Things to Do in Puerto Plata
Hidden in a lush Dominican Republic jungle, Damajagua Falls—otherwise known as the 27 Waterfalls of Rio Damajagua or 27 Charcos—are a series of 27 cascading waterfalls that were discovered in the 1990s. Located in the midst of sugarcane fields in the Northern Corridor mountain range, the hidden falls are a true off-the-beaten-path experience.
Amber Cove is one of the newest cruise ports in the Caribbean, but its nearby attractions are far from rookie. Built by Carnival Cruise Lines for the use of their cruise ships along with other large-capacity liners and located on the Dominican Republic’s so-called Amber Coast, Amber Cove is the gateway to Puerto Plata, a popular Dominican Republic vacation destination.
Dorada Beach (Playa Dorada) is one of the most popular beaches in the Puerto Plata area. Here you will find a number of the major resorts along its shoreline. The gated community features around a dozen luxury resorts and hotels that border the Amber Coast.
If you are not staying along the bay of Dorada Beach (Playa Dorada), one of the best ways to experience the area is from the water. Take a catamaran tour along the North Coast from Playa Dorada to the Bay of Sosua. If the idea of spending an afternoon on a boat isn’t appealing, resorts along Playa Dorada rent watersports equipment. Try your hand at windsurfing, kayaking, sailing or parasailing. The waters at Playa Dorada are crystal clear and the shallow, sloping beach makes it a popular spot for families with small children. You can go snorkeling right off the beach with coral reefs only a short swim away.
If you want to experience more than a day on the beach, Dorada Beach (Playa Dorada) has a number of options to keep you busy. Go shopping at the plaza, which features boutiques, restaurants and a cinema. There is also an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones. Other non-beach activities include an equestrian center and several casinos. Playa Dorada is also home to the Caribbean’s biggest go-kart center, complete with three tracks.
Located between Puerto Plata’s resorts and the surf town of Cabarete in the Dominican Republic, Sosúa Beach(Playa Sosua) is a pristine stretch of sand famous for excellent diving and snorkeling. With white sand fringed with trees and calm waters ideal for swimming, it’s a relaxing spot popular with families and day-trippers.
Built under the orders of King Philip II of Spain, Fort San Felipe(Fortaleza San Felipe) has been guarding the waters off Puerto Plata for more than 450 years. It was designed to protect the town from pirates as well as European invaders and later served as a prison. Today visitors come to tour the ruins and to enjoy the sweeping sea views from its ramparts.
Dominican amber is considered to be some of the finest and clearest in the world. Housed in a Victorian-era mansion that once belonged to a wealthy local family, Puerto Plata’s Amber Museum (Museo Del Ámbar) has an extensive collection of the semi-precious gemstone.
Monte Cristi National Park, or Parque National Monte Cristi, is a national park in the Dominican Republic. It is one of the driest areas in the Dominican Republic, receiving about two inches of rain per year.The area extends from the Haiti border to the tip of Punta Rucia. Monte Cristi includes subtropical dry forests, lagoons, mangrove swamps, beaches and a stunning 777-foot (237-meter) limestone mesa called El Morro that juts up from the water.
A trip to Monte Cristi National Park includes a boat ride through the mangroves on which you can look for some of the 160 species of birds that call the area home. Several offshore islands called The Seven Brothers Cays, or Los Cayos Siete Hermanos, are visible from Monte Cristi National Park. In addition to visiting Monte Cristi National Park, the nearby island of Cayo Paraiso is worth a stop. This uninhabited island is said to have some of the best snorkeling in all of the Dominican Republic. Its shallow lagoon and coral reef give visitors the opportunity to see a number of brightly colored fish and coral formations.
The town of Monte Cristi was founded in 1506 and served as a trading post until the 19th century. Today, some 25,000 inhabitants make their living fishing and farming and harvesting salt from salt flats to the north of the area.
Punta Rucia, also sometimes spelled Punta Rusia, is a cape-end beach and fishing village in the Dominican Republic province of Puerto Plata. It is located near the town of La Isabela in the Bay of La Isabela. Diving and snorkeling are two popular pastimes along Punta Rucia. The shallow cove is quite serene and a great spot to look for colorful fish without the need to venture too far from shore. You can also grab a couple of friends and try a thrilling banana-boat ride.
If you are spending an afternoon in Punta Rucia, be sure to visit one of the area’s restaurants. Since it’s primarily a fishing village, seafood is a specialty here. Enjoy a beachfront lunch and take in the scenic views of the fishing boats that dot the waterfront. The tranquil village is also the jumping off point for many travelers who want to visit the nearby island of Cayo Paraiso. Cayo Paraiso, or Paradise Island, is a deserted island and natural sandbar located near Punta Rucia. Spend an afternoon snorkeling the crystal-clear lagoon and coral reef that surrounds the island.
