The sugary sand of a Punta Cana beach is so soft, so perfectly golden brown that you might think it was synthetic. And in fact, in this easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic, it's possible. By definition, Punta Cana is a manufactured Caribbean getaway, completely catering to the needs of sun-seeking vacationers who like all-inclusive resorts but care little about venturing away from their hotel. continue»
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The best time to visit Punta Cana is from March to May, when the peak season rush trickles out of the city. Luckily, the weather is warm year-round, with average highs around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The Dominican Republic experiences some of the effects of the Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts from June to November. And Punta Cana in particular has been known to face severe tropical storms, seeing an average of about 40 inches of rainfall each year. Still, this area stays crowded no matter the season.Best Times to Visit Punta Cana»
Punta Cana Neighborhoods
Sitting on the easternmost tip of the island of Hispaniola in the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is a general term used to describe the beaches of Bávaro, Higüey, Macao and Uvero Alto, among others. Most spend their vacation in the Bávaro region, which is closest to the airport.
North of the Punta Cana Airport, Bávaro features the staggering all-inclusives and commercialism associated with the region. The town is also home to El Cortecito, a small fishing village famous for its lively artisan market where tourists can browse for souvenirs among the rows of open-air stalls. Several amusement parks are located near the area to lure in vacationing families: Dolphin Island offers the chance to swim with dolphins and sea lions, while Manatí Park showcases local species, such as iguanas and crocodiles. The shallow waters of quiet Arena Gorda are also becoming increasingly popular among tourists.
Sitting west of Punta Cana, Higüey is only accessible by rental car or taxicab. Those who live nearby consider Higüey holy land, as the site of a vision of the Virgin Mary. The city's cathedral, the Basilica de Higüey Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, is Higüey's main attraction, along with its two main open-air markets, the Mercado Publico de Higüey (Higüey Public Market) and Plaza Higüeyana.
Just north of Bávaro and along the coast is Macao, the region's newest resort hotspot. Travel writers describe Macao as charming and provincial complete with pastures and ranches. Stunning beaches have inspired the construction of new resort hotels.
Playa Uvero Alto
Farther north is Playa Uvero Alto, a small, secluded beach village complete with coconut groves and unique boutique hotels. Fodor's says that a new road leading from the Punta Cana Airport will make Playa Uvero Alto's boutique hotels more accessible to tourists, but until then, "there's always the option of coming by helicopter."
Punta Cana is one of the safest vacation spots in the Caribbean, and tourists should feel comfortable traveling outside of the hotel zone. However, petty theft (especially of cell phones, according to some) does sometimes occur, so you should be careful when carrying valuables with you. Hotel security is good, and there's even a special branch of the police department devoted to tourist safety, known as Politur. Police officers are often stationed in the hotel.
But previous travelers have had other safety concerns when visiting the Dominican Republic. For one, many recommend NOT drinking Punta Cana's tap water. Drinks without ice and bottled water are the ways to go unless you've got a stomach of steel.
The best way to get around Punta Cana is by foot if you're staying at an all-inclusive resort and by car if you're planning on exploring. Buses run along the main strip of hotels, but their irregular schedules make them a poor choice for getting around. Hotel concierges can easily summon taxis; most fares -- including those connecting to the Punta Cana Airport (PUJ) -- averaging around $25 USD for four passengers.Getting Around Punta Cana»