They say that mamajuana is an aphrodisiac. A traditional drink of the Dominican Republic, made of rum, red wine, honey, and herbs and spices, it is a very potent drink. It is served one shot at a time. They also say it will cure whatever ails you. They say you have not experienced the Dominican Republic until you’ve had mamajuana.
So visit Puerto Plata and take a shot. Puerto Plata is a very old city, founded in the 1500s. It is the home of one of the country’s greatest heroes, Gregorio Luperon, and reminders of its history mingle everywhere with its future as a burgeoning tourism destination in the country. Travelers are increasingly attracted to Puerto Plata for its tropical location and inexpensive accommodations. You can book beachfront all-inclusive resort for 5 days, which can go for less than $400 total during the low season (May-August).
Many of the resorts in the area have some sort of timeshare setup, and the staff may pointedly court you for membership. Feel free to decline the sales pitch up front unless you are truly interested; it will not affect the quality of your stay.
Be prepared to tip frequently, beginning when you land at the airport. There will be a band playing merengue at your gate, with a tip basket set up in front of them. Porters will aggressively try to carry your luggage for you. If you don’t want them to do so, don’t hesitate to say so. If you allow them to do so, they will expect a tip. US dollars are accepted widely and may be more convenient for tipping purposes than Dominican pesos, which come in much larger denominations.
Your resort may be all-inclusive, but by all means venture away from it. Book an excursion, or ask guest services for recommendations for places to go. They can also help you arrange transportation.
I took a cable car ride up the mountain that towers over the city, Pico Isabel de Torres. Do this activity early on a clear day, so that you can enjoy the view of the city and sea sprawling far below you. Atop the mountain, there is a statue of Christ the Redeemer, a smaller replica of the one that towers over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Brugal factory, where one of the most recognized brands of Dominican rum is manufactured, is worth a visit. In the shop, you can sample – and buy – all sorts of rum. I bought 2 large bottles of dark rum to bring home. Two is the limit that you can bring into the airport from outside, but you can purchase additional rum in the airport’s duty free shop.
I also enjoyed a stop at the Camilo Brugal Art Gallery to view the work of local artists. The gallery is located near the city’s main plaza, very close to the Cathedral.
On my last night in Puerto Plata, some fellow travelers and I decided to venture out for dinner. At home in New York City, I work in a vibrant Dominican community and regularly enjoy eating Dominican food. My fellow travelers and I ended up at a nearby restaurant called El Secreto, where I savored the best mofongo – mashed green plantains – and fried chicken that I’ve ever tasted. It was tender and flavorful and the perfect way to cap off the visit.
Puerto Plata’s tourism industry is not yet as developed as that of Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic’s top tourist destination, but that is to the advantage of the traveler who seeks an excellent deal. The beach, the mountain, and the sun are all there waiting for you. As is the mamajuana.