Named for the rich deposits of lustrous semi-precious amber found throughout the region, the Amber Coast runs along the northern Atlantic coast from Cofresi to Nagua and boasts an assortment of seaside towns and resorts. Forests, mountains and miles of golden beach provide a playground for adventure sports seekers, with activities such as mountain biking and horse riding available, as well as a host of watersports like diving, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
The port city of Puerta Plata is the region's capital and the main tourism enclave. On the outskirts of Puerto Plata is the major Playa Dorada complex of low-rise hotels. Located in a country club setting of gardens and beautiful beaches, it's centred on an 18-hole golf course designed by the renowned golf-course architect, Robert Trent Jones. Seaside towns and communities that are also popular with visitors include Sosua and Cabarete to the east of Puerto Plata, and Cofresi to the west.
Many consider the small, laid-back seaside town, Cabarete, to be the kitesurfing and windsurfing capital of the Caribbean. The popular holiday destination has hosted international competitions since the 1980s, and is the perfect tropical setting, particularly for younger travellers seeking sun and adventure sports. Cabarete also has a buzzing beachside bar and restaurant scene. Tour operators offer plenty of other activities as well, such as hiking, surfing, canyoning, horse riding and mountain biking.
An attractive Victorian building in the centre of Puerto Plata on Duarte Street houses the Amber Museum, which showcases a unique collection of valuable Dominican amber. According to experts, the amber found in this region is the most transparent, and therefore the most valued, in the world. Classified as a semi-precious stone, the substance is actually tree resin that has hardened across millennia, often enclosing fossils of plant and insect life. The museum offers guided tours in several languages, and has a shop where a full selection of Dominican amber jewellery can be purchased.
Towering over the city of Puerto Plata is the 2,600 feet (792m) Mount Isabel de Torres, which is a popular tourist attraction in its own right. Visitors can take a spectacular seven-minute cable car ride up the mountainside to explore the summit. The botanical garden at the top boasts an amazing array of flora and fauna, as well as a cruciform statue of Jesus Christ. The statue replicates Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer. There is also a restaurant, from which diners can enjoy breathtaking views of the city and coastline.
The only remnant of Puerto Plata's Spanish Colonial past is a small fort. Built in the mid-16th century to protect the bay against pirates, it features a moat, and a collection of historical artefacts in a small museum. The fort never saw great battle, though, and was mostly used as a prison. An ocean-side road known as the Malecon lies to the east of the fort, and has many cafes and roadside vendors. It is a popular promenade for walks beside the beach.
To the east of Puerto Plata is the holiday destination of Sosua, a small village with a cosmopolitan character. Visitors will find a superb crescent-shaped beach and numerous cafés, bars and restaurants. The town was developed by a group of approximately 600 Jewish refugees from Europe who settled here in 1940, and founded the now-thriving dairy industry for which the village is noted. The original synagogue built by this expatriate community is still standing, and features a museum dedicated to the history of the community.
Jutting into the Atlantic like a finger, the beautiful Samaná Peninsula lies in the east of the island and is a remote area with deserted white-sand beaches, palm forests and clear, calm waters. Hidden towns and fishing villages, brightly painted Dominican homes, and a Mediterranean-influenced atmosphere characterise its communities. Mountain passes with winding roads dominate the interior. Visitors will enjoy their cool waterfalls, lush vegetation and magnificent views. The Samaná Peninsula is also known for the migration of humpback whales. This happens between January and March every year, when whales enter the sheltered warm waters along its coast.
Capital to a province of the same name, Puerto Plata sits on the country's north coast and is the gateway to the many holiday towns and resorts found adjacent to the shore. The coastline itself is blessed with beautiful stretches of pristine beach and lush green valleys, and has the majestic Mount Isabel de Torres in the background. Christopher Columbus described the spot as 'the fairest land under heaven' when he arrived there in 1492, and modern-day tourists tend to agree with him. The city sports a romantic air of days gone by, enhanced by its Victorian architecture. Indeed, filigree-lace wood and ironwork, as well as 'gingerbread' motifs characterise most of the historic homesteads and public buildings. That said, the town has a buzzing atmosphere, with many restaurants and clubs pumping the sultry beats of merengue and salsa into the tropical night air.
The Dominican Republic's north coast is very popular with tourists and adventure seekers of all kinds. A trip to the Amber Coast allows visitors to experience a unique mix of local Dominican flavour and exciting activities for the whole family. There are plenty of sights on offer, from attractions like the Amber Museum in Puerto Plata, which showcases the precious resource, to the unique colonial architecture in the capital, Puerto Plata. And of course, travellers should take in the beautiful beaches that adorn the coast.
But the Amber Coast is not all about beautiful beaches and amazing coastlines. Visitors can also experience the jungle-covered mountain of Mount Isabel de Torres, which lies just a few kilometres inland. It can be climbed with a guide or ascended by the cableway, which boasts amazing views of the city of Puerto Plata below and the north coast beyond.
Excursions from the capital can include a visit to the Samana Peninsula, where travellers can relax in a more remote area, reminiscent of a lost beach paradise. Or they can take a festive Dominican safari through the less touristy areas of the island, with visitors being escorted through gorgeous landscapes aboard a colourful and quirky safari-style vehicle.
There are also plenty of options for adventure activities on the north coast, with most resorts catering for activities such as diving, jet skiing, beach horseback rides, cultural tours of the city and surrounds, and stopping at great sights, such as the old Spanish colonial fort of San Filipe.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination