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|Punta Cana, Dominican Republic|
|Where: Dominican Republic, Caribbean Sea|
|What to do: |
- All-inclusive beach vacations
- Inexpensive all-inclusive beach vacations
- Good price/quality ratio
- Powdery white sand
- Recently questioned safety issues
- En-masse tourism style
Why visit Punta Cana in the Caribbean Sea?
The combination of white sandy beaches, low all-inclusive prices, and generally high standards (for all-inclusive type) of the resorts makes Punta Cana/Bavaro a hot vacation spot. The white sand and beaches are the same as in Cuba, however Dominican Republic is not limited in resources and imports as Cuba. In our opinion, food is generally better with more variety than in Cuba. We, personally found that resorts in Dominican Republic represent a very good value and price-quality balance for all-inclusive type of vacations. Bavaro area is blessed with white powdery beaches. Sand quality is generally better along the east coast of Dominican Republic.
Where in the world?
Punta Cana is a resort town at the east coast of Dominican Republic. The general tourism area is called Bavaro. Dominican Republic is in the Caribbean Sea, between Cuba and Puerto Rico. It occupies eastern half of island Hispaniola. The first settlement of Columbus was on the island, but on the north coast, around Puerto Plata.
Punta Cana is one of the most popular spots for all-inclusive beach vacations in the Caribbean. There are direct flights from major cities in Europe and East Coast of North America. There are also flights of specialized vacation airlines. The most common scenario is booking the whole trip as a package, with flights, resort stay and all-inclusive meal plan. You are likely to get a better deal buying a package. It takes about 4 hrs from Toronto and 9 hours from London by direct flights. The Punta Cana Internation airport (PUJ) is within short distance from the resorts. Many resorts are are 20 or less kilometres away.
120 volts, 60Hz, socket with two flat vertical slots, the same as in Canada and US.
Spanish, but all resort staff speak English.
Dominican peso ~ 0.02 USD, but everybody takes USD. Currencies such as Canadian dollar and Euro are also used for cash purchases and tips.
Vaccination and infections
According to CDC no vaccination is required in addition to the routine vaccination established in most countries (subject to your country of origin and your personal vaccination). Typhoid and hepatitis vaccines are recommended. Yellow fever vaccination is required on entry if you travel from an endemic area. There IS reported risk of malaria in some parts of the country. Please consult a travel clinic for possible prevention medications if you travel to those areas. Prevent yourself from insect bites to avoid insect transmitted infections (dengue, zika, west Nile etc.). Please see updated information for health at the CDC site or health authority in your country.
Visa is not required for citizens of most countries outside of Africa and Asia for stays of up to 90 days. Please check updated information from your country of origin and time of travel. All travelers are required to have passports with a remaining validity of at least 6 months beyond their travel dates and at least one blank page in the passport. You also need to have proof of return flight and travel arrangements.
When to go?
Climate in Dominican Republic is similar to Cancun and Cuba. It is warm all year round, but December through March gets chillier. We felt a bit cold in the pool in February. Summer months, May through October bring rains and risks of hurricanes. March is month of spring break in the schools, but it does not affect adults-only resorts. So, March - April are probably best months either for a family or couples/singles.
Where to stay?
The Bavaro beach stretches over 25 miles (30 km) and has a continuous line of waterfront resorts. There are plenty of choices. You may follow advice of a travel agent, recommendation of a friend, or personal good experience at a resort chain. Another way to choose can be to filter resorts by higher stars with moderate price and higher rating at tripadvisor. Our personal preference is for complex resorts that include several sections, one usually of higher class or adults-only status. Guests at these complex resorts have access to a larger selection of a la carte restaurants, entertainment and other facilities. If you are staying at the higher class section you have access to all facilities while number of people in your section is limited.
Where to eat?
We ate exclusively at the resort. There were 8 restaurants in the complex, 3 buffet and 5 specialty a-la-carte. The a la carte restaurants were not "fine dining" but regular decent restaurants. Generally, food was better than in the competing Cuba.
What about safety?
We visited Punta Cana in the 2000's. At the time we felt safe within the resort area. There was enough security and police. However, it was generally not recommended to venture alone outside the resort zone. All our trips were with a guide and door-to-door transportation.
As of 2019 there were concerns of unexpected deaths of tourists in Dominican Republic, presumably poisoning from alcoholic drinks. Last time we checked the issue was still under investigation. We also saw online data that the number of deaths in 2019 was not higher than the annual average. What we learned from our research online was that every year tourists die from unnatural causes while on vacation, while Dominican Republic was not very high on the list. Please do your research for updates on the issue as there may be newer information. Generally, drinks in resorts is a common concern that we heard from fellow tourists. Some people say drink only premium drinks, or avoid cocktails etc. We personally drink only wine and bottled water.
What to do?
The resorts provide continuous schedules of organized activities during daytime and entertainment shows after dinner. Some resorts also have a disco. If you are interested in disco, the rule of thumb is that the larger the resort the more chances it will be bustling.
SCUBA diving is a popular activity. If you are a diver, please check that there is a dive shop on site. The same rule of thumb applies, the larger the resort the more chance that there is a dive center on site. Diving in Punta Cana is easy and suitable for a total novice. It would be a good place to either try it first time or do you basic certification. The dive sites are shallow and there is no current. It could be boring if you dived the world already, but generally is OK for the Caribbean. There was one wreck in front of our resort and few spots of coral. It is not a prime SCUBA destination for an experienced diver, but if you happen to be there I would not miss an opportunity to jump in warm clear water which is not a pool.
We also ventured for a horse riding on a beach. We had an OK ride on the beach but we felt that the horses were not well cared for. May depend on a company, you may have a different experience.
There were other trips available, including to La Romana and Catalina island. We did a day trip. It was a busy but enjoyable day. It included some local sightseeing and then a ferry ride to Catalina island. There was an opportunity for snorkeling at the island which may be the only chance for decent snorkeling as snorkeling at the resort was not exciting. It was plain sandy bottom.
We have no affiliation with any booking agency/site, attraction companies or resorts. We simply share our experience and opinions. Some information may be outdated, please check with primary sources.