10 Things to Do: Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
The tropical playground of Puerto Plata has come a long way from its notorious beginnings as a hub of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Now host to the annual Bride of the Atlantic surfing festival, the busy port on the Dominican Republic’s north coast is a magnet for history buffs as well as beach lovers.
Fortaleza San Felipe offers visitors a glimpse of the Dominican Republic’s history. Photo: Michael Runkel/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
- Walk in Columbus’ footsteps. Just outside the present-day port, Christopher Columbus founded La Isabela, one of the earliest European settlements in the Americas, in 1494. Visitors can see the ruins of the explorer’s first house and a reconstruction of El Templo de las Américas, where the first recorded Catholic mass in the New World was celebrated (150 pesos).
- Reach for the heights. El Teleférico, the only aerial tramway in the Caribbean, whisks you to the top of the 793-meter (2,602 feet) Pico Isabel de Torres, where you can explore a botanical garden and admire a replica of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue. Heartier folk can hike to the summit from El Cupey town. Caution: it can get foggy during the winter (350 pesos).
- Try a Riki-Taki. El Malecón, the city’s seafront esplanade, is dotted with restaurants offering seafood dishes and Riki-Takis—Puerto Plata’s answer to the burger. Afterward, relax under the almond trees and sip coconut water.
- Defend your fort. The sixteenth-century Fortaleza San Felipe, located at the west end of El Malecón, is one of the oldest forts in the hemisphere. Built as a defense against pirates, it was turned into a prison during the Trujillo dictatorship. Climb the turrets to marvel at the coastal view. Closed on Mondays (100 pesos).
- Go beach hopping. One possible itinerary: start at the quieter waters of Playa Alicia, then grab lunch at one of the stalls on Playa Los Charramícos, Sosua. At sunset, head to Cabarete for kite surfing. Cool off with a drink at one of the area’s bohemian lounges.
- Strike a bargain. El Mercado Nuevo, the city’s central market, sells everything from local arts and crafts to honey and spices. Don’t leave without trying the archly named mamajuana, the country’s signature alcoholic beverage.
- Meet your spirit animal. Play with sea lions, swim with dolphins, or pet sharks and stingrays at Ocean World Adventure Park, a mega marine complex on the western edge of town. If land animals are more your speed, look for the park’s exotic birds or head to the Tiger Grotto (3,000 pesos).
- Go fossil-hunting. Step back in time—way back—with a visit to the Amber Museum. Look for the amber-encased remains of lizard-size dinosaurs and the mosquito made famous by Jurassic Park. Whatever you do, don’t clone the dinosaurs. Closed on Sundays (50 pesos).
- Descend into the underworld. At the Parque Nacional El Choco, a 90-minute tour takes visitors through three of the park’s 30 caves. Bring your bathing suit: the mineral pools provide a cooling dip (700 pesos).
- Experience the Caribbean spirit. A free guided tour through the Brugal rum factory ends in the gift shop and tasting room, where a complimentary round of rum-based cocktails awaits. Tours can be arranged by phone Monday-Friday.
View a slideshow of attractions from Puerto Plata, click here.
Slideshow images courtesy of Juan Carlos Almonte Batista and Noelle Clark.
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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.Tags: Puerto Plata, 10 Things to Do, Tourism, Dominican Republic