In this article I will show the Dominican city of Puerto Plata from the side of tourism. You will find out what to see here, what to do, what features there are. And I will answer the most common question: is it worth going here or is it better to spend time on other cool places in the Dominican Republic?
Table of contents:
- Puerto Plata: general facts and a brief history
- How to get to Puerto Plata
- Attractions of Puerto Plata and surroundings
- Travel Tips
If you are already going to the Dominican Republic, but have not yet made the final choice. That article: why the Dominican Republic: 10 reasons that will help you with this.
Puerto Plata: General Facts and Brief History
It seems to be quite a large city in the country. But in fact it is not so, here are a few facts:
- The population of Puerto Plata is about 150 thousand people.
- The city ranks only 10th in list of population in the Dominican Republic
- The city is located on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic on the Atlantic Ocean.
- This is the only city in the country where both tourism and industry are well developed.
It is important to know:The biggest disadvantage of the city for tourism is the presence of a large cargo port in its central part. Therefore, all hotels and beaches are located on the outskirts of Puerto Plata.
A Brief History of Puerto Plata
The city was founded in 1502, 9 years after the discovery of America by Columbus. But to be precise, this year, Columbus only discovered this area. On one of his next trips, his ships sailed along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. And found a bay that had a good location.
The bay was large, just enough to hide the whole fleet of that time. It also protected ships well from Atlantic winds and storms. And of course, it was convenient to defend it from the enemy.
This area was called in Spanish Puerto Plata, which translates as a Silver Port. And a couple of years later they began to build a city and a port. The port of Puerto Plata was of strategic importance and was located on the trade routes from Europe to America. Therefore, he was constantly attacked.
And approximately in 1863, during the uprising for the independence of the Dominican Republic, it was completely destroyed. And the modern history of the city, as well as all the buildings originate only from the end of the 19th century.
Good to know:Therefore, the architecture and development in general in Puerto Plata is so different from the development in Santo Domingo. The capital managed to preserve the colonial architecture, but not in Puerto Plata. And it turns out that the two cities are from the same time and the same country, but visually, as if from two different eras. A guide to Santo Domingo is available here.
How to get to Puerto Plata
We will assume that you know how to get to the Dominican Republic. Here is a useful article about how and where to buy cheap tickets to the Dominican Republic from cities in the US and Europe. But here are the main points and what you need to know:
- From the capital of the Dominican Republic to Puerto Plata is only 220 km. The road connects them excellent through the city of Santiago.
- Near Puerto Plata there is
- one of the country’s three main airports is Grigorio Luperon Airport. This is an international airport. But:
- Almost all flights from Europe arrive at Punta Cana Airport. About 90%
- Another small part of the flights arrive at Santo Domingo Airport in Las Americas and at La Romana Airport.
- Planes do not come to Puerto Plata Airport from Europe. This airport is intended for flights from the USA, Canada, Mexico and all Latin American countries.
- Link to the online transfer service from the airport to the hotel in the Dominican Republic, at the very end of the article.
It is important to know:Although the city itself is located a little away. Thanks to a large international airport and port, the city has excellent bus connections from all over the country. It is not difficult to get here both by car and by regular buses. A bus ticket from Santo Domingo costs about $10.
Where to stay?
If you look at the map of Puerto Plata, you can see that the city is located along the ocean. If the architects of the 19th century were a little wiser, then there could have been a mega-cool tourist center with a magnificent city beach like in the Canaries or Barcelona.
The city center and the main bay are occupied by a cargo port. And in the rest of the ocean shore, there is just a road without a single piece of beach and with a very narrow sidewalk for pedestrians.
Therefore, the western and eastern regions are considered tourist areas where there are beaches and hotels. They are named respectively: Costambar and Comfresi (in the west) and Costa Dorada (in the east). Here it is recommended to look for accommodation for tourists.
Below is a dynamic rating of excellent hotels and apartments in Puerto Plata. You can look at photos, read reviews, study descriptions and prices, as well as look for other options.
Attractions of Puerto Plata and surroundings
As you already understood, the history of the city has only 150 years. And the size of the city is relatively small. Therefore, it turns out that there are no cool sights here, especially architectural ones. And reading other reviews on the Internet, you will understand that some of the attractions are not worth your attention. Below is a map of the main attractions of Puerto Plata and the surrounding area.
