The resorts of the north coast
From Puerto Plata’s international airport it’s easy to get to one of the most popular tourist spots, the purpose-built resort of Playa Dorada. This is one of the largest All Inclusive resort complexes in the world and is a gated area that has more than a dozen luxury resorts and hotels.
There are plenty of activities to enjoy at Playa Dorada, such as shopping in a plaza, playing at an 18-hole golf course, horse riding at an equestrian centre, or visiting the cinema, and one of several casinos. It also boasts the Caribbean’s largest go-kart centre, which is fun for all the family. Or you could take your pick with the many watersport activities including kayaking, windsurfing and parasailing. If you’re planning to make your Dominican Republic holidays All Inclusive, you can’t go wrong booking accommodation here.
Just along the coast lies Costa Dorada, which doesn’t try to compete with Playa Dorada. Here instead, everything is based around one hotel and the amenities are more modest, though still extensive and include a diving centre and access to the go-kart arena.
The hustle and bustle of city life and more secluded beach areas
The capital city of Puerto Plata in the north gives you a sense of this melting pot of ideas and cultures – American, Spanish and Caribbean. The architecture of the 19th-century colonial centre is intriguing, while the 16th-century San Felipe Fortress by the harbour is the city’s most prominent landmark. Take a ride on the cable car to the summit of Mount Isabel de Torres, where a statue of Jesus presides and enjoy panoramic views.
If you want to get away from the crowds, secluded beach areasnearby include gorgeous Cabarete with its red coral reefs containing a quarter of the world’s marine life, and Bahia Maimon, which has been ranked by Conde Nast as among the top 10 in the world, with a handful of hotels and beach-side restaurants.
Or try Sosua boasting a kilometre-long beach, with food and drink shacks servicing most palates. At one end of the beach is the El Batey neighbourhood, which is the main area with a nice selection of good restaurants and shops. It’s also home to a small synagogue and a Jewish Museum documenting the history of World War Two Jewish refugees who were the original settlers.
UNESCO beaches, a natural mineral pool and great nightlife
50 kilometres of coastline imbued with luxury hotels and resorts make up Punta Cana on the eastern-most tip of the country. Aside from Punta Cana beach, which is for private use of hotel guests, two other local beaches dominate the area, these are Macao and Bavaro. Their white shores are backed by coconut palms and mangroves, and offer the mandatory warm clear water we associate with the Caribbean – except these two beaches are considered to be superior.
UNESCO has sited Macao as being the best for its fine sand and beautiful palm trees. This is a pretty quiet area but you can still have lunch at one of the small seaside eateries or dine at a restaurant atop the cliff at the southern tip of the beach. Dominicans like to come here on the weekends, hinting at its splendour.
Bavaro is a dazzling palm-lined stretch of beach. And it’s one of the most popular spots in Punta Cana and as such there are hotels, restaurants and gift shops here, where you can buy local cigars and other craft products. There are also plenty of water-based activitiesfrom parasailing, to scuba diving and speed boating.
If you head to the northern end of Punta Cana you will discover Uvero Alto. This beach resort is considered the in-place to be right now and, although more remote and peaceful, there’s still lots to do. This area boasts good nightlife and you can enjoy dinner and a spectacular dance show at Coco Bongo, dance the night away at Munga Disco, or lay down a bet at Punta Cana Hard Rock Casino.
Activities around the east
There are many excursions available from the Punta Cana area, including to the nearby rock pools of Hoyo Azul at Scape Park. Surrounded by forest and incredible flora and fauna you will discover a 65-foot cave filled with clear-blue water. The fresh water pool is a sinkhole created by the collapse of limestone bedrock, exposing groundwater underneath. You can go for a swim and experience the sensation of the natural minerals, considered to be healing, left by the limestone. There are many other activities on offer at Scape Park including horse riding and zip wire.
Punta Cana has another attraction – its world class 18-hole golf courses. Punta Espada is regarded as the best golf club in the Caribbean and Mexico. Or try the oceanfront La Cana Golf Club – one of the first established and most frequented clubs in the area.