Nestled in the Dominican Republic’s Atlantic North Coast is a tropical playground, Puerto Plata. If it isn’t on your radar it should be and Darlings, we are going to tell you why. With its landscapes filled with beautiful beaches, resorts at every budget that are sure to delight and a colonial-era centre that’s full of history, here our favourite things to do in Puerto Plata ( including the best beaches in the Dominican Republic!).
Quick History of Puerto Plata
The full name for Puerto Plata is San Felipe de Puerto Plata and is the capital of the Puerto Plata province in the Dominican Republic.
Established in 1502 by Nicolas de Ovando and decreed by Christopher Colombus, the city earned its name, Port of Silver as it was said at sunset there was an iridescent and glistening silver color of its coastline.
The seaside city served as the last stop for ships carrying goods back to the Old World. As a port city, it flourished as a trade centre in its early stages, including being a part of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Due to the frequent pirate attacks, the Fort of San Felipe was built in the mid-sixteenth century and remains part of the Puerto Plata centre today.
Eventually, the city was ordered destroyed by the Spanish Crown and its inhabitants relocated but it’s illegal activities continued well into the seventeenth century. A fire swept the city in 1863 which effectively shut the city down once more.
It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that this city came back to life again. Today, the city welcomes those taking a different type of journey, those who are seeking a place full of natural beauty and relaxation.
When You Should Visit
Puerto Plata’s climate hardly has any variation in temperature throughout the year. The average temperature is just over 86 degrees Fahrenheit and it never gets colder than 68 degrees. That being said, it does experience a rainy season.
For many, the perfect time to visit is between December to February when it is slightly cooler and less rainy.
For those looking for a deal in hotels, travel in May and June is also a good choice due to the impending rainy season. It is said that the rainy season in Puerto Plata is rarely consistently rainy. It is more common for it to rain for a short period of time and then clear up.
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Getting Around Puerto Plata
You can, of course, rent a car to get around but the infrastructure outside the centre can be a bit chaotic and rentals are considered very expensive. That’s why many people recommend using taxis. They are cheap with your average ride anding from $3- $8 USD.
If you feel like haggling you can but, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you are happy to overpay a few dollars if it means you get there quickly and safely.
If taxies aren’t your thing or feeling a bit adventurous you can also try and navigate the Minibuses of Puerto Plata. Guagua are minivans for 7-8 persons but that is just a suggestion it seems! It isn’t uncommon to have more people in there with you.
Guagua are the main form of transportation that locals use. There is no official organized route, but they do follow static routes and you can stop anywhere along the main streets. You just have to flag a Guagua down and negotiate a price with the driver.
If you aren’t sure what a fair price is, ask your hotel or host what they think the ride should cost. This works for figuring out what your taxi’s base fare should be too.
8 Things To Do In Puerto Plata
Now that you know the basics of Puerto Plata here comes the fun part, what to do! Puerto Plata is not only home to more than 100 km of pristine beaches but it has the largest collection of preserved 19th-century Victorian-style buildings in the Caribbean too.
These 8 things to do are just a handful of the fun you can have in Puerto Plata.
1.The Beaches (Here are some of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic!)
We aren’t exaggerating when we say the beaches in Puerto Plata are spectacular and there’s a beach for everyone. While Puerto Plata itself has some wonderful beaches, there are quite a few within driving distance.
Playa Alicia: If you prefer quiet waves and more tranquility, head to Playa Alicia. It is less frequented making it feel more private.
The beach itself has lots of sand where you can rent a chair and enjoy views of the water which is clear and warm. There are not as many vendors or places to eat, which aids in the feeling of total seclusion.
Playa Sosua: Located close to Playa Alicia, Playa Sosúa is a more populated area with many stalls where one gets food and drinks easily. With vibrant beach vibes and turquoise views you can see why you’ll find more people here.
The landscape alone is memorable as one way you have the water and in distance, you can also view the famous Mount Isabel de Torres. We highly recommend doing a day trip out here if possible!
Playa Dorada: One is one of the most popular beaches in the area and is known for its golden sand, palm trees which you will find lining the entire beach and the stunning turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Despite there being private hotel areas, the beach is open to the public and is a great free way to spend a day!
Cabarete: If surfing and a chill atmosphere is your vibe then Cabarete is the beach for you. It is the epicenter for water sports in the area and acts as the Caribbean’s hub for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Bars and restaurants cluster along Calle Principal, the town’s main street, near the waterfront.
Grab a drink and watch as you’ll see hundreds of kite surfers riding the waves and dotting the sky until the sun goes down.
If you are interested in learning how to kitesurf ask your hotel or do a bit of research as there are a few options that range from a day lesson to schools that get a bit more in-depth. Cabarete might be too advanced for first-timers but has about 10 kitesurfing schools where you can learn.
2. WHAT TO EAT IN PUERTO PLATA
What is a holiday without great food? With its plethora of fresh fruit, vegetables and fresh seafood (it is an island after all) Puerta Plata won’t disappoint the foodie in you. If you like trying street food and local delicacies we recommend you try a street food tour.
