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Back in 1493, Christopher Columbus wished to establish a city in Puerto Plata, and it was to be named La Isabela. Unfortunately for him, a wicked tempest got in the way of his plans, and he was not able to make it there. Not until 1502 did someone from Europe make it to Puerto Plata to claim it as his own. Nicolas de Ovando founded this region and named it Puerto Plata, which translates to port of silver. This fantastic paradise is located 130 miles northwest of Santo Domingo, and a trip to Puerto Plata is not a disappointing one. The name originates from the fact that the area surrounding the port features sparkling blue water and gorgeous beaches. The port here became the final stop for ships on their way back to Europe, and as a result, treasures from all over could be seen in the port of Puerto Plata.
This region is incredibly appealing, because the resorts and dining facilities are pleasant and much more affordable than many of the neighboring Caribbean islands. Accommodations are springing up all the time and a number of new and exciting restaurants are in the works. Many of the best features of this area can be found minutes outside the center of Puerto Plata, in a region called the Playa Dorada, where you can find a glorious golf course, a horseback riding stable, and many other wonderful activities.
Puerto Plata was the first custom-built tourist area in all of the Dominican Republic. The sand on the majority of the beaches is a lovely beige color and rarely does it get too hot to take a barefoot afternoon stroll. The wide array of water sports and ever-present merengue music adds to the charm of Puerto Plata. It rains a lot here in winter, but the temperature remains moderate. The sights and nightlife are surprisingly abundant, with plenty of day and nighttime events to keep you busy and content. While very populated with tourists, Puerto Plata remains safe and inviting.
Starting in January 2015, Puerto Plata will see the start of a new era as a preferred tourist destination in the Dominican Republic, as Carnival Cruise Lines will inaugurate its flagship hub port in the Americas, based in Maimon Bay. Several cruiseships have already visited, starting with the MS Hamburg in March. The cruiser “HAMBURG”, is exclusively dedicated to the German cruise travel market by the operator Plantours & Partner, and it was built by the shipyard Schiffswerft GmbH in Wismar, Germany in 1997, and has already Nassau Bahamas flag and port of registry. This large boat has 145 meters long, 21.50 meters to 5.100 meters sleeve draft, has 170 crew and consists of 197 cabins and 8 suites.
The arrival of the cruise “HAMBURG” to the pier of Puerto Plata  gathered the authorities of the Dominican Port Authority (APORDOM), Ministry of Tourism (MITUR), City Hall, Provincial Government, and others. Preparations include government agencies that coordinate efforts to enable and adjust the local port to provide a proper reception to the tourists coming in the ship.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Puerto Plata next to the city center. From there, you can walk or take a taxi to the downtown region or the outskirts of the city.
Taxis are most abundant at Central Park in downtown Puerto Plata. Taxis are not metered in the Dominican Republic, so discuss rates with your driver before departing. If you prefer, there is a minivan service in town that can take you to the city of Sosia, as well as other destinations, at the fraction of the cost of a taxi. These minivans can be found at Central Park as well.
Things To See and Do
Tucked between the Atlantic coast and the northern Cordillera Mountains, Puerto Plata was the first custom-built tourist destination in the Dominican Republic. Today Puerto Plata is still a magnet for budget-conscious beach lovers. Large all-inclusive resorts dominate Puerto Plata's beige-sand coastal strip, which is dotted with deck chairs and speakers playing Merengue. But this seaside town offers so much more than resorts.
Towering above the city, Mount Isabel de Torres delights with panoramic views of Puerto Plata from its flat-topped peak. Playa Dorada and Sosua claim excellent beaches, and the Amber Museum honors the country's rich deposits of this golden sap. For an adrenalin rush, thrill seekers flock to Damajagua Waterfalls and the seaside town of Cabarete where an exhilarating line-up of water sports awaits. Visitors can also enjoy Puerto Plata's many tourist attractions which include museums, historic Fort San Felipe, top-notch golf, an interactive water park, restaurants, cafes, and more.
Playa Dorada
Playa Dorada, Puerto Plata's tourist hub, is a huge resort complex along a beautiful stretch of golden beach. Besides the many hotels, visitors will find dozens of restaurants, a shopping center, and a Robert Trent Jones golf course. Aquatic pursuits abound on the beach. The warm waters are ideal for swimming and many of the resorts offer cabanas and sun lounges.Official site: www.playdorada.com.do/
Mount Isabel de Torres
Puerto Plata's most impressive geographic feature, 2,600-foot Mount Isabel is accessed via a seven-minute cable car ride up the nearly vertical slope. Greeting visitors at the top are spectacular views of Puerto Plata, flower-filled botanic gardens, a restaurant, and a statue of Christ similar to the iconic attraction in Río de Janeiro.Address: Manolo Tavarez, Puerto Plata Official site: www.telefericopuertoplata.com
Damajagua Waterfalls
A short drive from Puerto Plata, Damajagua Waterfalls encompass a series of 27 cool cascades and rock pools. This popular side trip is not for the faint of heart. Tours involve climbing ladders up to the falls then sliding, swimming, and jumping down them wearing helmets and lifejackets. A visitor center and restaurant are also on site.
Fort San Felipe
Forte 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 in 1564 to ward off French and English pirates and later used as a prison for political dissidents. 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.
Ocean World Adventure Park
Ocean World Adventure Park, three miles from Puerto Plata, is a popular interactive water park and marina. In addition to viewing the aquariums, guests can swim with dolphins, play with sea lions, pet sharks and stingrays, and snorkel with tropical fish. The park is also home to tropical birds and tigers. Glass walls let tourists get up close to the animals. Address: Calle Principal #3, Confresi, Puerto Plata--Official site: www.oceanworld.net

