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12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Puerto Plata

Written by Lura Seavey

Puerto Plata sits on the northern shores of the Dominican Republic's Amber Coast, named for its abundance of rich amber deposits. Puerto Plata was the first custom-built tourist destination in the Dominican Republic, and vacationers from around the globe flock here to enjoy the all-inclusive beach resorts that line the shore.

Although the beaches offer a myriad of activities to keep the whole family entertained, tourists who are ready to venture beyond the resort confines will find many fun things to do in and around Puerto Plata. Highlights include museums, natural areas, historic Fort San Felipe, top-notch golf, an interactive water park, restaurants, cafes, and more. Learn more about the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Puerto Plata.

See also: Where to Stay in Puerto Plata

1. Playa Dorada

Playa Dorada
Playa Dorada | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Playa Dorada, Puerto Plata's primary hub of tourist activity, is the stretch of golden-sand beach where you will find most of the area's all-inclusive resorts and all the bustle that accompanies them. In addition to resort facilities, lounge chairs, and cabanas full of sunbathers, the beach itself is like an extended plaza, with entertainers and vendors patrolling the crowd.

Live Merengue music is almost unavoidable, and those who are just visiting for the day don't ever have to leave the sand to get food, drinks, and souvenirs. Where the beach is not bordered by hotels, there are plenty of restaurants and a shopping center. The warm waters are ideal for swimming, as well as water sports, and there are several rental shops where you can rent equipment like banana boats or get kitesurfing instruction.

2. Mount Isabel de Torres

Mount Isabel de Torres Cable Car

Looming over Puerto Plata, the 2,600-foot Mount Isabel de Torres (also known as Pico Isabella de Torres) provides stunning panoramic views of the city, beach, and Atlantic Ocean. Most tourists opt to ride up the mountain via cable car (the only one in the Caribbean), enjoying the additional views and airborne photo-ops, although more active visitors can hike to the top.

The summit is home to a statue of Christ the Redeemer, which watches over the city below, reminiscent of the iconic attraction in Río de Janeiro. At his feet, vendors gather to form a busy shopping plaza, where you can find refreshments and souvenirs like amber jewelry and handmade crafts, and there is a restaurant as well. A short walk brings you to the botanical gardens, where local flowers and greenery will provide respite from the bustle.

Address: Manolo Tavarez, Puerto Plata

Official site: http://telefericopuertoplata.com/

3. Damajagua Waterfalls

Damajagua Waterfalls
Damajagua Waterfalls | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Other than the beach, Damajagua Waterfalls are the top natural attraction in the Puerto Plata area, and visiting them can be an adventure for nature lovers. Equipped with helmets and lifejackets, visitors have the opportunity to make their way downstream by swimming, jumping, and sliding, often via stone waterslides that were carved by the rushing water. Among the most exciting are the 20-foot drop at la Tinajita and the twisty Corkscrew falls, neither of which are for the faint of heart.

Other highlights include the pool at Jaiba, named for the freshwater crabs that live in the rocks here and a bizarre pool with two layers of water - cold on the top and warm on the bottom. The site also has a visitor center and restaurant.

A great way to experience this popular natural attraction is on an organized tour of the 27 waterfalls of Damajagua from Puerto Plata, which includes round-trip transportation, lunch, safety equipment, and a knowledgeable guide. Tourists have the option to stop and relax around halfway up, or to keep hiking to the top waterfall for a full thrill ride down nature's water park.

Official site: www.27charcos.com

4. Amber Museum of Puerto Plata

Amber Museum of Puerto Plata
Amber Museum of Puerto Plata| Michael Rhys / photo modified

The amber mined in and around Puerto Plata is known for being some of the oldest and clearest, and many of the most remarkable specimens can be found at the Amber Museum of Puerto Plata. Amber, although not an actual stone, is the Dominican Republic's designated national gemstone. In addition to its popularity in jewelry, many are interested in amber for what it holds inside. Many of the specimens in the museum contain plants, insects, and other small creatures that were captured by the sticky sap and frozen in time, fossilized. The most impressive of the museum's pieces contains a huge lizard - nearly 16 inches long - encased and perfectly preserved.

