What You Don’t Know of Puerto Plata May Surprise You!


By Deborah S. Nelson, Author

View of Puerto Plata from the tram on Mount Isabel de Torres

The Hidden Side of Puerto Plata

Thinking of visiting Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic? Puerto Plata is located on the North Coast of with an airport (POP) just outside of town, along with several high-end resorts. However, a certain hidden side to Puerto Plata might be easy to miss.

Aside from the intriguing sights in Puerto Plata including the tram to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres, “The Malacon,” and the beach,the people are the best! In fact, Dominicans, in general, are some of the kindest and happiest people in the world. Although I know many examples, here is just one story that shows us why.

My Carrito Trip to Puerto Plata

traffic in Puerto Plata

Yesterday, I traveled to Puerto Plata via carrito. A carrito is a public taxi which costs about 50 pesos ($1USD) to travel from the Cabarete area to Puerto Plata (35 miles). Carritos typically stuff 4 people in the back seat and 3 people in the front seatand they traverse Highway 5 on defined routes. Due to my companion’s toe injury, we decided to pay for the entire back seat. We chose not to risk further toe damage through the rigors of rotating and squishing multiple people at multiple stops in-and-out of a TOYOTA.

The driver kindly offered to rent the front seat as well, so we could leave right then; instead of waiting for the carrito to fill. What a luxury to avoid the stopping and starting of dropping people off, as well as picking people up to fill the front seat. We accepted!

So, 400 pesos to Puerto Plata without starts and stops and no squishing into a vehicle with legs and arms stuffed into awkward positions. This smooth ride cost us each about $4 to get about 35 miles to the next town, in a nice, new air-conditioned Toyota.

Arriving in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Our carrito driver dropped my companion on the edge of Puerto Plata, and proceeded to take me to downtown. He let me know that he could drop me a few blocks from my exact destination. Muttering a long explanation in Spanish, I could not catch the reasoning–but it was clear it was time for me to get out of the car.

I opened the back door to exit. Suddenly, a flurry of ANGRY HONKING crescendoed over the already insane noise level of this small city. The driver spun around and drastically motioned to me to shut the door. Apparently, a moto was trying to thread itself through a small space on the right side of the cab. I had nearly slammed him with the car door! So, the cab driver coordinated with the moto driver when it was ok for me to get out. Such is life in D.R. trafficand with these near misses part of daily life; I took note of the value in being alive!

Downtown Puerto PlataPuerto Plata Motos, Taxis, and Carritos

My God, that was close! I released the anxiety as I checked myself. O.K. My Purse, my wrap, my hat, and my … uh ohhh … my laptop! I left my laptop in that carrito! I mean Sh——-! This is bad, this is really bad.

How will I ever find that car again? And, if I do, what are the chances that laptop is not “adopted” by someone. I am thinking, “it’s gone–it’s just gone!”  And, just as I am mentally noting all the difficulties to replace it; I said to myself–you have to try–you at least have to try.

So, the next thing I did was to walk back to the location he dropped me. My one in a million hope was that he may have circled around in case he realized I left my laptop in the car. Instead, I saw another carrito, which I flagged down. In my broken Spanish, I asked him to take me to the Carrito Station, where they line up the cars to fill with people going to back to Sosua/Cabarete.

Adventure of an Unexpected High-Speed Ride

My Spanish is not fluent–but they saw the panic and pain on my face. The kind Dominican man in the backseat who spoke some broken English helped me reroute the carrito to the main station. However, the carrito driver took me to the taxi cab station–not the carrito station. No problem, 200 pesos later, he drove me to the Sosua/Cabarete carrito station. As I became more invested in this plan, I said to him, “Rapido, por favor!” He definitely understood that. While he was weaving in and out of traffic, and running red lights–I was once again weighing the value of my life–but, this time, compared to the value of my laptop. Perhaps, I could have used the words “rapido, por favor,” (meaning, quickly, please),  a bit more sparingly!

Once we arrived alive at the Carrito Station, it was a matter finding our driver. Fortunately, my newfound friends identified the station manager who was waving his arms to direct the cars into their line-up. He understood my dilemma as the carrito driver and his passenger explained in Spanish. Once they had me connected–they quietly disappeared. Next, after asking the color, the model, and the make, another man lead me to a parking lot full of carritos. Then, this man yelled to inside a makeshift building “JOSE! JOSE! JOSE!” Soon, to my surprise, a man named Jose, came out! I recognized him as our driver, and he leads me to the car, opened the back door, and my laptop was there!

happy dominican republic peopleThe Surprising Dominican Republican Spirit

This experience was an opportunity to once again cherish the happy innocence of the Dominican people’s spirit! I was ecstatic and wanted to tip this man, but he refused. In broken English, he said: “Happy, Happy, Everyone is Happy, that’s what we want.” Next, I found the manager and tipped him an average day’s wagesand he accepted! Now, he was happy, too!

Although this situation seemed quite impossible, the Dominican People are always helpful and completely willing to help do “the impossible.”

If you want to learn a whole lot more about Puerto Plata, you may go to puertoplata.onthescenedr.com.