La Isabela



Christopher Columbus founded the first European colony in the New World at La Isabela in 1493. About 115 mi/185 km northwest of Santo Domingo and consisting mostly of bare-bones ruins and a small museum, it's of interest mostly to devoted history buffs and archaeologists; excavations are continuing, however, and the government has for many years touted plans (as yet unfulfilled) to upgrade the site.

A modern church, consecrated in 1994, commemorates the first Mass in the country, which was conducted by the priest who accompanied Columbus.

Nearby Punta Rucia is a small, undeveloped fishing village that is off the beaten track but offers a spectacular beach and teal-blue shallows, plus good diving and fishing. Offshore, Cayo Paraiso can be reached by excursion from Punta Rucia, which is usually visited on guided boat excursions from Puerto Plata. Nearby, Refugio Estero Hondo is a lagoon protecting manatees.

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