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Dominican Republic

Punta Cana Vacation Review: The Best Experiences

Dominican Republic vacations
© Dominican Republic Tourist Office

Punta Cana was a vacation of sunshine, smiling faces, white sand beaches and the beautiful turquoise ocean.

Punta Cana is a major all-inclusive resort destination in the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola. This island in the middle of the Caribbean is shared by Dominican Republic on the eastern half and Haiti on the western half. Punta Cana is on the easternmost tip of the island and has a busy international airport that serves resort visitors.

I only mention this because it is quite an unusual facility for an airport—open air with large thatched roofs. It gives visitors a tropical island feeling right when they get off the airplane.

Dominican Republic is a major tourist destination that attracts about 5 million visitors every year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Most of the tourists go to Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. In Punta Cana, hotels and especially all-inclusive resorts line the beaches.

Our resort was humongous. It had restaurants, bars, clubs, a casino, swimming pools, a lazy river, and a kids area—the list goes on and on.

Visitors could literally stay on the resort grounds for their entire vacation and never get bored. Of course, that would be a lost opportunity. Traveling is about exploring new places and cultures, so exploring we did.

Resort Excursions

We chose to do a snorkeling tour, which we booked at our hotel. Let it be known that this was one of those tours where they shoot video of the day and want people to purchase it at the end of the trip.

This means they are constantly trying to get visitors to wave at the camera, dance, cheer, etc. We don’t really like that type of scene, but we laughed it off because we knew we would enjoy the snorkeling.

The first stop was in the middle of the ocean at the stingray/shark bay. We had previously gone swimming with sharks, so this time we chose the stingrays. They were magnificent. These animals were gentle and glided through the water with ease. It was a beautiful experience.

On the next part of the tour, we went to another area above a reef to snorkel. It was a bit crowded with so many people, but we were able to spot some amazing fish. Overall, the tour was well worth it. The staff was friendly and I got what I came for.

Guided Land Excursion

Another day of our trip was spent on the Punta Cana Mike Tour. Other than the beautiful beaches, this was the best part of our vacation. Mike was a local resident who provided tours around the city and had great insight into the culture and people.

Stops throughout the city include a cigar factory, an elegant jewelry store, a car wash (where the locals hang out), an elementary school, a farmers market, a beach and an outdoor eatery.

Our favorite part of the land tour was visiting the elementary school. It was an old stone building with bars in place of windows. Four rooms separated the children by age/grade level. As guests, we were allowed to go in to meet the students. Their little faces were adorable. All of them were grinning and excited to meet us. We researched ahead of time, so we knew guests were able to bring gifts for the kids. We had some candies and stickers, and it was so fun handing them all out.

Traveling to Punta Cana was an experience we will never forget. The beaches are stunning with aqua waters and soft white sand. Locals are friendly, always offering a smile. It is a destination we would recommend to anyone pursuing tropical happiness.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
December 11, 2021

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