It usually happens around day 4. By day 4 of a week-long resort stay, I’ve had time to settle in, relax, soak up the sun and enjoy all the resort’s water activities. Then on Day 4 I’m ready to peel myself off of that lounger, put down my rum-infused cocktail and venture out beyond the resort walls to see what life is really like beyond the beach. On a recent trip to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, I headed out on Day 4 to explore the city itself.
Here’s a complete guide to taking in the sites of Puerto Plata with your budget in mind.
There are many companies running city tours of Puerto Plata that pick up at the resorts just outside the city and most offer the same itinerary. Prices are typically $55/person with significant discounts for children. However, I HIGHLY recommend hiring a taxi to take you around and creating your own itinerary instead. During my recent visit to the Costa Dorada area I was able to easily negotiate a taxi to take my group of 9 people to all of the main city sights, wait for us at each site and return us to our resort for only $60 TOTAL (that’s less than $7/person). We also decided to arrange for a tour guide to accompany us for which only a tip was requested – the amount left completely up to us.
Recommended Sites and Attractions
On our self-directed tour we started off at the Brugal Rum centre. Be warned, this is NOT their actual rum factory but rather a bottling plant; a detail left OFF most local tour company pamphlets. The free tour is not particularly interesting (how much can you say about a bottling plant?); however, it’s still worth making a quick pit stop if you want to taste the various rums or purchase some before leaving the Dominican Republic – the plant sells it’s products for MUCH cheaper than the duty-free shops at the airport.
Next up was a drive into town along the beautiful waterfront and through a local neighbourhood before stopping at the city’s Central Park with its distinctive white towered Church of San Felipe. We chose not to tour inside the church but it is open to visitors who would like to do so.
From the city centre we walked to a few shops to pick up souvenirs before venturing into the Amber Gallery. This was by far the most informative and comprehensive site on our tour, offering displays and interesting facts about not only the abundant amber mined on the island but also on larimar, a very rare beautiful blue-coloured stone found only in the D.R. Admission was $4 (total) for the 4 adults in our group, the children were free.
An employee of the museum led us through a few of the main exhibits and then encouraged us to explore on our own.
It was here that we had the opportunity to taste some Mama Juana, a medicinal drink native to the D.R. that is made from tree bark, wine, rum, herbs and honey (much like a port). It’s believed by many to be an aphrodisiac.
After the museum we stopped into a restaurant recommended by our guide for a fresh seafood lunch before heading to the base of Isabel de Torres mountain to ride the aerial cable car to its summit and take in the stunning views of the city and port below. While waiting for the cable car we learned that it is the only aerial tramway in the Caribbean.
The round-trip ride is approx. $10 US/person (young children are free) and takes about 5-7 minutes each way. In addition to the beautiful views, there is also a botanical garden, lagoon, souvenir shops, restaurant and a large statue – a replica of Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue – on top of the mountain.
We decided to skip visiting San Felipe Fort. Half of our group was under the age of 12 and they were getting anxious to head back to the beach and the pool bar for yet another strawberry slushy. From what I’ve heard, the fort offers beautiful views of the ocean despite the numerous souvenir traps contained inside.
Make the Most of Your City Tour
To make the most of your aerial ride up Isabel de Torres mountain, aim to head up the mountain when the clouds are minimal so that your view isn’t obstructed and remember that its noticebly cooler up there than down in the city. Children should be watched at all times as the paths down to the lagoon are steep in sections and can get slippery when wet. A few of the souvenir vendors are all too eager to grab your camera to help you get pictures of yourself ‘holding hands with’ or ‘holding up’ the large Christ statue. If that’s a shot you’re after then by all means take them up on the offer but be prepared to visit their souvenir shop afterwards.
We enjoyed our short get-away off of the resort and felt it gave us all a better perspective of the area. It also gave us time to work up a thirst for enjoying another Presidente at happy hour by the time we returned to our loungers.