The birthplace of tourism in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata continues to pack a mighty punch. Its spectacular, sprawling landscape combines sea, mountains, lush valleys, rivers, and a multitude of beaches. Its fertile soil grows cacao and coffee trees, while underneath rests the world’s clearest amber.
Savvy explorer Christopher Columbus knew there was much to discover on this northern Atlantic coastline–eventually finding gold deposits–when he glimpsed it from his ship in 1492. Drawn by the sight of clouds shimmering over Mount Isabel de Torres and illuminating Puerto Plata’s vast blue shoreline, he named the area the “Silver Port” and settled at La Isabela with a mixed community of Tainos–original inhabitants of the area–and Spaniards, built the first church and his first home in the Americas. You can follow Columbus’s trail and tour these archeological ruins, now part of a national park.
Puerto Plata’s natural bounty continues to astound those who lay eyes on La Novia del Atlántico, or as locals call it, the Atlantic’s Darling. A bird’s eye view from the cable car–the only one in the Caribbean, taking passengers to Mount Isabel de Torres and its lush botanical gardens–reveals part of an Atlantic coastline with more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) of beaches gracing multiple coastal villages, inland farming communities replete with rivers and falls, and hotels of all sizes to suit all tastes. To boot, Puerto Plata is home to colonial vestiges, including the largest collection of preserved 19th century Victorian-style houses in the Caribbean, the oldest amber fossils in the world on display at the Amber Museum, and one of the first colonial period fortresses in the region at Fortaleza San Felipe, dating back to 1577.
East and west along Puerto Plata’s coastline, steady trade winds, river systems, the vast Cordillera Septentrional mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean conspire to create a world of outdoor adventure, including beach towns renowned for water sports. Less than half an hour from the city, Sosúa was first settled by Jewish immigrants who fled Nazi Germany, boasting beautiful beaches where expats and locals coexist, and rich underwater sites. Nearby Cabarete is a world famous hub for windsurfing, surfing, and kiteboarding, and a favorite cosmopolitan hideout of snowbirds. Playa Dorada is for those who want to relax in style on golden stretches, with seaside activities near the city, from canyoning at 27 Charcos of Damajagua waterfalls to snorkeling at Cayo Arena, and relaxing at Ocean World Marina.
Nature aside, Puerto Plata’s multitude of vibrant villages translates into a host of cultural experiences. Home of community tourism, here is where you can hike family-owned cacao or coffee plantations, learn how to play and dance merengue from a family of musicians, or immerse in Dominican pelota at the Bartolo Colón stadium and museum. Along the way are a multitude of culinary experiences, from roadside snacks to beachside seafood, and gourmet international restaurants.
Puerto Plata’s main points of entry include the Gregorio Luperón International Airport (POP), located 15 minutes from the city center and Playa Dorada or Costa Dorada hotels, and the Amber Cove Cruise Center in Maimón.
It’s never the wrong time of the year to start planning your perfect beach vacation. With pristine shores and sandy spots all over the Caribbean nation, the Dominican Republic is a perfect beach getaway. Get inspired and check out our list of the best Dominican Republic beaches.
By Shutterstock | Valentin Valkov
1. Playa Minitas, La Romana
A resort beach with golden sands in the warm summer sun? Yes, please. Playa Minitas sits right on the southern edge of the country in La Romana. It’s a private beach, as part of the Casa de Campo resort community, but reservations can be made to visit the sandy shores. The beach is perfect for family fun, with calm areas to swim, prepared activities for the youngest of children in La Palapa, and tons of water sports, including boating, kayaking, snorkeling, and the Hobie Wave.
2. Playa Dorada, Puerto Plata
In Puerto Plata, one of the Dominican Republic’s famed beach towns, lies a slice of paradise. Playa Dorada is perhaps the most famous beach on the northern side of the island, offering luxury resorts for you to jump right from your room to the blue waters of the Caribbean. Enjoy Playa Dorada’s free public beaches, soft sand, and water that’s perfect for sporting activities. Go for a swim, catch some fish, go snorkeling, or try out windsurfing. Most resorts in the area will rent out equipment to guests.
3. Playa Rincon, Samana Province
If you’re looking for peace and quiet, you’ve found it at Playa Rincon. The isolated beach sits in the Dominican Republic’s Samana Province, on a small peninsula toward the north side of the island. Playa Rincon is easily accessible by boat from the nearby town of Las Galeras, making it a hidden gem and perfect for your beach vacation. Lay out on the soft, white sand, soak up the bright, turquoise water, and the three miles of untouched coastline. The beach offers some local restaurants, but you won’t see the all-inclusive resorts or clubs of some like at some of the country’s other beaches.
4. Cayo Levantado, Samana Province
On the other side of the Peninsula from Playa Rincon sits another hidden gem of a beach you just have to check out for yourself. Cayo Levantado is a small island in the middle of the Samana Bay. The island, also known as Bacardi Island, is accessible by boat from the town of Samana. The whole island is only a little over one square mile big but is full of pristine beaches that look like something out of a dream. Cayo Levantado features two main beaches; one is the public side with tons of local, authentic bars and restaurants, and the other is a private beach for guests of the Gran Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado Hotel.
5. Playa Grande
On the Dominican Republic’s northern shores sits the beach and resort area of Playa Grande. The private beaches sit on 2,000 acres of perfect sandy beach land with two main resort hotels, spas, a full golf course, beach clubs, and of course, the deep blue sea. The area is great for hiking around the sandy beaches, snorkeling in the clear blue waters, fishing in the nearby rivers, and even polo, horseback riding, and windsurfing are said to occur in the vicinity. If you want a resort-feel without all the crowds in some of the area’s older resorts, then Playa Grande is perfect.
6. Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana
Punta Cana is easily one of the most famous beach and resort spots in the country. With so many of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic in this one area, it can be hard to choose one that stands out — but Bavaro Beach is easily one of the best and most unique in Punta Cana. ‘Playa Bavaro’, as it’s known in Spanish, is the most populated beach area in the Punta Cana region, with tons of top quality restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops, offering both amenities for the high-end luxury traveler through to the young backpacker looking for affordable options. The beach offers coral reefs for snorkeling, boat parties, kayaking adventures, and more. If you’re looking for an adults-only option, check out Barcelo Bavaro Beach Hotel for its clothing-optional sections.
7. Playa Boca Chica, Boca Chica
The bustling, sandy, family-friendly beach is perfect for a beach vacation, or for just a day trip from Santo Domingo. Playa Boca Chica sits just under an hour outside the capital city, making it one of the most easily accessible spots in the country. The water at the beach is shallow so is great for families with small children, while sports fans will love the sailing and volleyball that’s popular on the beach. The area is also ideal for authentic, locally caught seafood, as well as bird watching in the mangroves of La Matica. For more adventure, check out these 5 adventurous activities for your Dominican Republic Vacation.