By Randy Gener
PUERTO PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC | Why vacation at Puerto Plata? Looking for a great escape? Tempted by those brochures promising endless beaches and sparkling sand?
The first answer is simple. There aren’t many places left in the Caribbean where you can really get away. Tucked away on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, this “Silver Port” region packs in all those Caribbean dreams. What makes Puerto Plata all the more special is that it is one of the few places where you can escape the tourist hordes while still enjoying world-class tourism infrastructure — all for a price that’s significantly lower than you think.
Let’s start with the glory of the beaches. The coastal region of Puerto Plata (aka San Felipe de Puerto Plata) is blessed with some of the longest stretches of unspoiled beaches in the Caribbean.
The best known of these is probably Playa Grande, just 15km east of the town of Río San Juan. This is undoubtedly one of the country’s most beautiful beaches - long, broad and tawny, with the aquamarine sea on one side and a thick fringe of palm trees on the other. Stark white cliffs jut out in the distance. It’s the perfect setting for swimming, surfing or lazing.
Sounds tempting? Here’s another reason. Without a doubt, one reason that visitors return to Puerto Plata is the opportunity to indulge at a discount. Staying in all-inclusive five-star resorts which might cost thousands of dollars in other destinations can run as low as around $200.
Recently, representatives from the Dominican Republic’s Puerto Plata Tourism Cluster (CTDPP) highlighted the area’s strong tourism numbers at the 2016 Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange. CTDPP was pleased to announce an increase in visitors to Puerto Plata of 11.5 percent over 2015 numbers.
Currently, more than 12,500 hotel rooms are available in the area, a number that is expected to grow to meet increasing tourism interest. Puerto Plata has seen significant tourism developments in the past few years — most notably the completion and grand opening of the Amber Cove cruise port, welcoming high-profile cruises such as Carnival’s voluntourism-oriented Fathom — and it expects to welcome more than 400,000 cruise passenger arrivals this year.
A Prime Drawcard for Surfers of All Stripes And Types.
Puerto Plata is famous for its world-class watersports offerings, with its town of Cabarete known as the Kiteboarding Capital of the World. One of the region’s most attractive towns, Cabarete began life as a humble farming hamlet until it was discovered by a windsurfing pioneer less than 30 years ago.
Just plain old “surfing” doesn’t begin to tell the story. Puerto Plata’s breezes and gentle swells have made it world renowned for kitesurfing, wakeboarding and windsurfing - as well as the plain-vanilla variety. Once you’re adequately bronzed, it’s time to turn your attention inland. Puerto Plata’s interior offers spectacular scenery and activities for all skill levels. Mountain-biking tours range from beginner level to insanely difficult.
With endless opportunities for adventure tourism — through activities such as hiking, canyoning and rappelling, complemented by mountain biking and whitewater rafting nearby — Puerto Plata happily welcomes active travelers and promotes its offerings to key niche audiences looking for a fit vacation.
The Rise of Ecotourism
CTDPP announced that it will also begin to tout the area’s ecotourism options to new audiences, phasing out its “Smile You’re in Puerto Plata” campaign in favor of one promoting the area’s natural attractions. To kick-start its eco-friendly efforts, the tourism cluster is working with Puerto Plata residents and businesses to ensure its message of environmentalism becomes well rooted in the community.
Infrastructure officials are working on a number of improvements throughout the province, such as constructing an amphitheater, restoring historic buildings, developing sailing ports, installing new safety surveillance systems and improving roads in Sosua and downtown Puerto Plata.
Lorenzo Sancassani, Interim Director of Tourism, also noted its intentions to construct an artisanal marketplace in the Imbert municipality — as handicraft is growing in demand with tourists, this marketplace will allow simplified access to the popular goods created by Puerto Plata artisans.
In fact, Dominican Republic tourism representatives speaking on behalf of the National Hotel & Tourism Association (ASONAHORES) announced at DATE a growth of 5.8 percent in overall tourism to the country — a number alone growing faster than the Caribbean’s overall rate of 3.7 percent. Dominican Republic is projected to reach 6 million total visitors in 2016 — based on numbers thus far, the country is on track to meet the targeted 7 percent growth needed to achieve this.
Casinos, Forts, National Parks + Additional Attractions
Given its fascinating history and culture, the Dominican Republic is a chosen escape for celebrities, couples and families alike.
Other attractions in Puerto Plata include Ocean World, the largest casino and aquarium complex in the country, and the Dominican Amber Museum near Central Park. Fort San Felipe, the oldest fort in the New World, also merits a visit if you are strolling along the Malecón (Boardwalk). Head to Mount Isabel de Torres for panoramic views of the port and ocean. A cable car hauls tourists up to the 2,559-foot summit. Nearby lies La Isabela National Park, where you can tour the ruins of Columbus’s second settlement on Hispaniola.
Puerto Plata’s bar and entertainment scene is enough to keep you buzzing for weeks. All the resorts have their own bars and discos, which are open to guests or those who have purchased day passes. The beachside nightlife kicks on well into the wee hours. If you’re willing to explore, you’ll discover such gems as Sosúa’s Ruby Lounge (featuring live music and karaoke - it’s a party that spills out into the streets most nights) and Lax, Cabarete’s nightlife hub.
Gregorio Luperón International Airport handles the majority of flights to Puerto Plata and the Amber Coast. The airport sits just seven miles east of the city, though reaching most of Puerto Plata’s resorts from there takes up to 40 minutes, according to Frommer’s. Travelers flying into the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo can take a connecting flight to Gregorio Luperón or a cross-country coach bus; the bus trip is approximately three and a half hours. Fodor’s suggests booking with privately owned coach companies such as Caribe Tours and Metro Buses in Santo Domingo.
Puerto Plata was founded in 1502. Situated on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata has tropical beaches that have helped it reemerge as one of the top vacation destinations in the Caribbean, following previous booms in the colonial and Victorian eras. Nowadays, all-inclusive resorts and commercial facilities abound along the shores of Puerto Plata and the surrounding Amber Coast. Despite the tourist-friendly atmosphere, visitors should familiarize themselves with several aspects of travel here to make the most of their trip.
Visit Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism’s official website at: www.GoDominicanRepublic.com.
Download the Go Dominican Republic App, available in the App Store and Google Play
Follow the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism activities on Twitter and Instagram @GoDomRep.
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