Punta Cana Neighborhoods & Towns
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 Manati Park showcases local species, such as iguanas and parrots. The shallow waters of quiet Arena Gorda are also becoming increasingly popular among tourists.
Sitting inland, west of Punta Cana's beaches, Higüey is only accessible via 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, where you can peruse souvenirs, cigars, rum, larimar jewelry and more.
Just north of Bávaro along the coast is Macao, the region's newest resort hot spot. Travelers describe Macao as charming and provincial complete with pastures and ranches. Stunning beaches have inspired the gradual development and construction of new resort hotels. Macao is also a popular day trip from some of the resorts further south, since the beach is a little less crowded.
Playa Uvero Alto
Farther north is Playa Uvero Alto, a small, secluded beach village complete with coconut groves and unique boutique hotels. A newer road leading from the Punta Cana Airport has made Playa Uvero Alto's beach strip and various accommodations more accessible to tourists. It's in this part of Punta Cana that you'll find some of the swankiest and best hotels, including Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana and Excellence Punta Cana.
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. Plan to travel in a group if you leave your resort, and women should be aware that men in Punta Cana can be overly flirtatious. 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 hotels.
But previous travelers have had other concerns (specifically health issues) when visiting the Dominican Republic: Many say you should avoid drinking Punta Cana's tap water. Always opt for bottled water and drinks without ice unless you've got a stomach of steel.