Monte Cristi National Park, or Parque Nacional Monte Cristi, is also near Punta Rucia. One of the driest regions of the Dominican Republic, it’s worth exploring the mangroves and swamps, which attract birds like herons, brown pelicans and flamingos. Tours that visit Cayo Paraiso and Monte Cristi will also pass one of the most interesting natural landmarks – El Morro. El Morro is a 777-foot (237-meter) limestone mesa that juts up from the waters. Look for several nearby small islands as well. Los Cayos Siete Hermanos (The Seven Brothers Cays) are home to 10 different species of reptiles.
This eight-story structure located in downtown Santiago was built by the former dictator Trujillo and later became a monument praising the soldiers who battled for Dominican Republic’s independence from Spain. It was built in 1944 and designed by Henry Gazon Bona.
Travelers will find this stunning white monument, which stretches high into the sky, at the city’s east end. Visitors can learn how the Monument of Santiago was originally erected to honor Rafael Leonidas Trujillo and later was re-dedicated to fearless soldiers who fought against the Spaniards between 1863 and 1865. It’s the perfect place to take in vast city views from atop the hill and the nearby park is an ideal spot for an afternoon picnic under the shade of a tree.
The monument can be visited independently, or seen as part of a Santiago city tour.
Key Paradise gets its name because it does appear to be a piece of paradise rising up from the center of the sea in a splendor of white sand. The small island is characterized by this sand, which serves as a sharp contrast to the clear teal sea water lapping at its shores.
Most people who visit Key Paradise do so because of the water surrounding the island as it is one of the best places to snorkel in the Dominican Republic. Schools of fish swim around the coral reefs surrounding Key Paradise and you’ll be astounded by the array of under the sea colors and how clearly you can see it all thanks to the high visibility this area of the Caribbean Sea boasts. Most excursions to Key Paradise give you time to relax on the white sand as well as snorkel and there are a couple huts located on the island if you want to get out of the sun.
More Things to Do in Puerto Plata
Named after Catalonian expatriate Andres Brugal, a visit to the Brugal Rum Center offers visitors a chance to see the magic of turning sugarcane into one of the Dominican Republic’s chief exports – rum. From golden brown to crystal clear, the rum you’ll see, smell, and taste at the Brugal rum center will open your eyes to the possibility of what a refined drink rum can be. Families enjoy the wondrous automated distilling and bottling process and marvel at the mechanics of turning sugarcane into the nectar of the gods. An excellent escape from the ordinary while in Puerto Plata, take some time to explore a local icon and learn a bit about distilling in the process.
Mt. Isabel de Torres is located near Puerto Plata and overlooks the region’s coastal strip. Also called Mt. Isabel de Torres, this scenic mountain is home to the only aerial tramway in the Caribbean. The cable car, or teleférico in Spanish, brings visitors up 2,555 feet (778.8 meters) while offering spectacular views down to the city and surrounding waters. The ride takes approximately five to seven minutes. It is recommended that you visit in the morning, as early as possible; the afternoon is prone to heavy cloud cover and you might find yourself at the top of Mount Isabel de Torres with no views at all.
Mt. Isabel de Torres' peak offers impressive views of the Dominican Republic. Atop the mountain, there is a replica of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue found in Brazil. The statue sits atop a big dome, which houses stores selling jewelry and other souvenirs.
The mountain is also home to a botanical garden. Wander the paths to admire the tropical plants and surrounding scenery. If you are hungry, there is a full-service restaurant and snack shack at the Isabel de Torres’ peak as well.
Dominican Republic is home to incredible stretches of white sandy beach, expansive all-inclusive resorts and stunning turquoise waters. But it’s also home to some of the Caribbean’s best surfing. Perhaps no spot in DR is better known for its serious waves than Encuentro Beach.
Several local surf schools line the beach, where strong winds mean morning is the most ideal time of day to learn. Protected waters and a vibrant local surf scene make it a top destination for travelers who want to hang ten while staying in Puerto Plata. Five unique breaks known as Coco Pipe, Bobo’s Point, La Izquierda, the Destroyer and Le Derecha offer travelers distinctly different rides, with some of the biggest waves coming from Coco Pipe and the Destroyer.
Travelers can opt to explore on their own, or sign up for learn-to surf lessons with one of the local schools, or as part of an organized tour.
