With bright white beaches, striking mountains and a colourful underwater world, holidays to Puerto Plata showcase a part of the Dominican Republic that’s really easy on the eye.
The start of the New World story
Known as the silver city on the amber coast, Puerto Plata, in the north of the Dominican Republic, is as precious to the country as its name makes it sound. The first village in the New World was founded in this region on the 2nd of January 1494, and throughout the 16th-century, Puerto Plata harbour was of upmost importance.
Today, Puerto Plata and the surrounding region has exchanged much of its maritime clout for prestige in tourism. Miles of pristine coastline drapes itself between the resorts of Costa Dorada in the east and Bahia Maimon in the west. And all the beaches along this stretch come with pearl-white sand, queues of palm trees, and cut-above hotels.
Mountains and mangroves
Puerto Plata’s attraction points don’t stop at the shore. The region’s interior is home to the island’s self-proclaimed answer to the Alps, the Cordillera Central mountain range, which features 3 of the tallest peaks in the Greater Antilles. Elsewhere, mangrove swamps conceal peacock-blue lagoons, and sugar cane fields give way to green coffee plantations.
Things to See and Do in Puerto Plata
Miles of sand
The Amber Coast boasts enough miles of sand to mean you never have to visit the same patch twice. More often than not, the beaches are flour-white and backed by palm trees. Watersports are more than an activity out here, they’re a lifestyle choice, and you can count on seeing surfers in the rip curl on strips of sand like Cabarete and Cofresi.
The big beach
Playa Dorada is one of the longest beaches in Puerto Plata. The already-white sand is made even more immaculate by daily cleaning and the whole strip is overlooked by one of the region’s best golf courses. There’s never a dull moment on this beach either – you can try everything from volleyball to jet skiing.
The secret beach
Exploration of Puerto Plata began with Columbus in the 15th century, so it’s safe to say that there’s not a lot of the place that’s unchartered. Having said that, some stretches of sand on this section of coast are quieter than the others. Costambar Beach, 15 minutes’ drive from Costa Dorada, falls into this category. Clusters of locally-owned villas line the sand and sunloungers are sparsely scattered.
Puerto Plata’s nickname – the Amber Coast – speaks for itself. The jewellery shops are full of the semi-precious stone. The Amber Shop in Playa Dorada Plaza is connected to the Amber Museum, so it sells a wide range of pieces. Harrison’s is the most bespoke amber seller on the coast and many of the stones are mounted in gold. You’ll find the brand’s shops in Plaza Isabela and Playa Dorada Shopping Mall in Playa Dorada.
Hand-rolled cigars are a Dominican Republic forte. The Tobacco Shop in Playa Dorada Plaza shopping mall does a good line in the fat fingers of tobacco and they have a great reputation for quality, because all the products are kept in a dehumidifier. If you’re not a smoker, the bright beach shacks at the end of Bahia Maimon are worth a visit. You can pick up local art and handcrafted jewellery here.
The Dominican Republic has been producing its brand of rich, robust coffee for centuries. You can pick up a bag of beans at most markets, including the Orange Market in Costa Dorada. Alternatively, you can head to the Cabarete Coffee Company on the Main Street in Cabarete, half an hour’s drive from Puerto Plata. It’s a big brand in the Dominican Republic and there’s a café here, so you can try before you buy.
The Ocean World Casino in Cofresi is a one-stop shop for laid-back entertainment. The blackjack and roulette tables are just the start of the story here. There’s a theatre on the third floor, where you can watch Las Vegas-style dance shows. What’s more, the casino runs shuttle buses to and from many of the hotels in Puerto Plata.
Playa Dorada is the axis of nightlife in Puerto Plata. Most of the bars and clubs are located in Playa Dorada Plaza. Coco Bongo is one of the most popular places here, putting on international music and merengue. There are plenty of bars along the Malecon, too. Alternatively, if you’re in Sousa for the night, head to Calle Pedro Clisante, where you’ll find a couple of cocktail bars and Latin clubs.
This is the Dominican Republic’s national dish. Locals tend to eat it for lunch, which is the main meal of the day. It’s a combination of rice, red beans, stewed goat, and fried plantains. Dominican goats graze on oregano, so the meat in this dish has a deep flavour, like it’s been marinated.
This traditional dish is shaped like a sandcastle. It’s made by mashing plantains with broth, garlic, olive oil and pork cracklings. The thick mixture is then filled with vegetables, fish or crab, and the whole construction is served in a moat of meat broth.
The quipe recipe was brought to the Dominican Republic by the Middle Eastern immigrants who arrived in the country in the 19th century, but it’s been adapted quite a bit since then. The sausage-style dish is made by frying soft bulgur wheat, beef, onions and tomato sauce.
You can’t avoid this foodstuff in the Dominican Republic. It’s a simple side dish made by frying plantains and it accompanies everything from the country’s national dish, la bandera, to fresh fish dishes. Sometimes it’s even served up with breakfast.
Three brands of rum rule the roost in the Dominican Republic. Brugal, Bermudez and Barcelo have been produced in the country since the 1800s. They stand out from Jamaican or Bajan rums because they’re aged in oak kegs, which give them a sweeter flavour.
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Playa Dorada was the Dominican Republic’s first tourist outpost, and it’s still one of the best. This gated holiday enclave has a dozen or so luxury resorts and hotels bordering the Amber Coast. It’s sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, so it’s a really safe and easygoing place to relax. And with horse riding, golf and shopping around the clock, the fun never seems to stop.
Bahia Maimon is one of the Dominican Republic’s most secluded corners. On the island’s northern coast, this luxury hotel complex has a turquoise bay on one side, a fabulous beach on the other, and is surrounded by miles of rolling hills, making it a really chic retreat blessed with supermodel good looks.
Costa Dorada (Puerto Plata)
Costa Dorada is an exclusive and compact resort on the Dominican Republic’s Amber Coast. It has bagged itself a chink of pristine shoreline between Playa Dorada, a popular purpose-built resort, and Puerto Plata, the region’s bustling capital. It means that you’re away from the madding crowd, but never too far from the action.
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