Puerto Plata is one of Dominican Republic’s most charming cities, with stunning coastal views where mountains meet sea. Surfers flock here for the choppy Atlantic waves and warm sunrays, but Puerto Plata isn’t just for beach bums and athletes. This city and province in northern Dominican Republic are brimming with stunning nature, centuries of history and colorful nightlife.
Want to get the full Puerto Plata experience on your next getaway? Put these 10 activities at the top of your list:
1. Explore technicolor downtown Puerto Plata
The colorful colonial and Victorian-style houses dotted throughout Puerto Plata are a feast for the eyes. Admire the historic architecture and the dreamy pastel color schemes while enjoying local ice-cream at Parque Independencia — and sure, go ahead and take a selfie! For additional historical context, stop by the Casa de Cultura for a quick history lesson and a tour of the historic three-story Victorian building.
2. Visit the Anfiteatro la Puntilla
La Puntilla is a stunning 22,000-square-foot outdoor amphitheater facing the Atlantic Ocean. With room for more than 4,000 spectators, this outdoor venue opened in 2017 and regularly hosts concerts, dance performances and other cultural events.
3. Take a cable car to Mount Isabel de Torres
Puerto Plata is where you’ll find the Caribbean’s only cable car, which takes visitors to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres―a whopping 2,600 feet above the rolling green hills below. From the top, enjoy sweeping views of the Christ the Redeemer statue and the ocean and shoreline in the distance. The peak is also home to botanical gardens that are ripe for exploration.
4. Slide down a series of waterfalls
If you’ve ever wanted to truly experience waterfalls—not just admire them—plan a day at the 27 Charcos of Damajagua. You’ll start your adventure on a hike through a thick forest before reaching a rocky hilltop where you’ll descend by jumping or sliding down a series of waterfalls. Local outfitters supply guides and safety equipment. All you need is to show up with a taste for adventure. Most excursions take you through seven or twelve of the 27 falls where you’ll slide down into deep turquoise pools.
5. Descend into the amber mines
The north coast of Dominican Republic is famous for producing some of the clearest and oldest amber in the world. Tour the amber mines in the hills of La Cumbre. You’ll learn about the history and characteristics of amber before hiking to the mines that run 200 feet deep. You can also purchase raw amber on-site for a steep discount from jewelry store prices.
Fun fact: The famous amber in “Jurassic Park” containing prehistoric insects was inspired by Dominican amber pieces.
6. Learn about military history at the Fortaleza San Felipe
The Fortaleza San Felipe dates back to the 16th century, when the Spaniards built it to defend the coast from pirates. The fort is considered one of the most important colonial military structures in the Caribbean. Starting in the 1800s through the years of the Trujillo dictatorship, it served as a prison. Today, it’s a museum that invites visitors to explore original canons, weapons and hidden chambers.
7. Go snorkeling or diving at Cayo Arena
Not far off the coast of Puerto Plata sits Cayo Arena—also known, aptly, as Cayo Paraíso (Paradise Key). The sandbank is a popular destination for divers and snorkelers eager for a view of colorful tropical fish. Get up close and personal with octopuses, crabs, surgeonfish, angelfish and yellowtail snappers, then relax on the beach and soak in the pristine surroundings. Connect with your hotel concierge upon arrival to plan your excursion.
8. Experience Wildlife Encounters
Visitors who dream of swimming with dolphins can fulfill their wish at Ocean World Adventure Park, located in Cofresí, just over five kilometers (three miles) west of Puerto Plata city. Aside from dolphins, children and adults can enjoy a multitude of marine experiences, from shows with sea lions and nurse sharks to an exotic bird area, and snorkeling in an artificial coral reef aquarium filled with hundreds of tropical fish. For more adventure, try the giant slide that throws you into the artificial swimming lagoon.
9. Learn to Kiteboard
Puerto Plata is a world-class kiteboarding, windsurfing and laser sailing destination due to its warm waters and perfect wind conditions year-round. Cabarete, is very popular among the young and adventurous because of the laid-back atmosphere and aquatic sports offered on its beach, its famous annual jazz festival each fall and its eclectic bars, cafes, restaurants and shops.
10. Eat, drink and be merry
Fill your plate at one of Puerto Plata’s most emblematic restaurants, including La Parrillada—one of the oldest in town. In nearby Cabarete, the entire beach is lined with restaurants selling fresh seafood, tostones and other local fare. You can also find local organic coffee and cacao to enjoy on your trip or bring back home.
11. Find your perfect beach
No Puerto Plata trip would be complete without visiting the world-class beaches along Dominican Republic’s north coast. Whether you’re a surfer, a kiteboarder or you’re simply looking for a sunny spot to unwind with a good book, the options throughout Puerto Plata are plentiful.