Where to Eat, Stroll, Stay & Play in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic!

The Dominican Republic is well-known for its beautiful beaches. It's also well-known for its all-inclusive resorts, which can make it a challenge to find a more authentic Caribbean experience. Enter Puerto Plata, a spectacular region on the DR's northern coast that boasts all of the island's beauty without the hordes of tourists.

Here's where to eat, stroll, stay and play in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic:

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1. Eat - Mares Restaurant

Eat: Mares Restaurant

Slow food served in a romantic setting is signature Mares. Guests enter via the restaurant's orchid garden — replete with a koi pond and candlelit pool — and enjoy modern traditional cuisine by Chef Rafael R. Vasquez Heinsen. (The restaurant is also his home.)

2. Eat - Mares Restaurant 2

Eat: Mares Restaurant

Here, Mares' deliciously simple take on the classic Caesar Salad.

3. Stay - Gansevoort Dominican Republic at Playa Imbert

Stay: Gansevoort Dominican Republic at Playa Imbert

There are many reasons to love the Gansevoort Hotel Group’s latest outpost, but its three-tiered, cascading infinity pool is at the top of the list. It spills directly onto Playa Imbert's private beach, and its restorative panorama — think sparkling sand and an endless horizon — is your view when you enjoy the Gansevoort's morning yoga classes, visit its penthouse gym, and dine at Baia, its Italian-inspired Mediterranean Restaurant.

4. Stay - Gansevoort Dominican Republic at Playa Imbert 2

Stay: Gansevoort Dominican Republic at Playa Imbert

Gansevoort accommodations range from one-bedroom suites to four-bedroom penthouses. Every room features floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views. For sporty types, the property provides snorkel equipment, kayaks and paddle boards, and it's close to spots for surfing, kiteboarding, golf, tennis and horseback riding. Or you could just sit by the pool and read or sleep or sip a cocktail or...

5. Stroll - Downtown Puerto Plata

Stroll: Downtown Puerto Plata

Skip the canned itinerary of museum visits and precise scheduling, and instead stroll Downtown Puerto Plata with a focus on discovery and spontaneity. By law, downtown buildings cannot exceed the height of palm trees, and when it's exceptionally hot, men gather on storefront porches and play dominos atop crates that serve as makeshift tables. Start your stroll with a cup of joe at Kaffe, a quaint downtown coffee house that serves sweet treats and cool drinks in an old Victorian building.

6. Stroll - Downtown Puerto Plata 2

Stroll: Downtown Puerto Plata

Once sufficiently caffeinated, head to the main square to see the Church of San Felipe, stop by the Amber Museum for a look at its stunning collection of amber and larimar, and pick up hand-rolled cigars at Fifi Jewelry and Cigars. While you're at it, have a haircut and a shave at one of Puerto Plata's barber shops.

7. Play - Monkey Jungle & Zip Line Adventures

Play: Monkey Jungle & Zip Line Adventures

Indulge your sense of play and spirit of adventure with a visit to the Monkey Jungle and Zip Line Adventures. Upon entering, you're taken to a botanic garden that's home to 45 squirrel monkeys that pose for pictures and run up your back, across your shoulders, and over your head in order to reach the nuts, seeds, and watermelon slices you carry with you in the park. An enormous enclosure houses rescued capuchins that playfully seduce with their astoundingly human mannerisms. The combined effect is endearing and utterly memorable.

8. Play - Monkey Jungle & Zip Line Adventures 2

Play: Monkey Jungle & Zip Line Adventures

The 280-acre working farm also boasts seven ACCT certified zip lines, suspension bridges and a free fall that drops 60 feet into an ancient bat cave. It's an exciting excursion with fringe benefits: the site provides native habitat and safe haven for rescued monkeys and profits support an on site dental clinic that offers free services to the community. Monkey Jungle and Zip Line Adventures is open seven days a week with no reservations required.