PLAYA DORADA, just 3km east of Puerto Plata on the C-5 but truly a world away, is walled off from the outside universe; inside its confines are fourteen separate resorts, each an entity unto itself, with restaurants, discos, swimming pools, hot tubs and an array of sports facilities. Meandering between them is a Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course. Frequented by half a million package tourists per year, Playa Dorada is the perfect place to lie for a few days on a beach and be pampered, though those seeking more than a cruise ship on sand may find its alluring promotion campaign – like the city of gold after which it was named – a mirage.
The beach is the main draw, 2km of golden sand from which you’re treated to terrific views of Mount Isabela. The hotels offer a variety of activities that take up much of the space, including beach volleyball, spaghetti-eating contests, merengue lessons, parasailing and group aerobics. All of this plus the numerous local souvenir vendors and hair braiders, and touts flogging timeshare apartments makes for a frenetic scene, but there are still places reserved for tranquil sun worship. All in all, it’s basically a great big vacation gulag, but it’s nice enough that you may find yourself experiencing Stockholm Syndrome after a day or two. Various day-passes are available from most resorts, which entitle non-residents to use of their facilities.