Do you always crave for a tropical destination consisting out of sun, sea, beaches and palm trees during the winter months? I do! And this winter it didn’t just stop with daydreaming about it, but I actually traveled with Corendon to the exotic island of the Dominican Republic for a sunny Punta Cana holiday. And of course I made an extensive guide for you with everything you can and may expect from a holiday in Punta Cana.
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The Dominican Republic, together with Haiti, is part of the island of Hispaniola, which is situated in the Caribbean. Punta Cana is located in the Southeast of the Dominican Republic. In the past, this region mainly consisted of agricultural crops such as sugar cane, and jungle. Did you know Punta Cana owes its name to the Cana palm tree that is common in this region?
Because of its excellent location along the tropical palm beaches, the Dominicans decided to invest in tourism here. The last century many all-inclusive hotel resorts have been built in this area.
Today, Punta Cana is one of the most famous and visited holiday resorts in the Dominican Republic. Are you a fan of luxurious beach holidays? Then Punta Cana is the place to be. But don’t be fooled by this image alone, because besides beautiful beaches, Punta Cana and the surrounding area has much more to offer.
How to travel to Punta Cana?
Traveling to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic is best done by plane. Since December 2021 you can fly directly to Punta Cana from Brussels Airport via Airbelgium. And I was one of the first travelers on this flight. Pretty exciting! I have flown with Airbelgium several times and have to say that I am very satisfied with their service. Especially the cabin crew is always super helpful and friendly. With a glass of wine and a lot of funny moments, the 10 hours literally flew by.
Remember that Punta Cana is in a different time zone. In summer it is 6 hours earlier than in Belgium, and in winter 5 hours. In this way you gain a little time from the long outward flight. The downside is the jet lag that causes you to wake up very early in the first few days.
I landed at Punta Cana National Airport. If you arrive on a Saturday, keep in mind that there can be long lines waiting to go through customs. There are many flights arriving at that time. I think it took me about an hour to finally pick up my luggage. Fortunately, Corendon’s shuttle service was patiently waiting to take us to the hotel.
On the way back, the flight is slightly different. From Punta Cana National Airport you first fly to Curaçao where you have a short stopover. Here you have to leave the plane for a while. Please note that your hand luggage will be checked before boarding again. Were you planning to buy liquid souvenirs (drinks, perfume, …) at Punta Cana National Airport, don’t do this! All liquid materials in your hand luggage, even if they are sealed, will be confiscated at this checkpoint in Curaçao. I’ll give tips later in this article on the best places where to buy souvenirs.
How to get around in Punta Cana and surroundings?
Most hotel resorts in Punta Cana have a shuttle service that will take you to the hotel. If you would like to explore more of Punta Cana and the surrounding area, you can do so through organized excursions that are offered at the hotel. If you prefer to do this on your own, you can rent a car. This can be done at the airport, but most hotels also have a car rental service as well.
Taxis and ubers are also available for short trips.
Don’t forget that in the Dominican Republic you pay with Dominican Peso (DOP). US dollars or euros are also accepted in some places. Usually you can pay by credit card, but it is very useful to have some cash with you for small purchases or tips. So it’s best to pin at the airport before you start your trip.
When is the best time for a Punta Cana holiday?
Punta Cana has a tropical climate. This ensures temperatures between 25-35°C throughout the year. The mildest months are January and February. Between January and April you also have the least chance of precipitation and therefore the most chance of sun. From May, temperatures rise, reaching a peak between July and October. Then there is also more chance of rain. And in September the chance of hurricanes is highest. Punta Cana is therefore the ideal destination to escape the cold European winter months.
Where to stay Punta Cana?
Staying in a beautiful resort is part of a Punta Cana holiday. Corendon obviously has some amazing resorts in its range. I stayed at the Iberostar Dominicana all inclusive hotel for 4 nights. This hotel is part of a large domain called Iberostar Bávaro, where 4 different Iberostar hotels are located: Grand Bávaro, Selection Bávaro Suites where you can also upgrade to Coral level for just that little bit extra luxury, Punta Cana and Dominicana where I stayed. The different hotels are independent of each other and each have their own services. It is therefore not possible to call on the services of another hotel.
