Puerto Plata Travel Guide

Dominican Republic  
Credit

Courtesy of Ossiridian/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Puerto Plata Area Map

Neighborhoods

Nicknamed the "Amber Coast" for its rich deposits of clear amber, Puerto Plata is the largest city on the north coast. The city has attracted countless visitors dating back to colonial times, from pirates and Spanish Conquistadors to vacationers and watersports enthusiasts.

Puerto Plata's vibrant history is maintained within the downtown area that's filled with quaint if decrepit Spanish Colonial and Victorian architecture. The area's home to the remnants of Fort San Felipe, which was built in the 16th century to protect Puerto Plata's shipping port from pirates, as well as the Puerto Plata Lighthouse, constructed in 1879 to warn passing ships of the island's coastal reefs.

Towering over Puerto Plata from the south is Mount Isabel de Torres, a mountain which rises more than 2,500 feet above sea level. Tourists can reach the mountain's summit via cable car, and English-speaking guides are available for hire. Located at the top of the mountain are the botanical gardens and a giant statue of Christ overlooking the city. Fodor's warns of persistent vendors selling jewelry and crafts at the mountain's summit: "If you really are not interested, let them know this unequivocally."

Most hotels and resorts are located outside of Puerto Plata, a few miles east in Playa Dorada. Travel writers have dubbed Playa Dorada the north coast's primary beach destination, as well as one of the Dominican Republic's most established resort areas. This area is known for its sandy beaches and offshore snorkeling reefs, but it also has a golf course and riding stable. However, travel writers recommend avoiding beaches owned by individual hotels -- unless you're staying there -- because hotel security guards are often territorial.

Approximately 20 minutes east, the town of Cabarete stands out for those who love water sports. Kiteboarding, jet-skiing, surfing and windsurfing are popular along this even sleepier beach town's shores. Cabarete also lures vacationers looking for more luxury than Puerto Plata typically provides. Expensive villas dot the coastline.

Crime is uncommon in the hotel zone. And without a few pointers on local customs -- especially concerning transportation -- tourists venturing away from Puerto Plata's hotel zone can become the target of misadventure. For example, police pullovers are commonplace for rental cars; if stopped, visitors should calmly ask the officer for his/her rank, a citation for the offense and the amount to be paid. Do not hand over your license: Scam artists sometimes pose as police officers and steal tourists' identification in exchange for cash.

Some warn against the popular motoconchos, or taxi motorcycles, that are available throughout the central plaza. Many D.R. roads are in poor shape, driving patterns are irregular, and few cyclists provide a helmet for passengers. Taxis are more expensive, but they offer a better chance at getting to your destination in one unsullied piece.

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