It was the beaches of the Dominican Republic's north coast that originally put the country on the world's tourist map, and in 2006, the Dominican government pumped hundreds of thousands of tons of sand from deeper offshore waters onto Playa Dorada's beaches, restoring them to wide, expansive stretches of pale amber-colored sands. The beaches all along the north shore are collectively known as the "Amber Coast" because of their color and because of the rich deposits of amber that have been discovered here.
Playa Dorada has one of the highest concentrations of hotels on the north coast, so the beaches here, though carefully maintained and very clean, can get crowded during peak season, both with visitors and locals. During midwinter, rain that's swept in upon the winds of the Atlantic might fall unexpectedly, but only for very brief interludes. Many concession stands along the beach rent watersports equipment.
Don't expect Robinson Crusoe-style isolation at Playa Dorada; you'll rarely, if ever, be alone on a stretch of beach in Puerto Plata, since the sands are shared with residents at all of the all-inclusives. But if you enjoy beige sand that's rarely too hot to walk on, and a seemingly never-ending array of watersports kiosks and chaise longues, as well as an occasional loudspeaker projecting merengue music, you'll be happy here.
Lying 5km (3 miles) west of Puerto Plata is a gorgeous beach, Playa Cofresi, set against a backdrop of all-inclusive hotels and some vacation villas that started to be built here in the 1990s. Although you can find plenty of space on this beach on weekdays, it comes alive on Sunday when several hundred local Dominican families descend from the hinterlands for fun, food, and sun.
Another good choice in the area, Playa Luperón lies about an 80-minute drive to the west of Puerto Plata. This is a wide beach of powdery white sand, set amid palm trees that provide wonderful shade when the noonday sun grows too fierce. It's more ideal for windsurfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling than for general swimming. Various watersports concessions can be found here, along with several snack bars. Since this is a long drive, we wouldn't bother to go here just for the beach. But if you're eager to go windsurfing and scuba diving, it's worth the jaunt.
Your watersports options in Puerto Plata are numerous. Most of the kiosks on the beach here are ultimately run by the same company, and prices don't vary among them. If there isn't one close to your hotel, try Playa NACO Centro de Deportes Acuáticos (tel. 809/320-2567), a rustic clapboard-sided hut on the beachfront of the Dorada NACO Hotel. Prices are as follows: banana-boat rides, RD$372 for a 10- to 12-minute ride; water-skiing, RD$1,118 for a 10- to 15-minute ride; sea kayak and Sunfish sailboat rental RD$745 to RD$900 per hour; sailboards, RD$795 a day; and paragliding, RD$3,166 for a 10-minute ride.
There are watersports kiosks about every 100m (330 ft.) along the beach, any of which will rent you snorkeling gear and tell you the best spots for seeing fish. Puerto Plata isn't great for snorkeling, but you can take a boat trip to some decent sites.
Robert Trent Jones, Jr., designed the 18-hole Playa Dorada championship golf course (tel. 809/320-3472), which surrounds the resorts and runs along the coast. Even nongolfers can stop at the clubhouse for a drink or a snack and enjoy the views. Greens fees are RD$2,012 to RD$2,869 for 18 holes, RD$1,155 to RD$1,900 for 9 holes; a caddy costs RD$298 to RD$560. It's best to make arrangements at the activities desk of your hotel.
The 4,888-yard (4,470m) Playa Grande Golf Course at Playa Grande, Km 9, Carretera Rio San Juan-Cabrera (tel. 800/858-2258 in the U.S. or 809/582-0860; www.playagrande.com), continues to generate a lot of excitement. Some pros have already hailed it as one of the best courses in the Caribbean. Its design consultant was Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Ten of its holes border the Atlantic, and many of these are also set atop dramatic cliffs overlooking the turbulent waters of Playa Grande Beach. Greens fees are RD$4,098 for 18 holes or RD$2,421 for 9 holes in winter. In the off season, fees are lowered to RD$2,100 for 18 holes or RD$1,225 for 9 holes.
Nearly all the major resort hotels have tennis courts.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.