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Perfect Punta Cana

If bathing suits and flip-flops were the set dress code for heaven, Punta Cana is what it might look like. The gem of the Dominican Republic (and possibly of the Caribbean), Punta Cana is one of the few places in the world where you don’t need to use Photoshop to make your pictures look like postcards.

Punta Cana is low on events and attractions, but only because it doesn’t really need them. People come here for the 20,000 miles of white sand beaches, from the azure waters of Bavaro to the secluded sands of Arena Gorda or Uvero Alto.

This isn’t to say commercialisation is foreign to Punta Cana. The all-inclusive titans lining the shores are so, well, all-inclusive that it’s often hard to convince yourself to leave their extensive boundaries. Here your every whim is met, with all you can eat, all you can drink and a healthy serving of sun and surf all year.

So complete is the excess and opulence of these resorts that it’s almost impossible to believe that Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere lies just next door, inhabiting the ‘other half’ of the island in more ways than one.

If you do make the effort to get off your sun-lounger, however, you’ll be amply rewarded. The open-air markets of Higüey give a colourful glimpse of local life, while swimming with the stingrays at Dolphin Island will give you bragging rights for years to come.

So yes, you could spend the whole time in the resort pool with its swim-up bar. But it’s Punta Cana’s local culture that will surprise and charm, if you just give it half a chance.

Punta Cana’s Top 10

10. Palmarosa Spa Sore muscles from lying around by the beach sipping cocktails all day? Maybe not, but treat yourself to a spa anyway.

5.Barcelo Sky Casino You may not make a fortune here, but hey – you’re playing in pesos.

9. Bavaro Runners Tour Travel in the height of discomfort as you career around the Punta Cana countryside in the back of an old truck. Far more enjoyable than it sounds.

4.Maninarium Swimming with dolphins is one thing, swimming with sharks and stingrays is something else entirely.

8. Isla Saona If you thought Punta Cana itself was a tropical paradise, book an excursion to the idyllic Isla Saona.

3. Punta Blanca Golf Course It’s almost worth paying the entrance fee just to walk around this majestic course.

7. Parque Nacional del Este The caves here contain Taino ceremonial sites with ancient petrogylphs and pictographs. You’ll have to work to reach them, however – it’s a seven-hour hike.

2. Bavaro Beach White sand, and turquoise seas are interrupted only by cocktail-carrying waters, sun-saluting tourists and newlyweds having their beach-wedding photos taken.

6. Dolphin Island The bus ride is hot and sticky, but makes swimming with dolphins in beautiful clear water all the more enjoyable once you get there.

1. Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park Punta Cana’s best-kept secret is out. Whether the 12 lagoons are medicinal is questionable, but they’re undoubtedly magnificent.

Punta Cana History

  • Altos de Chavon – Village on a hillside cliff in Punta Cana that bears a resemblance to a Mediterranean town in the 1500s.
  • Santo Domingo – First place the Europeans settled in the New World, which has preserved its colonial legacy for more than 500 years.
  • Alcazar de Colon – A palace that belonged to Diego, Christopher Columbus’ son.
  • Los Tres Ojos – Considered the Lighthouse of Columbus, where he is laid to rest.
  • Basilica Catholic Monument – Designed by two French architects and built in 1962

Punta Cana Art & Culture

  • PUNTACANA Foundation – Promotes art and culture in Punta Cana through regular events.
  • Grand Annual Gala Carol Concert – Held each December at the Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia.
  • Shipwreck Maritime Museum – Home to artefacts from many well-known shipwrecks.
  • El Museo Altagracia – Located within the Basilica grounds, it recounts history and background of the area.
  • Amber Museum – Houses the largest collection of amber in the world today.

Punta Cana Shopping

  • Mercado Publico de Higuey – To get a peek at some of the local culture, check out this open-air marketplace.
  • Plaza Bavaro – Located in the central shopping area, where you will find small shops, banks, restaurants and more.
  • PUNTACANA Village – This small shopping area in Punta Cana is filled with stores, art galleries and restaurants.
  • Palma Real Shopping Center – Includes such plsvrd as a hair salon, sushi bar, gift shops and clothes.
  • Artesany Centre – The place to find local arts and crafts, jewellery, hammocks, pottery and more.

