Why Go To Punta Cana
The sugary sand of a Punta Cana beach is so soft, so perfectly golden 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 enjoy all-inclusive resorts but care little about venturing away from their hotel. Boasting more than 24,000 hotel rooms at affordable rates, Punta Cana beckons to jetsetters, especially the budget-minded kind.
While this destination is better known for relaxation than adventure, visitors can get their fill of thrills hiking to Hoyo Azul or taking on challenging golf courses like Punta Espada or La Cana. Overall, this reasonably priced, Caribbean hideout is made for travelers of all ages seeking a relaxing turn from the norm.
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Best of Punta Cana
Punta Cana Travel Tips
Best Months to Visit
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. But keep in mind: The Dominican Republic experiences some of the effects of the Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30. And Punta Cana in particular has been known to face severe tropical storms, with October being the rainiest month. Still, this area stays crowded no matter the season.
Weather in Punta Cana
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
What You Need to Know
- Expect an international crowd With affordable flights and hotel rates, Punta Cana sees many visitors from Europe and South America. (You may also see more speedos, thong bikinis and topless sunbathers than you're used to.)
- Do visit your doctor Malaria, typhoid, hepatitis A and other diseases are slightly more prevalent in Punta Cana than in the United States. Check out the Center for Disease Control's website for its recommendations and make an appointment for the proper prescriptions and vaccinations. The CDC also warns pregnant women and their partners that Zika is a risk in the Domincan Republic.
- Do not drink the tap water The local water filtration system is not like that of the U.S., so for your stomach's sake, it's best to drink only bottled water. And take a pass on the ice cubes or frozen drinks.
How to Save Money in Punta Cana
- Consider the package deal All-inclusive resorts abound in Punta Cana, and most rates cover all meals and drinks (including alcohol) along with water sports activities.
- Consider the offseason From May to June and September to October, room rates tend to be their cheapest and tourist volume is at its lowest. Beware of hurricane season, which runs from June to November.
- Consider bartering Haggling is a fine art in Punta Cana. Anyone from street vendors to taxi drivers can be reasoned with, so offer 25 to 40 percent off the original price and stand firm.
Culture & Customs
Most travelers stick close to the resorts to catch up on R&R at the beach, pool or spa. But, for at least one day, you should venture off the beaten past to get a sense of the Dominican Republic's history and culture, which is highlighted by tasty local coffees, strong rums and fragrant cigars. Your hotel can help steer you in the right direction, but buggy adventures and boat rides are some of the most common ways to explore outside your resort.
The official language is Spanish; however, tourism is such a large industry that English-speaking travelers should have no trouble communicating. And though the official currency is the Dominican peso, many of the Punta Cana resorts accept United States dollars, as well as all major credit cards.
What to Eat
Most vacationers choose the cozy and convenient restaurants on their all-inclusives' premises, but those who venture out do find affordable dining, especially at the area's many beachside bar and grills. Some visit the restaurants of other hotels for dinner (Passion by Martín Berasategui at Paradisus Punta Cana is a particular favorite), and chain restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe are also popular. Other hot spots include the JellyFish Restaurant (and its succulent seafood) and Chez Mon Ami (and its tasty French fare).
The Dominican Republic's staple is La Bandera Dominicana (the Dominican Flag), which is a dish of white rice, red beans, meat and fried plantains (the colors are reminiscent of the Dominican's red, white and blue flag). Most of the resort's buffets and restaurant menus will feature some other traditional dishes as well, such as fried plantains and fish in coconut sauce. Expect to see a wide variety of tropical fruits too. As for drinks, be sure to try the strong local coffee and the Presidente beer. "Mamajuana" is another popular, celebratory beverage made of tree bark and herbs soaked in rum, red wine and honey; it tastes like a more potent cinnamon Fireball whisky. When consuming alcoholic drinks in Punta Cana, consider skipping anything frozen or chilled with ice as the tap water is unsafe to consume.
Punta Cana's nightlife scene is limited to bars and just a handful of clubs, but one of the most unique spots is Imagine. This club is located in a series of caves, which are backlit with colorful lights with each playing a different type of music. Its remote locale means you'll need to hire transportation through your hotel or pay for one of the club's pricey packages. In addition to Imagine, Mangu – located in the Occidental Grand Flamenco Resort – is another popular club, especially among Americans.
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. Zika is another health concern in the Dominican Republic because of the prevalence of mosquitos. Pregnant women and their partners should consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for the most up-to-date information on the virus.
Getting Around Punta Cana
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 plan to explore. 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; keep in mind that taxi fares from the Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) vary widely, depending on where you're staying, ranging from as little as $10 to as much as $80. Rentals cars are also available at the airport. If you plan to venture beyond your resort, you'll find that most attractions offer shuttle service bundled in the entry fee.
Entry & Exit Requirements
All United States citizens must travel with a valid passport to enter the Dominican Republic. In addition, you'll need to obtain a travel visa before traveling (online through the Dominican Embassy) or a tourist card upon arrival at the airport for $10. These allow travelers to remain in the country for up to 30 days. For more information on entry and exit requirements, visit the U.S. Department of State's website.
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