Dominican Republic is located on the island Hispaniola, discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus. The island is divided politically into the Republic of Haiti (west) and the Dominican Republic (east). The country overflows with fascinating history, museums and exciting cultural experiences like music, art and festivals, plus unique Dominican specialties such as cigars, rum, chocolate, coffee, merengue (a type of music and dance originating in the Dominican Republic, very popular genre throughout Latin America), and beautiful amber and larimar jewelry stones.
Punta Cana is the beautiful place where Atlantic ocean meets the Caribbean sea. It is actually a resort town, with so many choices.
Before our trip we got vaccinated here in the Netherlands where we live. Two shots were needed, one for DTP and one for Hepatitis A. Our doctor said we must do them for our safety, so we did. In the Dominican Republic there is no great danger of malaria, but our doctor suggested us to purchase some Deet spray 40%, for anti- insect protection. We were applying this spray when we were going out, it is very strong so we had not be bitten by any mosquito during our stay.
When my boyfriend and me decided to visit Punta Cana we searched for a hotel that is next to the beach and the center of the Bavaro district, because we planned a lot of activities, so the hotel room was not so important to us as the location, we just wanted a room with nice and comfy bed for a good night sleep.
If you like to just relax and enjoy the beach, pool and weather then I suggest you to choose one of many all inclusive resorts. They are so many and it will definitely be hard to choose one, but they are all similar. You can also check the reviews on TripAdvisor or watch some video on YouTube in order to chose which is the best for you.
All the big all inclusive resorts are usually far from the center and wherever you want to go you will need a taxi. I believe for older people, single people and for family people with kids the resorts are the best choice.
Inside they have everything you need, shops and markets, swimming pools, spa, playgrounds for children, tennis courts, golf courts, cafe-bars, fast food and restaurants. If you like you can also pay little bit more to become a club member. Club members have special treatment and they have access to some private beaches, pools and clubs. In general, they treat the club members with special care in these resorts. You can feel as a royal for a while.
But even if you chose to stay in some of the resorts, do not be afraid to go outside, to mix with the locals, and try some local food and drinks. Try some Dominican rum, and absolutely do not miss to try the Dominican beer called Presidente, or the Punta Cana beer Canita.
Before we visit Punta Cana, we planed a lot of activities in advance.
We booked our hotel through Booking.com website. Our adventures activities we booked through Viator, the TripAdvisor company. The activities we chose were: Zip Lines Adventure, visit to the Monkyland, visit to the Coco farm, visit to the El Limon Waterfall with the 2 hours horse riding trough the rain forest, the Port of Samana, Cayo Levantado island, also known as Bacardi island located in Samana Bay, excursion to Catalina island and snorkeling on the famous coral wall. For all this activities the transport was arranged for us.
The van or bus was picking us up in front of our hotel and they were also bringing us back.
For every activity we also had lunch and drinks included.
Therefore even we stayed in the center we had a chance to see most of the famous resorts in the area, because the bus was picking the rest of the people for the excursions that stayed in these resorts in front of their hotels as well.
Even most of these resorts looked very fancy, we were happy that we stayed in the center because we had a chance to walk in the center whenever we wanted, meet some locals and see how the real local people live here and this is something you will not be able to experience if you stay in the resort all the time.
I will not mention the details for all the adventures we went in this blog post, I will make separate blog posts for each of the adventures we went, so if you are interested for some of them you can see all the information and photos for each of them separately.
We found a serious taxi company for our transportation from the airport and in general, the Felix company. It was suggested to us trough our hotel. They have nice and comfortable, air conditioned cars and very nice and polite drivers, they were always on time, even 15 minutes earlier whenever we called them.
The taxi driver Felix Castillo picked us up from the airport with a very nice and big air conditioned van, he speaks English and Spanish. If he is busy he will arrange for other reliable driver to pick you up. We used his services few times and we were very happy for our choice.
He stopped in front of supermarket for us without extra charge, once we asked him to take us to ATM and he parked right in front of ATM and he waited for us as long it was needed.
When we landed at the Punta Cana International airport the first impression was: ,,This place is so exotic!!!” They don’t have PBD here (passenger boarding bridges). They attach two mobile staircases onto two exits in front and back of the plane, then you have to get down of the plane and walk several meters into the airport building.
Citizens and residents of the United States, Canada and most European countries can enter the country with a 30-day tourist card, which can be bought when you enter the country for $10 or €10. The best thing is to purchase the tourist visa before you visit the Dominican Republic. You can do it online, then you have to print it out and hold it with you while entering the passport control at the airport.
