The Playa Dorada Plaza is a shopping mall located within the Playa Dorada tourist complex close to the town of Puerto Plata.
It is located almost next door to the hotel we were staying at, VH Gran Ventana, so we visited a couple of times during our stay in November 2012.
The mall was clearly built during better economic times and has since suffered a decline in its fortunes along with falling tourist numbers. Many of the units are empty. The shops that were open during our visits weren't doing much trade; we had the mall almost to ourselves.
Some of the shops have fixed (and fairly competitive) prices. The liquor stores sold bottles of rum for only slightly more than they cost direct from the Brugal rum factory. Dominican coffee, pineapple wine, souvenirs and postcards were other purchases that we made at reasonable prices.
Other shops don't display any prices and you are expected to haggle with the shopkeepers. I tended to avoid these shops, or price up goods in the fixed price stores before visiting. Due to the economic hardship, the shopkeepers seemed to start their negotiations at a high level, offering discounts only if we purchased in bulk quantities. We tended to purchase at the fixed price shops instead.
There are a few restaurants and bars around the complex, such as Roadways, Hemingway's Bar & Grill and Coco Bongo nightclub, but we never saw any of them open during our stay. Pizza Hut was open, as was "Philip Pub Bar", a British bar showing live sports.
There are a number of money exchange bureaus and tour operators within the mall. We spoke to a few of the tour operators when looking to book excursions, eventually booking through "Tours by James" who we had seen recommended on Tripadvisor. We booked three excursions (Puerto Plata city tour and cable car / Paradise Island / Outback Safari) and saved $US 140 compared to the prices that our tour operator, First Choice, were offering.
Emma visited a nail art stall in the mall and had her finger and toe nails painted in an elaborate pink, black and silver pattern for a fraction of what it would cost her in the UK (apparently!).
There is a cinema within the plaza, but I couldn't work out whether it was open or closed. There were certainly no queues to see the films they were offering.
The Playa Dorada Plaza may start to thrive again when the global economy picks up, but it was a little forlorn at the time of our visit. It's worth visiting though to book excursions and purchase rum and souvenirs from the fixed price shops.
During our visit to Puerto Plata in November 2012, my girlfriend and I walked along Playa Dorada beach to visit the Orange Market.
It is located towards the western end of the beach and was a 25 minute walk from our hotel, the VH Gran Ventana. We passed a number of other hotels en-route.
The Orange Market was clearly built in busier times and is used to welcoming more tourists than were there at the time of our visit. In fact, we had the market entirely to ourselves, outnumbered about 20 to 1 by eager (desperate?) shopkeepers.
The bright orange shops, with thatched roofs, are set just behind the sandy beach. With a few exceptions, most of the shops sell the same, or very similar, items.
Shopkeepers are particularly keen to sell jewellery made from amber and the local larimar stone, as well as boxes of cigars, bottles of rum and the local "mamajuana" aphrodisiac, colourful Haitian artwork, wooden ornaments, maracas and drums, t-shirts, fridge magnets, music CDs and various other souvenirs.
None of the prices are fixed, so you'll have to haggle to get the bargains you want. It is a good idea to price up items in Playa Dorada shopping mall (or better still in Puerto Plata town centre) before you visit the Orange Market, then you'll have a rough idea of what to pay. The shopkeepers inevitably start at a ridiculously high price, before lowering it several times until they get a bite. Don't be afraid to walk away; the shopkeeper will either follow you to negotiate or you'll find the same item in another of the shops.
As we were the only tourists at the market when we visited, we got a fair bit of "hassle". Every time we left one shop, the next shopkeeper would approach us, say something along the lines of "my turn next" and guide us into his or her shop. There seemed to be an unspoken rule amongst the shopkeepers to give each one his or her turn to try to sell us something before the next one approached us and tried their luck. We consequently ended up browsing around 20 different shops (all selling pretty much the same things); Emma bought a few things that she thought were bargains (after we'd undertaken some serious haggling!), but I kept my Pesos in my wallet. Most of our shopping trips follow this same pattern!