Good to know:If you are thinking about visiting Puerto Plata, in order to get to know the city and attractions. Then you can safely plan only 1 day. It will be enough for you to get around all the main and most famous places of Puerto Plata.
- Following the link you will find all excursions and activities in Puerto Plata, entrance tickets, guides, and combo packages for several attractions at once from this article.
Cable car (Teleferico) and Mount Isabel de Torres
The most important and famous attraction of Puerto Plata.
Mount Isabel de Torres is located right in the city of Puerto Plata and is visible from any point in it. The height of the mountain is 793m. A cable car leads to the top of the mountain, almost from the city center (see map). In Spanish, it is called Teleferico, so look for signs with this word.
Good to know:There are only two cabins for 15 people each. The ascent or descent in one direction takes 10 minutes. It turns out that the cabins pass by the start of the cable car every 10 minutes. On weekends, when there are a lot of people, the lines reach for several hours.
You can come there by foot, but the route is 12 km and a climb of 800m will take you 3-4 hours one way. Not sure if there are people walking this route. But you can drive a car straight to the top along this road.
At the top of the mountain, an amazing view of the whole of Puerto Plata and the port opens up.
Advice:The top of the mountain is not in the clouds usually in the morning. The wind rose here is such that in the afternoon the top of the mountain is often in the clouds. Although there are 300 sunny days a year over the city itself.
What is at the top of Isabel de Torres?
There is a park in which it is pleasant to walk and spend time. There are no activities here, but there are:
- Observation decks
- Pond with a fountain
- Paths among the local fauna
- Statue of Jesus as in Rio in Brazil, only 20 times smaller
Interesting to know:Walking through the park on top of the mountain, look carefully at the flowers, real hummingbirds fly here. In the Dominican Republic, we met them only here and in Las Galeras in a cool villa overlooking the ocean. A video clip about hummingbirds, which I shot myself, for three days running around the garden after them, see the link.
- Opening hours: from 8:30 to 17 hours
- You need to plan for the whole attraction of 2 hours
- Parking near Teleferico is free
- Ticket price (ascent and descent) – $ 10
Author rating:If you have already arrived in Puerto Plata, then 10 out of 10. This place is visible from everywhere, and it is difficult to drive past it. If you are just thinking about whether to go here and what to do in Puerto Plata, then 5 out of 10. If there are alternatives, for example, to visit the Samana Peninsula and the El Limon waterfall, then it is better to go to the waterfall.
Ocean World Adventure Park
The second main attraction of Puerto Plata, which is known throughout the country. Many people think that this is a water park by name, but no.
Ocean World Adventure Park is a marine park plus a zoo. The zoo, because it is difficult to call it a full-fledged zoo. But the feature of the whole park is in contact with animals. Now I will explain.
- There are different zones in the marine park and you can swim with an instructor with:
- Sharks (safe for humans)
- With sea lions
- Feed the stingrays
It is important to know:For each program you need to pay extra if you want to swim with someone. All instruction is in Spanish or English only. Children under 5 years old, in some programs up to 7, are not allowed. Photo video shooting on your camera is strictly prohibited. Only for park equipment for an additional fee. This applies specifically if you want to swim.
- The zoo also has zones and programs:
- parrot area
- tiger feeding
- area with birds of the region
- as well as many aquariums with fish
By and large, this place is a must for tourists with children. If adults are interested in swimming with manatees, then children will be interested in everything.
Total: Ocean World Adventure Park
- Opening hours: daily from 9 am to 6 pm
- How much time to allocate: you can easily spend the whole day here. But you should not plan less than 3-4 hours.
- And now to the prices, this is the most interesting part, take a calculator:
- Entrance to the park for the whole day costs $69 per person. And for a child under 12 years old – $ 54
- This ticket includes: access to all areas of the park, access to all shows (dolphins, sea lions, sharks, parrots), access to the pool and beach with sun loungers, as well as access to a tropical pool with coral reefs, where you can snorkel and mask.
- Additionally, if you want to swim with sharks, dolphins and so on, you need to buy a program. For example, a 30 minute swim with dolphins costs another $40 per person.
- In total, if a family of three goes here for the whole day, additionally buy a swimming program for each with a shark, dolphin, etc., plus lunch, then the budget for the whole day will be $ 300-400.
Author rating:If you are traveling with children, then 9 out of 10. If you yourself don’t want to swim with dolphins, then 5 out of 10, you won’t see anything super natural here. In any major zoo in the world or aquarium, there will be much more animals and entry will be much cheaper.
