For my 25th birthday, I had the honor of traveling to my 25th country with two of my closest friends — and there's honestly no other way I would have rather celebrated. While we were only in Puerto Plata for a short amount of time, it was definitely a trip none of us will ever forget.
Some really important dos and don'ts:
- Definitely book your trip through cheapcaribbean.com! They were unbelievably helpful throughout the entire process, they making booking in groups exceptionally easy, and the deals are amazing. If it weren't for their incredible customer service, I would have had a significantly harder time planning the trip of my dreams.
- Make sure you bring cash. You'll need $10 as soon as you land at the airport for a tourist card, which is basically your visa to enter the country. If you want to grab a drink or a snack at the airport, many of the food stalls and bars are cash only.
- DO NOT book any excursions through Viator. I booked two excursions through Viator and due to lack of communication, we weren't picked up for either one. Getting a refund also took quite a while, so just avoid this if possible. If you booked your trip through cheapcaribbean.com, I recommend reserving day excursions through them as they will have a representative on the ground at your resort.
- Go on as many excursions as possible! While lounging by the pool or the beach was absolutely incredible, our excursions were by far the most memorable part of our trip.
- Haggle with the locals. I don't think there was a single price that we weren't able to negotiate down at least a little bit, whether it was beachside massages, getting our hair braided, or even excursions. Even a few dollars adds up over time when you're on vacation, so it's totally worth it!
Okay, now on to the good stuff. You've most likely heard of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Puerto Plata is a lesser known resort town, approximately an hour and a half out of Santiago. My biggest draws for going to Puerto Plata over Punta Cana was the price and one of my favorite excursions: 27 Damajaguas, or the 27 falls. I also really loved that since Puerto Plata is a smaller tourist town, everything felt a bit more personal.
We stayed at Sunscape Puerto Plata, and I don't think I had any complaints, especially given the price we paid. The staff was super friendly and accommodating, the rooms were fairly large, there was always something fun to do at the resort and the vibe was really lively.
27 Damajaguas (27 Waterfalls) - First off, do not miss this. If you are in Puerto Plata, you should DEFINITELY experience this day trip. We got picked up around 8 am in the lobby of our hotel. It was a 40 minute car ride after which we changed into our water shoes and life vests (you can rent the shoes for $2 and they give you the life vests). This day trip consists of a 1.5 hour hike through a rain forest, but there's an exciting twist on the way down. Instead of hiking back down the mountain trail, there are 27 waterfalls and natural water slides you can swim down! I even got to do a 25 foot jump off a cliff into a beautiful natural pool. My two best friends, who both have a fear of free-falling, actually managed to overcome their fear and take the leap. (YAY Vishwa + Riddhi, so proud of you guys!) Side note: make sure to find yourself best friends who will jump off a cliff for you, it's the key to life...I promise. Anyway, after jumping, sliding, swimming and wading through clear blue natural pools, we were understandably hungry. I'm also almost always hungry, so it's pretty much always understandable for me, but I digress. We finished off our hike with AMAZING Dominican rice and beans, accompanied by Dominican rum and beer. I'm usually a snacker who prefers to eat five small meals a day, but this time I completely cleaned off my plate...TWICE. Finally, we were taken to a small tobacco plantation where we saw some of the small island's primary crops, learned how to roll a cigar and drank some Mamajuana. Mamajuana is one of the Dominican Republic's signature drinks, concocted by soaking rum, red wine and honey in a bottle with tree bark and mixed herbs. Not only is it an aphrodisiac, many believe it also has medicinal value -- and most importantly, a GREAT souvenir for your friends and family!
Now, on to the failed catamaran excursion. So unfortunately, we missed our catamaran because of the mix-up with Viator. But luckily, our resort representative from cheapcaribbean.com was able to get us on a shorter snorkeling excursion. It was a small 'party boat' rather than a catamaran, which I was pretty upset about at first. Honestly, the whole thing turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I had one of the best days ever. We got to know everyone on our boat since it was such a small group, the staff was so attentive and friendly and that definitely made the whole experience worth it. The boat included a BBQ, free flowing alcohol and two stops to snorkel and jump in the absolutely beautiful water (not bad for $50). We learned how to Bachata from some of the guys on the boat, made them teach us the lyrics to 'Despacito' and so much more. I would say more, but I think the pictures speak for themselves!
I also highly recommend treating yourself to a massage on the beach. It was one of the most relaxing things I've done in a while, and I felt completely rejuvenated after. Definitely get your hair braided on the beach too, if you're into that sort of thing. This will definitely be a trip I'll be talking about for years to come. Next goal: 40 countries before the age of 40!
Now go book your trip to Puerto Plata, so you can have just as much fun as we did! xoxo