Silver Port”.
El Teleferico (Cable Car)
The only cable car in the Caribbean offers thrilling views over Amber Cove including the city of Puerto Plata, the sea and the extensive National Park. The National Park is home to Scientific Reserves created to protect the huge variety of exotic species that call this habitat their home, and while you might not glimpse many of them from the cable car, look out for the caves and freshwater springs hidden in the tropical canopy that makes this wilderness area so wildlife-rich.
Once only available to the local population, Damajagua now offers access to 27 large and small waterfalls on a guided tour through rivers and creeks for about 40 minutes, before you reach the falls and dive off of natural rock formations, slide through tunnels and solid rock corridors.
Fortaleza San Felipe, Puerto Plata
Photo: Viagens e Caminhos / Shutterstock.com
History and heritage
History buffs and architecture aficionados will enjoy wandering the Historical National Park of La Isabela for its extensive colonial architecture (including the largest collection of Victorian-era houses preserved anywhere in the Caribbean - weird, huh?) and follow in Columbus’ bloody footsteps.
Take a relaxing walk around 6pm to La Puntilla (the north end of the Malecon) where you’ll see a recently built Amphitheater, a colonial lighthouse, and Fort San Felipe, then witness the sunset reflecting off of the Atlantic Ocean like its first settlers did.
The clearest amber in the world is right here underneath Puerto Plata, and visitors to the Amber Museum can see the exact prehistoric mosquito-trapped-in-amber immortalised in the opening scene of Jurassic Park.
Hire a car and hit the road to visit Maimón, Luperón, Amber Cove, Sosúa and Cabarete, all of which are only an hour or two away from Puerto Plata, and are a nicer mix of travelers and locals, even in the high season. One road leads to all four destinations, where you’ll probably run into travelers from France, Germany, and Canada.
Long Beach, Puerto Plata
Photo: Carlos Karlos
Where are the best beach vibes?
No matter where you are in Puerto Plata, you're guaranteed to have a beach nearby, and in less than 15 minutes you'll have your feet in the sand and a drink in your hand.
Just walking along the Malecon (the main boulevard) you can plant your umbrella, towel and cooler on any one of these awesome beaches:
Playa Camacho (Acapulco)
Nicknamed Acapulco for its beautiful white sand and riviera-type scenery, you'll mingle with locals and see visitors from all over striking their best beach pose with an iconic background.
Cosita Rica (meaning: Sweet Little Thing) has shallow waters and flat sands where children can play safely, and families can set up a lovely picnic.
Reaching past the far end of the Malecon and into Playa Dorada, this expansive beach is gaining increasing popularity among high-end travelers, with classy bars and restaurants popping up on its shore.
If you’re looking for even more secluded, exclusive vibes, head to lesser-known beaches like Playa Cofresi, Costambar, Bergantine and Pueblito are also excellent choices.
Sunscape, Puerto Plata
Where to wake up: the best places to stay at Puerto Plata
Located right on the Malecon and seconds from Playa Camacho (acapulco), Hotel Lomar is perfect for single travelers and couples who want an ocean view at an affordable price.
The Iberostar chain of Resorts is recognized worldwide for its cleanliness, 5-star Service, and constant updating of areas and Suites. It's only a few minutes away from the city in Costa Dorada, a safe and secure sector.
Inside of the resort complex of Playa Dorada, Sunscape has recently opened its reception to all travelers with new accommodations, renovated pools and a modern design.
Pollo Guisado con Moro
Photo: Carlos Karlos
Local Caribbean cuisine you should try...
Ditch the resort restaurants for at least some of your meals in Puerto Plata. Eat like a local and look out for these traditional Domincan rural recipes:
- Pollo Guisado con Moro (chicken in tomato sauce with rice and beans)
- Sancocho (a Dominican stew of Plantains, Yuca, Corn, and meats)
- Locrio (a paella-like dish with chicken)
Written by Omar Guzman.
Published December 2019
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