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1-Day DIY Guide to the 'Silver Port' of Puerto Plata

1-Day DIY Guide to the 'Silver Port' of Puerto Plata


avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 02/01/2022
Posted On 03/25/2022 10:04:24

Cruises | Norwegian Dawn | Caribbean | Eastern Caribbean | Dominican Republic | Puerto Plata | Taino Bay Cruise Terminal | Amber Cove | Shopping | Monkey Island | Beach Club | Historic District | Independence Square | Malecon | Fortaleza de San Felipe | Isabel de Torres | Cable Car



The Dominican Republic has long been a popular Caribbean destination for all-inclusive resort goers as well as cruise ship travelers. While Punta Cana and Santo Domingo are among the most popular for visitors flying into the country, Puerto Plata ranks as the country's busiest entry port for cruisers.

Prior to docking for our single day in the city, we had no knowledge of what to expect and no plans for what to see or do. All we knew is that we would adventure out for the day on our own.

The bad news about our lack of preparation is that we missed out on exploring some sites because we didn't even know that they existed. The good news for you is that we have since done the research that we should have done before our arrival. We'll share both our learnings coupled with our experience and recommendations in this article so that you can fully plan and prepare!

We were quite impressed with Puerto Plata and are already hoping to return again. The city is full of choices for travelers with all interests. Whether you are hoping for relaxing day at a beach resort, shopping, exploring historical sites, strolling along the water's edge, bonding with monkeys or admiring panoramic views, read on to create your plans so that you can make the most of a port day in Puerto Plata.

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Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

The island of Hispaniola, located in the northern Caribbean, is home to both the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic, in the eastern part of Hispaniola, occupies over half of the island's area.

The city of Puerto Plata, located on the country's north shore, is among the largest cities in the country. The name "Puerto Plata" translates to "Port of Silver". According to some, it was the silvery color of the surrounding waters that are credited for the naming of the port city.

In addition to being a destination for resort lovers, cruise ship travelers have a variety of options. Whether it's exploring history, shopping or just plain relaxing that most peaks your interest, it's easily reached from the port.


Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Taino Bay Cruise Terminal

The Taino Bay Cruise Terminal is one of two cruise ports located in Puerto Plata. (The other port, Amber Cove, is used exclusively for ships owned by Carnival Corporation.) Formerly a cargo pier, Taino Bay was expanded and today can simultaneously accommodate two of the largest cruise ships currently in operation plus one smaller ship.


Norwegian Encore and Norwegian Dawn Docked at Taino Bay

Norwegian Encore and Norwegian Dawn Docked at Taino Bay

The first cruise ship passengers were officially welcomed to phase one of the port in mid-December 2021. In operation for just a month and a half prior to our arrival, we were quite impressed with all that the port currently has to offer. (Future phases planned for the terminal include street entertainment, a theme park, water park, lazy river and zip line.)

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Shopping

A stroll through the nicely landscaped port complex took us past a duty free shop plus numerous other retail shops, restaurants and bars all open for business. The shops were housed in glass buildings with straw roofs and were all new and very clean.


Shopping at Puerto Plata's Taino Bay

Shopping at Puerto Plata's Taino Bay

Just like so many cruise ports, Taino Bay has a Diamonds International - but there is so much more. From clothing to souvenirs and decor items, the stores that we explored had a variety of items available. Many of the shops are owned by island locals, some with handcrafted items, and the prices were quite reasonable. Although we aren't big shoppers, we even made a purchase perfect for decorating a beach condo! (Credit cards were accepted in many of the shops.)


Retail Therapy at Taino Bay

Retail Therapy at Taino Bay

Monkey Island

Monkey lovers shouldn't miss bonding with squirrel monkeys at Monkey Island. Although the "as long as you want" promise made by the salesperson turned out to be only 20 to 25 minutes with a guide/photographer, our visit was still a great memory.