We were treated to many a different sob story as each shopkeeper told us of the hardship they faced with the downturn in the global economy and falling tourist numbers. As a result, they were offering us "liquidation prices" and "practically giving their stock away". Several told us that they were offering cheap prices as they were desperate to make a sale so that they could go home for the day (we visited late in the afternoon).
On our way to the market, we were approached by a staff member from one of the beachside hotels. He asked where we were from and how we were enjoying the Dominican Republic. He then walked ahead and we saw him talking into his mobile phone. What was he up to? It soon became clear. When we arrived at the market, we were immediately approached by a man who greeted us and said that he had seen us at our hotel, the Gran Ventana, the previous evening. Didn't we remember him? Of course we didn't. The first guy had simply approached us, seen from our wristbands (the telltale sign that all-inclusive guests have to wear) that we were staying at Gran Ventana and phoned ahead to inform him so that he could prepare his welcome speech!
I'm not a big shopper at the best of times, even less so when haggling is involved (if the shopkeeper is happy enough to sell at the price I offer, then I've probably overpaid!), but I'd still recommend a walk along the beach to the Orange Market. If nothing else, it gets you out of the hotel complex.
We have been traveling to Puerto Plata for over 7 years and a couple of years ago one of the girls at the hotel recommended them. They are certainly the largest jewelers and have the best prices. It is not a tourist trap. They informed us they liquidate pre-owned jewelry so the only thing I might criticize is their selection of "tourist jewelry" like amber and larimar is somewhat limited. On the bright side you can't imagine such a diverse selection of gold and diamond jewelry, from all over the world.
What to buy: Real bargain on gold and diamond jewelry. Limited selection but very good prices on amber and larimar.
What to pay: They sell gold by the gram so great prices.
My fiancee and I live in Miami, and have visited the town of Puerto Plata for several years now. During the last 3 years we were so lucky to find "Joyeria Las Americas"! This is the place to buy gold and diamonds at bargain prices. Here they sell you gold by the gram---there are no inflated prices and no hidden deals. They have used and new pieces...but all look like new anyway!. I am still enjoying the beautiful jewels I bought there 3 years ago (I bought like 5 pairs earings and a necklace---call me crazy...but it's impossible to resist). Everybody in the store is super nice and the prices are great (for real). The most important thing is that you can rest assured that the gold and the diamonds you are buying are real. Recently, I got engaged and GUESS WHERE THE RING CAME FROM? Joyeria Las Americas!!! (No idea how my fiancee kept it well hidden until we got home). My ring is absolutely beautiful; made of yellow gold and with 3 diamonds. He could have bought it in Miami but WHY? the price here would've been 4 times more.
What to buy: I definitely recommend this jewelry. They have gorgeous bracelets, necklaces, earings and rings. GET ENGAGED! GET MARRIED! GET YOUR GOLD! There is absolutely nothing to lose here. You get more value than what you pay for. Used or new pieces are worth it. IF I COULD BUY FROM THEM ONLINE, I WOULD DO IT WITH MY EYES CLOSED.
So buy your heart out. You are safe.
What to pay: You can find a variety of prices (all by the gram) --- ALLl the prices are below what you expect. That's for sure.
This is one of the 2 markets in the old town of Puerto Plata. Mercado Viejo is primarily a working market for locals while Mercado Nuevo is a craft market for tourists. The prices here beat what you can get closer to the beach resorts.
What to pay: Haggle, haggle and haggle more.
In the centre of Puerto Plata you’ll find a small cigar factory (and jewelry store).
There are bigger and more famous cigar factories in the Santiago area, but if you don’t want the 1½ hour drive to Santiago you could consider a visit to the local cigar factory in Puerto Plata. The factory is small, but will give you an idea how a cigar is made.
The Dominican Republic is the largest producer of cigars, and the cigars are considered to be the best in the world.
You can see the cigars being rolled, and you can buy them fresh from the factory. Normally you're also allowed to smoke a cigar as a test before you buy.
I don't smoke myself so I can't recommend a good brand. It also depends on if you like a strong or a mild cigar.