About Puerto Plata beaches
The first beach destination developed for tourism in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata, remains one of its most popular, with a long string of affordable beachfront resorts and a reputation as one of the best spots for windsurfing in the world. The resort can also serve as a gateway to the rest of the North Coast resorts, including laid-back Cabarete (famous for kiteboarding) and Sosua, a budget-friendly beach village with low-cost shopping and dining and good snorkelling.
There are, perhaps, more picturesque sites elsewhere; the beige-sand beaches here are somewhat narrow and the water isn’t as vivid a shade of turquoise as in some other parts of the Caribbean. Still, beaches here are festive, with crowds of locals and tourists enjoying music piped in by loudspeaker, and vendors offering waverunners, parasailing and other watersports.
Beyond the beach:
Puerto Plata and its environs are packed with historical and cultural points of interest. Overlooking the harbour is San Felipe Fort, a remnant of the 16th-century colonial architecture and the oldest building in the city. Nearby is an old restored lighthouse. The Taino Art Museum (Arawak Plaza) illustrates the history of the indigenous people, pre-Columbus, and the Amber Museum (Calle Duarte 61) displays a gorgeous collection of amber, including the piece holding a mosquito that was used in Jurassic Park.
Older kids and teens may enjoy trying their hand at windsurfing or sailing, but the surf is often too rough for little ones to splash safely. At Ocean World Adventure Park (Cofresi Bay) (www.oceanworld.net), a marine animal park just 5km (3 miles) from Puerto Plata, kids can watch a dolphin or sea lion show, pet a sting ray or nurse shark, snorkel with thousands of colourful tropical fish, and even feed a Bengal tiger at the jungle-like Tiger Grotto.
Just an hour south of Puerto Plata is Santiago, a refined city of one million people. Recognised as the birthplace of the national music form, the merengue, the city still has a great nightlife, with clubs full of local fashionistas, and the country’s best Carnival celebration. A city tour should include the central park, Parque Duarte; the cathedral; a museum such as the Tobacco Museum or the Tomas Morel Museum of Folkloric Arts, featuring colourful carnival masks; and the Monument a los Heroes de la Restauracion, built on a hill above the city to honour war heroes and offering sweeping city views.
Book a treatment at posh Bagua Spa, housed in Puerto Plata’s most exclusive resort, Casa Colonial (Playa Dorada) (www.casacolonialhotel.com). Named for a principle of feng shui, the sleek spa will wash away stress with a signature treatment, perhaps a full-body scrub with crushed amber and sea salt, or a couples’ massage in an oceanfront suite.