Gay & Lesbian Punta Cana

  • Bavaro Rainbow Hotel – One-of-a-kind place that is open to all.
  • Bavaro Trance Bar – Open nightly from 10 pm and offering great accommodations for big groups.
  • Onnos – Brings in large crowds from the Punta Cana area on the weekends.
  • Bambu Club – Found right off of the main street.
  • Cabarete Colors Hotel – An exclusive resort just a short walk from the beach.

Punta Cana Outdoor

  • Bavaro Runners – A well-known safari adventure to experience the country.
  • Saona Island – Visit the East National Park on the island with lovely white sands and palm trees.
  • Manati Park – Home to the wonderful nature and wildlife of Punta Cana.
  • Marinarium – A unique water park where you can enjoy snorkelling alongside stingrays and nurse sharks.
  • Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park – A lovely forest reserve featuring 12 lagoons open for swimming and an underground river.

Punta Cana Sport

  • To enjoy watching or playing golf, Punta Cana is home to 12 professional golf courses.
  • Punta Cana is the perfect place to do some great scuba diving and exploring.
  • You will find many opportunities for catching an assortment of fish.
  • The PUNTACANA Ranch offers horseback riding for lovely rides along the beach.
  • To enjoy great surfing or to watch the pros, check out the Macao Beach area.

Punta Cana Local

Punta Cana is a safe city, and you shouldn’t worry about travelling outside the vicinity of your hotel. Just make sure you bring your own water if you’re planning on hiking around a bit – the food here may be five-star, but the H2O is anything but.

Bavaro

It’s an idea to reserve a whole day just for Bavaro Beach, because if you don’t leave its powdery soft sands until nightfall (which is likely), you’ll miss out on everything else Bavaro has to offer. ‘All-inclusive’ and ‘commercial’ take on a whole new meaning here, but if you buy your cheap souvenirs in the small fishing village of El Cortecito, you can at least experience the lively open-air market while you do so. Holidaying families are lured in by Dolphin Island and Manati Park, while the shallow waters of quiet Arena Gorda are becoming increasingly popular among people who want a break from the breaks at Bavaro.

Higuey

The whole of Punta Cana may be a paradise, but Higüey really is a holy land as far as the locals are concerned, as it is supposedly the site of a vision of the Virgin Mary. Only accessible by rental car or taxi, Higüey is worth the trip even if you’re unlikely to see an apparition of the mother of Christ. More corporeal attractions include the city’s cathedral, the Basilica de Higüey Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia (phew!) along with the city’s two open-air markets, the Mercado Publico de Higüey and Plaza Higüeyana.

Playa Macao

Punta Cana’s newest resort hotspot is charming and rustic, yet home to many of the city’s not-so-sedate attractions. The most fun way to explore it is the Macao Crazy Wheels ATV Tour (the name pretty much says it all), and the Macao Surf Camp – for those few visitors who find themselves disenchanted by Punta Cana’s tranquil waters. The chances of landing a killer tube are actually rather good at Playa del Macao, where you can also scuba dive in an old shipwreck.

Playa Uvero Alto

This little beach village is characterised by a rural homeliness that belies its reputation as Punta Cana’s up-and-coming tourist destination. At present its few boutique hotels are only accessible via an hour-long car ride – or, for those who take travelling in the height of style literally, via helicopter. For now, its seclusion just guarantees that you won’t be disturbed while you hang out on the Uvero Alto Beach – which many take advantage of by indulging in a little topless sunbathing.

Punta Cana Eat & Drink

Most of the best food in Punta Cana is served up at its exclusive resorts, but there is still a range of quality food experiences to be had outside. If you want to drink like a local, get into some Mamajuana, a rum-based brew fermented with local leaves and roots. It is rumoured to be an aphrodisiac. Whether or not this is true, it’s certainly potent and delicious.

Tau This Asian-fusion restaurant is reserved for “genuine luxury-seekers”. Put on your best hoity-toity accent and make a reservation.

Gourmond The crème de la crème of Sivory’s three luxury dining establishments, Gourmond also features an 8000-bottle wine cellar.

Be Live Grand Be-live it – this all-inclusive features a restaurant serving authentic Italian cuisine in the heart of Punta Cana.

