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How to do the Dominican Republic

Treasures of the Silver Coast: A Guide to the Dominican Republic’s North Shore
The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country with five mountain ranges, countless rivers, spectacular waterfalls, sweeping valleys and surrounded on three sides with breathtaking beaches. Whether your idea of a vacation is lounging beneath a palm tree on a deserted beach or trying something more adventurous like white-water rafting, scuba diving or mountain climbing, there is something for everyone on this beautiful island.

Sosua Beach, DR

The country’s tropical climate with a year-round average temperature of 77 degrees attracts tourists from around the world who are seeking a relaxing break at an all-inclusive resort or adventure-seekers looking take advantage of the island’s diverse terrain. Many of the larger resorts have such a wide selection of activities, such as their own golf courses, casinos, water sports, entertainment and spas, that guests can spend their entire vacation without leaving their resort.  In my travels to the Dominican, I found that venturing outside of the tourist areas is the only way to truly experience the unique charm and interesting culture of the country. In every town and village, whether large or small, you will hear the rhythmic beats of merengue and bachata music and meet friendly and welcoming people who are always willing to help you with directions, teach you about their culture or maybe a few words of Spanish. On my most recent visit to the Dominican Republic, I explored several very different cities on the North Coast of the island. In just over a week, I took a horseback ride through sugar cane fields and a Haitian village, went on a Jungle Safari trip through the rural Dominican countryside, windsurfed in Cabarete, visited ancient Taino caves in Los Haitises National Park and tried snorkeling in the beautiful coral reefs in Sosúa. At the end of my trip, I was already anxious to plan another trip back. 

Puerta Plata
My travels began in Puerta Plata, which means “Silver Port” in Spanish. This north coast city is a popular destination for tourists from all parts of the world who are seeking a relaxing, affordable vacation at one of the city’s many all-inclusive resorts. I chose to start my trip in Puerta Plata because its central location makes it great for taking day trips to nearby cities Sosúa and Cabarete. Many visitors also travel down to Santiago, the country’s second largest city, which is just over an hour away. I stayed at the Coral Marien Beach Resort and Spa, one of the newest resorts in the Puerta Plata area. Opened in 2001, the resort is a few minutes outside of the Playa Dorada resort complex.  It has a charming Caribbean atmosphere with a spectacular pool, several restaurants, a sports bar, disco, miniature golf course and water sports on its private beach. When I was ready to start exploring the city, I booked a full-day tour of Puerta Plata through my hotel for about $45.US.

A child in the countryside

The tour started with a trip through downtown Puerta Plata, famous for its Victorian architecture.  We stopped for a tour of the Brugal Rum Factory, where we watched the rum being made while sampling some of their excellent varieties of rum. After that, it was on to the San Felipe Fort, a fortress overlooking that Atlantic built by Spaniards in the 16th century. After a brief stop for lunch, we toured the Amber Museum in downtown Puerta Plata. Puerta Plata is one of the few locations in the world where amber naturally occurs. The museum has many exhibits of various types of amber, as well as gemstones such as Larimar, a turquoise-colored stone native to the Dominican Republic. The day’s tour ended with a scenic cable car trip to top of Mount Isabel de Torres, named in honor of Queen Isabel of Spain. At the mountain’s summit, we visited a botanical garden and took in breathtaking views of the city and coastline from 2,500 above sea level.   

After a few days in Puerta Plata, I traveled to Cabarete, a seaside town that attracts windsurfers and those seeking an adventurous vacation. Cabarete is an energetic place with an international flavor, bustling with the young and the young at heart. The first thing I noticed about Cabarete, is that the surf is much rougher compared to the calm shores found in other parts of the island. This creates the ideal conditions for windsurfing, boogey-boarding and even surfing. Cabarete Beach is considered to be one of top ten places to windsurf in the world. 

Inside of the typical rural Dominican home

I decided to try windsurfing and booked a lesson at Club Nathalie Simon Cabarete, located on the beachfront in Cabarete. A one-hour beginner’s lesson costs $36US, which includes equipment rental. If you’re new to windsurfing, it’s best to take your lesson in the morning, when the waters are calm. The winds start to pick up in the early afternoon and create perfect conditions for intermediate or more advanced windsurfers.  Cabarete is also the departure point for other types of adventure travel. Iguana Mama Tours offers hiking, mountain biking and ecotourism trips on the North Coast and throughout the Dominican. If you’d like to learn more about the adventure travel opportunities in the Dominican Republic, the DR Pure web site ( offers comprehensive information about windsurfing, paragliding, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding, scuba diving, river rafting and other adventure sports in the area.  Cabarete is a thirty minute cab ride from Puerta Plata. If you plan on staying in Cabarete, there’s no need to rent a car since most places in town are within walking distance and many tour operators will pick you up at your hotel for excursions.

