Of the towns within easy reach of the Puerto Plata airport, Cabarete has the best dining, the longest beaches, and the most youthful spirit. The main street is crowded with colorful signage and speeding traffic, and smoky with the fumes of motoconchos, but it's easy to ignore these potential annoyances when you're having so much fun. A hot destination, especially for the young—and more and more for retired baby boomers as well—one of its main claims to fame is the wind. Nowhere on the island can you find such perfect conditions for kitesurfing. If there's a good breeze, the shoreline flares with bright sails. An annual international competition, Master of the Ocean (www.masteroftheocean.com), takes place the last weekend in February. It's a triathlon of windsurfing, kitesurfing, and surfing.
Those who are afraid to ride the waves or to soar like an eagle propelled by a piece of lightweight fabric can still watch and enjoy these colorful goings-on across the blue horizon. Later, chat up the water adventurers as they barhop and dance the night away. A dozen chockablock bars and restaurants have created an imaginative and relaxing setup of tables, Bali beds, and lounges right atop the sand on the main beach in town. It makes for the coast's best beachfront dining and nightlife experience.