In 1493, Christopher Columbus founded La Isabela, which is now the province of Puerto Plata, making it the first European settlement in America. Later, La Isabela was badly affected and partially destroyed by two hurricanes, and several epidemics. This forced the conquerors to abandon it and look to the south of the island for a new place of settlement. They arrived at the Ozama River in Santo Domingo, where Bartholomew Columbus founded the first permanent settlement.
Did you know that... Columbus discovered San Felipe de Puerto Plata during his first trip, on January 12 1493, and called the present Mount Isabel de Torres, Monte Plata, because the clouds on its summit made it look like silver? This is how the city of Puerto Plata got its name.
The area north of the Dominican Republic does not have a good electricity supply, and it's normal to have power outages which can last for hours without warning. The big resorts do not have these problems, but make sure that where you stay, either the hotel or apartment has a generator available, so as not to get stuck in the dark.
Victorian architecture. Touring the city of Puerto Plata, you can observe its bright, wooden, Victorian-style houses of the late nineteenth century. These were built by black immigrants from the southern United States and British Caribbean islands. At that time, it was considered the most advanced city in the country, acquiring great economic, social, cultural, and maritime importance.
The Cathedral of St. Philip the Apostle, was founded in 1502. The Victorian-style church is located next to Central Park and was destroyed by fire in 1863. It was rebuilt in 1929 and retains that same appearance today.
Central Park is located in the heart of Puerto Plata and was built in 1872 by order of Gregorio Luperon when Puerto Plata was the capital of Dominican Republic. It is a good place to sit and relax and watch the various buildings that surround it, such as City Hall, the Cathedral of San Felipe, the House of Culture, and Victorian-style houses. In this park you will find an octagonal, Victorian-style gazebo. As with all the sights, here it is also common to find local guides volunteering to go with you to see the city and, of course, show you the gift shops where you can buy paintings, snuff, rum and many other gifts. Although this is meant with good will, you should try to politely decline, but it might be very difficult, since they are known to be very persistent. On your own, you can walk the streets around this park, which include several businesses where you can buy any souvenir your heart desires.
. Puerto Plata is the capital of the "Amber Coast", so-called because the largest amount of mined amber comes from the Dominican Republic's north coast. Between Puerto Plata and Santiago there are about 16 mines. Amber is a semiprecious stone, existing in various colors, yellow and hazel being the most common. Red and green are also found in small quantities, and there is even a blue variety that can only be found in the Dominican Republic. A very rare treasure, which, when placed under sunlight, relects an intense fluorescent light. Dominican amber is known to be the most transparent in the world. Villa Bentz, the house where the museum is located, is considered a splendid example of Victorian architecture.
Malecón, like Santo Domingo, is an area with a spectacular view of the sea. Whether you travel on foot or by car, you will be able see its vibrant waves. On the waterfront promenade there are several outdoor restaurants where you can stop and have a refreshing beer and try a dish of rice and beans or the ever-popular fried plantains, and enjoy some Dominican culture.
The Fortress of San Felipe. The end of the pier leads directly to the Fortress of San Felipe, the oldest military fort of the New World, and the only sixteenth-century colonial remains that can be found in Puerto Plata. It is named in honor of Philip II, whose reign ended in its construction. Built to defend the city from attacks by pirates and privateers, its strategic position at the top of a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean is testimony to this. Inside, there are several cells that served as a prison, and one prisoner was Juan Pablo Duarte, ideologist of the anti-Haitian invasion, and hero of the Dominican Independence movement. The reduced space of these cells and the various entrances to the rooms of this small museum is impressive. The fort contains various seventeenth- and eighteenth-century guns and weapons, and you can climb the towers along the narrow stairs leading to them. The entrance fee is $1,50 (50RDS), which includes the guide who accompanies you on the tour and tells you in Spanish or English the history of the fort. In front of the fort, located at the roundabout, is a statue in commemoration of Duarte. Monday - Sunday, 8.45 a.m. - 4.45 p.m. Tel +1809 261 6043 or +1809 708 5354.
