San Felipe de Puerto Plata, Puerto de Plata, often referred to as simply Puerto Plata, is the ninth-largest city in the Dominican Republic, and capital of the province of Puerto Plata. The city serves as one of the most important trading ports in the country.
Puerto Plata is famous for resorts such as Playa Dorada and Costa Dorada, located east of San Felipe de Puerto Plata. There are a total of 100,000 hotel beds in the city. The only aerial tramway in the Caribbean is located in Puerto Plata, in which visitors can ride up to the Pico Isabel de Torres, a 793 meter high mountain within the city.
The fortification Fortaleza San Felipe, which was built in the 16th century and served as a prison under Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship, lies close to the port of Puerta Plata. The amber museum, is also a well-known attraction in this city. La Isabela, a settlement built by Christopher Columbus, is located near Puerto Plata. In April 1563, the Spanish settlement became notorious when the English slave trader, Sir John Hawkins, brought 400 people he had abducted from Sierra Leone. Hawkins traded his victims with the Spanish for pearls, hides and sugars, some gold. This was the start of British involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, in which 20 million people were forced into slavery.
The city sits on land that rises abruptly from the sea making it almost completely visible from the port. It is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean and to the south and southwest by the hill Isabel de Torres.
The small bay around which the city was built provides a natural harbor. Puerto Plata is the largest city on the northern seaboard. Its subdivisions include: El Cupey, Maimón, Los Mameyes, Sabana Grande, El Toro, Tubagua, Yásica Abajo and San Marcos. The mountain, Isabel de Torres, is situated some 5 km to the southwest of the city of San Felipe. Geographically it forms part of the Cordillera Septentrional, reaching a maximum height of 800 m above sea level. It is possible to drive to the top of the mountain by following the highway Don José Ginebra. The highway, upon leaving the city, continues west passing the populated areas of San Marcos, Piedra Candela and El Cruce arriving at a paved section that continues southeast and then leads directly to the top. The area surrounding Loma Isabel de Torres has been declared a National Monument with an area that covers approximately 20 km2. At the summit, there is a tropical botanical garden covering about 7 acres (28,000 m2), featuring 600 varieties of tropical plants.
Since the founding of La Isabela, the first village in the New World, on January 2, 1494, Puerto Plata has been a town of firsts in the Americas.
Historians are not clear on the exact year of Puerto Plata’s founding. Emilio Rodríguez Demorizi, Américo Lugo, Jose Bordonada, and Samuel Hazard give the year 1502 as recorded by Nicolás of Ovando. Dr. Llenas affirmed that it was 1503. Dr. Joaquín Marino Incháustegui, in his Dominican history records, cites 1504. Dr. Manuel Arturo Roca Batlle indicates that the city was founded in 1505. The historians, Alonso Rodriguez Demorizi (brother of Emilio) and Jacinto Gimbernard, express that it was in the year 1496 and Padre Español said that it was in 1506.
The aforementioned Nicolás of Ovando records a port existing in the northern coast of the island near 1502.
Around 1555, Puerto Plata’s importance as a port town was lost and it became one of the places of the Antilles frequented by pirates.
Christopher Columbus, in his first trip, called the mountain Monte de Plata, observing that since the top is frequently foggy it had a silver-like appearance, hence the name of the port.
The city was designed by the brothers Christopher and Bartolomé Columbus, in the 1496 and based on the year 1502 by Frey Nicolás de Ovando.
In its first phase as a Spanish colony the town was considered the main commercial and maritime port of the island. In 1605 it was depopulated and destroyed by order of Fernando III, to hinder the advance of English piracy.
In the Battle of Puerto Plata Harbor, US Marines landed on the island and attacked a French ship and Fortaleza de San Felipe. After capturing the French privateer Sandwich and spiking the guns of Fortaleza San Felipe, US forces retired victorious. This was during the Quasi-War, an undeclared conflict between France and the United States from 1798 to 1800.
A hundred years later the town was repopulated with farmers originating from the Canaries. From 1822 to 1844 the city was under Haitian control. From 1844 on began the period of the republic in which the city began to recover its maritime and commercial boom.
The city grew under the influence of European immigrants, who left a cultural and social footprint that remains unique among other cities on the island.
In 1863, during the Dominican Restoration War, the city was razed completely. Beginning in 1865, the current Puerto Plata began to be built. This explains the Victorian style of much of its current architecture. By the end of the 18th century, Puerto Plata had become important for its cultural, social, maritime, and economic development.
The fort is the main colonial monument of the city of Puerto Plata, since around it the city developed most of its history. In 1540, Álvaro Caballero went to the Court to request that a fortress be constructed in Puerto Plata. In 1549 the Archbishop and governing Fuenmayor, he was entrusted with its construction, but it was still not done even in 1560, when the Audiencia Real ordered it commence under the charge of the French born judge Juan Echagoín to initiate its work. This work was finished in the year 1577. The purpose was to protect the city against the incursions of bandits, of the corsairs and French and English pirates that continuously terrified inhabitants of Puerto Plata. Its name is in honor of Felipe II, in whose reign its construction was finished. In 1980 it was declared a national monument.
Museo del Ámbar: The business Costa, Inc. A cultural company of family administration, directed by Aldo Costa, founded the Museo del Ámbar Dominicano in the 1982 in the Villa Bentz, (more elegant Hotel of Puerto Plata of the year 1918, built by the famous Spanish architect Marín Gallart and Cantú). This museum is considered the first Museum of the Amber of the Dominican Republic and at the same time, a great historic monument of the city.
La Zona Colonial (Casas Victorianas): From 1857, it was initiated in Puerto Plata. The Victorian style originating from England, call thus, in honor of the Queen Victoria, manager of that epoch. This it extended to almost everyone and was considered it more modern.
The fundamental characteristics were the elaboration of the wood in artistic form, for the construction of dwellings. From that moment, Puerto Plata defined clearly their architectural style, evolving to what we have nowadays as our patrimony. The rise and development of that new modality in the art of construction, was what gave start, to the buildings of the Victorian houses of the decade from the 70 of the 19th century. Creating a unique style in the city, which him is known today as Victorian architecture of Puerto Plata.
The city is famous for tourist centers such as Playa Dorada and Costa Dorada, located to the east of San Felipe of Puerto Plata. There are a total of 100,000 hotel beds in the city. The Riu chain of resorts: Bachata – Riu Merengue & Riu Mambo resorts (all-inclusive), are located nearby on the beach in Maimon Bay some 45 minutes from the airport, and 9 km from Puerto Plata.
Some our recommendations:
Isabel de Torres National Park
If you are not afraid of heights, you must stop at Isabel de Torres National Park. For only a few dollars, you can go to the top of a mountain by cable car from where you will have a spectacular view of Puerto Plata and the ocean. It’s really worth the trip!
The merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic, so it is not surprising that the country devotes a festival. In October of each year, the streets of Puerto Plata are closed for three days to make room for the festivities. Music, gastronomy, crafts and sensual dancers are waiting for you. Be careful, the temperature may rise suddenly!
Ocean World Adventure Park
Dolphin shows, exotic bird shows, Latin dance shows: Ocean World will make your day and night. The park contains several marine species such as sea lions, sharks and dolphins. If you have always wanted to swim with cetaceans, this is an opportunity to make your dream come true!
The 27 falls Damajagua
Do you like nature and thrills? If you are staying in Puerto Plata or around, plan an excursion to Damajagua Falls. Once at the top of the mountain, with your helmet and your lifejacket, you will jump into the different pools and you will slip into the smaller falls to bathe. A little advice for those who will try the experiment: do not forget your water shoes!