Of course I was allowed to take a look at the different hotels for my blog. And I must say that all the hotels on this domain are beautifully landscaped with the most beautiful, tropical gardens. This means that you can enjoy a pleasant walk, or just find a relaxing spot to sit within the domain.
Besides this, it is important to know that all hotels that are part of Iberostar Bávaro have an all-inclusive service. Which means that you can relax without worrying about spending money. What I personally find a bonus is that, besides the buffet restaurants, all hotels also have various à la carte restaurants, each with their own specialties. This way you have the feeling you are always dining at a new, different location. Be sure to reserve your spot in advance.
Moreover, the hotels are all within walking distance of the beautiful white Bávaro beach. Which is also the most popular beach in Punta Cana. Off the coast of Punta Cana there is also a large coral reef that breaks the waves. This makes it more pleasant to swim in the sea.
Wave of change
It is very nice to know that the hotel chain Iberostar is committed to protecting the ocean with theirwave of change movement. Within the Iberostar Bávaro domain you can also visit the coral laboratory where coral is grown and then released into the ocean.
Fun things to do during a Punta Cana holiday
Spend a day on Playa Bávaro, the most beautiful beach of Punta Cana
Playa Bávaro has everything you can expect from a Caribbean beach. An endless stretch of white sand, turquoise water, swaying palm trees and trendy beach clubs. What more could you long for from a Punta Cana holiday? Playa Bávaro consists of several parts. You have Playa Bibijagua, Corales, Cortecito and Arena Gorda.
If, like me, you are staying in a resort near the Playa Bávaro, this beach is of course easily accessible. But the beach is also accessible for others. The beach was definitely my favorite spot on the Iberostar Bávaro domain. It was wonderful to relax in one of the sun beds, under the palm trees, with a cocktail.
If you prefer to soak up the local atmosphere, Macao beach is the place to be. This is the beach where mostly the locals go.
Visit Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and also the oldest city in America. It goes without saying that this place contains a lot of history. Since Santo Domingo is only a 2 hour drive from Punta Cana, it is the perfect day trip during a Punta Cana holiday.
We were picked up at the hotel by our guide Kelvin. A man who really knows everything about the Dominican Republic and is happy to share all his knowledge. Arriving in Santo Domingo, Kelvin gave us a tour of the historic center where we could admire beautiful architectural gems from the past and soak up the Caribbean atmosphere.
We watched a short 4D film where we learned a little more about the history of the city. And a visit to the Alcazar De Colon museum took us all the way back to the time of the Spanish conquerors.
During lunch we could taste local dishes such as bandera dominicana a dish consisting of rice, beans and pork and sancocho a stew of meat or fish with vegetables and cassava. Fried banana, also a typical Dominican dish, was on the menu here as well.
After lunch we went to Calle El Condo where we visited the artisan cigar workshop Clasico cigar. Here we saw how the cigars are made and we also got to taste one. This is where I smoked my very first cigar ever. This is also the perfect place to take some cigars home as a souvenir. Are you planning to buy local rum as well? Then it is best to do this in the supermarket diagonally across Clasico Sigar. Here you can buy local products at much cheaper prices.
The surrounding area of Santo Domingo
On the way back we made a few short stops in the surrounding area of Santo Domingo. The first was to get a glimpse of the Presidential Palace.
Then we visited the lighthouse of Columbus (Faro a Colón) a mausoleum in memory of explorer Christopher Columbus. Many claim that he is buried here, but this has not been officially proven.
Last but not least we visited the magical los 3 Ojos National Park. Via a considerable number of stairs, you descend into the cave where you can admire 3 beautiful turquoise lakes. Don’t forget to take the boat to see, in my opinion, the most beautiful lake (eye).
Get dirty with a buggy tour through the countryside of Punta Cana
Explore the countryside of Punta Cana in an adventurous way? That is possible with a buggy tour at Adventure Boogies. Before departure we were advised to wear clothes that could get dirty and wet. Luckily I was prepared for this as I did a buggy tour in Curaçao before. Glasses and bandanas are not included in this tour. So if you are planning to do this excursion, try to bring them from home. Of course you can also purchase it there on site.
