The northern shores of Dominican Republic are dramatically different, both physically and culturally, from anywhere else on the island. Most of the entire coastline is rimmed by majestic mist-swept mountains offering an entirely new drama and array of experience for groups away from the beaches. This is also where Christopher Columbus first settled in the New World, so there’s a very real sense of deep-rooted community with many layers of local culture embedded within the marvelous scenery. When people say they want an “authentic” Dominican experience, this is where they visit. The capital of the province is Puerto Plata, flanked by an eclectic combination of seaside communities targeting group business. Just east of Puerto Plata, Gregorio Luperón International Airport is the major gateway, with quick access to all of the north coast’s main attractions. PUERTO PLATA
Not far from where Christopher Columbus established the first settlement in the New World, Puerto Plata began as a trading post where ships from Spain could deliver goods to all the Spanish colonies. By 1540, the first fortress of the New World was constructed: El Castillo de San Felipe, which buttresses the winding seaside promenade running along the entire span of the downtown corridor. Many times throughout the year, varied festivals can add a touch of local color to any group event. During the era of European colonization, sugar, leather, tobacco and rum were traded between sailors from the seven seas. Today, tourists can walk around the old city to see the many Victorian homes laced with delicate gingerbread trim. The #1 attraction in town is the Amber Museum, housed in a 2-story neo-classic home built in 1918. The top floor of the museum features a wealth of exhibits examining the history of exploration for the semiprecious stone, along with rare amber samples containing ancient fossils within the resin. On the museum’s ground floor, there’s a well-stocked shop selling a wide range of bright amber baubles in all price ranges, which is always popular with visiting groups. Just outside of town, the Teleférico (cable car) ride to the top of Isabel del Torres mountain offers stunning views of the entire town and the northern coast. At the summit, a Cristo Redentor (Christ the Savior) statue protects the souls below, much like the monolithic Christ figure overlooking Río de Janeiro. Another reason to make the trip are the brilliantly colored flowers spread throughout the botanical gardens covering the entire summit of the mountain.