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Guide To Puerto Plata Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is one of the most visited destinations in the whole of the Caribbean and Puerto Plata is the perfect place to base yourself to explore everything the nation has to offer. This guide to Puerto Plata includes some background on the city, practical information, a list of the best beaches and the best things to see and do around Puerto Plata, souvenir and gift ideas, as well as the must-try dishes you should taste during your trip. I love visiting all the islands in the Caribbean like Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and so many more.

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Where is Puerto Plata Dominican Republic?

Puerto Plata is one of the largest cities in the Dominican Republic, located on the Atlantic north coast of the island. Its full name is San Felipe de Puerto Plata. 

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Puerto Plata in Dominican Republic
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Victorian buildings in Dominican Republic Puerto Plata – Photo c/o Dominican Republic Tourism Board

A Brief History of Puerto Plata Dominican Republic

What is today known as the Dominican Republic was inhabited by native Taino people before explorer Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492. Lulled in by the silvery clouds over the mountains, Columbus named this place “Silver Port.” The colonial Spanish settlement was officially founded around 1502, not long after nearby La Isabela in 1494, which was the “first village in the New World.”

Over the centuries, Puerto Plata enjoyed a colorful history, as it served as an important trading port. The city was frequented by pirates; fighting colonial forces of English, French and Spanish origin; controlled by US forces and taken over by Haitian powers; until the Dominican Republic established a representative democracy in 1978.

These days Puerto Plata is more known as a popular stop on the tourist circuit, thanks to its gorgeous beaches, mountainous landscapes and winding rivers. The city and its surrounds are also known for its cacao (used to make chocolate) and coffee plants, as well as some of the world’s clearest and most beautiful amber. 

Quick Info about the Dominican Republic

  • Currency: the Dominican Peso, abbreviated to RD$. Current exchange rate as of January 2019 is RD$50.42 to $1 USD
  • Language: Spanish
  • Drives on: Right

Weather in Puerto Plata Dominican Republic

Like many Caribbean nations, the Dominican Republic in general enjoys clear skies and warm weather throughout the year.

From December to March, when North Americans and Europeans are experiencing their coolest weather, the Dominican Republic is enjoying its best – making this country an ideal winter sun destination. 

During this time, morning and evenings are cool and pleasant, with temperatures dipping down to around 18°C (65°F). During the peak daytime hours, average temperatures are between a toasty 25°C (77°F) and 27°C (80°F). 

However, if those figures seem a little more than you would be comfortable with, then there’s always the option to head up to the highlands. The more mountainous areas, such as Jarabacoa and Constanza, enjoy much lower temperatures. You may be surprised to learn that daytime averages can start at 10°C (50°F) and slip below zero into the night – not what you may think of when you envision Caribbean weather, but a great option if you fancy cooling down for a night or two!

The hottest and most humid months are between April and October, when temperatures reach averages of 32°C (90°F) in the daytime and there are short bursts of rainstorms. 

The Best Time to Visit Puerto Plata Dominican Republic

As dictated by the weather above, November to March is the best time to visit Puerto Plata, followed by April to July, which coincides with lots of fun festivals, though temperatures are much higher. August to October brings storms and even hurricanes, so isn’t generally recommended, as extreme weather can disrupt travel plans. 

Safety in Puerto Plata Dominican Republic

Puerto Plata has a lower than average crime rate in comparison to other areas of the Dominican Republic, however, don’t allow yourself to fall into complacency. As with anywhere, use common sense and take necessary precautions to ensure you have a safe and pleasant trip.

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Cabarete Beach Puerto Plata in Dominican Republic

Top Puerto Plata Beaches

One of Puerto Plata’s biggest draws, the beaches here are stunning and there are plenty to choose from. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Cabarete

Located just east of Puerto Plata, the town of Cabarete boasts a number of beaches and is particularly known for its great kitesurfing and windsurfing conditions. Kite Beach, Bozo Beach and Encuentro Beach are three of best, though be aware the surf breaks are more suited towards those experienced in the water sports. 