Before we landed a flying attendant shared some forms to all passengers to fill out. This form is needed for all foreigners who are going enter in the Dominican Republic. In the form they ask for your personal information, passport number, but also for the address of the place you are going to stay, the info about how long you are going to stay, and the reason of your visit (business, leisure, or family visit, etc).
The airport was busy, a lot of people were coming here from all over the world. The line for passport control might seem huge at the first sight, but they are moving very fast, they have a lot of employees. We did not wait more that 10 minutes in the line. After passport control you pass into the baggage room, you pick up your suitcases and then before you go out of the building you have to pass all baggage and personal bags that you carry with you trough the X-ray machine again.
The atmosphere at the airport was very colorful and exotic. There is no air conditioning, this airport is open to the outdoors, but they do have big fans on the ceilings that works very nicely.In one corner there was a band playing Caribbean music live, in the other corner was garden with exotic plants and the waterfall. Our suitcases was already standing there next to the belt, someone took them down from the belt before we even arrived into the belt room.
Some people don’t like this overflowing atmosphere, there are a lot of baggage handlers, and taxi drivers who are going to approach you in order to ”help you”. If you have already arranged your transportation as we did, you only have to smile gently to them and to say: ”No thanks, somebody is waiting for us”, and they will leave you alone. Our driver was waiting for us with the A4 paper in his hands, with our names printed with capital letters, so it was a big relief for us when we saw him outside. We book the taxi driver through the Viator, we like to play safe.
Even though it seemed very busy it took us only 20 minutes to reach the exit of the airport. We came from the Netherlands from 9°C raining Amsterdam, so the wave of warmth that we experienced outside was a bit shocking for us.
We booked our room at Tropicana suites Deluxe. Check the link with the hotel name, to see the price and the rest of the details on the Booking.com website. The room was nice and big, but it was not deluxe anyhow. The bathroom was not in the best shape. All nickel amenities were rusted it is mostly because the water in the shower is kind of salty. The toilet and the sink drain were clogged. We called the front desk agent to inform about clogged toilet and sink. She apologized and soon the maintenance came into our room and he unclogged the toilet only, but not the sink. We did not bother to call him again, after all the toilet was more important than the sink. After him one room attendant came to clean the place after the maintenance.
Note that water is not for drinking in Domincan Republic. You need to buy bottled water from the supermarket for drinking and cooking. In our room we had a big bottle with drinking water, but we also bought some small bottles to have with us when we were going outside.
As for the excursions they will always provide ice cold water for all their passengers during the day, so you don’t have to carry any water with you. You might take some snacks to chew in the bus if you want. The lunch they provide is rich and you can eat as much you want, they also provide all kind of drinks like water, soft drinks like cola, fanta, beers, wine and coffee. The food was delicious, the fresh fruits also.
With our room we had breakfast included, but we didn’t took the breakfast there even once. The rhythms are different here than in Europe. Our hotel did not had a restaurant, so they provided the breakfast for their guests in the nice tropical cafe-bar across the street, named Cat Corner.
Breakfast time was from 9 to 12 here and since we had excursions planed for every day of our stay we never had a chance to eat the breakfast there, because excursions were starting usually around 7 o’clock in the morning. But we had a fridge in the room so we made breakfast ourselves and we ate early in the morning before the excursions.
If you chose this hotel do not expect to find anybody at the front desk before 10 o’clock in the morning. So if you need to check in or out early in the morning you will find the front office locked. They do have the security guy 24 hours per day, but he does not have access to the front desk, he is sitting by the main entrance of the hotel garden.
The location of this hotel is nice, the price as well. The cleanliness of the room and bathroom was not their highest priority, even though they had a lot of employees around. They were mostly over their mobile phones texting all the time. There is free wifi in the hotel, they will give you the paper with the password at the check in.
It is a complex with several 2 floor buildings shaped in a square with big garden and swimming pool in the middle of the square. The rooms were not actually rooms, but kind of studios with big bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, fridge, microwave, nice big closet and drover, big king size bed with sofa next to it and big dining table with 4 chairs. The furniture seamed brand new, the room fresh painted bright and white, the color of the furniture was also white, with some turquoise details on the linen and courtliness. It seemed to me that our room was freshly renovated.