Huge Mechanical Monkey at Entrance to Monkey Island

Huge Mechanical Monkey at Entrance to Monkey Island

Our "tour group" was led around the large fenced area full of the smallest, cutest and fastest monkeys ever. Each guest was given a dish of food to attract the monkeys while the photographer was snapping photos (available for sale upon exiting) as the monkeys jumped from person to person


Waiting to Enter Monkey Island

Waiting to Enter Monkey Island

Tip: Don't wear your best clothes! From one second to the next, one (or more) of these speedy monkeys will crawl from the top of your head down to your shoulders. Next thing you know, there's a monkey on your head, a second one perched on your arm eating out of the food dish that you are holding and a third monkey landing on your leg. These adorable monkeys eagerly grab the fruits and nuts from one person's dish and seemingly "fly" to another person ... slobbering food along the way.


You Never Know Where A Monkey Will Land

You Never Know Where A Monkey Will Land

Fun Times Feeding the Squirrel Monkeys

Fun Times Feeding the Squirrel Monkeys

The total cost for two people during our visit was $50.00 cash. (When paid via credit card, the charge was $52.19 - charged in US dollars even after multiple requests for the charge to be made in local currency.)

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Beach Club

What looks like a nicely landscaped beach resort with a large pool, swim-up bar, pool-side loungers and umbrellas is a beach club. We searched for the club entrance or signage with the day-use fee to no avail. We finally asked and were quite surprised to learn that entrance to the club was free.


Taino Bay Cruise Port Beach Club

Taino Bay Cruise Port Beach Club

Tip: Prepare in advance so you don't have to return to your stateroom for necessities! Be sure to wear (or bring) swimwear, a towel and sun lotion when you leave the ship for the day. Reasonably priced adult beverages were also available for purchase from the bar or wandering wait staff. We paid cash for our drinks and did not inquire whether or not credit cards were accepted.


Enjoying an Adult Beverage at Taino Bay's Beach Club

Enjoying an Adult Beverage at Taino Bay's Beach Club

Puerto Plata Historic District

Get a glimpse of the past by visiting downtown Puerto Plata. In addition to shops, you'll find historic landmarks including a cathedral, a historic square and a lodge. With a combination of Spanish colonial and Victorian architecture, this important area will be getting a facelift in the near future.

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After exiting the secure cruise port, getting to the city's historic center is about a 3/4 mile walk. For us, the most difficult part of the walk was getting to the sidewalk while being hounded by taxi drivers and "guides" wanting to either drive or escort us. We almost turned back, but asked a gentleman who appeared to be a port supervisor if we could walk. Once he said that it was "no problem" to go on our own, everyone left us alone and we were on our way.

Map provided by Wanderlog, a travel planner on iOS and Android

Tip: As with anywhere you go, it's always best not to wander off alone. The couple of blocks nearest the port were fairly rundown, however there were police officers along the entire walk and throughout the downtown area which provided an additional sense of security. Keep your eyes open for some colorful murals on buildings between the port and the "downtown" area. At some point in the future, cruise ship passengers will have access to a free trolley service from the cruise port to the city's historic center.


Street Art in Puerto Plata's Historic District

Street Art in Puerto Plata's Historic District

Umbrella Street

If you are in search of colorful shots to post to your social media accounts, Calle San Felipe is your place. Between Calle Beller and Calle Duarte (just two blocks from Independence Square), San Felipe has been transformed into another of the world's picturesque Umbrella Streets.


Calle San Felipe, aka "Umbrella Street"

Calle San Felipe, aka "Umbrella Street"

Those who want to take a walking break will find some options as well. Buy a cigar or souvenir, sip on a coffee or beer or enjoy an ice cream treat or other snack on this block long street.

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St. Philip the Apostle Cathedral

Located at Calle José del Carmen Ariza 36 in downtown Puerto Plata is the St. Philip the Apostle Cathedral. The Victorian building that houses the cathedral today was completed in 1956 and officially named a cathedral by Pope John Paul II in 1996. The cathedral is often referred to as the Puerto Plata Cathedral.


Cathedral of St. Philip the Apostle

Cathedral of St. Philip the Apostle

An earlier church on the same site burnt to the ground in the mid-19th century. A mid-20th century earthquake caused significant delays in the reconstruction. Then, after construction was completed, a second earthquake required additional repairs which were completed in 2008.

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Plaza de la Independencia

On most days, one of the most popular and busiest places in the city is Independence Square. It's central location in downtown Puerto Plata make it a perfect spot for meeting up with others before heading out for some fun. From Plaza de la Independencia, often referred to as Central Park, it's a short walk to see history, the ocean, shopping or even enjoy food and drinks.


