Punta Cana is the name of a town and tourist region at the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic. The region, covering about 420,000m² (approximately 1,100 acres), is home to a coastline of sandy white beaches.
In the province of La Altagracia with a population estimated at 100,000, the region borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east. To the north, it borders Bávaro and El Cortecito Beaches. It also borders Cabeza de Toro, Cabo Engaño and further west, Juanillo.
Peak season in Punta Cana tends to run from December-April. Prices in both airfare and hotel increase dramatically during these times, while dropping in the summer and early fall months.
Punta Cana has a tropical climate. Although it is mildly windy, the ocean in the area is mainly shallow, with several natural marine pools in which visitors can bathe. The weather is fairly constant, with an average temperature of 26°C. The hottest season lasts from April to November, and during the day temperatures might reach 32°C. From December to March, temperatures during the evening are around 20°C. Very little rain falls around the area, mostly because of the flat landscape. The summer months tend to be very warm and very humid. It is suggested you wear loose fitting, cotton clothing, so pack light.
Punta Cana was founded as a tourist resort and tourism still is 100% of the local economy. Prices are much higher than in the rest of the Dominican Republic and within the area prices in the resorts are higher than outside (up to 300% for postcards, cigars and souvenirs). Therefore lots of resorts employ the tactic of scaring their visitors from venturing outside by propagating stories of robberies, murders and rape. These have to be taken with a grain (or a pound) of salt; people tend to be very friendly and helpful. Still, flashing jewellery, expensive gadgets or lots of money is not recommended.
- 1 Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ IATA). Several US carriers have scheduled flights including: JetBlue, American Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, United, and Delta. Air Canada offers flights from Halifax and Ottawa. WestJet also offers scheduled service from Toronto. Rossiya Airlines, Azur Air and NordWind offers service from Moscow. Charter airlines include Air Transat, Sunwing, Thomas Cook, Skyservice and Canjet departing from many larger Canadian cities seasonally.
Most people going to Punta Cana are staying at a resort. With a resort package most hotels will have airport pick up arranged for you at the Punta Cana Airport. You will find this area to the right as you depart the final customs check area. Just look for your hotel name on a sign that many guides will have, and they will direct you to your bus. Private taxis are also available at fixed prices.
In fact, Punta Cana has one of the busiest and best connected airports in the region being at times reported as one of the busiest airports in the entire Caribbean, and usually receiving more flights than the Aeropuerto Internacional de Las Américas, in Santo Domingo (about a three-hour drive).
The Punta Cana Airport has a beautiful thatched roof and is an open-air design, also meaning that few areas of the airport have air conditioning. Upon arriving at the Punta Cana airport, each passenger is required to purchase a USD10 tourist card before entering immigration, often included in your documentation upon departure or issued on the flight (unless you have a Dominican passport, a cedula residence card or your foreign passport shows that you were born in the Dominican Republic). After retrieving luggage and clearing customs, arriving passengers will be greeted by their tour company representative to the right and directed to board the correct bus for transfer to their resort. Do not venture out looking for your bus without first checking in at the counters. The buses are numbered, thus you will not know which one to get on to.
Taxis are waiting just outside and drivers know all big resorts (though not necessarily the few small guesthouses or hostels).
In Punta Cana, there are various companies that provide official airport transfers. When you arrive after an international flight at your destination it is the most convenient option to have your transportation pre-booked and the shuttle waiting for your arrival. All hotels in Punta Cana or Bavaro Beach can easily be reached via private or shared transportation. Most of the transportation companies offer customers the option to prebook online. Some of the well-known companies offering shared and private transfers are:
Tour Operators: Most passengers arriving in Punta Cana International Airport have prearranged local transportation through a tour operator. These companies have representatives at the airport to guide guests to vehicles waiting to take them to the reserved resort. If you are travelling with a tour operator it is highly recommended that you attend any welcome meetings and orientations offered by your tour operator. In these meetings you'll receive important information regarding your hotel and immediate area information, activity and excursion options, and departure information.