Sosúa is an eclectic beach town, fifteen minutes east of Puerta Plata with many restaurants, a village of shops, cafes and a great nightlife scene. Sosúa’s main attraction is its three beautiful beaches, each with powdery golden sand and inviting turquoise water. At the top of Sosúa beach is a small village of shops where you can bargain hunt for jewelry, clothing, handicrafts and souvenirs from local merchants. Those who snorkel or scuba dive will enjoy the spectacular coral reefs in Sosúa Bay.

Coral Marien Resort

I tried snorkeling for the first time and was amazed at the varieties of corals and tropical fish that I saw just off shore. Dive centers such as the Hippocampo Dive Center, Sosúa offer daily guided dives. Hippocampo’s dives allow a maximum of six people and are conducted by PADI certified diving instructors. They also offer night dives, shipwreck dives and diving trips to other parts of the island. For those who would like to enjoy the beauty of the reefs without going in the water, try a glass bottom boat tour that departs from Sosúa Beach. It costs only $9.US per person for a half-hour trip.

The Samaná Peninsula
If you want to get away from it all and spend a relaxing vacation in an enchanting tropical paradise, the Samaná Peninsula is exactly the place.  Located in the eastern region of the North Coast, Samaná is a relatively undiscovered vacation destination with something for everyone. From whale watching, to pristine beaches and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, I fell in love with Samaná from the moment I arrived.  With the variety of activities to choose from, it was difficult to decide where to start. Beach lovers will find no shortage of postcard-perfect beaches throughout the Samaná peninsula.

A quiet beach in Cayo Levantado island

Most of the beaches are very quiet, especially during the summer months. Las Galeras is one of the most peaceful areas in all of Samaná, with a horse-shoe shaped beach with clear, turquoise water and sugar white sand. West of Las Galeras is Playa Rincon, a beach on the eastern part of the peninsula that has been voted as one of the best beaches in the world by Condé Nast Traveler. Since rough terrain makes this enchanting beach rather inaccessible, the easiest route is to take a short ferry ride from Las Galeras. More adventurous travelers may consider taking a trip to Salto de Limon, a stunning hundred foot waterfall with a natural swimming pool at the bottom where you can cool off after your hike there. Trips to the waterfall can be taken by horseback or by a hiking from the main road. Many hotels in the area will be able to arrange your trip there.

Los Haitises National Park and Cayo Levantado
The next day, I took a tour from Colonial Tours to the Los Haitises National Park and Cayo Levantado. Los Haitises is a huge mangrove swamp that tourists can visit by boat and get a glimpse of hundreds of rare species of plants, birds and marine life. Inside the park are small islands and caves with ancient pictographs left by the Tainos, the original inhabitants of the island. Cayo Levantado, also known as “Bacardi Island”, is a picturesque island just off the coast of mainland Samaná that is a wonderful place to spend the day. T

Cabarete beach

here are many lovely beaches and hidden coves to explore throughout the island. Most group tours offer a traditional Caribbean-style lunch, complete with local drinks such as Rum and Coke or Pina Coladas. Tours to Los Haitises leave from Samaná. A full day trip to Los Haitises and Cayo Levantado from Colonial Tours costs about $80.US. 

Whale Watching in Samaná Bay
If you’re in Samaná between mid-January and mid-March, be sure not to miss the unique opportunity to take a whale watching excursion. For centuries, hundreds of Humpback Whales from the North Atlantic make an annual trip to the warm waters of Samaná Bay for their mating and calving season.

Cayo Levantado beach

During the peak season, there are usually about a hundred whales in the bay at any given time. Visitors can arrange a whale watching trip through Kim Beddall of Victoria Marine Tours, which offers two departures daily from both Samaná and nearby Cayo Levantado, from January 15th to March 15th. The trip lasts three to four hours, offers a 99% sighting rate and costs $35 per person. Advance reservations are recommended. Victoria Marine can be contacted by phone at (809)538-2494 or by e-mail at [email protected].

Or read on for enough practical information to fill in a guidebook….


