By the time you’ve settled into your accommodations in Punta Cana Friday night, the distinctive feel of the Caribbean should already be settling over you. Warm sea breezes through palm trees wax poetic of the virtues of the Caribbean, carrying the sound of merengue and bachata, of cacophonous revelry and whispered romance. Depressurize from everyday life and from the travel, and settle into the relaxing environment for the night.
After breakfast at your hotel on Saturday morning, it’s time to enjoy the best of Punta Cana, which revolves around the beautiful waterfront. If necessary, your hosts can provide transportation (if staying off the beach) as well as assistance in making any particular water sports arrangements you might like. Other options to enjoy the waterfront include taking a lesson or two from the experts at Macau Surf Camp. In two hours they can run down the basics and get you on a surfboard (or alternate) with some degree of confidence. Plus, there is the bonus of being on Punta Cana’s beautiful Macao Beach. Punta Cana Surf School is another good option. Whether you’re surfing, boating or just relaxing on the beach, you’re sure to work up an appetite through the day so grab lunch at your hotel, other hotel/resort eateries or seek advice in advance from your concierge. While there is plenty of good food to be had in Punta Cana, you will want to smartly avoid local water, ice made from it and produce rinsed in it. The Jellyfish Beach restaurant is one popular option, as is the Outside In Bar & Restaurant. After lunch, return to the beach for more fun in the sun, or consider something different, such as a tour (available from your hotel) or a visit to somewhere really different, like Dr. Fish Ocean Spa. There your interests in relaxing spa services and in the marine world can collide in some unusual treatments, culminated in a dermatological experience for your feet – performed by “Doctor Fish.” No, really. There will be plenty of nightlife all around Punta Cana come Saturday night, and indulge – but consider dinner first. Passion by Martin Berasategui at Paradisus Palma Real is very highly regarded. La Palapa by Eden Roc at The Caleton Beach Club is another good choice.
Sunday after breakfast, hit the beach again or the links at any of the numerous golf courses in Punta Cana (Punta Espada is deliciously beautiful). Alternately, take a tour of the exquisite Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve, check with your host about nearby shopping opportunities or try something adventurous, such as a Canopy Adventure Zipline tour. You will want to rest before your last night in Punta Cana, which could be spent at a restaurant you missed earlier or at the popular Luna del Caribe dinner theater-Dominican cultural carnival.
Tortuga Bay is a AAA Five Diamond premier getaway and a component of the world renowned Puntacana Resort & Club. Private car service from the airport whisks visitors to the resort, where spectacular service in a world-class setting and gorgeous villas make for an ideal tropical retreat. Artful and elegant and with a spa, golf courses and numerous restaurants in the vicinity also, Tortuga Bay is an iconic Dominican destination. www.puntacana.com
Iberostar Grand Bavaro Hotel is a popular all-inclusive hotel at the Iberostar Bávaro Resort and offers 75 two-story bungalows, shopping center, pharmacy, ATM, nightclub, casino, internet kiosk, lounge, spa, fitness center and a large pool area overlooking the beach. Water sports opportunities abound on property and fine dining and spa services provide ample opportunity for pampering. www.iberostar.com
The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real is a short walk or shuttle from the beach, but highly regarded attentive staff, immaculate grounds and a host of activities for visitors of all ages. Swim-up suites are a fun option, and the three pools onsite at the boutique resort hotel are the center of activity. A concierge option is a good idea if traveling with children. www.thereserveatparadisus.com
Access: Several airlines provide flights to the Dominican Republic, most often departing from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Philadelphia and San Juan. Punta Cana International Airport is busy and well connected.
Population: Dominican Republic total approx. 10 million; Punta Cana, approx. 100,000
Climate: Largely tropical maritime with cooler temperatures at higher altitudes in the mountainous interior, and a wet season November-January with hurricanes most likely in August-October.
Main Attractions: Tropical splendor, nature tourism, beaches and watersports, cultural and historic sites.
Hush: Although relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic have improved, a long history of enmity makes it wise to avoid discussing Haiti while in the D.R.
Remember: Dominican Police are considered somewhat less reliable than a special agency commonly called “tourist police.” Seek out the latter in case you need assistance.
Visit: For a historic side trip, the House Museum of Ponce de Leon is not far away and a visit can be easily arranged.