Exploring the Dominican Town of Puerto Plata

Along with Aruba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic is one of the most popular Caribbean vacation destinations. While Santo Domingo and Punta Cana may be the most well-known areas of the Dominican, the town of Puerto Plata is quickly becoming popular among Americans seeking a Caribbean getaway.

The city of roughly 120,000 people boasts history, culture, and adventure. Visitors can play on the beaches, hike in the rainforests, and visit historic fortresses built more than 400 years ago. If you’re thinking of taking a trip to the Dominican, these are some of activities in Puerto Plata you won’t want to miss.

History and Culture in Puerto Plata

Fort San Felipe

Fort San Felipe was built in 1577 to protect the port from possible invaders. These days, the fortress is a busy tourist attraction. It’s smaller than many other forts around the world, but it provides impressive views of the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby forested mountains. There’s a prominent statue here of 19th century General Gregorio Luperon on horseback.

The main plaza of Puerto Plata, called Central Park, features more statues on display, as well as old churches and the town’s City Hall. It’s a good spot for people watching and getting to know Old Town. From Central Park you can walk to most of the other local attractions.

Puerto Plata has a couple of small but interesting museums. The Amber Museum displays dozens of fossils and insects from millions of years ago preserved in amber. The Brugal Rum Distillery offers free factory tours where guests can get a look behind the scenes at how one of the island nation’s most popular rums is made.

Adventure in Puerto Plata

One of the coolest outdoor adventures in the Puerto Plata region is the “27 Waterfalls” activity in nearby Damajagua. Don life jackets and helmets and follow a guide through the series of thrilling cliffs, cascades, and waterfalls. Participants must be in good physical condition, as the activity requires a strenuous uphill trek to the starting point.

Puerto Plata waterfalls

If jumping off waterfalls is too intense, consider taking a leisurely hike in the rainforests. Or ride the Teleferico, a cable car tram that transports riders to the top of 2500-foot Mount Isabel de Torres.

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The eight-minute ride provides ample time to take in the panoramic views of the region. At the top of the mountain sits a smaller but still awe-inspiring version of the Christ the Redeemer statue found in Rio de Janeiro.

Other activities in Puerto Plata

Like most Caribbean beach cities, Puerto Plata has lots of great sand and water to explore. Swim on the public beaches or sign up for one of the various watersports excursions to go diving, snorkeling, or kitesurfing. With some advance preparation, visitors can also take part in volunteering activities in local rainforests and schools.

Puerto Plata offers some of the most affordable hotels in the entire region. Whether you choose to arrive by cruise ship or by plane, you can expect plenty of culture, fun, and sun once you get there.

More Photos and Sights From the Puerto Plata Town

The Fathom cruise I took to the Dominican provided a ton of volunteering opportunities, as well as a chance to see the city of Puerto Plata. These were some of the photo highlights from the trip.

city-center-dominican

Arriving at the port was a cool sight, seeing the beach, the clear water, and the locals waving as the cruise ship pulled in.

puerto-plata-arrival

A sea turtle display in the port in front of the Fathom Adonia:

turtle-fathom

More views from the historic site Fort San Felipe in Puerto Plata.

fort-interior

flags-statue

The 27 Waterfalls excursion is a must-do for anyone who visits Puerto Plata.

waterfall-slide

group-waterfall

Another cool side trip is the 8-minute ride up the Teleferico cable car to the top of Isabel de Torres.

teleferico-cable-car

view-from-ride

There’s at least one Chinese restaurant in Puerto Plata.

chinese-restaurant

Drying the shirts in the air. Another regular slice of life in the Puerto Plata town.

hanging-laundry

La policia patrol near Fort San Felipe.

dominican-police

I think this is an ATM. Or maybe a bus stop. Or maybe a taxi stand.

city-people

Planting seedlings as part of the reforestation volunteering effort.

slide-volunteer

fathom-reforestation

seedling

Another volunteering trip to a rural school to tutor kids in English well outside the city of Puerto Plata.

tutor-school-el-cupey

fathom-english-tutoring

On the way to the school, we saw horses and donkeys being used to deliver milk door to door.

horse-milk

Hard at work painting a house.

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painter

Local kids we spotted around the city.

puerto-plata-dominicans

One of the nicer houses in this part of town with a yard.

house puerto plata town

I’m excited to hop into the pool on the cruise ship!

fathom-pool

One of Puerto Plata’s most prominent museums is the Amber Museum, which has a big collection of insects trapped in amber from millions of years ago.

insects-in-amber

The Dominican is known for its rum production. I took a tour of the Brugal rum factory to see how they manufacture their rum and to check out all the different varieties they offer for sale.

rums

Scooters are one of the primary means of transportation in the town.

scooters

The cutest doggie in the Dominican!

doggie

Do you have any recommendations for things to see and do in the Puerto Plata town of the Dominican Republic?

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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3 Comments

  1. Hello ! I am the general manager for Fubdacion Ecologica Magua , Costámbar Coral Reefs. We invite people to get in touch with us to do volunteer work we are implementing and building coral structures transplanting coral and now have protected the whole of Costambar Reefs and Cofressi in Puerto Plata. We will also be re-introducing mangroves and have educational days for children or anyone that’s interested in learning about the biodiversity of the reefs and the beaches. Let me know if you’d be interested in doing some thing like this and promoting it thank you so much!

  2. Puerto Plata has it all. Friendly people, scenery and food. Totally recommend by my part. I have been to Jamaica, Aruba, Cancun and Bahamas. But my hart is in Puerto Plata.

  3. I visit Puerto Plata Dominican Republic four or five times a year simple because it’s the best place on heart for fun food relax and to spend money

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