Monday, December 18, 2017

A day out in Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata old town - photo credit:godominicanreplublic.comThe beautiful North Coast of the Dominican Republic has a lot more to offer than just extreme sports,  waves, wind, beaches and tropical cocktails. Sometimes it’s nice to get away for a day and experience something different, maybe even absorb a bit of history... Puerto Plata, officially called San Felipe de Puerto Plata, is only 30 minutes away from Cabarete and has some pearls on offer for those interested in looking for them.



Port of Silver

Cable car to Pico Isabela de Torres - photo credit:godominicanreplublic.comThe name Puerto Plata, which literally translates into Port of Silver, was discovered by Christopher Columbus in the early 1490s. Legend has it that this natural port was named this way because of the thousands of silver coins in the port's waters shimmering at sunset. Others, probably less gullible, attribute it to the silvery clouds surrounding the main hill in the background, the Pico Isabela de Torres, which stands 800 meters tall.

Cable car adventure
This mountain can be easily accessed since 1975 by cable car and allows visitors a vantage viewpoint to oversee the city. Take the cable car up, preferably in the morning when the famous clouds will not be blocking your view, and enjoy a spectacular view of the port and the city of 130,000 inhabitants. Once up there, also stroll around the botanical garden which showcases all local plants and trees. For those more adventurous there is a way to walk back down. Ask one of the many guides that tend to hang out by the replica of the statue of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ de Redeemer. Alternatively, take the organized walking tour with Iguana Mama.

Fort of Puerto PlataFortaleza de San Felipe
The fort, which was the first one built in the New World, became the main port of call for traders between Europe and this area. In the 1600s the Spaniards, however, lost interest in this port and moved to Santo Domingo in the South of the island, as well as neighboring Caribbean islands like Puerto Rico and Cuba. With the Spaniards gone, illegal activities increased and as a result a Royal Decree was sent out to destroy the city. In the 1740s the city was rebuilt by some Spanish families who immigrated from the Canary Islands. In the 19th century the golden age for Puerto Plata began with a thriving port and a tobacco boom. Since then it has lost most of its importance, but the many beautiful surrounding beaches have attracted a lot of all-inclusive tourism since the 1970s. Now, a new cruise terminal is being finalized a few kilometers east of Puerto Plata, which will open its doors in October 2015.

The fort and the surrounding area are currently being renovated this year in advance of the anticipated increase in tourism the cruise terminal is expected to bring. At the moment visitors can only see the fort from far away. The city is also working on improving the old city center close to the sea boulevard, making the streets more pedestrian friendly. Still, this impressive bastion is worth a visit especially when it will be opened up again to the public.

Puerto Plata old town - photo credit:godominicanreplublic.comThe old town of Puerto Plata
The old town of Puerto Plata, though dilapidated still has some stunning wooden and brick Victorian townhouses from the 19th century, complete with gingerbread motifs, wooden lace filigree and pastel colors. The main square, the Plaza de la Independencia, is surrounded by them and the best place to start exploring. For those interested in Amber, the Amber museum which is also located in a beautiful Victorian house is not to be missed.

Sea breeze break
From the old walk down to sea boulevard for a stroll in the wind. Walk toward the east (the opposite direction of the fort) for a view of some pretty spectacular beaches considering they are in the city. Wind down at the end of the day with an ice cold beer at one of the many little kiosks that line the sea boulevard, the perfect spot to watch the sunset.

Brugal - one of the most famous rum brands in the Dominican RepublicSome rum anyone?
Or if you are still up for more, leave earlier and just outside of Puerto Plata in the direction of Sosua you will see the local Brugal rum factory. Rum has always been an integral part of Dominican history and what better way to end your day of culture and new impressions by going on a rum tour? Tours are offered by the factory by multilingual guides every weekday. The factory closes at 5pm so be sure to arrive earlier.

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