Sosúa, approximately 15 miles east of Puerto Plata, is known for its sheltered beaches and cosmopolitan character. In 1940, it became a refuge for about 600 European Jews who settled here to start a new life. Today the area is home to many guesthouses, villas, hotels, and cafes. The crescent-shaped Sosua Beach buzzes with vendors and its waters are good for diving and snorkeling. During winter, whales are sometimes spotted in the bay.
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 bay here is considered one of the best in the world for windsurfing and kiteboarding. Surfing is also popular. 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.
Amber Museum of Puerto Plata
Amber is the Dominican Republic's designated national gem and the Amber Museum of Puerto Plata, celebrates its beauty. Set in an elegant Victorian-style house, the museum displays specimens of valuable Dominican amber, many with fossilized flora and fauna. The museum also has a gift shop selling amber jewelry. Address: 61 Duarte Street, Playa Dorada -- Official site: www.ambermuseum.com
Isabel de Torres (tel. 809/970-0501), an observation tower that was heavily fortified during the reign of Trujillo, affords a panoramic view of the Amber Coast from a point near the top, 780m (2,560 ft.) above sea level. You reach the observation point by teleférico (cable car), a 10-minute ascent. Once here, you're also treated to 3 hectares (7 1/2 acres) of botanical gardens. The round-trip costs RD$190 for adults, RD$70 for children age 12 and under. The aerial ride runs every hour Thursday to Tuesday 8:30am to 5pm. There's often a long wait in line for the cable car, and at certain times it's closed for repairs, so check at your cruise excursion desk before you head out.
Rum drinkers might want to head out for the Brugal Rum Bottling Plant, Carretera Luperón, Km 3.5 (tel. 809/586-2531; www.brugal.com.do), on the outskirts of Puerto Plata, 1km (2/3 mile) from Puerto Plata. Admission is free, and it is open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4pm. Some 350,000 bottles -- maybe a lot more -- of rum are filled and boxed annually for shipment. On a guided tour, visitors are taken through the plant to see how rum is bottled. At the end of the tour, you're treated to a fruit daiquiri and can purchase Brugal hats and other gifts or souvenirs if you wish.
One of the most visited attractions in the Dominican Republic is Parque Nacional La Isabela (tel. 809/472-4204), open daily from 9am to 5:30pm, charging RD$130 for admission. In spite of its fame, there isn't a lot to see once you're here. Nevertheless, this park contains what's left of Columbus's second settlement on Hispaniola.
At the park, excavations have revealed the outlines of what may have been the explorer's house, the church where the first Mass in the New World was conducted, and an observation tower where Columbus used to gaze at the stars.
The buildings were constructed of mud and limestone. The settlement established by the sailor of Genoa was ill-fated, one-third of the population falling sick within 4 or 5 days.
The ruins of La Isabela are reached along a paved road lying 15km (9 1/3 miles) west of the town of Luperón. It was declared a national park in 1998. The government has messed with the site and added more to the ruins, so its original remains have been tainted. A little museum displays artifacts believed to have been owned by these early settlers from Europe.
Getting to the park isn't easy. The most direct route is to go by one of the guaguas leaving from the center of Puerto Plata heading for Imbert. At Imbert you must take yet another minivan to Luperón. From here, motoconchos go to La Isabela. All this takes 2 hours or so. Alternatively, you can drive here by rented car, or ask at one of the hotels if any tours to La Isabela are being organized during the time of your stay.
Ocean World, Calle Principale 3 at Cofresi (tel. 809/291-1000; www.oceanworld.net), is the largest entertainment complex in the country, lying 5km (3 miles) west of Puerto Plata. It combines a plush casino and a world-class marina with such mass-market venues as a kiddie park and an aquarium for marine life. There is a series of watery "pens" and habitats for the care, feeding, and display of dolphins, sea lions, sharks, stingrays, piranhas, and other denizens of the Amazon rainforest. A number of close encounters with these nautical creatures, especially dolphins, are offered, but these encounters are not cheap, ranging from RD$1,677 to RD$9,313 per person, depending on your age and the length of exposure you opt for. Supervision of man and beast is carefully monitored by trainers, and reservations are recommended. For those 13 and up, charges are RD$2,049, and RD$1,490 for ages 4 to 12. Free for children 3 and under.