You can find a wide variety of amber jewelry and specimens at the museum's gift shop, as well as information on tours of local mines.

Address: 61 Duarte Street, Playa Dorada

Official site: www.ambermuseum.com

5. Safari Adventure Tour

Scenic view of Puerto Plata from Mount Isabella

A fun activity for both families and couples visiting Puerto Plata is an outback safari adventure visiting some of the island's highlights. This is an excellent way to explore the region's diverse landscape and its inhabitants. On the 5.5-hour Safari Adventure Tour, tourists can enjoy unhindered views from aboard the open-air safari truck while the guide provides a narrative about the surrounding countryside. Stopping frequently for photo-ops, the tour includes visits to scenic vistas like the slopes of Mount Isabela de Torres.

Other stops include a plantation that grows chocolate, coffee, and fruit; a local home; a school; and a wildlife rescue, where you can meet some of the animals, including the endangered rhinoceros iguana. The last stop of the day is at a secluded beach, where you can relax or play in the water.

6. Zipline Adventure and Eco-Tour

Dominican squirrel monkey

Ziplining through "Monkey Jungle" is an exciting activity for thrill-seekers and nature lovers. Named for the forest's lively population of squirrel monkeys, this section of jungle sits at the edge of El Choco National Park near Cabarete, and you can visit it on a guided zipline adventure from Puerto Plata. This five- to six-hour tour includes transportation to the park, where you will find two suspension bridges and seven ziplines, providing an exciting perspective of the tropical forest below. In addition to the adventure through the treetops, tourists will explore Monkey Jungle with a professional naturalist while interacting with the friendly primates and learning about the ecosystem and local plants and animals.

7. Ocean World Adventure Park

Ocean World Adventure Park
Ocean World Adventure Park| Keirn / photo modified

Ocean World Adventure Park, three miles from Puerto Plata, is a popular attraction for families and couples because of its interactive marine life experiences. Admission includes use of the water park attractions including pools and waterslides; access to the Tropical Reef Aquarium, where you can snorkel; and educational animal shows, which include dolphins, sea lions, sharks, and tropical birds.

Visitors also have the opportunity to purchase special access programs, which include sea lion encounters, petting stingrays, swimming with the sharks, and numerous ways to interact with the dolphins, from petting and feeding to swimming and even spending a full day with the trainers helping to care for the animals.

Address: Calle Principal #3, Confresi, Puerto Plata

Official site: www.oceanworld.net

8. Day Trip to Santiago and Jarabacoa

Salto Jimenoa Uno waterfall in Jarabacoa

Travelers who want to experience as much as possible on their visit to the Dominican Republic can take a guided day trip covering the island's historical and scenic highlights. This is a good way to learn about local culture and get a feel for the island beyond the resort strip.

On the activity-packed full-day trip from Puerto Plata to Santiago and Jarabacoa Ranch tourists first visit Santiago de los Caballeros, the second-largest city in the country, which is rich with history as one of the first European settlements in the "New World." The tour visits top Santiago attractions, including the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration and the grand Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and the knowledgeable tour guide will provide commentary about the city's history and present day culture.

From here, the tour moves on to the Jarabacoa Ranch, where there are several ways to enjoy the surroundings. Tourists can choose to explore the trails by foot, take a horseback ride, or cover more ground in a Jeep. After the included lunch, the tour visits a local craft bazaar and then proceeds on a scenic drive back toward Puerto Plata, meandering through small towns and into the mountains to look down over the Cibao Valley.

