I dip my paddle into the cool gem-toned waters in the mangrove forest, creating a smooth wake. My board glides along the calm surface as we weave our way deeper amidst the tangled open root system of the trees. Aside from the occasional splash, all I can hear is the echo of tropical birds chirping through these intricate estuaries that lead out to the Caribbean Sea.

There are several mangrove forests like this in the Dominican Republic, but Puahana Surf School has brought us to SUP in la Boca de Caño, Las Canas, as a chance to explore Puerto Plata, a quieter part of the island. Spending a day of exercise and sightseeing on a surfboard navigating through the mangroves is just one of the many ways to take in all the quiet beauty that this part of the Dominican Republic has to offer.

Choosing a SUP tour with Puahana means working with a locally owned and operated  company that pioneered water sports tourism in the area. The school began sharing its love of surfing in 2010, with the idea of providing local children a surf academy. The concept grew and now it’s one of the largest surf schools in the country, still maintaining a commitment to the local community.

dfhCredit Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

While Punta Cana may be the busy hub on the island, Puerto Plata is arguably the heartbeat of the country's eco-tourism industry. Home to gorgeous green preserves and pristine beaches, for those who venture to Hispaniola’s north coast, wonderful, authentic experiences await. Much like the serene waters of the mangrove forests, I found that Puerto Plata offers a glimpse of the natural beauty of the island, an ideal mix of ecotourism and adventure travel. That said, don’t confuse “outpost” with “off the beaten path”; Cabarete and Puerto Plata are hardly undiscovered, offering up a variety of urban attractions, nightlife and a range of accommodation.

The wind and the waves here are a huge draw for adventure seekers. Activities like surfing, kiteboarding and windsurfing attract both beginner and veteran riders. For another real adrenaline rush, visiting the 27 Charcos waterfalls where you can climb, slide down and swim through a series of falls in Rio Damajagua is the ultimate day trip. This area is protected as a national monument to help preserve the unique ecosystem—another way Puerto Plata cares for the environment.

You'll find another outdoor paradise located just outside of Cabarete, El Choco National Park is a 202-square-kilometer park that offers hiking, biking, cave exploration and wildlife spotting in a tropical forest setting.

Puerto Plata is a region I’m returning to time and time again. I can spend the morning surrounded by a serene forest and by mid-afternoon, I’m crashing through waves in the sea.

dfgdsgCredit Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism


When you go:

Choose souvenirs that support local businesses in the region. Grab some local rum at Brugal, the family run distillery with more than 130 years making rum over generations and the leading producer of traditionally made rum. Cabarete Coffee Company is the place to buy organic chocolate or coffee. Not only is it delicious, but they give back to local community efforts to help educate girls through Mariposa DR Foundation. If you’re looking to take home something more precious, the rare blue Larimar stone is only found in the Dominican Republic, and some of the oldest and clearest amber is found right in Puerto Plata. Be sure to learn more at the Museo del Ambar right in town. 

Booking a Taino Farm tour showcases the efforts of local farmers implementing permaculture, and much of what is grown here ends up on the plates of restaurants in Puerto Plata. This agro-tourism spot teaches visitors about aquaponics and other sustainable agricultural methods, while diving a bit deeper into rural life. 

Staying at a locally operated hotel like Beachcomber or an eco-sustainable resort like Extreme Hotel will give you a slice of life on the island while offering a relaxing place to stay.

frtfgrtfgCredit Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

This article is a paid partnership with GoDominicanRepublic. All opinions belong to the writer.