Beach walker © Vishal Patel
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.