After spending a couple of days in Santo Domingo, we spent the rest of our Dominican vacation driving along the North Coast. While I am sorry I didn’t get to the East or South (yet), I wouldn’t have traded the time in the North for anything.
We started in the North West (70 miles North of Santiago) at the small town of Monte Cristi. This is really just a tiny hamlet and not much of a tourist destination. However, the beach is rugged and gorgeous. There is also some hiking in the area which we didn’t have time to do but I would like to try next time. The area is also well known for its snorkeling and diving options.
Driving east through small seaside villages our next stop was Puerto Plata for the afternoon. Puerto Plata is the first village in the new world founded in 1494 by Columbus. In fact, the existing fort of San Felipe is said to be built using the remains of the shipwrecked Santa Maria. And tradition says, Columbus even gave the town its name as a reflection of silver like appearance of the nearby hills. You can take a cable car up in the silver hills (RD$300) up to see the Christos (turns out Rio is the most famous but this is third I have seen in the last year), to see Trujillo’s failed military fort and fantastic views of the water and town when the clouds permit.
But Puerto Plata is filled with tourists and we chose to spend the night at the nearby town of Cabarete known for its water sports, beautiful beaches and dozens of bars and hotels that line the coast. We stayed at Kaoba Hotel which I would recommend. They provided large cabanas (sleep 3) in a beautiful tropical setting. The rooms were cheap ($40US), had plenty of air conditioning and hot water, and was one block from the beach. Additionally, the owner provides a home for homeless dogs which is a man after my own heart.
The final stretch of the north coast from Cabarete to Samana was the most beautiful. Samana is known for its whale watching and colored houses. It is well worth taking a boat (RD$350) over to Cayo Levantado island (and maybe even staying at the Blue View hotel). Cayo Levantado may be one of the most picturesque places I have ever been fortunate enough to go.
On your drive back to Santo Domingo or Santiago, a stop at both Las Terranes and Limon Falls are both worth the trip. In fact, when returning to the North coast, I would like the opportunity to check out Las Terranes a bit more.
Travel tip: plan on taking twice as much time as you think it should based on mileage due to speed bumps and villages filled with chickens and dogs.
The DR is an extremely warm and hospital country. It is filled with color, ocean and mountains. I will definitely be back.