Located off the southern tip of Florida some 1000 miles away, the Dominican Republic is about a 3 hour flight. More specifically Republica Dominica is on an island south east of Cuba that shares its borders with Haiti. This is at first a turn-off to some because Haiti and Cuba for that matter have earned themselves a notoriously bad reputation for instability and poverty. Luckily, Punta Cana is at the southern edge of the island far away from everything else. It is quite remote and beautiful. It has attracted people such as Brad Pitt to look at property there, as well as Robert De Niro who has been to the presidential palace for lunch.
If the sound of clear turquoise water is not enough to attract you, then to put it bluntly, you can see your feet in neck deep water. I am about 5’9″ and could see the slightest wiggle of my toes. The beach is pure white sand, and finer than the sand you find at most American beaches. The palm trees sway in the breeze, and if you like, beckon one of the native Dominican hotel staff to crack open a coconut, revealing the fresh white milk inside to drink. Bits of coral can be found if you walk along the beaches; and at some points old ships that bottomed out on the coral can be viewed a few miles away, being slowly eaten by the waves. At other points on the beach friendly Dominicans that have proper authorization by the hotels have been allowed to set up shop huts on the beach. This is only so of the all inclusive resorts, other areas that are not property of the hotel companies is not recommended walking area. There are many wares and handmade souvenirs such as drums, clothes, and hand rolled cigars, bottles of Dominican rum or crafts. The Dominicans will wave to you and call you their friend as they beckon you inside their shops. They use a bartering system in their country; and while they may ask you for a seemingly high price for something, this is only because they hope you are a “dumb American”. Start at a lower then reasonable price and you can usually settle somewhere in the middle. Their hand-rolled cigars rate among the finest in the world, connoisseurs argue between a Dominican and a Cuban cigar as to the higher quality. The rum also is spectacular. Very smooth and very dark, it is great in mixed drinks or a little in a glass by itself.
If you are going for a family vacation it is recommended you stay at an all inclusive resort. I have personally had great experience with the Iberostar hotels; namely Bavaro, which allows you to wander their other 2 resorts connected to the east. Be treated to 24 hour all you can eat buffets, fine dining, open air bars or swim-up pool bars, and service only a king could ask for. You receive all this for a very good price. Apple Vacations is a great company to go through. For three years in a row my parents and I had excellent experiences with them. They also offer guided tours of the surrounding areas and some major cities. Their staff is friendly and located on-site at the resort to assist you with anything you might need. For one flat fee you can receive airfare, food and drink, and rooms. The rooms are comfortably furnished and well air-conditioned. The cleaning lady will do your laundry for you for a small fee if you wish, and will tidy your room every day. The TV there is not the greatest selection and quite a few of the channels are in Spanish; but hey, you are in the Dominican Republic, get off the couch! An interesting feature about the rooms as you will notice within a few minutes is the absence of alarm clocks, or all clocks for that matter. Generally with two beds and then a step-down living room and balcony the rooms are quite satisfying. At times they will even leave a special surprise on the coffee table.
The entertainment is fabulous. With as big of a pool as they have, they had to put it to good use. They have water aerobics during the day and then also different water games involving the staff and the guests to intermingle so everyone feels comfortable and has a good time. If you’re not a group person you can relax at the bar and watch one of the entertaining water shows, entertainers do humorous actor impressions and jump off of roofs into the pool. If you are not worn out by nighttime you might want to head over to the discotheque located on resort or go to one of the stages and watch a show, they serve drinks and try to keep the audience involved by asking for volunteers. On certain nights the local Dominicans will come up to the outdoor lobby and sell more expensive crafts such as glass art or belts. You might want to check out the many paintings and carvings for sale as you linger on one of the cigars a Dominican just rolled in front of you. No worries about second-hand smoke, everything is open-air and catches the ocean breeze. The bars are still open at this time, and a friendly bar tender will mix you any kind of alcoholic concoction you could ask for.
It is about one-o’clock when everything dies down; except for the discotheque, which is open until the wee hours of the morning. If you care for a midnight swim in the ocean, the temperature is right. With warm winds blowing in it appears very warm for the nighttime but step into the ocean and you will be even more surprised. Warm currents flowing in provide perfect swimming water 24 hours. Do not be alarmed at the armed men standing in periodic posts on the beach. They are very friendly and welcome a night visitor to converse with; brush up on your Spanish!
Dominican Republic is my favorite vacation spot on Earth and I would love to go back again if I get the chance. Overall I rate it on a scale out of 5. Cleanliness would be a 4, guest services would be a 5, friendliness would be a 5, the amount of activities offered off-resort is tremendous and well worth the price; I would give that a 5 as well. What you receive compared to the cost is a 5, and you might find it, as I did, relatively cheap for everything you get. As for the fun rating, I would give it a 5. I was never at a loss for something to do, and the beach is wonderful. You just get a different kind of tan there; it has something to do with its relation to the equator I believe. It’s darker and stays with you longer. Due to the strong European influence over there some beaches are topless as this is custom in Europe. If you are worried about your children or budding young men do not worry; the beach contains all manner of women, in other words you’re not taking your children to a Bay Watch episode to say the least. I hope that all of you vacationers and travelers out there let yourself experience the wonders of Dominican Republic. It truly is a moving experience and something you can bring up and talk about until the day you die.