Downtown, as in other Caribbean countries, the Dominican Republic is tobacco country; cigars are handmade and are among the best in the world. If you visit one of the tobacco companies located in the center, a few steps from Central Park, a cigar will be prepared as you wait, for you to try its aroma and flavor. You will be welcomed with a glass of Mamajuana, a popular drink in the Dominican Republic, which is made from roots.
A Cable Car located in Loma Isabel de Torres at about 850 m altitude. From the cabin you can get a spectacular view of the city, the different shades of the sea, and the lush vegetation. Of Italian design, it was opened in 1975. At the end of the trail that leads to the summit, there is a small botanical garden and the Christ the Redeemer statue, a scaled-down copy of the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro. The temperature is cool, around 17°C, so it is recommended that you take warm clothing. Do not worry if during the cab ride you are surprised by fog that limits visibility; it is normal during the days of higher humidity. Each cabin has a capacity of 20 people. Monday - Sunday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Entrance fee $9 (350RDS).
Brugal Rum distillery
. Since 1888 this distillery has been producing one of the most famous rums throughout the whole of the Dominican Republic. Ron Brugal is located at the entrance to Puerto Plata to the east, close to Playa Dorada
. Before entering the factory, the sweet and intoxicating scent that reaches you increases your desire to visit this distillery. Admission is free and it is open to the public without advance booking. Within the distillery a guide will show you the rum manufacturing process, and at the end of the tour you can sample the various types of rum, and also make your purchases in the shop. You have a choice of anything from the Anejo to the Extra Viejo; just try a sip and decide for yourself! A curiosity note about this company is that throughout the province of Puerto Plata signs indicating the names of towns and cities all carry the name Brugal, so that at first it may seem to the tourist that all places are called Brugal - you just need to read the name written under the logo! Free entrance. Tour booking is not needed. Open 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Beaches Puerto Plata
The beaches of Puerto Plata are of golden sand and many have coral reefs; ideal for scuba diving or snorkeling. Here you will discover the most popular beaches in the Puerto Plata region.
Where to Go from Here
This is a small beach village located just 20 minutes east of Puerto Plata International Airport (POP), on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Cabarete is an exceptional location where you'll find the best beaches to practice water sports, such as kiteboarding, windsurfing and surfing, as its beaches offer the perfect conditions to practice. Windsurfing in Cabarete is ranked in the very best 10 sites in the world. Since the late 80s, the town has hosted both professional and amateur international windsurfing competitions and since 2000, Kiteboarding has started to "take off", hosting international professional competitions every year. Cabarete has several kitesurfing schools; most of them are located on Kite Beach and Bozo Beach, where you can take lessons and learn the craft. Bozo beach is where world championships are held by the PKRA, which represents a series of freestyle, wave riding and racing official events. But in Cabarete you can perform other activities in addition to water sports, such as hiking and caving in the Cabarete Caves found in El Choco National Park. And don't leave Cabarete before sampling some of the nightlife options. Most of the bars and restaurants are located along Calle Principal street. We recommend dinner at one of several restaurants located on the beach, where the fascinating atmosphere will impress you.