You’ll learn a bit more about the history and significance of the food and it is there where you will try fresh chicharrón, queso and more including a dulce de Almendra stand which is a dessert that any almond lover will drool over.
One dish we highly recommend you try is La Bandera. It is the national dish made of stewed meats, red beans, rice and served with fried green plantains. Another must-try is Samaná’s Pescado con Coco which is a fish with coconut sauce.
For the seafood lovers a visit to El Malecón, the city’s seafront esplanade, is dotted with restaurants offering seafood dishes but also Riki-Takis—Puerto Plata’s answer to the burger. What is it you ask? A kind of hamburger topped with grilled tomato and a fried egg. It is absolutely delicious!
If you have time, spend an evening at Le Papillon. Le Papillon is the number one rated restaurant in Puerto Plata. They offer fine dining in a tropical and relaxed atmosphere. This small, natural, airy restaurant in the midst of royal palms offers guests a very unique atmosphere with a rustic, nautical design. No one leaves dissatisfied!
Where to find it: Address: Villas Cofresi, Puerto Plata 57000, Dominican Republic
Now we know it isn’t food but the Dominican Republic is also known for two drinks that are a must. One, it’s coffee bean production! Whether you like it warm, iced or in a cocktail a day without some Dominican coffee is a shame.
Second, Rum is an inherent part of the culture in the Dominican Republic. It is a common mixer in drinks and has a long history in the country. We recommend a visit to the Brugal Rum Factory. In fact, we insist. Brugal Rum is family-run and they are also the largest producer of traditionally made rum in the Dominican and have been since 1888!
Tours are only $5 and last a half-hour and includes not one but TWO tastings. You can book a tour here.
3. View from the top
One can’t go to Puerto Plata and not ride the teleférico – the only aerial tramway in the Caribbean. The breathtaking 10-minute ride takes you soaring in one of two cable cars 800 meters above Puerto Plata’s magical landscape. When you step out you’ll be at the top of Mount Isabel de Torres.
It is there where you can explore the nature reserve and botanical gardens, you can also admire a replica of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue. After you’ve gotten your share of views to enjoy the ride back down by cable car once more. For those who enjoy getting their heart pumping, you can hike to the summit from El Cupey town.
4. Fort San Felipe
The sixteenth-century Fortaleza San Felipe, is one of the oldest forts in the hemisphere. It also offers some marvelous views of the seas. Fort San Felipe in Puerto Plata holds some historical significance but don’t expect to spend loads of time here. If you do like forts then we’d recommend also heading to Fortaleza San Felipe. Built-in 1564, it’s a great example of colonial architecture.
5. Shop Til You Drop
If shopping is your thing, head to El Mercado Nuevo, the city’s central market. It sells everything from local arts and crafts to rum, honey, and spices. We’d also recommend not leaving until you try mamajuana, the country’s signature alcoholic beverage.
Mamajuana is concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. It is said to taste similar to port wine and the color is a deep red.
In addition, the Plaza Independencia has the famous Saint Philip the Apostle church that has been sure to have been on your Instagram Explore page at some point or another. Along the streets, you will also find vendors selling items that will be a perfect souvenir or two to take home to a loved one.
6. Day Trip To Cayo Arena
It’s a bit of a trek to Cayo Arena but the journey is worth it. Schools of tropical fish can be seen in the shallow turquoise waters making this spot perfect for those who love to snorkel. There is an abundance of marine life with corals and sponges allowing snorkelers a chance to see octopuses, crabs, angelfish and more.
There is a tiny sandbar at Cayo Arena too making it a dreamy spot to relax and understand why its known as Paradise Island. There are tour companies that offer day trips there and to a few other spots too.
7. Step Back Into Time. Way Back Into Time
Take a step back in time with a day of fossil-hunting at the Amber Museum. Look for the amber-encased remains of lizard-size dinosaurs and the mosquito made famous by Jurassic Park.
8. Adventure Time
Parque Nacional El Choco is located less than 15 minutes from the beach and the heart of Cabarete, offering a bit of adventure from your beach holiday. El Choco offers a variety of things to do from hiking trails that lead you through thick tropical forest along coffee and cacao trees to jumping off of waterfalls! Yes, waterfalls!
There are bilingual guides at the entrance if you head to the park solo, or you can sign up for an organized hike or biking tour. We highly recommend the 27 Charcos of Damajagua waterfalls tour. It offers a day of hiking before eventually reaching a rocky hilltop where you’ll begin making your way down by jumping or sliding down a series of waterfalls.
Don’t worry helmets and safety gear are not only provided but required as you slide down water-cushioned chutes or jump into deep turquoise pools. What we love is that it is run by local guides who live within the community, the park entrance fees benefit all of its residents, making it a win for all. For many that can do it, it is often a highlight of their trip!
Puerto Plata Is Waiting For You
Puerto Platos with its spectacular, sprawling landscape and beaches is waiting for you! This guide is just a glimpse of what you can do in this little slice of paradise in the Dominican Republic, what are you waiting for? Darling, it’s time to escape.