Taxis: If you are not travelling with a tour operator, a number of taxi drivers are available just outside the Customs area to provide you transportation to the place of your choice. All taxis operate with standard rates; most drivers carry a copy of these. The best thing to do when hiring a taxi is to clarify your destination and the price in advance. You pay upon arrival at your destination. Most hotels have taxi stations on or near their property; in most cases a bellman or front desk clerk can order a taxi for you. Taxi drivers accept dollars, pesos, and euros.
Local Buses: For the more adventurous, the local bus lines operate on most of the roads of the area, for a minimal cost. The downside to public transport in the Dominican Republic is irregular bus schedules, crowded vehicles, and potentially unsafe vehicles (689 casualties in 2007), drivers, or passengers. Although for the most part it is a safe and effective means of transportation, it is generally recommended to use one of the more frequented means of getting around.
Rent-a-Car: A number of car rental agencies like Europcar, Budget, and Avis offer service in the area of Punta Cana and Bavaro. Many hotels have car rental concessionaires on their properties. Driving laws, habits, and conditions may be different from the ones you are used to. When renting a vehicle always take the maximum available insurance, keep a map of the area you intend to drive in, and make sure you are comfortable with the drive.
Motoconchos: Motorbike taxis are by far the cheapest and fastest private mode of transportation (DOP100 for a ride from Friusa to Bavaro beach). Depending on the area, one will be either offered rides permanently (e.g. in Friusa) or will have to look for them. At the beaches, staff at the shops usually can point one to the place where they are waiting or even call one. Helmets are not provided though and one should not use a motoconcho while inebriated.
- Altos de Chavon. A modern-day artist's village resembling a 16th century Mediterranean town. It is set upon a spectacular hillside cliff overlooking the winding Chavon River. It is home to a 5,000 seat amphitheatre, an archaeological museum, craft workshops, artist's studios and an assortment of galleries and restaurants.
- Juanillo. One of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic. Until a few years ago it was a very small village of fishermen a few miles from the Punta Cana Airport. The entire village was purchased as part of a very large project called Cap Cana. In return for giving up their rights to occupancy, the residents were offered alternative housing, money, and jobs. While Juanillo was at one time accessible to the public, it is now only accessible to people staying at one of the Cap Cana hotels and to property owners within the Cap Cana project and their guests.
- Santo Domingo. This is the first European settlement of the Western Hemisphere. It has preserved its colonial heritage for more than five centuries, and is recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Visit the first cathedral of the Americas or the Alcazar de Colon, the palace of Diego, son of Christopher Columbus.
- Saona Island. Take a day trip to this spectacular island set in the natural reserve of The Parque Nacional del Este. Relax on powder white sands, where palm-studded beaches meet the soft surf of the Caribbean waters, and sometimes even dolphins swim alongside your catamaran.
- Corales Golf Course, e-mail: email@example.com. Designed by Tom Fazio, Corales is an 18-hole course with six seaside holes. Designed along the natural cliffs, bays, ocean coves and the inland lakes and coralina quarries. Members and their guests are welcome; additional access available to guests of Tortuga Bay and The Puntacana Hotel through the resort’s "Golf Experience" plans, or those who wish to play a la carte. The a la carte golf rates for the Resort’s guest are USD275 in season and USD195 during the off season. Subject to availability, the Corales Golf Club accepts a limited number of external guest players. All golf rates are inclusive of taxes and include eighteen holes with cart and an expansive practice facility. Also included in the golf rates are yardage books, towels, ice water, and tees are part of the golf cart’s setup. Cold apples are provided on the 10th tee and scented iced towels at the end of your round. There is a Caribbean view Grill and Nineteenth Hole Bar at the clubhouse and an on-course beverage cart. Caddies are mandatory.
- Dolphin Island: A short boat ride takes you to a floating platform where visitors can swim with trained dolphins in the sea. The package includes 15 minutes of free time with these unique creatures.
- Dominican Alps (Near the town of Jarabacoa). Where 18 different waterfalls cascade between chasms of rock to water the rich, fertile earth below. If you're a whitewater fan, the Rio Yasque is the longest river in the Caribbean and offers challenging kayak or rafting courses like the "Mike Tyson" which features a 3.5m (12 ft) vertical drop. There are no day trips to this area from Punta Cana, due to the distance.
