The ninth largest city in the Dominican Republic is mostly known for its spectacular all-inclusive resorts and world-class beaches. What many people don’t know though is that outside Puerto Plata’s bright turquoise waters and sprawling properties lie charming colonial architecture, cool mountain retreats, and even volunteering opportunities.
Better yet? You can enjoy many of these unique attractions in Puerto Plata as day trips–so you can add them to your itinerary whether you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort or stopping by for a day as part of a Caribbean cruise.
Or you can build your Puerto Plata trip entirely around improving the local communities.
Below, the best port of call excursions and voluntourism activities in the region.
Unique Things to Do in Puerto Plata
Travel with purpose aboard a Fathom cruise
Don’t like cruises? Think again. There’s a unique way you can sail to the Caribbean and take part of some unique things to do in Puerto Plata with a new initiative by Carnival Corp.
Sailing from Miami, Fathom social Impact cruises promote community projects that focus on improving the conditions of the unemployed, impoverished locals. Cruisers select an impact focus–educational, environmental, or economic–and take part of shipboard orientation and training in those areas.
That, of course, with intermissions of yoga, meditation sessions and/or lazy lounging on the ship’s deck. And eating delicious Dominican cuisine.
Once the ship docks, skills learned are put to good use. Partnerships with both local organizations and communities ensure not only a lasting positive impact, but also inspire true cultural exchanges.
Furthermore, these community projects are continuously supported by Fathom staff and future cruisers.
If you rather spend your time outside a tourist playground and wish to mingle with locals, this Dominican Republic itinerary is a perfect fit for you.
**In the summer, travelers can also be trained to counsel at an arts camp high above the cool mountains.
Splash and relax at Amber Cove
Amber Cove is another new project by Carnival Corp., which also happens to serve as the launchpad of their new, unique social impact cruises to the Dominican Republic via Fathom.
One of the newest, largest developments on the Caribbean, this port of call sprawls over 25 acres and offers everything from bars, restaurants, shops to even a resort-style pool area with water slides, private cabanas, and even a zipline.
At no extra charge to cruisers, this is a great way to save some money on a nearby resort pass–while enjoying a similar experience.
As it opened in the fall of 2015, many of the retail spaces are still empty as of early 2016. Thus, travelers seeking something beyond a resort pool and flavor of the local culture are better off taking part of other Puerto Plata day trips.
Climb the 27 Waterfalls
Also known as the Damajaqua Cascades, the 27 Waterfalls are a refreshing break from the unforgiving Caribbean heat.
Up in the mountains of the Northern Corridor, 27 pools were carved out of limestone by Mother Nature. Ice cold rivers streams, like tiny waterfalls, feed them.
You’ll feel as if you were in the jungles of Costa Rica! Certainly one of the most popular things to do in Puerto Plata.
Tip: make sure you wear slip-resistant hiking sandals–the rocks along the trails can be dangerously slippery.
A seaside walk through the Malecon and San Felipe Fortress
Another must-see in Puerto Plata is the relatively-new Malecon–a lovely street built right by the beach. With bike lanes and pedestrian areas, it’s a great stretch to people-watch and take in the natural surroundings.
Walk west on the Malecon and, right on the harbor, you will find the recently-restored San Felipe Fortress.
Built in the 16th-century to protect the settlement from pirate attacks, the fortress offers beautiful views of the harbor and Atlantic Ocean as well.
Ride the Teleferico to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres
A somewhat-scary cable car ride up to Mount Isabel de Torres affords even more breathtaking views of Puerto Plata and the lush vicinity.
A mini-version of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer and small gardens also await at the top.
Better yet? It’s cheap, really cheap!
The best course of action is to not hire a guide–they will rush you up and down at this particular Puerto Plata attraction.
Just hire a taxi and take your time.
Beach bum with a local flavor at Cofresi or Sosua
Cofresi and Sosua are the two most popular beaches in Puerto Plata.
They also happen to be great spots for tourists who prefer to avoid a resort pass, but like a well-serviced beach.
While some areas of Cofresi are corded off for resort guests only, hotel staff still provide several premium services to beachgoers.
Sosua, on the other hand, is preferred by families with children due to the usually-calm surf. Great snorkeling here as well!