If you want to give it a try, pop into one of the many kitesurfing schools for some instruction. If you’d rather just relax, there are plenty of great bars and restaurants here, and you can watch the kitesurfers from the safety of the sand. There’s also horseback riding available along the coast.

2. Playa de Maimón

Known for its mountain views, golden sand and lack of crowds, Playa Maimón is located at the end of Maimón Bay. If you’re staying at either the Senator Puerto Plata Spa Resort or the Playabachata Spa Resort, you’ll be lucky enough to enjoy direct access to this palm-fringed beach. The corals just offshore make for great snorkeling excursions to meet colorful fish.

3. Playa Dorada

Playa Dorada is one of the most popular Puerto Plata beaches as many resorts and hotels are based here. Water sports are aplenty, as a lot of accommodations offer equipment rental; windsurfing, snorkeling and fishing are all popular. What’s more, due to the presence of so many hotels, there are plenty of food and drink options.

4. Playa Sosua

15 miles east of Playa Dorada, Playa Sosua is a beautiful beach with shallow waters – great for lounging and paddling. However, one downside of this stretch of sand are crowds, which usually start to swell in the afternoon. There can also be pushy vendors that approach sunbathers.

5. Playa Cofresí

Named for notorious Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí, Playa Cofresí is located to the west of Puerto Plata. Not frequented by many visitors, especially in comparison to other beaches in the area, this beach is perfect for those looking for quiet time.  

6. Playa Punta Rucia

Nestled in La Isabela Bay, Playa Punta Rucia is best known for its coral metropolises, home to beautiful tropical marine species. Meet the underwater inhabitants, take an excursion to the white sands of nearby Playa Ensenada, then hop on a boat trip to visit the island of Cayo Arena.

7. Playa Costambar

Tucked between Maimón and Puerto Plata, Playa Costambar stretches for 1.25 miles and a stroll along its golden sands is a great way to pass the time. Dip toes in the waves, snooze under a palm and graze along the restaurants and bars that line the sand.

8. Playa Cambiaso

Hidden in the west of Puerto Plata, near the town of Luperón, Playa Cambiaso is one of the Dominican Republic’s best-kept secrets – golden sand fringed with coconut trees. As you may expect from an unspoiled playa, the stunning beach is a little difficult to get to (but worth the effort!).

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Top Things to Do in Puerto Plata Dominican Republic

Between beach-lazing days in the sun, there’s plenty to see and do in and around Puerto Plata. Here are a few ideas of attractions to visit and activities to participate in:

1. Key Paradise

A great day trip from Puerto Plata is to Key Paradise, a sand-bank-style isle just offshore, which offers incredible snorkeling. Arrive early to avoid the crowds, as this is a popular sport. There’s also a small hut-type bar where you can buy refreshments. Book your tour here.

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2. Teleferico Puerto Plata Cable Car

Glide upwards for 800 meters to the summit of Mount Isabel de Torres for amazing views of Puerto Plata and its surroundings. There are a few places to visit at the top of the mountain, including botanical gardens (which has a cave and a lagoon) and a giant statue of Christ the Redeemer – a replica of the famous monument that looks over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Book your tickets here.

3. Estero Hondo Marine Mammal Sanctuary

Around a 90-minute drive from Maimón Bay, Estero Hondo Marine Mammal Sanctuary is dedicated to protecting one of the Dominican Republic’s most endangered yet beloved sea creatures, the manatee. Pay a visit to learn about these beautiful animals, as well as other important species in the area.

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Damajaqua Cascades Dominican Republic Puerto Plata

4. Damajaqua Cascades (27 Waterfalls)

Why visit one waterfall when you can have 27? Well, the 27 cascades of Charcos de Damajagua offer just that. Join an adventure tour to be given equipment such as life jackets, helmets, and climbing gear, then take on the falls and jump from the top! Book your tour here.

