Beyond its beaches and landscapes, there is an unknown Dominican Republic that offers cultural and natural wonders to visitors—places not so far from consolidated destinations like Punta Cana and Puerto Plata—where a complete vacation can be had by all. In addition, they´re all very close to Iberostar´s resorts on the island, making them a tempting option to take advantage of the combination of beach and quality rest mixed with exciting, unexpected activities. So let's dive right in.
THE NORTHERN SHORE
On the less-traversed Northern Shore lies the city of Puerto Plata, a town best known for its proximity to the mountain. So, the best choice is to take a cable car to the peak of Mount Isabel de Torres for a panoramic view of Puerto Plata. The name of the city was inspired by the silver-tipped appearance of this very mountain. Christopher Columbus described it as plata, Spanish for “silver”. The city became known as Puerto de Plata and later Puerto Plata.
Once you get to the top, you can pay a visit to a very lovely botanical garden. For more active travelers who don’t mind taking the scenic route, there are many hiking trails that lead up to the top of the mountain.
Fossil buffs will love the Museo Del Ambar (Amber Museum) - located just 5 km away from Iberostar Costa Dorada -hosts a collection of fossils, plants, and ancient animals encased in amber, a semi-precious gem that is formed when tree sap fossilizes. It’s a little-known fact that over the centuries, amber mining has been big business in the Dominican Republic.
On display are many rare finds, including the most famous, a 17-inch long ancient lizard trapped in amber.
Also on the north coast, about two hours east of Puerto Plata is a beautiful stretch of beach called Playa Grande that is quite easy to get to and just a short jaunt from the main highway. At the rainbow-colored shacks painted in every shade of the color spectrum, you’ll dine like royalty - eating the freshest seafood - local, whole, roasted snapper with salad and plantains and wash it down with their local pilsner Presidente beer and rum-filled piña coladas served out of whole pineapples. Ask and they can even set up a picnic table for you in the sand, just steps from the clear Caribbean water.
Less than an hour’s drive away from the Puerto Plata resorts area is Cabarete, a sleepy hippie town where the winds attract world class kitesurfers and sailors from all over the world. Down-to-earth beachside bars, restaurants and smoothie stands line the sand for those who want to dine by the water.
If you want to take your adventure off the beach and into the jungles, try trekking down the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua. Nestled in the Northern Corridor mountain range, even adrenaline junkies would enjoy starting off in the hilltop local neighborhoods and making their way through the Dominican jungle by rappelling or ziplining down the waterfalls and huge rock canyons of Damajagua.
The beaches near this area have soft sand with clear waters and are largely uncrowded. However, it’s not a place to snorkel if you’re not a strong swimmer at the water gets deep quickly. But if you’re a fan of shipwrecks, there is some colorful history just off the coast, where you can discover the Concepción, sunk in 1641 to the northeast of Hispaniola (which is now Dominican Republic). It was one of the most significant Spanish wrecks of all time, with a loss of over 100 tons of silver and gold treasure.
Located on the easternmost region of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is a popular holiday resort famous for their beach resorts, crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches with palm trees.
In addition to the irresistible sun and beach, travelers should really take the time to explore the nearby the seemingly endless Higuey’s Sugar Cane Plantations. You can take a guided excursion from your resort and even visit a couple of local families, witnessing firsthand the hard work farmers put into harvesting the stalks by hand, using machetes in the same way it has been done for centuries. It is a fabulous experience to learn about the crops they grow in the area and see oxen pull wooden carts with cane to be loaded onto the old train carriages.
Also in Higuey is the Basilica of Our Lady. One of Latin America's finest examples of modern religious architecture, the modern Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia is a leading pilgrimage center in Latin America with people taking a trek across the country to attend mass there on January 21st.
About an hour’s drive from Iberostar's Punta Cana resorts is Parque Nacional del Este (Eastern National Park), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a habitat for hundreds of species of plants and animals, including 112 species of different birds. The reserve is also home to one of the Caribbean's largest marine parks with wealth of biodiversity and an immense coral reef system. You can find four species of sea turtles as well as manatees, bottlenose dolphins, and numerous species of fish in its tropical waters. The park is the natural habitat for the rare paloma coronita (crowned, or white-headed dove) and the rhinoceros iguana.
Relaxing on some of the sandy remote beaches in Isla Saona is also a popular activity for visitors. In addition to excellent diving and snorkeling, visitors can also visit caves to see examples of pre-Columbian art.