Puerto Plata - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata, the capital of the Dominican Republic's province of the same name, sits on the country's north coast and is the gateway to the numerous holiday towns and resorts found adjacent to the shore. The coastline itself is blessed with beautiful stretches of pristine beach, lush green valleys, and is backed by the majestic Mount Isabel de Torres. Columbus described the spot as 'the fairest land under heaven' when he arrived there in 1492, and the thousands of visitors that arrive every day today tend to agree with him. The city sports a romantic air of days gone by, enhanced by its Victorian architecture with its filigree lace wood and ironwork and 'gingerbread' motifs that characterise most of the historic homesteads and public buildings. The town has a buzzing atmosphere, with many restaurants and clubs pumping the sultry beats of merengue and salsa into the tropical night air.

Information & Facts

Spanish is the official language, but English is spoken in the main tourist centres.

The currency is the Dominican Republic Peso (DOP), divided into 100 centavos. Many of the hotels and restaurants in the main tourist destinations display their prices in US dollars as well as in Dominican Pesos, as US dollars are widely accepted and some places will also accept Euros. The peso cannot be exchanged outside of the Dominican Republic. Major currencies can be converted into pesos at Central Bank approved bureaux; only 30% of the pesos bought can be re-converted and this only if the original receipts are produced, so it is best not to buy more pesos than you are likely to need. Major credit cards are accepted everywhere, but a commission is usually charged and it is recommended that you only use your credit card at your hotel as fraud incidents have been reported. The best exchange rates are paid on US travellers cheques and secondly on US dollars cash and are best exchanged at exchange bureaux ( casas de cambio). Banking hours are Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm; some banks also open on Saturday. ATMs are widespread.

An attractive Victorian building in the centre of Puerto Plata on Duarte Street houses the Amber Museum, showcasing a unique collection of valuable Dominican amber. According to experts the amber found in this region is the most transparent, and therefore the most valued, in the world. The substance, classified as a semi-precious stone, is actually tree resin that has hardened across millennia, often enclosing fossils of plant and insect life. The museum offers guided tours in several languages, and has a shop where a full selection of Dominican amber jewellery can be obtained.

No visit to the Dominican Republic north coast is complete without savouring the local drink of choice, which is Brugal rum. In Puerto Plata visitors can enjoy a brief tour of the distiller's bottling operation (actual production takes place elsewhere) and end the experience with a sample. The factory produces more than one and a half million litres of white and dark rum each year.

Puerto Plata's only remnant of its Spanish Colonial past is a small fort, situated on a small peninsula in Puerto Plata Bay. The fort, featuring a moat, and a collection of historical artefacts in a small museum, was built by Columbus after his arrival in 1492, when he hoped to establish the first Spanish colony in the New World at this site. The colony did not survive, however, and eventually the Spanish resettled on the south coast at Santo Domingo. To the east of the fort is an Oceanside road known as the Malecon, which features numerous cafes and roadside vendors. It is a popular promenade for walks beside the beach.

Towering over the city of Puerto Plata is the 2,600ft (792m) Mount Isabel de Torres, itself a popular tourist attraction in its own right. Visitors can take a seven-minute cable car ride up the mountainside to explore the summit, which offers a botanical garden and a cruciform statue of Jesus Christ. There is also a restaurant, from which diners can enjoy breathtaking views of the city and coastline.

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