- HorsePlay Punta Cana, Punta Cana, ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Monday through Saturday. Horseback riding and Zip Lining Combo Adventure Tour. All inclusive package included horse riding, zip line, cigar demonstration, cocoa demonstration, culture, lunch and transportation from your Punta Cana resort. 99.
- Marinarium. In this water park you can experience some of the best snorkeling in the area, complete with nurse sharks and sting rays. Enjoy a coco loco as you cruise along the coast to your final stop, a waist-deep natural pool in the sea.
- Ocean Adventures, Playa Corales, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 4 different kinds of water excursions. The first, Bavaro Splash, combines driving a high performance boat, snorkelling and SNUBA. The second, Dr. Fish Ocean Spa, is a three hour spa excursion offering gentle pilates/yoga and relaxing massages: a special massage on floating mattresses in the natural pool, detox foot treatments, and also a pedicure: these tiny fish called Garra Rufa will gently exfoliate your feet by removing the dead skin creating the feeling of a gentle massage. The third one, called "Sailing Adventure," is a sailing excursion with various activities that lasts about 4h 30min. It includes open bar drinks and an Asian lunch buffet. The final option is the Stingray Bay, a trip by a double floor pirate ship toward a private and exclusive floating aquarium with nurse sharks and stingrays for a very safe interaction program, followed by a Dominican party. Price may vary depending on the excursion.
- Seaquarium: You are provided with a diving helmet and allowed to walk the bottom of the clear waters with an unforgettable view of reef and coral life- no certification required!
Make sure you spend the remainder of your Dominican pesos. It is next to impossible elsewhere to convert your pesos back to US dollars or euros.
There are a variety of shops along the beachfront of each resort. These shops are owned and operated by the locals. Shopping outside of the resort complex in Punta Cana/Bavaro can be kind of an adventure. In most shopping plazas, you can expect to be approached by one or more friendly, but insistent salespersons. The people of the Dominican Republic love to bargain. You can expect that once in one of their stores you will be taken for a ride. You will initially be quoted ridiculously outrageous prices. It is imperative that you get the item as cheaply as you can. This can become quite an ordeal as the shopkeeper fights with you, insults you for your frugality, etc.
When walking along the beach vendors will solicit your business. It can be annoying as they will keep pestering you until you come and look at what they have to offer. Tell them that you are not interested and keep walking. The best way of letting the locals know that you are not interested is to tell them that you have no money. The people of the Dominican Republic are very friendly and are offended when you walk past them with no acknowledgement of their presence. A simple "no, thank you" may sometimes work, but in most cases, they will not take no for an answer and will continue to chase and harass you.
Do not buy dried animals (turtle shells, sea shells, etc.) because a) It is illegal, so you will not be allowed to bring them through customs, and may get arrested trying; and b) it encourages the locals to kill these creatures. Reef life should stay in the sea, so help to preserve these endangered animals by buying other types of souvenirs.
- Bamboo Bar (Bamboo Bar) (Building Las Piratas, Los Corales Beach, Bavaro), ☎ . Beachfront bar-restaurant-lounge. Enjoy the beach, relax music, and cocktails. Order a pitcher of their excellent sangria and enjoy the afternoon watching the scenery on the beach.
- Capitan Cook (Cortecito), ☎ . If seafood is your favourite, try what locals have declared the best lobster in town. With a huge open grill and enormous platters, it is hard for seafood lovers not to enjoy this beach-side restaurant. It is on the main beach strip. Captain Cook has an unusual atmosphere, and some may find the peculiar manner of service and ordering your meal intimidating or offensive.
- Las Lenas II (Plaza Friusa), ☎ . Spanish-style coffee shop and bakery with Wi-Fi. Comfortable seating, urban clientèle, and great food along with the rustic decoration give this place a welcoming character. The bakery provides hotels in the area with the choicest deserts and is the best place to have breakfast in Punta Cana.
- Drinking from the tap is not recommended. You should be okay using it to brush your teeth, but don't swallow it. Most hotels provide bottled water in the rooms; restaurants and bars use purified water and ice for your food and beverages.
- All-inclusive resorts have an endless supply of liquor. You may also drink at neighboring resorts within your own property, but you may have to pay or let them know your room number and resort name at the very least.