Fort San Felipe, the oldest fort in the New World, is a popular attraction (tel. 809/261-6043). Philip II of Spain ordered its construction in 1564, a task that took 33 years to complete. Built with 2m-thick (6 1/2-ft.) walls, the fort was virtually impenetrable, and the moat surrounding it was treacherous -- the Spaniards sharpened swords and embedded them in coral below the surface of the water. The doors of the fort are only 1m (3 1/4 ft.) high, another deterrent to swift passage. During Trujillo's rule, Fort San Felipe was used as a prison. Standing at the end of the Malecón, the fort was restored in the early 1970s. Admission is RD$20, free for children 11 and under. It's open daily 9am to 4:45pm.
Isabel de Torres (tel. 809/970-0501), an observation tower that was heavily fortified during the reign of Trujillo, affords a panoramic view of the Amber Coast from a point near the top, 780m (2,560 ft.) above sea level. You reach the observation point by teleférico (cable car), a 10-minute ascent. Once here, you're also treated to 3 hectares (7 1/2 acres) of botanical gardens. The round-trip costs RD$190 for adults, RD$70 for children age 12 and under. The aerial ride runs every hour Thursday to Tuesday 8:30am to 5pm. There's often a long wait in line for the cable car, and at certain times it's closed for repairs, so check at your hotel before you head out.
Eating Out
Casino action dominates the night. Newest with the most imaginative decor is the Casino at Ocean World, Calle Principale 3 at Cofresi (tel. 809/291-1111). Its cabaret show staged here, with gorgeous dancers, is the best in the D.R., rivaling some of the spectaculars in Las Vegas. A well-recommended way to experience the charms of this place involves booking a place on the "Ocean World Magical Nights," wherein, for RD$2,460 per person, you'll get round-trip transfers by minivan from most of Puerto Plata's hotels, unlimited access to a well-stocked dinner buffet, access to a dolphin night show and a sea lion night show, access to the casino and the location's many bars, and access to a Las Vegas-style revue replete with views of performers artfully outfitted in a minimalist style. Your hotel desk can usually book such tours for you. Less modern, but within the Playa Dorada hotel complex, is the sprawling, blockbuster-style casino at the Holiday Village Golden Beach (Playa Dorada; tel. 809/320-3800).
The Playa Dorada Hotel complex contains about 15 hotels, some of which have dance clubs that welcome anyone, guest or not, into their confines. These after-dark diversions tend to be filled mainly with foreign visitors, although they occasionally attract locals looking to hook up with tourists. None charge a cover, and the almost-universal drink of choice, Presidente Beer, costs RD$150 a bottle.
At least three clubs pulse out dance music every night of the week within the Playa Dorada complex beginning at 10pm. (Be aware that, in the words of one Dominican night owl we know, "Things don't get interesting till around 11:30pm.")
The hands-down most entertaining dance club at Playa Dorada, the one that everyone says is the most animated and raucous, is Mangú, Playa Dorada (tel. 809/320-3800). Its designers positioned it adjacent to the Holiday Village Golden Beach Resort, but with separate entrances. You'll find an attractively balanced blend of both local residents, many eager to score with an off-island visitor, and holiday makers, who merge and mix in an animated blend of hot bodies and hot merengue. Entrance is free for residents of the Holiday Village, but around RD$100 for nonresidents. Expect flashing lights; hundreds of writhing bodies; and a skin, glitter, and feathers show that begins at 11:30pm.
Mangú's most visible competitor is the Roadway Western Bar and Mix Grill, in the Playa Dorada Plaza (tel. 809/320-4502). Set within a simulated recreation of a log cabin, on the back side of the resort's busiest shopping center, its walls are outfitted with campy slogans like "Gringas are forever." There's no cover charge, and a Presidente beer goes for RD$140.
A final contender for the nightlife circuit in Puerto Plata is Crazy Moon, adjacent to the lobby of the Paradise Hotel (tel. 809/320-3663). Though not as sweepingly popular as either Mangú or the Roadway Bar, it can be a lot of fun, and the music is always danceable.
While visiting Puerto Plata the best way to find great shopping is to head off of resort property. Numerous bazaar-like hubs are scattered about the city. If you’re feeling adventurous, just take a stroll, bargains are never far off. Just remember to haggle to get the best deals! 