9. Fort San Felipe

Fort San Felipe
Fort San Felipe

Fort San Felipe (Fuerte San Felipe) is Puerto Plata's only remaining colonial structure and one of the first European forts constructed in the Americas. It was built between 1564 and 1577 to defend against colonists from other European countries, as well as pirates looking for silver and gold. Its primary use throughout the centuries has been as a prison, most notoriously as a prison for political dissidents during Trujillo's dictatorship. Inside its eight-foot-thick walls, visitors will find some interesting wartime historical artifacts as well as a small museum.

The fort is ringed by a moat and outlined in lights at night, and the park below the fort is an ideal spot to view the sunset; there are excellent views from the fort as well.

10. Day Trip to Cabarete

Cabarete
Cabarete | Chris Breikss / photo modified

Rimmed by a four-mile stretch of white-sand beach, Cabarete is a hotspot for the young, hip, and physically fit. With warm waters and consistent winds, the area here is considered one of the best in the world for kiteboarding. Cabarete's famous Kite Beach is a good location for beginners wanting to learn the sport and experts looking for some fun. In addition to all the water sports, cafes, restaurants, and shops line the top of the beach making it a great place to kick back and relax.

Adding to the attraction of the fantastic beach, Cabarete sits at the edge of the Parque Nacional El Choco, a large national park full of natural wonders, including a system of caves. If visiting during March, you will want to plan your trip for a Sunday to experience Cabarete Carnaval, known for its family-friendly atmosphere.

11. Off-Road Tours

ATV Adventure in the Dominican Republic

Miles of coastline trails make the region surrounding Puerto Plata an excellent place to go off-roading while enjoying the beautiful views. A great day activity, the 4.5-hour ATV adventure from Puerto Plata gives tourists the chance to drive their own ATV while being led by a local guide through the rural trails. This is a popular thing to do for couples, with plenty of stops along the way for photo-ops, as well as breaks to take a dip in the river and a visit to Don Chi Chi's for fresh coconut water. Snacks and beverages are also complimentary to keep you fueled and hydrated for your day in the sun.

12. Day Trip to Sosúa

Sosúa
Sosúa | BluEyedA73 / photo modified

Sosúa, approximately 15 miles east of Puerto Plata, is known for its sheltered beaches and cosmopolitan character, influenced by its origins as a refuge for European Jews, who settled here in the 1940s to start a new life. Today, the area is home to many guesthouses, villas, hotels, and cafes. The crescent-shaped Sosúa Beach is lined with shady trees and buzzes with vendors, and this is one of the region's best places for SCUBA diving and snorkeling. If you are visiting in the winter, you may also be able to spot migrating whales in the bay.

While visiting Sosúa, be sure to stop in to Casa De Arte in the center of town, where you will find a variety of local art and other cultural exhibits.

Where to Stay in Puerto Plata

We recommend these resorts around Puerto Plata for the best experience, regardless of your budget:

  • Casa Colonial Beach & Spa: luxury beachfront boutique hotel, colonial-style building, attentive staff, lovely rooftop pool, Jacuzzis, deluxe spa, orchid gardens.
  • Iberostar Costa Dorada: mid-range all-inclusive resort, beachfront, huge palm-lined pool, live entertainment, full-service spa, tennis courts, kids' activities.
  • Blue JackTar: affordable all-inclusive resort, beachfront location, friendly staff, bright rooms, outdoor pool.
  • ApartHotel Costambar: budget apartments, steps to the beach, simple kitchens, outdoor pool.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

One Island, Many Options: Tourists visiting the Dominican Republic often choose to vacation here due to the island's reputation for having outstanding beaches. See our article on the Best Beaches in the Dominican Republic to learn about hot spots around the island. Kiteboarders of all abilities will enjoy a visit to Cabarete's Kite Beach, where you can take lessons and discover a new way to add excitement to your travels.

This country is also home to a surprising variety of natural wonders, a vibrant culture, and a rich history. Learn about other destinations and things to do with our article on Top Attractions & Places to Visit in the Dominican Republic. And don't forget about the capital city, where you can spend time wandering through Santo Domingo's Zona Colonial.

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