- With the sun constantly beating down on you (much stronger since it is right next to the equator) and the endless supply of alcohol, dehydration is a constant danger. Make sure you drink lots of water or you may end up in a doctor's office suffering from dehydration and a fever.
- Mamajuana is a local concoction of rum, wine, root or tree bark, and honey. However, there may be different recipes for the same beverage that locals say functions like liquid Viagra.
Presidente is the most popular national brand of beer, and it is readily available anywhere. It is available in both regular and lite versions. For a beer with a bit more taste, you should try Bohemia, made by the same company, but with a fuller flavour. Also available in a lite version.
You will encounter many different types of rum:
- White rums are generally light-bodied. They are clear and have a subtle flavour. These are primarily used as mixers and blend particularly well with fruit flavours.
- Golden rums also known as Amber rums are generally medium-bodied. Most have spent several years ageing in casks, giving them a smooth palate.
- Dark rums are traditionally full-bodied, rich, caramel-dominated rums. The richest of these rums are consumed straight up.
- Anejo and age-dated rums are aged rums from different vintages or batches that are mixed together. The youngest rum in the blend contains a blend of rums that are at least 10 years old.
Most often, you will be offered Brugal or Barcelo rum. Highly recommended rums are Burmudez Don Armando and Anniversario 1852, as well as Macorix Eight Year.
Though in most Latin and Central American countries coffee is produced primarily for export, most of the coffee grown in the Dominican Republic is savored within its borders. And Dominicans, like Europeans, enjoy their coffee strong and black. One useful phrase for tourists to learn when ordering coffee is "sin azucar" (no sugar) for the simple reason that the locals measure by tablespoon rather than teaspoon.
- Majestic Colonial Hotel (Playa Bavaro), ☎ . All inclusive.
- Majestic Elegance Hotel (Playa Bavaro), ☎ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. USD125.
- Melia Caribe Tropical, Playa de Bávaro, ☎ . Family-friendly, all-inclusive resort.
- [dead link] Paradisus Palma Real (Bávaro Beach).
- Punta Cana Guesthouse (Guesthouse Las Piedras), Avenida Estados Unidos, Calle Guarionex 3, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Operated by Florian and Lila, in their own house. Because you are staying in their home, you will be greeted with genuine friendliness and hospitality. The estate and the rooms have been built with great attention to detail. It is not close to the beach, but close to the guagua (bus) station and there are many motoconchos around.
When arriving from the airport, have them arrange a taxi for you - it's slightly less than the standard price and the driver then knows the location. Most regular taxis do not know the location! When arriving by bus, get off at the final destination (Friusa) and call them from there - somebody will fetch you (It's just a 2 minute walk but the house is unmarked.) USD35 (single) to USD60 (double with balcony).
- Westin Punta Cana Resort and Club, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. USD185.
- Centro Medico Caribe Bavaro (Bavaro, Plaza Brisas de Bavaro, Suite 207), ☎ . Bilingual staff for out-patient medical attentions. Open 24/7 for emergencies.
- Centro Medico Punta Cana (Near Plaza Bavaro and the local bus terminal), ☎ . Till 21:00, 24/7 for emergencies. Multilingual staff and in-house pharmacy.
- Dental SPA Clinic (Shopping Mall Plaza Rivieras, 2nd floor), ☎ . Dental clinic. Call Dra. Cindy Korac at 809 552 1613 for more information and to make an appointment.
- Hospiten Bavaro (Near the airport), ☎ . Multilingual staff and fully-equipped facility is available 24/7 for emergencies.
- Farmacia el Manglar (Near Plaza Bavaro), ☎ . 08:00-24:00. This pharmacy delivers to hotels in the area.
- Pharma Cana (Near the airport), ☎ . 09:00-22:00. The main pharmacy of the Punta Cana region.
- Police (Stations next to the Sitrabapu bus terminal in Bavaro and at Galerias Punta Cana near the airport), ☎ .
Many hotels offer Wi-Fi areas in the lobby. If you walk outside your resort, Internet cafés will be half the price (yet still pricey by Dominican standards). For example, USD8 per hour in the resort, USD4 per hour in town in Punta Cana or Bavaro. In other parts of the DR, Internet cafés are USD2 per hour or often less.)