5. Ocean World Adventure Park, Marina and Casino

Ideal for kids, Ocean World has adventure activities, water slides and a number of animal performances, such as bird shows, sea lion shows and even shark shows! You can also swim with sharks and dolphins here. 

6. Casa Museo General Gregorio Luperon

Learn about Dominican Republic history with a visit to Casa Museo General Gregorio Luperon, a national hero. Luperon restored independence to the country in 1865 and this Victoria-style building houses exhibitions on his era. 

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Fort San Felipe Puerto Plata Dominican Republic

7. Fort San Felipe

This historic Spanish fortress overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and was once a strategic structure built to protect the seaport. Today, the fort has a museum and offers gorgeous ocean views in addition to interesting displays about the area’s colonial history.

8. Monkey Jungle

Monkey Jungle is a rescue center for squirrel monkeys, where visitors get to meet and interact with the cheeky primates. Funds go towards the monkeys’ medical care. If you want to see the DR as the monkeys do, you can swing through the treetops on the Monkey Jungle zipline! 

9. Amber Museum

The Dominican Republic is famed for its amber and the north is nicknamed “The Amber Coast,” due to the abundance of amber found here. The museum has displays on insects preserved in amber (one of which was used in the film Jurassic Park), as well as beautiful amber jewelry.

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Bandera – Dominican Republic Puerto Plata

What to Eat in Puerto Plata in Dominican Republic

One of the best ways to get a feel for Caribbean culture is to sample the local dishes. Here are a few specialties you’ll want to try during your Puerto Plata visit:

1. Bandera

The word “bandera” means “flag,” so it’s no surprise that this is the name given to one of the DR’s most quintessential dishes. The dish consists of red kidney beans cooked in herby tomato sauce, a meat (usually chicken or pork), plantains, plus a salad of lettuce and tomatoes. 

2. Pica Pollo

Essentially Dominican-style fried chicken, this comfort dish is usually served with a side of fried plantains. The chicken is marinated in a spice mix that includes beer, paprika, thyme, oregano, black pepper and tarragon, then it’s breaded and fried.

3. Moro

This “rice with beans” dish is another of the Dominican Republic’s humble yet staple national dishes and is typical of many other Latin American countries. Similar to bandera, the difference here is that the ingredients are served separately rather than mixed together.

4. Mamajuana

After all that food, you’ll need something to wash it down with. Enter mamajuana: a unique drink with Taino origins, which is comprised of rum, red wine and honey, infused with tree bark and herbs. Not only is it a tasty drink, but the potion is said to have medicinal powers and has a reputation as an aphrodisiac!

5. Habichuelas con Dulce

This “sweet creamy beans” dessert is made using boiled red beans, sweet potatoes, raisins, coconut milk, evaporated milk, butter, sugar and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg (some families may use cloves or ginger). Best served with cookies to dip in.

6. Majarete

This corn pudding dessert is a favorite in many Caribbean countries. The ingredients include coconut milk, corn flower, vanilla, cane sugar and cinnamon. 

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Jewelry- Amber and Larimar

What to Buy in Puerto Plata in Dominican Republic

Rum, coffee and cacao are all popular Caribbean souvenir items, but there are a few ideas unique to the Dominican Republic. Here are a few of them:

1. Jewelry

The DR’s Amber Coast is named so for a reason and therefore a great souvenir to take away from your trip is something made with this yellow-hued semiprecious stone, especially jewelry. Another stone that can be found in this area is the sky-blue larimar, so look out for this “gem” as well.

2. Handicrafts

Other ideas for authentic keepsakes from your trip include handmade craft pieces, such as merengue instruments and jewelry pieces (even moreso if they use amber or larimar). Handmade cigars are also an authentic option.

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Playa Cabarete

Other Things to Do in Puerto Plata Dominican Republic

Did you find this Puerto Plata guide helpful in planning your trip to the Dominican Republic? Do you have any suggestions or recommendations to add in addition to the information provided above? Let us know what you think and whether you have any insider tips to share in the comments section below. Have you visited Puerto Plata in Dominican Republic?

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