Getting to Puerta Plata, Sosúa and Cabarete
American, Continental and Northwest Airlines* offer daily flights into Gregorio Luperón International Airport in Puerta Plata. Average round-trip fares range from Miami range from $300 to $400. Cabs are readily available outside the terminal and their prices are reasonable, but make sure to get the price for your trip in advance. Several major rental car companies are available at the terminal.

*Seasonal service to Puerta Plata. Saturday only departures from 1/11 through 4/12.

Getting to Samaná
Visitors to Samaná can fly into either Puerta Plata or Santo Domingo and take a short commuter flight to Samaná. American, Continental and Northwest Airlines* offer daily flights to both Puerta Plata and Santo Domingo.  Average round-trip fares range from LAX range from $600 to $800. If you don’t mind a four hour scenic ride, you can consider taking a bus from Puerta Plata or Santo Domingo into Samaná. 

*Seasonal service only. Saturday only departures from 1/11 through 4/12.





Where to Stay


Estrella del Mar
A charming, ocean-front all-inclusive resort in central Cabarete.  
Room for 2 – Approx. $180/night
Address: Carretera 5, Cabarete, DR
Phone: (809) 571-0808

Palm Beach Condos
Features full-service apartment suites in central Cabarete.
Room for 2 – Winter rate, $100/night for a condo.
Room for 2 – Winter rate, $50-$60/night for a studio.
Address: Carretera 5, Cabarete, DR
Phone: (809) 571-0758

Puerta Plata

Coral Marien Beach Hotel & Spa
Opened in 2001, this 5-star all-inclusive has a spectacular pool, several restaurants, a sports bar, disco, miniature golf course, spa and water sports. 
Room for 2 – Approx. $200/night, All-Inclusive.
Address: Luperon Road, Costa Dorada, Puerta Plata, DR
Phone: (809) 320-1515
Fax: (809) 320-1414
E-Mail: [email protected]

Jack Tar Village
An adults only all-inclusive resort in the Playa Dorada complex featuring a golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, private beach, a casino, and four restaurants.
Room for 2 – $182/night, All-Inclusive
Address: Playa Dorada, P.O. Box 368, Puerto Plata, DR
Phone: (809) 320-3800
Toll-Free from the US: 1 (800) 858-2258


Sosúa Bay Hotel
A beachfront all-inclusive in the heart of Sosúa with three pools, nightly entertainment, water sports and 144 rooms with an ocean view. Opened in 2002.
Room for 2 – $230/night, All-Inclusive
Address: Calle Dr. Alejo Martínez, No. 1
El Batey, Sosúa, Puerta Plata, DR
Phone: (809) 571-4000
Fax: (809) 571-4545
E-mail: [email protected]

Victoria House
Deluxe beachfront hotel set on a hilltop overlooking Sosúa Bay. A few minutes walk to restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Opened in 2002.
Room for 2 – $190/night
Address: Calle Dr. Alejo Martínez, No. 1
El Batey, Sosúa, Puerta Plata, DR
Phone: (809) 571-4000
Fax: (809) 571-4545
E-mail: [email protected]


Casa Marina Bay
An all-inclusive, beachfront resort in Las Galeras.
Room for 2 – Oceanview, All-Inclusive, Approx. $200/night
Address: Las Galeras, Samaná, DR
Phone: (809)538-0020
Fax: (809)538-0038

Occidental Grand Bahia
A Victorian-style resort with a 9-hole golf course, riding stable, tennis courts and a private beach.
Room for 2 – $150/night
Address: Los Cacao, Samaná, DR
Phone: (809)538-3111

Tropical Lodge
Charming hotel in downtown Samaná, central to the area’s popular attractions.
Address: Avenida Marina, Samaná, DR
Room for 2 – $60/night including breakfast. (High Season)
Room for 2 – $40/night including breakfast. (Low Season)
Phone: (809) 538-2480

Where to Eat


Casa del Pescador
The best seafood in Cabarete in a charming, beachfront setting.
Phone: (809) 571-0760

La Brisa Restaurant and Bar
Seafood and traditional Dominican cuisine in an open-air setting by the Yasica River.
Phone: (809) 543-4289

Puerta Plata

Acuarela Garden Café
Creative cuisine by Swiss & American trained Chef/Owner Rafael Vásquez and his wife Linda Peters. Reservations are recommended.
Profesor Certad #3, Puerto Plata
Phone: (809) 261-1000

Hemingway’s Café
Popular bar and grille located in the Playa Dorada Plaza with live bands performing each weekend.
Phone: (809) 320-2230


