Puerto Plata

Back in 1493, Christopher Columbus wished to establish a city in Puerto Plata, and it was to be named La Isabela. Unfortunately for him, a wicked tempest got in the way of his plans, and he was not able to make it there. Not until 1502 did someone from Europe make it to Puerto Plata to claim it as his own. Nicolas de Ovando founded this region and named it Puerto Plata, which translates to port of silver. This fantastic paradise is located 130 miles northwest of Santo Domingo, and a trip to Puerto Plata is not a disappointing one. The name originates from the fact that the area surrounding the port features sparkling blue water and gorgeous beaches. The port here became the final stop for ships on their way back to Europe, and as a result, treasures from all over could be seen in the port of Puerto Plata.

This region is incredibly appealing, because the resorts and dining facilities are pleasant and much more affordable than many of the neighboring Caribbean islands. Accommodations are springing up all the time and a number of new and exciting restaurants are in the works. Many of the best features of this area can be found minutes outside the center of Puerto Plata, in a region called the Playa Dorada, where you can find a glorious golf course, a horseback riding stable, and many other wonderful activities.

Puerto Plata was the first custom-built tourist area in all of the Dominican Republic. The sand on the majority of the beaches is a lovely beige color and rarely does it get too hot to take a barefoot afternoon stroll. The wide array of water sports and ever-present merengue music adds to the charm of Puerto Plata. It rains a lot here in winter, but the temperature remains moderate. The sights and nightlife are surprisingly abundant, with plenty of day and nighttime events to keep you busy and content. While very populated with tourists, Puerto Plata remains safe and inviting.

Docking & Local Transportation

Cruise ships dock at the Port of Puerto Plata next to the city center. From there, you can walk or take a taxi to the downtown region or the outskirts of the city.

Taxis are most abundant at Central Park in downtown Puerto Plata. Taxis are not metered in the Dominican Republic, so discuss rates with your driver before departing. If you prefer, there is a minivan service in town that can take you to the city of Sosia, as well as other destinations, at the fraction of the cost of a taxi. These minivans can be found at Central Park as well.

Local Interests

Fort San Felipe in Puerto Plata is the oldest fort in all of the New World. It has become a tremendously popular tourist attraction. Construction commenced in 1564, and the Spaniards worked on it for thirty-three years until it was finally completed in 1597. It was built with walls that are eight feet thick, making the fort practically impenetrable. The moat surrounding the fort was an amazing piece of construction, with sharpened swords embedded in coral at the bottom. This discouraged enemies from traversing the moat, and if they tried, they were in for a painful experience. During Trujillo's rule, the fort was utilized as a prison. In the early 1970s the fort was restored, and now stands as one of the major attractions in Puerto Plata.

The Museo de Ambar Dominicano is located at Calle Duarte 61 (809/586-2848) near the Central Park. Unlike another Central Park you may be familiar with, this Central Park is quite safe at night. Guided tours are available at the museum, and they come highly recommended. The museum features exhibits and artifacts highlighting the rich heritage, history, and culture of the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Plata in particular.

The AMHSA Paradise Beach Casino (809/320-3663) is the hottest nightspot in Puerto Plata. Located in central Puerto Plata, the fantastically decorated ceiling and walls add to the terrific ambiance. Gambling, dining, and entertainment make for an exciting evening when you visit this great destination. The AMHSA Paradise Beach Casino is absolutely perfect after a fulfilling day in the sun.

Activities

Beaches

At Playa Dorada, the beaches are fondly known as the Amber Coast because of all of the deposits of amber that have been uncovered here. The beaches are fantastic but quite crowded with locals and tourists. Beaches will either have soft beige sand, or a beautiful white variety that covers the shore. The Atlantic waters, which are found off of Playa Dorada, are extremely popular for both water-skiing and windsurfing. The way the currents and wind hit the region forms perfect waters for both of these sports. A great collection of concession stands and beach equipment vendors line the shore, so you can engage in a number of activities while relaxing on the beach. Luperon Beach is another great choice around Puerto Plata. The lovely white sand and wide, spacious areas create a perfect location for the whole family. Groups of palm trees create shady areas when the sun becomes too hot. This is the most ideal location for scuba diving and snorkeling, and snack bars and water sport concessions are everywhere. By contacting the Playa NACO Centro de Deportes Acuaticos (809/320-2567) you can arrange for any water sport activity in Puerto Plata. This is a great company to contact because the equipment they rent is reliable and reasonably priced.

Dining

Captain Cook's, located on Playa El Cortecito (809/552-1061) is more than a place to eat; it is a dining extravaganza. A number of patrons of this great establishment do not even bother to pick up a menu. They simply look around at the exotic and delicious skillets and grills and order whatever seems appealing. Customers are rarely, if ever, disappointed with what they order. Grilled fish, shellfish, pork chops, steak, and chicken are all superb. They are served with salad, French-fries, or baked potatoes. The plates are incredibly generous in size and overwhelmingly palatable. This is one of the premier establishments in all of the Dominican Republic, if not the absolute best. Restaurant Palace in the Bavaro Palace Hotel (809/686-5797) is a great choice for dinner as well, featuring excellent salmon, red snapper, and filet mignon. It is a formal dining experience, and jackets are required for men.

Shopping

The Amber Shop is located in the Playa Dorada Plaza (809/320-2215) and has a tremendous assortment of beautiful bracelets, rings, necklaces, and pendants. Harrison's, in the Plaza Isabela (809/586-3933), is the main branch for the best jeweler in the Dominican Republic. Specializing in platinum work, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Keith Richards have all been seen wearing jewelry from Harrison's.