The bed was comfortable and big. But the bathroom was as I said in a very bad shape. Amenities we had in our room where air condition, big flat TV, iron, hairdryer, Dominican coffee and coffee machine (for filter coffee), a lot of towels, and all cooking and kitchen utensils, and the gas range, dish washing gel, and shampoo, hair conditioner and shower gel in the bathroom. The most important amenity for me was the mosquito meshes on all doors and windows. We did not see any mosquito, or any kind of insects in our room during our stay. I have read on TripAdvisor that many people who visited Punta Cana are complaining, regarding mosquito and cockroaches in their rooms, we did not see any even though we were so close to the beach.
For the hot water we had to switch on the boiler. The water was hot very quickly, at around 10 minutes. We were always switching off the boiler during our bath time, for safety reasons.
We did not cook in the room even though they provide all the cooking supplies, we were eating mostly outside. We used only the fridge to place some food for our breakfast and some sweets and fruits. It was nice to have breakfast on the balcony early in the morning with the view over the garden and pool. There are a lot of trees in the garden and a lot of different kind of birds. Every morning we were listening the birds choir. It was magical.
The place was quiet in general, with the exception of Saturday evening when all the bars in the area around were open all night. But if you close the balcony doors you will be able to have decent night sleep.Every room in this hotel have a balcony with a table and two chairs and the pool view. In the garden around the swimming pool, there are a lot of palm trees, banana trees and flowers. Garden was nice and clean. We never swim in the pool, because we prefer to go to the beach after our activities, for swimming, dinner and drinks and strolling around the town.
Many people will approach you on the beach. You don’t have to be afraid of them. They are locals who work for percentage with different shops and excursion agencies. They will try to sell you a package for excursion, boat ride, to rent you a motorbike or car, or to suggest you to visit a souvenir shop in the small shopping center on the beach. We met a few of them. They were nice and friendly people.
They might be some pick pocket around so you have to be careful. When we were going to the beach we only carried with us our towels and a small GoPro camera in our pocket.
If you want to carry your phone and money with you then you can buy before your trip some waterproof bags for your phone and money so you can have it with you even when you are in the water. But if you left your personal belongings on the beach and go swim without checking on them, you will not find it when you go out of the water for sure.
As I previously said a lot of people will approach you and try to sell to you different things on the beach, like bracelets, hats, etc. You will see the boys sitting on their motorbikes trying to rent them to you or take you for a ride, but if you say politely, no thanks, or no, gracias in Spanish, with a friendly smile on your face they will leave you alone.
You can also see some boys with the huge knifes going around the street, do not be afraid of them, the knifes are not for tourists. These boys are opening coconuts with these huge knifes, later they stick the straws into the coconuts and they will try to sell it to you as a drink.
I’ve heard various stories about tourists being robbed or cheated here, but me personally, I did not feel threatened at all here.
Maybe only the first day on the beach until I realized how they work and operate here with all this boys working as promoters for different local companies for percentage. They all wear white T-shirts with the number and their name on it, for example Steve no 6, or Dave no 3, etc. However I suggest you to not be naive and never reveal your hotel name or room number to anyone you meet on the street or on the beach.
The hotels here are very cheap in comparison with Europe and USA. Besides the price of your stay they will also charge you for the property service, that is 10% and city tax is 18% of the room price. You can pay in local currency or USD. The hotels, restaurants and supermarkets usually except Visa, Euro/Master cards for payments. There are also a lot of ATM’s in the shopping centers. In Punta Cana there are few big shopping centers: the Palmareal shopping village, and several shopping malls in the Downtown Punta Cana, as Downtown Mall, Blue mall, and San Juan mall. In the big supermarket Jumbo located in Down Town mall you can find anything you might need the clothing, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, souvenirs, food, drinks, etc. The prices are very favorable. We did not exchanged any Eur or USD for pesos, we had some USD in cash and the rest of the things we paid with bank card. If you like to withdraw some money from ATM you can get them only in pesos. So you should know the currency rate to be able to withdraw the amount you need. For example first time when we used their ATM we didn’t know how much pesos we need to withdraw to pay something that costs 170 USD. So it is good to be informed regarding the currency rates always. If you pay in USD every shop does not count with the same rate. For example I had only USD at the one gas station I pay for a packet of cigarettes 10 USD, and the same cigarettes in the supermarket in the center of the city costed me 4 USD. So I paid for the same cigarettes more than twice more expensive at the gas station. Because I was paying in USD, and they rate USD differently at the gas station. So maybe is not bad idea to exchange some money and to have some pesos with you all the time.
Only in the big shopping centers you can find some serious banks. The only foreign retail bank is Scotiabank who bought a large part of Banco Intercontinental. Other major retail banks in Dominican Republic are Banco Leon, Banco Popular and Banreservas.