Quisqueya Secrets Excellence resort’s restaurant isn’t exactly a secret, but it sure is excellent. It’s also candle-lit and rather romantic.

Laveranda Prides itself on serving ‘real works of food art’. They’re not exaggerating – this is the place to go if you believe that steak tastes better when it’s shaped like a killer whale.

Jellyfish Restaurant It’s difficult to provide such varied cuisine and do it all well, but somehow Jellyfish manages. Though, fittingly, seafood is their specialty.

Antojitos: Order an ice-cold Corona and enjoy your Mexican-inspired meal at the Occidental Grand Resort.

La Yola Dine under a thatched cane roof as you overlook the Punta Cana Marina, and try not to think about the fact that La Yola is perched on stilts.

Chez Palace If you’re not staying at the Barceló hotels, you’ll have to make reservations in advance – a small ask if you have your sights set on filet mignon with truffles and foie gras.

Captain Cook This seaside spot prides itself on serving the best fresh fish in Punta Cana. An optimistic claim, but one it manages to live up to.

Punta Cana Events

The Caribbean Festival runs from April to October. Actually, it’s not so much a festival as a series of day-long boat excursions that take you out to swim with sharks and stingrays.

The beginning of June is when you can find even more reason to eat and drink to your heart’s content at the Punta Cana Wine and Food Festival.

Don your best toweling armbands and neon jumpsuit for the Zumba Fitness Music Festival in October.

When To Go

  • Punta Cana’s enviable weather is one reason why it is so popular. Temperatures hover between 22°C and 31°C (72-88°F) throughout the year.
  • Hurricane season lasts from June to November, though the peak season for threats is September/October.
  • Rainfall is heaviest from October to January, and often comes in short tropical downpours.

What To Miss

Beach vendors do not sell cheap, low-quality souvenirs. They sell overpriced, low-quality souvenirs, and can get quite pushy if you show weakness. Give them a firm but polite ‘Non, Gracias’ and then ignore them.

Avoid drinking the tap water unless you have a stomach of steel, and remember that some salads or ice might contain traces, so be sure to check first.

Do try to get out of your luxury, all-inclusive resort for a few meals. Punta Cana does have stand-alone restaurants, and rather than let all of your tourist dollars go to the big resorts, why not support these smaller establishments as well?

Getting Around

Strolling down the beach is a pretty good way to get around – who cares if you never make it to your planned destination?

Renting a car is one of the best options for self-guided exploration, as many of Punta Cana’s gems aren’t accessible by public transport.

Taxis are comfortable, but expensive – the average rate for a trip within Punta Cana is US$30 for five people.

Punta Cana information on Wikipedia

General Information

One of the preeminent resort destinations in the Caribbean, certainly within the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is a veritable panacea for those in search of a postcard-perfect beach paradise. With sandy shores that consistently rank as some of the best in the world, resorts in Punta Cana cater to the predictable needs of weary travellers hungry for sun, ocean, rest and relaxation.

With over 4,000 km2 of prime coastal scenery that envelops about ten terrific playas, the population of 100,000 soars throughout the year, as waves of tourists from North America and Europe flock to the Atlantic Ocean resort town from one week to the next. While Punta Cana suffers from a lack of cultural attractions, the fact is that people come with two ideas in mind: sun and sand. If the beach is what you want, you can do a lot worse than this exquisite area of the Dominican Republic.

Attractions

  • Indigeneous Eyes Ecological Park
  • Dolphin Island
  • Marinarium
  • Manita Park Bavaro
  • Barcelo Sky Casino
  • Activities

  • Golf
  • Fishing
  • Scuba
  • Snorkeling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Activities

  • Golf
  • Fishing
  • Scuba
  • Snorkeling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Restaurants

  • Capitán Cook
  • Chez Palace
  • Punta Cana Grand
  • Quisqueya
  • Antojitos
  • Nightlife

  • Mangu
  • Pacha
  • Areito
  • Bávaro Disco
  • Mascara Bar
  • Climate

    Weather plays an enormous part in why the Dominican Republic is a popular resort destination. Punta Cana, like the rest of the island nation, has constant temperatures throughout the year when for the most part, the mercury hovers between 22°C and 31°C. Hurricane season lasts from June to November, on average.

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    Hotels in Punta Cana

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