Things to Do in Puerto Plata
Housed in a fine Victorian mansion with an interesting history of its own, the Amber Museum (Museo de Ambar Dominicano) is worth a visit to see some rare and fascinating amber pieces and to understand more about this semi-precious gem.
Formed out of the fossilized resin of ancient trees some 25 to 40 million years ago, the resin (that in its pressed form becomes amber) perfectly preserved whatever it covered. Amber-covered fossils, such as insects and plant remains are still being discovered today.
There are thousands of specimens at the Amber Museum, but one of its finest has to be a perfectly conserved 40cm (15.8in) lizard encased in a 42.5cm (16.7in) length of amber.
The entire collection has good bi-lingual signage and English and Spanish-speaking guides are available to take you through the museum and relay the story of the Bentz family, the original owners of the mansion.
Hidden in a lush jungle, the Damajagua Falls are a series of 27 cascading waterfalls only discovered as recently as the early 1990s. You can climb, jump off and slide down this natural, watery assault course, which can become treacherous after heavy rain.
The best way to see the falls is on a tour. Tour guides will take you as far as the 7th waterfall and will provide you with appropriate safety equipment, such as helmets and life jackets. It is possible to explore further than the 7th waterfall but you will need to arrange your own transport from Puerto Plata and a guide and safety equipment upon arrival at the falls.
The newest cruise port in the Dominica Republic is Amber Cove, near the northern coast town of Puerta Plata. Built by the Carnival cruise line, Amber Cove opened in November 2015, and it’s a convenient jumping off spot for all kinds of activities, from snorkeling trips to ATV adventures in the nearby mountains. This area of the county is famous as the spot where Christopher Columbus first settled in the New World, and it’s also known for an abundance of amber, a rare orange jewel stone from ancient, petrified tree sap. The cove’s welcome center has myriad shops, bars and restaurants, along with a Sky Bar perched on a 60-foot hill, where visitors can get an overhead view of the port.
Playa Dorada is one of the most popular beaches in the Puerto Plata area. Here you will find a number of the major resorts along its shoreline. The gated community features around a dozen luxury resorts and hotels that border the Amber Coast.
If you are not staying along the bay of Playa Dorada, one of the best ways to experience the area is from the water. Take a catamaran tour along the North Coast from Playa Dorada to the Bay of Sosua. If the idea of spending an afternoon on a boat isn’t appealing, resorts along Playa Dorada rent watersports equipment. Try your hand at windsurfing, kayaking, sailing or parasailing. The waters at Playa Dorada are crystal clear and the shallow, sloping beach makes it a popular spot for families with small children. You can go snorkeling right off the beach with coral reefs only a short swim away.
Fort San Felipe was built in 1564 by order of Philip II of Spain and is Puerto Plata's oldest surviving building. It was a formidable construction, designed to strike fear into any would-be-invader's heart. Its 2m- (7ft) thick walls, squat doorways and moat filled with sharp coral and swords served to keep people out and, when the fort later became a prison, worked just as effectively at keeping people in - including one of its most notable captives - Juan Pablo Duarte, who served time here in 1844.
The tower contains a small museum of wartime artifacts such as guns, artillery shells, and cannonballs. Fort San Felipe's main attraction, however, is its sweeping views across the Atlantic.
Named after Catalonian expatriate Andres Brugal, a visit to the Brugal Rum Center offers visitors a chance to see the magic of turning sugarcane into one of the Dominican Republic’s chief exports – rum. From golden brown to crystal clear, the rum you’ll see, smell, and taste at the Brugal rum center will open your eyes to the possibility of what a refined drink rum can be.
Families enjoy the wondrous automated distilling and bottling process and marvel at the mechanics of turning sugarcane into the nectar of the gods. An excellent escape from the ordinary while in Puerto Plata, take some time to explore a local icon and learn a bit about distilling in the process.
Isabel de Torres Mountain is located near Puerto Plata and overlooks the region’s coastal strip. Also called Mount Isabel de Torres, this scenic mountain is home to the only aerial tramway in the Caribbean. The cable car, or teleférico in Spanish, brings visitors up 2,555 feet (778.8 meters) while offering spectacular views down to the city and surrounding waters. The ride takes approximately five to seven minutes. It is recommended that you visit in the morning, as early as possible; the afternoon is prone to heavy cloud cover and you might find yourself at the top of Mount Isabel de Torres with no views at all.
Mount Isabel de Torres’ peak offers impressive views of the Dominican Republic. Atop the mountain, there is a replica of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue found in Brazil. The statue sits atop a big dome, which houses stores selling jewelry and other souvenirs.
La Isabela is located within the Puerto Plata province of the Dominican Republic. It is the second-oldest European settlement in the New World, founded by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage in 1493. Columbus named the area after Queen Isabella I of Castile. Columbus established La Isabela to search for gold, but when he found very little, he enslaved people to the island. The inevitable issues of hunger and disease led to a wealth of problems like mutiny, punishment and, of course, more disease and hunger. Combine that with repeated conflicts with the local Taíno, and the colony was doomed. Columbus’ failure got him called back to Spain, and the colony was ultimately abandoned in 1498. Today, La Isabela is an archaeological and historical park.Excavations started in the late 1980s. It is presumed the ruins were more extensive, but the area was bulldozed in 1960. A military fort was built at that time to ward off potential invasions by associates of Fidel Castro.
Hailed as 'the biggest attraction in the Caribbean', Ocean World Adventure Park is a great day out of the whole family.
Ocean World prides itself on its point of difference from other marine parks that are generally not set up to enable people to physically interact with the animals. At Ocean World Adventure Park you are encouraged through a series of experiences to have direct contact with some of the animals.