Around the cities and villages you can see a lot of small places with the BANCA sign on them. Most rural bancas offer the numbers games only. The place I stayed had a lot of lottery bancas and sports bancas. They are typically 4 foot by 4 foot tin shacks, with little more than a computer and a bar stool for the cashier.
According to the DR1forum and the forum member MRCHRIS, Lottery-style bancas have a sign out front showing the previous day’s drawing. The blue numbers are from one lottery (nacional) and the red numbers are from another (pale).
You can play any number between 0 and 99. It is interesting to note that the numbers are drawn independently, thus it is possible for the same number to be drawn 2 or 3 times in the same lottery. You can play anywhere from 1 to 3 numbers, by default your ticket will be for the ‘nacional’ lottery unless you specify ‘pale’. It is also possible to play numbers from both games on the same ticket. The payouts are high. IIRC, a 3 number parlay pays 12,000 to 1. The maximum bet is 8,000.
The bancas open at 8:30am and close again at 10:00am. This isn’t for customers as much as for the collector to make his rounds. He will arrive on a motorcycle carrying a backpack full of money. He carries a gun, as does the bodyguard that rides on the back. The collector withdraws the amount on the closing receipt from the till and in 3 minutes is off to the next banca. So how much does a banca can make? Well one particular banca can make about 800 pesos a day. They are all private, and totally separate from the national lottery. The drawings are all conducted and televised simultaneously. So if you are into the gambling you might try your luck there.
Punta Cana is famous for its nightlife. For example, famous Hard Rock Punta Cana, where besides the club and the casino they also have one beautiful Hard Rock luxurious resort few kilometers outside of Punta Cana.
The most famous and must to visit of all night clubs in Punta Cana is the Coco Bongo club. It opens the doors every day at 11PM until 4AM.
The entrance is around 70 USD per person without transfer, with the transfer is a bit more, If you wish to visit this club, please check the prices by clicking the word Viator. For this price you can drink whatever you want as much as you want. It is a combination of night club and show with costumes, dance and acrobatic performances.
It is really amazing experience. We booked our tickets online, through the Viator. When you enter the waiter will approach you and asked you if you want to pay additional 80 USD for a table. We did not took the table, but later we regretted.
The people who took the table were treated as VIP’s. So if we happen to visit this club in the future again we will definitely give this extra 80 USD to have kings treatment. It is worth the money, believe me. In general the experience is amazing. You will be surprised with acrobats flying across the room and exciting tributes to the great figures of music and cinema. It is great place to have good time, to dance and sing but also to become a part of the show. Confetti, balloons are raining from the ceiling and lot of drinks from amazing waiters.
There are cameramen in moving chairs around the club under the ceilings. They are very professional and they always manage to find a funny dance movements from the visitors to show them on the screen, during the performances and between. They will point with the camera randomly on somebody in the club and ask couples for a kiss, pretty ladies for twerking or boobs dance.
Besides the Punta Cana we also visited several other places in Dominican Republic, as I earlier mentioned islands Samana, Bacardi and Catalina also the city Romana and the capital city Santo Domingo. I will describe some of this destinations in the separate blog posts. For sure the best place and the most touristic is Punta Cana. This city is unforgettable and worth visiting. I will definitely visit this city again in the future.
If you are traveling from Europe you can get return tickets for less than 1000 EUR. If you chose connecting flight as we did you can got it even cheaper. We took the connecting flight from Amsterdam to Punta Cana with one stop at the Frankfurt International airport. Two of one way tickets Amsterdam – Punta Cana for both of us costed less than 1000 EUR. We took one way tickets because we went from Dominican Republic to USA, Florida later to continue our vacation in Miami Beach, but if you chose two way tickets it will be even cheaper.
Dominicans are easy going and friendly people, in general they are warm and hospitable. They love music and dancing. Dominican Republic is the second largest and most diverse Caribbean country, situated just two hours south of Miami, Florida. Dominican Republic is a destination like no other, featuring astounding nature, intriguing history and rich culture.
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and the Caribbean Sea on the south, with nearly 1,000 miles (1,609 km) of coastline, 250 miles (402 km) of the world’s top beaches, magnificent resorts and hotels, and a variety of sports, recreation and entertainment options.
One more useful information for you if you decide to visit this country is that in the Dominican Republic, electric outlets are 110 volts, the same as in the United States and Canada. Because of this, if you are coming here from Europe it will be wise to bring along with you your own power adapter if you need to charge the batteries of your devices.
I hope you enjoy my post and receive some useful information about the Punta Cana and Dominican Republic. Stay in touch until the next adventure. Best regards!