Perhaps these are the two main attractions of Puerto Plata, worthy of your attention. Below I will briefly list a few more places that you can see here.
Castle of San Felipe
Defensive bastion, which was built in 1576-77. It is rather modest in size, but protected the entrance to the silver bay, where the port is located today. For many centuries this defensive structure performed its functions, until the moment when the city was completely destroyed.
Today, the fortress of San Felipe operates as a museum. And although there are not many halls, the atmosphere of the 16th-18th centuries of the Caribbean is recreated inside.
- Price: $2
- Fortress time to allocate: 30 minutes
- As a bonus, you must definitely climb the walls of the fortress from where a great view opens up. And there is also a functioning lighthouse and an amphitheater overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Author rating:5 out of 10. It makes no sense to go here specifically for the sake of this fortress. The fortress itself is nothing special, the museum is small, but tickets are not expensive. Therefore, you need to go / go here only if you live in Puerto Plata and have seen everything and have nothing to do.
The Dominican Amber Museum is located in the center of Puerto Plata. Occupies two floors of a small building. The museum itself is on the second floor. At the first souvenir shop where you can buy local souvenirs from amber and not only.
By the way, Dominican amber looks exactly like Baltic amber.
- Museum opening hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- How much time to allocate: 15-20 minutes
- Ticket price: 1$
Author rating:3 out of 10. This is my personal opinion, but I consider the Amber Museum to be a very weak attraction.
Although this attraction is located outside the city, 25 km from Puerta Plata. But I will include it in this list, since this is the nearest city to this place. 27 waterfalls, the coolest place on the mountainside. This is a mountain river with waterfalls, rifts, rapids.
And you have to swim and jump through all 27 pieces or almost all.
- You need to schedule a visit to this place before 4 hours
- Price depending on the route from 10 to 15$
- The best time to visit this place is during the rainy season.
Author rating:10 out of 10. The coolest place that every tourist must visit. How to get there, how we visited this place, tips and life hacks in the article: 27 waterfalls in the Dominican Republic. There will also be links to cool excursions with a transfer and a guide to this place.
Brugal Rum Museum
As you know, rum is the main national alcoholic drink of the Dominican Republic. And Brugal is one of the three main producers of Dominican rum. So, the Brugal factory is located in Puerto Plata, and you can get here for a factory tour and tasting. As well as a gift shop for rum. Now the main thing you need to know from this:
- Rum is a great gift to take home. But in the Dominican Republic you can buy a fake. Here at the factory you will definitely be sure of the quality of the drink. How to choose what kind of rum happens, prices, where to buy – all this and much more in the Dominican rum article.
- The cost of the tour with a tasting of 4 types of rum, by the way, there is information about them in the article at the link above, $ 5
- I draw your attention to the fact that the tour is short and not through the production workshops, but more along the rum bottling line.
- In the souvenir shop you can buy both regular rum and gift rum of 15-20 year old.
Author rating:8 out of 10. If you are not a teetotaler and you are somehow interested in the rum production process, then you will definitely like it here. Well, in the store at the factory, there are excellent prices for Brugal 1888 gift rum, where 15 year old spirits are used.
And they always buy cigars with rum. And Puerto Plata has great cigar shops. And how to choose the right cigar in the article at the link.
I recommend not spending more than one day in Puerto Plata. In one full day, with a car, you can easily visit: 27 waterfalls, the Brugal factory, a mountain and a cable car and walk along the promenade to the San Felipe fortress. If you want more in Ocean World Adventure Park, then plan the whole second day here. There is nothing more to do in Puerto Plata.
Advice:There are many cool excursion programs in Puerto Plata, such as: horseback riding, sunset on a yacht, swimming with dolphins and so on. For a complete list of activities in Purto Plata, see the GetYourGide resource.
The beaches here are not the most beautiful, the ocean is not the most azure, and so on. My personal opinion is that the same small towns of Sosua and Cabaret are much more suitable for a beach holiday and they are located not far from Puerto Plata.
Read everything about the city of Sosua in the article at the link.
The best hotel areas are located in the West and East of the city.
In conclusion: Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic is a great starting city for your journey through the Dominican Republic or the entire Caribbean. From Puerto Plata Airport, regular flights to Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, USA and so on are very cheap and convenient.
The city of Puerto Plata is definitely worthy of your attention!