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Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata, nestled near Mount Isabel de Torres on the Dominican Republic’s north coast, has recently become a key resort destination in the Caribbean. It’s the eighth-largest city in the Dominican Republic, and has gone through a revitalization pe...

Categories: Caribbean > Dominican Republic

At the northernmost point of the country, Puerto Plata is surrounded by majestic mountain ranges and the Atlantic Ocean. The entire shore is known as the Amber Coast, named for rich deposits of the lustrous stone. Surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, Puerto Plata offers a great vacation in the Caribbean! The town bustles with shops, restaurants and patio cafes. It's a nice blend of cultures and architecture for an ideal Caribbean vacation.
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5-night Dominican Daze Cruise

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6-night One-Way To Sj: Dr, St. Maarten & Bvi Cruise

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Puerto Plata

Mount Isabel de Torres forms the dramatic backdrop for the town of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, where it is the most important north-coast city and resort. A large statue of Christ stands on the mountain with arms stretched out into the clouds, resembling the statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

With an impressive natural setting, Puerto Plata has rebounded as a key resort destination. The beaches are enhanced annually with millions of tons of new sand. Over the past five or so years, much work has been done to make the old city attractive to tourists, which has encouraged more of them to venture out from their all-inclusive complexes outside town at Playa Dorada. In the past, most travelers stayed on the resort properties, because trips to outside restaurants or other attractions raised security concerns and added to the cost of their vacations.

The resorts continue to work with local businesses to provide affordable options for shopping (especially for amber), sightseeing and dining, with many signs and directions now in English as well as Spanish. Several good restaurants line the Malecon (seaside boulevard), and others are located near the attractive downtown park area. Nonetheless, guided adventure excursions have blossomed, taking advantage of the rugged Cordillera Septentrional range, beautiful beaches and nearby wilderness regions.

Puerto Plata also is blessed with an abundance of beautiful Victorian architecture, though some of it is in need of maintenance. The aged appearance gives the place an authentic look that is undeniably quaint and warm. We think you'll find Puerto Plata an interesting mix—one worth experiencing.

Must See or Do

Sights—The Gregorio Luperon Monument; the Municipal Market; the Puerto Plata Lighthouse; San Felipe Fort; Puerto Plata's Victorian houses; Playa Dorada.

Museums—The Amber Museum; the Museum of Taino Art; the House of Culture; Mundo King Art Museum in nearby Sosua.

Memorable Meals—Hearty Mexican scramble at Sam's Bar and Grill; the seviche at Casa Colonial's Lucia; garlic shrimp and other seafood at Chris and Mady's; American dishes at Hemingway's Cafe; the lobster fettuccine at Le Papillon.

Late Night—Casinos and clubs in all-inclusive resorts, especially those in Playa Dorada and Cofresi; checking out merengue and salsa music clubs in the Old City.

Walks—Exploring the Malecon and the Old City, including a stroll through Parque Central (Central Park); a hike in the gardens and forest reserve atop Mount Isabel de Torres.

Especially for Kids—Swimming with dolphins at Ocean World; go-karts and more at Fun City Action Park; splashing about at Columbus Aquaparque.


Puerto Plata is located on the Atlantic north coast of the Dominican Republic and occupies a narrow coastal plain at the base of the Cordillera Septentrional mountains. Tourist and commercial ports sit side by side in a large bay immediately northwest of the city center. The Malecon (seafront boulevard) runs along the Playa Long Beach on the north side of town. The city has an easily navigable north-south street grid, with Parque Central in its center.

The all-inclusive resorts are concentrated at Playa Dorada, about 5 mi/8 km east of downtown. Other hotels are located a similar distance west of Puerto Plata, at Playa Cofresi.


The name Puerto Plata originated with the arrival of Christopher Columbus on 11 January 1493. Supposedly, when he saw how the sea shined along the coast near sunset, Columbus called it the "Silver Port." However, it was Spain's colonial governor Nicolas de Ovando who officially named and founded the city in 1502.

The city expanded and briefly prospered as a major trading port for the Spanish crown until it was eclipsed by Santo Domingo and more favorable Spanish cities in other new lands. By 1520, Puerto Plata was broke. For the nearly 200 years that followed, smugglers and pirates used the port as a safe haven.

In 1863, fire and civil war ravaged much of what was left of the city. It quickly rebounded during the tobacco boom of the late 19th century, when merchants built many of the Victorian mansions that give the city its charm today.

Puerto Plata later survived on shipping and industry, and now lives largely for tourism. Its extended tourism zone includes a stretch of golden-sand beaches all along the north coast, called the Costa Ambar (Amber Coast). Ships and cruise liners dock regularly at the Atlantic port, and flights from all over the world arrive at Gregorio Luperon International Airport, 11 mi/17 km east of Puerto Plata.

In addition to tourism, Puerto Plata produces and exports coffee, cocoa, rum and tobacco, and has large sugarcane fields and cattle ranches in the hinterlands. It also produces liquor, dairy and pasta products, and leathers.


Tobacco, cotton, bananas and pineapples are all things the Europeans owe to the Taino population of Hispaniola. Words such as barbecue, hammock, hurricane and canoe come from the Taino language.

Tourist diarrhea is called Caonabo's Revenge in the Dominican Republic, named after a respected Taino chief, who put up resistance against Columbus and the Spaniards.

The Dominican Republic's mid-20th-century dictator, Rafael Trujillo, once ordered the important archaeological site of La Isabela—where Columbus' men established the first settlement in the New World—"cleaned up" before a visit. Overzealous workers proceeded to bulldoze many of the ruins into the ocean.

As many as 5,000 humpback whales gather to mate and give birth in the warm, shallow waters of the Silver Bank, about 50 mi/80 km northeast of Puerto Plata. It's the most important breeding site in the world for humpback whales.

Amber, the local "gemstone," is actually formed by fossilized hardened tree sap that oozed millions of years ago. Amber that contains insects or other "inclusions" are considered national treasures and cannot be exported without a license.

The only aerial tramway in all of the Caribbean is located in Puerto Plata.

Ocean World and Water Park is home to the world's largest dolphin lagoon and the world's first shark interaction pool.


Ships usually tie up at the commercial or tourist docks, just a few blocks from the town center. Downtown Puerto Plata is easily navigable on foot and best seen that way. Car rentals are expensive and impractical, given the short time ships are in port. Taxis are always available nearby, and internet cafes and restaurants are near the docks.

The state-of-the-art cruise port and recreational facility at Maimon Bay, west of Puerto Plata, is operated by Carnival Cruise Lines.

The nearest tourist information office is at Calle Jose del Carmen Ariza, at the corner of Avenida General Gregorio Luperon. Monday-Friday 9 am-5 pm. Phone 809-586-3676.

Shore Excursions

Among the tours usually offered are a guided motorcoach excursion through town to Fort San Felipe with a beach stop to listen to a merengue band, and a cable car ride to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres. Other excursions include a bus ride inland to Santiago, where you may visit the Monument to the Restoration Heroes, the Centro Leon and a cigar factory. Tours also include a visit to Sosua, where you'll have time to shop at a crafts market and ride in a glass-bottom boat over a coral reef. A horseback-riding tour through the countryside with commentary by local guides is another option, as are Jeep safaris exploring the countryside and local villages.

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