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Looking to escape south before the first buds of spring pop out of the ground?

The Dominican Republic has long been a hot spot for vacationers for the white sandy beaches that stretch for miles. Most travelers choose a great, yet massive resort in busy and crowded Punta Cana. For something a little different, consider trying the north shore and Puerto Plata. This less known spot on this wonderful island is off the radar and as such visitors can actually find a decent spot on the sand without the crowds. With unique restaurants, exceptional golf and more, this picturesque spot offers stunning beaches with a beautiful mountain backdrop. Puerto Plata would be a great place to kick back and escape the winter blues.

Whale watching season

The winter is the best time of year to witness the majesty of whale season. During this time of year, the stunning and massive humpback whales make the waters of Samana Bay, 70 miles north east of Puerto Plata, their home for mating and birthing. The World Wildlife Fund considers Samana Bay one of the best places in the world to whale watch with nearly 1500 visiting the bay every year. A number of tour operators offer a variety of whale watching excursions for a few hours to full day. Be sure to pack your sunscreen, your camera and get prepared to view the stunning humpbacks in their natural environment.

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Golfers paradise

Golf is becoming one of the top reasons for visitors to book a trip to Puerto Plata. Later in 2015, Amanresorts will open their stunning Aman Resort, the first golf-integrated resort of its kind. The Aman Resort joins a list of great greens for visitors to try while spending time under the sun. The hardest part will be which course to choose. Perhaps start at the Robert Trent Jones Course at the Playa Dorada Resort Comples, listed as one of the top 100 golf courses in the world. A few others to consider are the Hacienda Gofl Course or the Los Mangos, Costambar Golf Course.

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Beach time

One of the main reasons to escape to the Caribbean is to bask in the warmth of the sun on a sandy beach. Puerto Plata is well known for its stunning location on a turquoise sea. This region is blessed with some of the longest stretches of Caribbean sand in the area including the country’s most beautiful beach, Playa Grande, 15 kms outside of Puerto Plata. This luxurious strip of white sand flanked by palms trees and white rock cliffs is the perfect spot to sunbath, snorkel and chill. Another popular sun worshipping beach in this region of the island is Playa Dorada, which is a little closer to the accommodation and amenities in Puerto Plata.

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Finding a great, quaint and authentic place to enjoy local cuisine can be a tricky feat in many Caribbean destinations. All the big resorts have restaurants but if you are looking for something with a more authentically local feel, try these two. Lucia in the Casa Colonial Beach Resort is one of the best on the island. This award-winning restaurant offers a romantic atmosphere, an incredible view of a mangrove jungle from almost every table and tasty Caribbean fusion dishes. For a rustic, nautical vibe grab a table at Le Papillon. The simple and well-prepared menu offers an international variety of dishes with lots of local seafood, caught daily. Both offer fresh and inspired cuisine, served and prepared by locals who are passionate about food and beverage.

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Created by Lynn May Gosselin