Independence Square

Independence Square

Handmade Crafts Market and Retail Shopping

Just a block away from the cathedral and square is a Handmade Crafts Market. Local vendors staff individual tables covered with canopies where they are able to peddle their wares, including arts and crafts, to both locals and tourists. In addition to locally made handicrafts, the downtown streets have plenty of other retail shops offering souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, coffee, chocolate ... the list goes on and on.


Puerto Plata's Hand Made Crafts Market

Puerto Plata's Hand Made Crafts Market

Restoration Lodge # 11

Restoration Lodge # 11, a Masonic Lodge, was founded in late 1867 in Puerto Plata. Although not open for tours during our day ashore, seeing the exterior of the building dating back to the early 1900s provided us with one more peek into the city's history. It is said that the interior today looks just as it did when the lodge, built in the exact measurements of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, was inaugurated in 1909.


Restoration Lodge # 11

Restoration Lodge # 11

Malecon

Stretching from Fortaleza de San Felipe to Long Beach alongside Avenida General Gregorio Luperón is a just under two mile long paved and partially shaded boardwalk referred to locally as the Malecon. With the Caribbean Sea always by one of your sides, a walk along the Malecon takes you past parks, bars, restaurants and beaches. Depending on the season and the time of day, you may pass by street performers, food vendors, a game of volleyball or even a Carnival parade.


Strolling Along Puerto Plata's Malecon

Strolling Along Puerto Plata's Malecon

Fortaleza de San Felipe

Had we done our research before heading out for the day, we would have continued our walk along the Malecon until we reached Fortaleza de San Felipe. (Walking directly from the port, it's less than a 25 minute walk to the left and around the bay.)

What was built as a 16th century defensive fort, as well as to protect the island from pirates searching for gold and silver, was opened as a museum in 1965. Today, in addition to remarkable coastline views, visitors willing to navigate through the fort's low clearance passageways can see the fortified towers, cannons and more. Hidden chambers, some of which were used to house prisoners in the 19th century, along with displays of additional weapons are included in the self-guided audio tours. (The fort / museum is currently open to visitors between 8:45 AM and 4:45 PM daily except Saturdays.)

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Isabel de Torres

The peak of Isabel de Torres is said to be a "don't miss" destination in Puerto Plata - one that we unfortunately missed! In addition to having awesome views looking over the city and out to sea, the mountain top is home to a fortress with a Christ the Redeemer statue and Jardin Botanico, a tropical garden with both flora and fauna.

Tip: Many organized tours make a stop at Isabel de Torres (southwest of the port), but it's possible to get to the peak on your own as well. Once the port's free trolley service is in operation, be sure to inquire as to whether it offers service to Isabel del Torres. If not, your best bet in getting there is probably a taxi. (Taxi service is available to either the base or the peak of the mountain.)


View of Isabel de Torres from Cruise Port

View of Isabel de Torres from Cruise Port

Teleferico Puerto Plata is promoted as the Caribbean's only cable car which brings guests from the base to the mountain top. As of the publish date, tickets are currently $10.00 per adult (11 years or older) and $5.00 for children between the ages of 5 and 10.

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What Will You Plan for Your Puerto Plata Port Day?

Whether you choose to stay near the terminal or venture out further, you should now have ideas for your port day in Puerto Plata. Today, the Taino Bay Cruise Port offers shopping, dining, a relaxing beach club plus a chance to interact with monkeys. The port has big plans for the future, so depending on when you visit, you may have even more nearby options.

Those opting to leave the immediate port area can head downtown to experience history, culture, shopping, dining and art. A stroll along the Malecon offers an opportunity to exercise, a scenic walking route to the port or beach plus more bars, restaurants and entertainment options. In addition to journeying via cable car, some of the best views in the city are available atop Isabel de Torres.

Cruising in the Eastern Caribbean

Planning a cruise with stops at Eastern Caribbean cruise ports? Make sure to check back in the upcoming month for DIY planning tips for Antigua, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and the US Virgin Islands.

Puerto Plata

What advice do you have for cruisers that have Puerto Plata on an itinerary for an upcoming cruise?




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1-Day DIY Guide to the 'Silver Port' of Puerto Plata







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