And who could resist the opportunity to swim and play with dolphins, snorkel with tropical fish and float with stingrays? You may wish to pass on the shark feeding at the 200,000-gallon (760,000-liter) shark pool, however.
More Things to Do in Puerto Plata
Punta Rucia, also sometimes spelled Punta Rusia, is a cape-end beach and fishing village in the Dominican Republic province of Puerto Plata. It is located near the town of La Isabela in the Bay of La Isabela. Diving and snorkeling are two popular pastimes along Punta Rucia. The shallow cove is quite serene and a great spot to look for colorful fish without the need to venture too far from shore. You can also grab a couple of friends and try a thrilling banana-boat ride.
If you are spending an afternoon in Punta Rucia, be sure to visit one of the area’s restaurants. Since it’s primarily a fishing village, seafood is a specialty here. Enjoy a beachfront lunch and take in the scenic views of the fishing boats that dot the waterfront. The tranquil village is also the jumping off point for many travelers who want to visit the nearby island of Cayo Paraiso. Cayo Paraiso, or Paradise Island, is a deserted island and natural sandbar located near Punta Rucia.
Between Puerto Plata and Cabarete, lies the Bay of Sosua. Known for its sheltered calm waters, coral reefs and wide variety of fish and marine life, the Bay attracts many snorkelers and divers and is a popular spot for a cruise.
Even if you don't dive or snorkel, the Bay’s clear waters enable you to catch a glimpse of some of the richness of sea life below. Getting out on the Bay is also a relaxing way to spend a few hours and view some the Dominican Republic's picturesque northern coastline.
In the winter, whale-watching is also a popular activity in Sosua Bay.
Dominican Republic is home to incredible stretches of white sandy beach, expansive all-inclusive resorts and stunning turquoise waters. But it’s also home to some of the Caribbean’s best surfing. Perhaps no spot in DR is better known for its serious waves than Encuentro Beach. Several local surf schools line the beach, where strong winds mean morning is the most ideal time of day to learn. Protected waters and a vibrant local surf scene make it a top destination for travelers who want to hang ten while staying in Puerto Plata. Five unique breaks known as Coco Pipe, Bobo’s Point, La Izquierda, the Destroyer and Le Derecha offer travelers distinctly different rides, with some of the biggest waves coming from Coco Pipe and the Destroyer. Travelers can opt to explore on their own, or sign up for learn-to surf lessons with one of the local schools, or as part of an organized tour.
Monte Cristi National Park, or Parque National Monte Cristi, is a national park in the Dominican Republic. It is one of the driest areas in the Dominican Republic, receiving about two inches of rain per year.The area extends from the Haiti border to the tip of Punta Rucia. Monte Cristi includes subtropical dry forests, lagoons, mangrove swamps, beaches and a stunning 777-foot (237-meter) limestone mesa called El Morro that juts up from the water.
A trip to Monte Cristi National Park includes a boat ride through the mangroves on which you can look for some of the 160 species of birds that call the area home. Several offshore islands called The Seven Brothers Cays, or Los Cayos Siete Hermanos, are visible from Monte Cristi National Park. In addition to visiting Monte Cristi National Park, the nearby island of Cayo Paraiso is worth a stop.
Take a trip into the country's lush interior to Jarabacoa, the heart of the Dominican Republic's emerging eco-tourism scene. Set in the Cordillera Central mountains (referred to as the Dominican Alps) Jarabacoa is a great spot for mountain biking and exploring the alpine trails. White-water rafting is also popular at the nearby Yaque del Norte River. Jarabacoa's biggest attraction, however, is its waterfalls.
There are three waterfalls around Jarabacoa - El Salto de Baiguate, Salto Jimenoa Uno and Salto Jimenoa Dos. The Jimenoa waterfalls are more spectacular and frequently visited than Baiguate, which is in a lush canyon and a little harder to access.
At 60m (196ft) Salto Jimenoa Uno is a tremendous sight, its icy water gushes from a hole in the rock and crashes into a huge pool. It's possible to swim here (and at all the waterfalls) but the water is bracing to say the least.
Often called Paradise Island, Cayo Paraiso is an uninhabited island off the coast of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. It’s a popular stop for snorkel and catamaran tours. If you are staying in Puerto Plata, it is likely you will depart from the small fishing village of Punta Rucia. Speedboats take visitors on a relatively short ride across the bay to the island. Once you arrive at Cayo Paraiso, you can swim and snorkel around the coral reef and lagoon that surround the island. The snorkeling here is said to be among the best in all of the Dominican Republic. On a tour, you typically have about 2.5 hours to swim and enjoy the scenery. Watch for vibrantly colored schools of tropical fish, sea turtles, stingrays, eels and more. Bright coral formations are found throughout the area as well.
Travelers who want to escape the crush of Puerto Plata resorts and enjoy close encounters with nature will love exploring Jimenoa Falls, a magical destination that is accessible via 4x4 or horseback near the town of Jarabacoa. The thundering waters tumble some 35 meters over rocky cliffs that are located in a picturesque tropical rain forest and offer visitors truly stunning views. Travelers can navigate the rugged trails surrounding this top natural attraction, and shuffle across hanging bridges that stretch over the picturesque Jimenoa River. The waterfall cascades into a natural swimming pool where tired hikers can find the ultimate refreshment after a long walk in the woods.
Visitors can combine a tour of historic Santiago, including architectural landmarks, city streets, a ceramic and cigar factory, with a stop at Jimenoa Falls, for the perfect way to see the best of Dominican Republic from Punta Cana.
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