Amber Coast

Amber Coast © Joe deSousa
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.





Attractions

Amber Museum
Amber Museum © Michael Rhys

Amber Museum

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.

Address: 61 Duarte Street; Website: www.ambermuseum.com; Opening time: Monday to Saturday 9am - 6pm


Cabarete
Cabarete © Jeff

Cabarete

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.


Fort San Felipe
Fort San Felipe © Kyle Simourd

Fuerte San Felipe

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.


Mount Isabel de Torres
Mount Isabel de Torres © Mercedes

Mount Isabel de Torres

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.


Beach walker
Beach walker © Vishal Patel

Puerto Plata

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.


Samana Peninsula
Samana Peninsula © Jens J├Ąpel

Samana Peninsula

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.


Playa Sosua
Playa Sosua © Brent

Sosua

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.