Since it opened its doors in 1903, La Aurora has been known as the original cigar factory of Dominican Republic. What began as a modest family business now stretches across 70 countries and travelers who want to experience the age-old tradition of cigar making can learn the tricks of the trade on a tour of this iconic factory.
The 45-minute guided experience showcases the best of the La Aurora brand. Visitors will gain insight into the origins of this Dominican Republic staple, meet the men and women who roll cigars by hand, and gain a deeper understanding of the craftsmanship and attention that goes in to creating one of the nation’s top exports. There’s even time to explore the factory shop and purchase hand and machine-made cigars to take home.
Often called Paradise Island, Cayo Paraiso is an uninhabited island off the coast of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. It’s a popular stop for snorkel and catamaran tours. If you are staying in Puerto Plata, it is likely you will depart from the small fishing village of Punta Rucia. Speedboats take visitors on a relatively short ride across the bay to the island. Once you arrive at Cayo Paraiso, you can swim and snorkel around the coral reef and lagoon that surround the island. The snorkeling here is said to be among the best in all of the Dominican Republic. On a tour, you typically have about 2.5 hours to swim and enjoy the scenery. Watch for vibrantly colored schools of tropical fish, sea turtles, stingrays, eels and more. Bright coral formations are found throughout the area as well.
Monte Cristi National Park is located near Cayo Paraiso and is one of the driest areas of the Dominican Republic. Here you will find mangroves, subtropical dry forests and swamps that are home to a variety of birds. Also near Cayo Paraiso and Monte Cristi National Park is the natural landmark of El Morro, a 777-foot (237-meter) limestone mesa. Keep an eye out for The Seven Brothers Cays, Los Cayos Siete Hermanos, which are several small islands that serve as the nesting grounds for a number of reptile species.
La Isabela is located within the Puerto Plata province of the Dominican Republic. It is the second-oldest European settlement in the New World, founded by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage in 1493. Columbus named the area after Queen Isabella I of Castile. Columbus established La Isabela to search for gold, but when he found very little, he enslaved people to the island. The inevitable issues of hunger and disease led to a wealth of problems like mutiny, punishment and, of course, more disease and hunger. Combine that with repeated conflicts with the local Taíno, and the colony was doomed. Columbus’ failure got him called back to Spain, and the colony was ultimately abandoned in 1498.
Today, La Isabela is an archaeological and historical park.Excavations started in the late 1980s. It is presumed the ruins were more extensive, but the area was bulldozed in 1960. A military fort was built at that time to ward off potential invasions by associates of Fidel Castro. The Parque Nacional La Isabela still contains a few notable structures and artifacts worth visiting. There are walls that are believed to have been part of Columbus’ home, the church where the first mass was conducted in the New World and an observation tower. Remains were found in the chapel’s cemetery, and the skeleton of a Spaniard who died of malaria is on display.
There is a small museum on-site with some artifacts unearthed during excavations, including a pottery oven, kiln, 16th-century crucifix, containers used to purify gold, Taíno religious icons and pottery shards.
In the Jarabacoa interior—surrounded by lush trees and natural beauty—you'll find the Dominican Republic's Baiguate Waterfall (Salto de Baiguate), one of three much-visited falls that play a large role in the country's ecotourism. Set in a picturesque canyon popular with hikers, rafters, and adventurous souls who rappel down the waterfall, this is a popular stop-off on excursions from nearby Jarabacoa.
Snorkeling opportunities, dolphin shows, and a beach full of lounge chairs all contribute to Ocean World Adventure Park’s standing as a top family attraction in the Dominican Republic. The park is prime for kids during the day and transforms into a casino after dark, complete with a restaurant, slot games, a disco floor, and a Vegas-style show, offering parent-friendly nightlife with Caribbean flair.
Travelers who want to escape the crush of Puerto Plata resorts and enjoy close encounters with nature will love exploring Jimenoa Falls, a magical destination that is accessible via 4x4 or horseback near the town of Jarabacoa. The thundering waters tumble some 35 meters over rocky cliffs that are located in a picturesque tropical rain forest and offer visitors truly stunning views.
Travelers can navigate the rugged trails surrounding this top natural attraction, and shuffle across hanging bridges that stretch over the picturesque Jimenoa River. The waterfall cascades into a natural swimming pool where tired hikers can find the ultimate refreshment after a long walk in the woods.
Visitors can combine a tour of historic Santiago, including architectural landmarks, city streets, a ceramic and cigar factory, with a stop at Jimenoa Falls, for the perfect way to see the best of Dominican Republic from Punta Cana.
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