Imagine waking up to the murmur of city sounds, tropical birdsong and fast-paced merengue beats. Peek out your window to the south for verdant mountain peaks; to the north for views of the Atlantic Ocean.
It's another beautiful day on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, where you're never too far from a string of golden-sand beaches, some connected by a meandering oceanfront promenade. If you're an independent traveler and want to experience a variety of beaches, you've come to the right place.
Here's how we recommend you set out on your own day of exploring beaches in Puerto Plata.
Start out with a taxi ride heading west from the center of town. First stop is Playa Cofresi, a cove beach bordered by a few major resorts and informal eateries. After a dip in the warm waters of Bahia Cofresi, consider making a pitstop at Ocean World, a popular attraction featuring pools, waterslides and marine life exhibits.
Next, head east to Playa Costambar, known for its down-to-earth, family-friendly vibe. You'll see fewer tourists sunning themselves here. Get a table at one of the beachfront eateries lining the sand and enjoy salty breezes and ocean views. Snack on an empanada or some fried yellow plantains, and wash it down with an ice-cold Presidente beer (or, if you prefer, a strong coffee).
Then, catch a taxi to Multicentro La Sirena, a supermarket across from the Malecón, or seaside walkway. From here, you'll start your beach-hopping journey on foot (it's not a bad idea to stock up on water, snacks and sunscreen at the supermarket first).
First stop is Playa Camacho, also known as Playa Acapulco. Though this crescent beach is within earshot of busy Gregorio Luperón Avenue, it's still a peaceful spot for sunbathing, swimming and wading, especially in the morning. Two small thickets of vegetation flank the beach, and the sand is soft and pillowy.
The earlier you arrive at this beach, the less likely you are to encounter other beachgoers. Find a spot under a tree to set up a picnic and unwind.
More beaches await as you continue your journey east along the Malecón. You'll pass a few popular street food vendors (we recommend Pizzata for their piping-hot empanadas) and then a string of casual beachfront bars as you amble along the oceanfront path. When the Malecón starts to curve gently, you'll spy Playa Cosita Rica.
From here, you couldn't ask for better views of the 22-foot-tall bronze statue of Neptune, standing guard over a rocky islet just offshore.
For more tranquil environs, continue east to Long Beach, which extends past the end of the Malecón. Rent chairs and relax in the shade, or swim for a bit, but don't wear yourself out — there are more beaches to see on this journey.
Catch a taxi to Costa Dorada Beach, the beginning of a wide stretch of beach that mostly caters to tourists from abroad staying at all-inclusive resorts, including Iberostar and Be Live. The upside to the strong tourist presence is that it's easy to rent equipment for water-based activities such as kayaking, parasailing or jet-skiing. Dressel Divers, located along the beachfront, is equipped to take you on snorkeling or diving excursions, or on tours to popular sights in the country, such as Isla Saona.
The next stretch of beach, Playa El Chaparral, is best reached by taxi as a river cuts through the beachfront, making a crossing on foot inadvisable. At this beach, you can sign up for kiteboarding lessons or kick back for Canadian-style poutine at Le Petit Francois or a juicy burger at Jack's Kite and Grill.
As you venture east on foot, you'll pass through palm-tree-lined Playa Cano Grande, and finally, you'll reach Playa Dorada, Puerto Plata's most tourist-friendly beach. If you're not staying at one of the all-inclusive resorts, you may feel a bit out of place, as the chairs and umbrellas dotting the beachfront are typically made available only for hotel guests. Still, there's plenty of open space for pedestrians who never tire of ocean views and sand in their toes.