During the buggy tour you make your way through the countryside of Punta Cana. First you pass an organic farm where you can see how the local tribes used to live here.
You will also get acquainted with local products such as cocoa tea, pineapple wine, … and of course you will have the chance to buy some souvenirs.
You can even cool down in a magical setting. Inside a cave you will find a clear blue, natural source where you can take a refreshing dip.
Then you drive along the most bumpy and muddy lanes to Playa Macao. “Getting dirty” is an understatement. When we arrived at Playa Macao, everyone was drenched in mud. Good that we could freshen up here before we started our last part of our route.
If you’re not afraid of getting dirty, this is definitely a great way to explore the countryside of Punta Cana.
Take a boat trip to the paradisiacal Saona island
Something that should definitely not be missing on your Punta Cana holiday is a boat trip to the beautiful island of Saona. When we left with the motorboat to the island of Saona, the atmosphere was immediately set. Caribbean music was playing and the crew went out of their way to entertain us
We first stopped at a sandbank in the middle of the clear blue Caribbean sea. Here we could enjoy a little apero while we went looking for starfish in the water. And we were able to spot a few.
Arriving on Saona Island I stood transfixed for a while. This was exactly how I had always envisioned paradise: white beaches, clear blue water and especially lots of palm trees.
After a delicious lunch and a real piña colada in a pineapple, we could relax or explore the island.
Of course I chose the second option and started taking pictures with my partner in crime. So many beautiful places here and so little time to photograph everything. This excursion could have been longer for me.
We returned home by Catamaran. I didn’t notice it much, because after a few minutes I was sleeping on the deck. In the meantime there was apparently a real dance party going on. Too bad I missed that.
Other great excursions that are worth doing during a Punta Cana holiday
Since we only stayed in Punta Cana for 4 days, unfortunately we couldn’t try all the excursions. Our excursions were all organized by W2W. They have a wide range of fun activities . Next time I visit Punta Cana I would love to go to Scape Park. This is a tropical theme park where you can take a dip in Hoya Azul, one of the most beautiful, blue springs in the area. Besides that, ziplining also seems to be a super cool activity.
Of course there are many other places of interest in and around Punta Cana. You have the beautiful Los Haitises National Park, Isla Catalina the little sister of Isla Saona, one of the many pristine waterfalls, but also activities such as scuba diving and horseback riding. In short, if you don’t feel like spending an entire holiday at the beach, you certainly have plenty of opportunities to explore more of the area.
Hotspots in Punta Cana
One of the most beautiful hotspots for good local food is by far Jellyfish. Jellyfish is a vibrant beach club located on the beautiful beach of Bibijagua. Here you can enjoy exotic cocktails and delicious, local dishes. On the terrace you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the ocean and inside the spectacular interior design. If you plan to dine here, I can already recommend the delicious red snapper.
Coco Bongo is already household name in Central America. If you are looking for an unforgettable evening in Punta Cana, Coco Bongo is the place to be. It is in fact one of the most popular nightclubs on the island. This is due to its unique concept, a combination of live performances and clubbing. You can reserve spots through the website. Just like with a concert, you have various options here. Drinks are also included.
The show consists of performances where dancers, actors and acrobats alternate. In between, the DJ ensures that no one stops dancing. Everyone is even more encouraged when the occasional balloons and confetti fall from the ceiling. If you fancy an unforgettable party, I only have one address for you.
Even though my trip to the Dominican Republic was short. Still it was enough to get a taste of the unique Punta Cana vibe. And that certainly leaves you wanting more. I can say that I enjoyed my Punta Cana holiday to the fullest. Punta Cana is the perfect holiday destination for anyone who wants to escape the long, cold winter and relax in a paradise setting.
Want to discover more of the Caribbean? Don’t forget to read my Curaçao travel guide.
Is Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic a destination you would like to visit? Let me know below in the comments.
Thank you for reading!