Punta Cana Guide
Where to Stay, What to Do
The Punta Cana/Bavaro district on the Dominican Republic’s east coast is recognized internationally as one of the world’s greatest stretches of long, golden-white sand beaches.
However, many first-time visitors have difficulty figuring out where everything is located because there is no city called Punta Cana and most resorts, attractions and restaurants are nowhere near the 15,000-acre Puntacana Resort & Club complex, one of original developments with its own private 3-mile long beach.
Bavaro is not a town, either, just one of many beaches but, like Punta Cana, Bavaro was one of the first areas developed. No wonder people get confused, and sometimes arrive at their resort upset to find they aren’t on the genuine Punta Cana Beach or anywhere near it. (See Punta Cana Beaches)
The entire beach resort area is known as Punta Cana after its airport, Punta Cana International Airport, the DR’s largest and busiest airport receiving 4.5 million visitors pass annually. It’s called Punta Cana International because in 1984 developers of the Puntacana Resort & Club, not the Dominican government, built the airport--the world’s first privately owned international airport. The airport branded the entire region with the Punta Cana identity, which is an internationally respected one.
In recent years, Puntacana Resort & Club has tried to differentiate itself from the rest of Punta Cana by adopting a single capitalized word, Puntacana.
With no town center , banks, shopping malls and local restaurants grew up on the road paralleling Bavaro and adjacent beaches-- Ave. Alemania. A map explains the layout.
Other commercial areas have popped up behind their respective beaches, causing everything to be scattered. Since almost all resorts are all-inclusive, there may not be any compelling need to venture far. Excursion tours include hotel pick-up and return, eliminating a need for a taxi (unionized and expensive) or a rental car unless you want to sightsee on your own.
What to See and Do
Families: Instead of playing on the beach by the water, see if your hotel offers free a glass-bottom boat tour for a view of the area’s reefs. On the half-day Marinarium snorkel cruise you can swim with stingrays and nurse sharks and enjoy a coastal cruise back afterwards. On land, for younger children consider Manati Park, a small zoo attraction with different shows featuring horses, parrots, sea lions and dolphin. In one performance, actors portray Taino Indians, telling about their past. Manati Park allows you inside the iguana and bird exhibits, and for an extra fee even swim with dolphin.
Older teens can join off-road excursions by Jeep, truck or 8-wheel military truck tours of the Dominican countryside. For the highest vantage point of off-road scenery, ride a large-wheeled monster truck excursion. Dune buggy and quad adventures close to the coast allow you to take the wheel.
If your family appreciates rock music, stroll the public areas at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino with its display of clothing, guitars and automobiles from some of rock’s greatest musicians.
Luxury Lovers: The opportunities are unusually good, especially for playing golf at one or more of Punta Cana’s dozen golf courses designed by such icons as Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio. The premier course is Punta Espada at Cap Cana. Or fish offshore during the summer marline season on a charter from one of three area marinas including the luxury marinas at Puntacana Resort & Club and at Cap Cana. Choose from a boat crewed by Dominicans or a record-holding U.S. captain.
Spa services are a specialty at many hotels and most book outsiders. Spa sessions can be arranged indoors or outdoors, by the hour or the day using the latest therapies. Spa treatments can be arranged for individuals and couples.
In the evening, wager at one of the resort casinos like the 45,000-square foot Hard Rock Casino with slot machines, high stakes poker and table games. Check what’s happening at its exclusive Oro Nightclub inside the casino.
To shop for jewelry with genuine amber and larimar--two semi-precious stones mined in the DR—and view the latest fashions at several upscale malls including Puntacana Village with shops and art galleries at the genuine Punta Cana Resort & Club.
Cigar aficionados will want to hire a chauffeured car to visit Flor Dominicana Cigar Factory in La Romana, which makes some of the DR’s most famous premium cigar brands. Arrange your tour when the once-a-week tasting with Flor’s cigar masters is scheduled.
Romantics: Some of the Caribbean’s finest spas are present in Punta Cana resorts. Visit one for an enjoyable couples massage either outdoors on the beach or, for greater privacy, indoors. When you book, ask to be instructed in the proper massage techniques for both of you to use back home. Riding horseback at the water’s edge along a white sand beach bordered by a forest of palm trees is an unforgettable experience, especially if the beach is beautiful Playa Juanillo at Sanctuary Cap Cana; tour operator provides transportation.
Combine a late afternoon at Bavaro Beach with a solarium for sunbathing or palm-thatched umbrellas for relaxing beachside with a drink at Jellyfish Restaurant and Lounge. After sunset, subdued lighting turns the two-story restaurant and lounge into more intimate surroundings, perfect for dining at the restaurant featuring fresh fish, seafood or a variety of meat and pasta dishes.
If you like to dance, reserve one special evening for the remarkable Imagine Nightclub. Its interior is unique: a castle motif inside an underground cave system so huge the nightclub is divided into different sections, one playing popular and another for electronic music, both with DJs.
Wallet Watchers: To go exploring from your resort for anything not within walking distance, avoid taxis unless you have someone to share expenses. Use the Guaguas, large buses used predominantly by locals. You can hail one anywhere on the street and it will stop wherever you want. Study a route map beforehand.
Staying in a hotel at Bavaro will place you near the best neighborhood for lower priced non-resort shopping and dining along the El Cortecito-Los Corales Beach areas. This is considered a safe area, too, with many people speaking English.
Shop for Dominican souvenirs at the arts and crafts market (some call it a flea market). Small Dominican restaurants offering lunch and dinner are located on the nearby beach, with no restrictive access. If you’re a coffee drinker and appreciate the Dominican blend, visit a supermarket to take home packaged coffee.
On your first evening, find which nearby resort casinos, clubs and shows welcome outsiders, often without charge; carry your personal ID since, as a non-guest, you can expect to be checked out. To dance to Dominican merengue and bachata music and enjoy cheaper nightclub drinks, visit Pacha at Riu Naiboa Resort; cover charge only when live music performed.
To Punta Cana Beaches
To Punta Cana Attractions
To Punta Cana Things To Do
To Punta Cana Resort Types
To Punta Cana Where To Stay
To Punta Cana Couples Resorts
To Punta Cana Luxury Resorts