On the Waterfront
Delicious seafood dishes, Caribbean atmosphere and an outdoor patio with dramatic views of sunsets over Sosúa Bay.
Dr Rosen 1, Sosúa, DR
Phone: (809) 571-2670
Fax: (809) 571-3586

Alexander’s Steak House
Address: Calle Ayuntamiento No.44, El Batey, Sosúa 
Phone: (809) 571-3468


Café de Paris
Crepes and French cuisine in a modern décor.
Address: Malecon 6, Samaná City, DR
Phone: (809) 538-2488

La Mata Rosada
Description: Central Samaná restaurant featuring excellent Italian cuisine and seafood.
Malecon, Samaná City
Phone: (809) 538-2388

The local currency is the Dominican Peso.  The current currency exchange rate is $1.US = 20 Pesos.  Most travelers find it best to bring travelers checks in US dollars and some extra cash that you can exchange for pesos at a local bank or hotel. Major credits cards are usually accepted at most resorts, larger hotels and many stores and restaurants throughout the island, with the exceptions of small towns and remote areas. In the Samaná Peninsula, credit cards aren’t widely accepted, so be sure to bring traveler’s checks or cash.

Entry Requirements
US Citizens need only a Birth Certificate or valid US Passport for entry. No visa is required; however visitors must purchase a $10 Tourist Card upon arrival at the airport in the DR.

Spanish is the official language, but most people in the resort and tourist areas speak fluent English.  If you don’t speak Spanish, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few basic Spanish phrases in advance.

Trip Planning Resources

Site with information on hotels, flights and activities in the town of Cabarete.

Debbie’s Dominican Travel Page
This site provides hundreds of hotel and resort reviews, a forum and links to helpful resources for planning your visit to the Dominican Republic.

Dominican Republic Secretary of Tourism US Office
Address: 136 E. 57 St., Suite 803, New York, N.Y. 10022
Phone: (888)374-6361, Fax: (212)588-1015
E-mail: [email protected]

Dominican Republic – Yours to Discover
A comprehensive tourism site with information about hotels, flights, sports, sight-seeing, national parks and Dominican culture.

This well-maintained site features news, travel and tourism information, discussion boards and useful DR related links.
A site for finding accommodations, local information, maps and trip planning essentials.

Puerta Plata
This site features a visitor’s guide and Puerta Plata news.

A great site describing area attractions, accommodations and information for those planning a trip to the Samaná peninsula.

A site with tourism and visitor information about Sosúa.

Sites for Tour and Adventure Travel Companies

Colonial Tours and Travel
Offers tours to Cayo Levantado and Los Haitises National Park with departures from Samaná. 
Address: Plaza Las Terrenas Loca #2, Samaná, DR
Phone: (809) 240-6493
Fax: (809)240-6493

Dolphin Dive Center, Cabarete
This dive center and resort offers the PADI system of training and education. They also offer dive trips, lodging and equipment rental.
Address: Calle Principal, Cabarete, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Phone/Fax: (809) 571-0842
E-mail: [email protected]

DR Pure
This site is the place to learn more about adventure travel in the DR.

Iguana Mama Tours
Iguana Mama offer mountain biking, hiking and educational tours throughout the Dominican.
Toll-Free from the US: 1-800-849-4720
From the DR: (809)571-0908
E-mail: [email protected]

Hippocampo Dive Center, Sosúa
Address: Julio Arseno #7, Los Charamicos, Sosúa, Dominican Republic
Phone: (809) 571-4437
Email: [email protected]

Outback Adventures – Safari Excursions
This tour company offers half and full-day trips that depart from Puerta Plata, Sosúa, Cabarete, Luperon and other cities in the DR.
Address: Calle 1 de Muños nr.3 km 6, Carretera Puerto Plata – Sosua, Dominican Republic
Tel: (809) 320 2525
Outback Adventures – Safari Excursions

Windsurfing Club Nathalie Simon
Windsurfing lessons, equipment rental and tours in Cabarete.
Phone: (809) 571-0848
Fax: (809) 571-0595
Email: [email protected]

Books on the Dominican Republic

Berlitz Latin American Spanish Phrasebook. Berlitz Travel Guides, 2001.

Dominican Republic: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture by David Howard. Interlink Publishing Group, 1999.

Dominican Republic: The Rough Guide by Sean Harvey. Penguin Group, 2000.

Lonely Planet: Dominican Republic and Haiti, 2nd Edition by Scott Doggett and Joyce Connelly. Lonely Planet, July 2002.

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