Beyond Amber Cove: Go Off the Beaten Path in Puerto Plata

There’s more to the Dominican Republic than Amber Cove. When my wife and I explored beyond this popular cruise port, we discovered these amazing and memorable experiences.

Many cruisers know the wonders that await them at Puerto Plata’s Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic. But when my wife and I visited the popular port, we decided to venture off the beaten path. We rode through the city, walked through a series of waterfalls and binged on some of the city’s finest chocolate.

In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to go back! But first, let me take you through my favorite things to do in Puerto Plata.

Walk the Malecón.

Strolling along the three-kilometer stretch of the Malecón, my wife and I discovered a different side of Puerto Plata. With diverse beaches and broad avenues, the area features a more relaxed vibe and plenty of places to dip your toes in the water. The big landmarks here are Fort San Felipe and a 24-meter lighthouse — both offer beautiful views of the sea.

Quick Tip:

The Malecón is a great part of the city to explore during the daylight hours, but locals recommended that we avoid visiting after dark.

Visit Damajaqua Cascades.

If you do one thing outside of Amber Cove, find some friends and head to the Damajaqua Cascades, known for its 27 waterfalls. We started in the early morning and hiked through the jungle to reach the water, where we descended on a series of waterfall slides. These natural slides are carved right into soft limestone, and streams of water from the river carry you into clear turquoise pools.

Quick Tip:

Pack the right items: Wear a swimsuit, bring a waterproof camera and wear shoes that can get wet and keep you moving on the limestone pathways.

Enjoy San Felipe cathedral.

Visiting the San Felipe Cathedral in the middle of Puerto Plata was a real treat. We especially enjoyed the beautiful interior; stained glass adorns the walls of this cherished church, which withstood the 2010 earthquake and is still a thriving place of worship. The locals have taken care of their beloved cathedral, and I hope that it will continue to stand the test of time.

Tour the chocolate factories.

Puerto Plata is home to several chocolate makers. First we stopped by Del Oro, which offers a full tour including a movie and a chance to sample some chocolate creations. The gift shop is stocked with even more chocolate — way more — and my wife and I bought as much as we could carry!

We also took an excursion to the Chocal Cacao Factory, a community-based, organic chocolate producer. We spent the morning helping the ladies who manage and run the factory — I highly recommend that you stop by and learn more about their organization.

Quick Tip:

Bring lots of money to buy chocolate for your family and friends, because this stuff is amazing. For months after my trip, I was happy to have some Dominican chocolate at the ready. Now that I’m out of my stash, I think it’s time to reload!

Leave something for your return.

There are many places I’d like to visit on my next trip to Puerto Plata, including Playa Dorada, the Cable Car and Rum Factory. And of course, I want to visit Amber Cove as well. I could surely spend another afternoon — or 20 — lying by the pool and zipping down the exciting waterslides. But that just means I have an excuse to return one day!

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Carl H. is a travel writer living in Durham, North Carolina.