What do Angelina Jolie, Beyonce and the Clintons have in common? They’ve all been spotted paddling in the jewel coloured waters or strolling on the glorious white, sandy beaches of the Dominican Republic. The rich culture of the small Caribbean country makes it one of the most interesting and varied destinations we can think of.
It shares land with the nation of Haiti, making up the island of Hispaniola. It was first inhabited by the Taínos people, before becoming the first European settlement when Christopher Columbus landed in 1492. Since the 70s it’s become a tourist hotspot, for people who want to discover this historic and vibrant country, while we couldn’t mention a Caribbean destination without a little mention of the weather and beaches, which really are to die for.
One of our top destinations in Dominican Republic is Punta Cana; a paradise on earth. It’s made of about 25 miles of unspoilt, perfect coastline, where it borders Bávaro in the north, to Juanillo and beyond in the south. It has got a tropical climate all year round with temperatures of around 32 degrees between April and November, so it’s perfect for catching some winter sunshine.
It’s also the biggest dedicated resort in the DR, and was established on forest land by a hotelier in the 1970s. It’s managed to retain its traditional charm and culture, while offering top top services and luxurious accommodation. But, it’s the unspoilt, stunning beaches that will leave your mouth in an O as long as you’re there. Popular with honeymooners, the palm tree lined beaches, the hammocks dangling between branches, and fresh, fruity rum cocktails delivered straight into your hand make it a real paradise on earth. Enjoy our Punta Cana Travel Guide.
Punta Cana regularly features in those ‘top 10 beaches in the world’ lists so get set for some of the finest you’ve ever set foot on. There are over 1000 miles of almost perfect coastline. Here are some of our top picks…
Bavaro Bay: One of those postcard perfect beaches, with palm trees gently swaying in the breeze and soft sand that warms underfoot. It’s perfect for people watching or getting hypnotised by the sound of the ocean.
Uvero Alto: A 30 mile beach of pure perfection, Uvero Alto has every bit of Caribbean charm and beauty you’d expect. This is one of *the* beaches for all kinds of water sports. It’s got perfect conditions for snorkelling, while there’s lots of windsurfing and kayaking available from amateurs to experts.
Arena Gorda Beach: Otherwise known as Fat Sand Beach, the Arena Gorda Beach has wide stretches of sand that slope gently to shallow waters. It’s another great choice for family holidays.
Playa Juanillo: This is not just a beach, this area, known as Cap Cana is home to some of the best beach food going. Dotted around the quiet, sandy stretches, you’ll find lots of tasty treats, like the paella risotto or calamari sandwich.
Macao Beach: One of the much quieter beaches, with nothing really happening – but that’s all part of the charm. Sit back and relax with a book or a drink and let the world go by.
Although relaxation and reclining on the beach is really where it’s at, as our Punta Cana travel guide shows, it isn’t short of activities.
Go to Saona Island: This tropical island just off the coast is a Robinson Crusoe style paradise. A designated nature reserve, it’s served by water taxis or catamarans so it’s easy and relatively cheap to day trip there. A castaway’s fantasy the trip usually includes rum cocktails and lazy afternoons sound tracked by meringue music.
Golf: if you’re into it, then Punta Cana has some great courses. Corales designed by Tom Fazio has Caribbean ocean views, while the Cap Cana, designed by Jack Nicklaus is already noted in the world’s finest.
Eco Excursion: You can take a segway, (yes, a segway, those things that even Justin Timberlake can’t make look good) and tour the Eco Foundation’s Tropical Fruit Tree Garden and marvel at the indigenous animals and birds. The best bit might just be a dip in the freshwater Yauya lagoon in the middle of the trip.
Luna Del Caribe Show: a slice of Dominican life at the Caribbean Carnival, this is a glitzy, glamorous night out. You’ll find the roots and traditions of Dominican music and dance along with a delicious buffet.
Get some cigars: We’re told these are some of the finest cigars in the world, but you definitely need to watch out for counterfeits, an important note is that good cigars are usually not cheap!
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The true side of the Dominican Republic: Take a tour of a local village where you can learn to roll cigars, the traditional methods of making rum and take in the breathtaking countryside. You’ll even be invited into a traditional home, to lunch with the locals.
Altos de Chavon: A quirky tour of this replica of 16th century Mediterranean town, this is like a time travel experience with quaint streets, art galleries and boutiques. Built in the 70s, it was started as a cultural centre for local people. The church of St Stanislaus, the plazas, terraces and show stopping amphitheatre are all part of the tour.
Marlboro Waterfall: Outside of Punta Cana and at the end of a dirt road, you’ll find the beautiful Marlboro Waterfall. A great choice is to travel there on horseback and have lunch on the road as you discover this gorgeous and secluded natural wonder.
Dolphins: Half day dolphin tours from Punta Cana are perfect if you fancy treating your other half. A cruiser will take you into the open ocean, where you can get up close and personal with pods of dolphins in their natural habitat.
Santo Domingo: The capital of the Island is well worth a day trip. The old colonial zone (a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site) is home to the first paved streets of the Americas, the grid pattern built in 1498 became a model for towns all over the world. The Cathedral and old Fortress date back to Christopher Columbus’s time and should not be missed.
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Although Punta Cana is the perfect place for all inclusive hotel options, if you fancy going a little further afield and discovering some of the local cuisine, here are a few things we’d like to recommend:
Bandera: traditional rice dish made with beans, meat and fried plantain.
Camarones con coco y gengibre: Prawns cooked in traditional Dominican seasoning of coconut and ginger.
Mondongo: a soup made of beef tripe; this is one of the most popular traditional dishes in the country.
Mangú: served throughout the country, this is boiled, mashed plantain, usually topped with onions or avocado.
Habichuelas con dulce: A sweet desert, usually served with vanilla cookies made with beans or sweet potato, sugar, milk and cinnamon.