Eating in the all-inclusive resorts is fun at first with the buffet lines serving up a fairly good variety of dishes, trying hard to cater to all nationalities from Europe, Canada, and the United States. Generally, you can expect a well-balanced buffet of breads, fruits, egg dishes, and cereals for breakfast. Pizza, pastas, soups, salads, hamburgers and hot dogs fill the spread for lunch. And for dinner, you can expect Italian dishes, seafood specialties, more pizza (always pizza), Dominican fare, vegetables, grilled meats, pastas, salad bars, and delectable desserts to chose from.
The choices can seem downright staggering the first couple of days. But, save for the specialty restaurants (which aren’t always included in your all-inclusive rate and sometimes come at a hefty additional cost), the romance of the buffet line can fade after a few days, and foodies will start to feel like they’re dining in captivity.
One solution is to dine at another resort’s specialty restaurant. Check to make sure your restaurant choice allows outside guests. Making a reservation is critical as most resorts’ specialty restaurants fill up with their own guests, making room for outside guests challenging. You’ll want to call with as much notice as you can and take a taxi between resorts. The maze of Puerto Plata/Bávaro  resorts can be confusing at night.
Most people who vacation in this part of the Dominican Republic  do so in the all-inclusive resorts and will stay in those compounds for the duration of their trip. Therefore, independent restaurants that last are rare. But there are a few and if you find yourself feeling the itch for a different venue or menu, venture into El Cortecito for a meal.
Capitán Cook (El Cortecito, tel. 809/552-1061, noon–midnight daily, US$11–45) is well known for its freshly grilled seafood, ambience, and amazing location right on the main drag of El Cortecito and directly on the beach. Super-fresh fish is grilled to order in the outdoor kitchen. The chefs bounce around one another, adding to the already vibrant atmosphere of this (mostly) outdoor restaurant.
At tables under thatch-roofed gazebos, food and drinks are served in front of the azure ocean to the tune of wandering bachata musicians. Should you choose to sit inside, there is a more formal indoor dining area overlooking the ocean.
Grilled fish and other meats come served with salad, potatoes, or fries. Other delights include entrées like seafood spaghetti or an appetizer mix for the table to share. A meal plan that comes complete with transportation from your hotel can even be arranged. For US$40 per person during the day, you’ll be picked up by boat. At night, for US$45 per person, you’ll receive a taxi ride. They will travel the entire coastline to get you, but reservations are required.
The much less exciting but reliable Restaurant/Bar El Flamboyan (El Cortecito Inn, Av. Melia Fiesta, El Cortecito, tel. 809/552-0639, fax 809/552-0639, 11 a.m.–2 a.m. daily, US$5–22) is just across the street from Capitán Cook’s in El Cortecito Inn. The restaurant serves international and Dominican food in generous portions, including lobster for US$22. Dress is casual.
On the beach in the town of El Cortecito, at Langosta del Caribe (El Cortecito, tel. 809/552-0774, US$11–20) you’ll sit under umbrellas with your feet directly in the sand. Langosta del Caribe has a complimentary boat pickup service from wherever you are staying in the Bávaro  area. Its specialty is grilled seafood. You can choose your own lobster, and cooks will prepare it on the barbecue or however you desire. After you eat, you can swim at the beach or rest on some of their beach loungers. This is a great way to enjoy a lazy afternoon on the beach.
Nightlife in El Cortecito tends to suffer in choices even more since most people tend to stick around their resorts at night after long days in the sun. Try La Sirenita, right where the main street fades away, for a local favorite hangout.