The Dominican Republic’s northern province of Puerto Plata is lovingly called la novia del Atlántico, or the Atlantic’s darling, for its sea-hugged landscape. Puerto Plata has something for everyone: fascinating sights, beautiful beaches, outdoor adventure, and cultural experiences. A stretch of nearly 50 miles of pristine beaches east to west along the Atlantic beg for a stopover, while inland, verdant fields and mountains beckon with waterfalls, manatee lakes, and mangrove swamps, tucked away in national parks. This province was the birthplace of tourism in the DR, before its sunshine was eclipsed by the rapid rise and mega development of all-inclusive beach haven Punta Cana, in the southeast. But in truth, the Amber Coast, origin of Dominican amber and home to Christopher Columbus’ second settlement in the Americas, has always packed a lot to see and do along its breezy Atlantic shoreline.

Whether it’s Puerto Plata city’s stunning Malecón and incessant buzz of motoconchos, the laid back and revived beach community life in Costambar, the multicultural restaurants of Sosúa, the wind sports hub of Cabarete, the cacao farming in Guananico, or the merengue típico ringing out of bars and carwashes, this province and its surroundings offer a window into the authentic DR.

East of Puerto Plata, adventures await in the northeastern fishing villages of Río San Juan and Cabrera—where beaches are so white they nearly blind—and in the far northwest, where wild parks and reserves in Montecristi and Estero Hondo beckon nature lovers to stay just a bit longer.

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Excerpt from Moon Dominican Republic (Moon Travel Guides, 2016 edition).