Located on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, about 25 km east from Puerto Plata and 10 minutes from the airport (POP), is one of the largest municipalities in the province of Puerto Plata. Its stupendous bay, golden sand beaches, such as Sosúa Beach, Alicia Beach, and coral reefs are some of the many attractions. Many tourists come here just to dive into the water for scuba diving or snorkeling. It is comprised of Los Charamicos neighborhood in the west, a popular neighborhood where the Catholic church is located, various businesses, bars and colmados, where you can experience true Dominican culture; and El Batey to the east, a resort area, where all the hotels are concentrated. The founding of Sosúa took place as a result of the arrival of Jewish settlers, who fled to this island from Nazi persecution. Most professionals and artisans were Austrians and Germans who became the economic engine of this small town. Most Jews left Sosúa after the war to rebuild their lives in the U.S. or Israel, but some families remained in the Dominican Republic, where they live to this day. The Jewish Museum, located in the El Batey, is a testament to the adaptability of the Jews and humanity of their Dominican neighbors. Sosúa was transformed from a small fishing and farming village to one of the most-visited tourist spots on the island since the 80s, but in early 2000, due to the loss of Puerto Plata’s position as a major tourist destination in the Dominican Republic, the number of visitors to Sosúa has decreased considerably, giving the title of, the most visited area of the island to Punta Cana - Bávaro. In Sosua the nightlife is very diverse. Though it is infamous for its red-light district, located on Calle Pedro Clisante, which mainly attracts tourists from Europe and the USA, thus decreasing the value of this beautiful tourist town. It has a large variety of small bars and international restaurants, and besides the two great resorts, Sosua Casa Marina Bay and Casa Marina Resorts, the rest of the hotels are rather small.
Things to Do
Ocean World, Cofresi Beach, Puerto Plata. About 10 minutes outside of Puerto Plata, on the road to Santiago de los Caballeros, you will find the Ocean World Entertainment Complex, featuring a first-class gaming casino, a yacht marina and adjacent marine adventure park. In the Park you have the opportunity to interact with dolphins, sharks, sea lions, stingrays, and exotic tropical birds; to meet tigers, walk through a tropical forest, snorkel in a tropical reef, and much more. Recommended for families with children.
Damajagua Cascades. Located in the interior of the island west of Puerto Plata, Navarrete down the road in about 30 minutes, you will find 27 waterfalls. It is an ideal place for adventurous lovers. You're going to be swimming, jumping, sliding and climbing the Damajagua river. There are three types of tours to choose from, which are divided into the amount of waterfalls you want to climb - 7, 12 or 27. Tourists who have planned a visit with the hotel have time to visit only the first 7 waterfalls, so if you're adventurous and want to visit all 27 waterfalls, we recommend you get there on your own by guagua (public bus), the cheapest option at $1,50 (50RDS). The carrier Javilla Tours is a good option; it’s located at Calle Colon, 118 Puerto Plata, Tel +1809 261 3340. Going down the falls is more like a water slide, and the water is so refreshing. In 2004 it was the set of the film Love Wrecked.
Gri Gri Lagoon, Rio San Juan, Puerto Plata. A 90-minute drive east of Puerto Plata you will find this protected area, which is ideal for lovers of ecotourism and a real gem to visit. It is a great underground river that rises to the edge of the town of Rio San Juan, and continues its way through a beautiful forest, which is perfect for bird and mangrove watching. Following the twists and turns of the channel, it soon empties into the Atlantic Ocean. A warning: do not be surprised when you get to the open sea and you’re confronted with statues of life-sized heads and bodies that are placed on the bluffs in honor of the Taino Indians who inhabited the island. The same boat that made the journey takes you to Caleton Beach and the famous Cueva de las Golondrinas. Located in the sea, it is so named because it is a refuge for these birds, which can be seen flying back and forth in this small cave. It is only accessible by boat, and the tranquility that is experienced once inside the cave, is impressive. The cost of just the boat ride is about $15 (500RDS), but varies depending on the number of people, and you can always hire.
The Cabarete Caves. Just 25 minutes from Puerto Plata and located in El Choco National Park, which has a lagoon, tropical plants, exotic birds, and the steep hills which are the main attraction, along with its caves with subterranean water systems and underground pools. The park has exotic plants, tropical birds, and 12 species of bats, hundreds of which live in the caves. There is a 800 m long track that tunnels into the ground through the caves. The highlight of the tour is a cave in which you can dive 20 m below the surface, and bathe in a small area of crystal clear water. Directions: from Puerto Plata, head towards Sosua, pass the supermarket City Market in the direction of Cabarete, and then take the first street on your right. Go straight for about five minutes to reach the entrance of the Caves. The entrance to the Caves National Park and the Caves has a separate cost of $1,50 (50RDS).