Plaza Turisol Complex is the largest shopping center on the north coast with 80 different outlets. Make this your first stop to get an idea of the merchandise available in Puerto Plata. The most upscale and tasteful merchandise is found at Turisol Complex.
Fifi is your store for diamond jewelry, gold jewelry, color gemstone jewelry, rings, earrings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, chains, and more. Not to mention, they handroll all cigars and cigaras onsite! Read

Articles of genuine leather are what you'll find at Estrella Avenida. Enjoy a selection of bags, small leather, belts, sandals, beachwear, children's accessories, and more.

Amber Shop gives you the chance to purchase some of the Dominican Republic's famed semiprecious stones. Necklaces, bracelets, and pendants all contain beautiful stones and vibrant colors!

Harrison's Fine Caribbean Jewelers Harrison's offers souvenirs and a variety of jewelry. Pop-culture icons like Madonna and Michael Jackson have been seen wearing their products.

Inspirations beckons with unique tropical clothing. Find swimwear, sundresses, tropical capri pants, sleepwear, and sandals. They also offer gifts like Taíno-made coasters and wooden boxes with primitive 

Collector's Corner Gallery & Gift Shop is the place to find that perfect souvenir. Expect a variety of gifts and souvenirs that are almost entirely made of amber.

La Canoa Gift Shop offers local handicrafts, Haitian paintings, amber, and larimar. You can also watch the jewelry being made onsite! Address:Beller 18, Puerto Plata

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