Punta Cana

Punta Cana is the name of a town and tourist region at the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic. The region, covering about 420,000m² (approximately 1,100 acres), is home to a coastline of sandy white beaches.

Understand

In the province of La Altagracia with a population estimated at 100,000, the region borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east. To the north, it borders Bávaro and El Cortecito Beaches. It also borders Cabeza de Toro, Cabo Engaño and further west, Juanillo.

Despite the area being fairly deserted, the proximity of Punta Cana to other major resort areas such as Bávaro and Uvero Alto make the town one of the top Caribbean destinations.

Peak season in Punta Cana tends to run from December-April. Prices in both airfare and hotel increase dramatically during these times, while dropping in the summer and early fall months.

Punta Cana has a tropical climate. Although it is mildly windy, the ocean in the area is mainly shallow, with several natural marine pools in which visitors can bathe. The weather is fairly constant, with an average temperature of 26°C. The hottest season lasts from April to November, and during the day temperatures might reach 32°C. From December to March, temperatures during the evening are around 20°C. Very little rain falls around the area, mostly because of the flat landscape. The summer months tend to be very warm and very humid. It is suggested you wear loose fitting, cotton clothing, so pack light.

Punta Cana was founded as a tourist resort and tourism still is 100% of the local economy. Prices are much higher than in the rest of the Dominican Republic and within the area prices in the resorts are higher than outside (up to 300% for postcards, cigars and souvenirs). Therefore lots of resorts employ the tactic of scaring their visitors from venturing outside by propagating stories of robberies, murders and rape. These have to be taken with a grain (or a pound) of salt; people tend to be very friendly and helpful. Still, flashing jewellery, expensive gadgets or lots of money is not recommended.

Get in

By plane

Several US carriers have scheduled flights to Punta Cana International Airport (IATA: (PUJ)including: Jet Blue, American Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, USA 3000, United, and Delta. Air Canada also offers flights from Toronto and Montreal. Westjet also offers scheduled service from Toronto. Aeroflot offers service from Moscow. Charter airlines include Air Transat, Sunwing, Thomas Cook (operated by AC Jazz), Skyservice and Canjet departing from many larger Canadian cities seasonally

Most people going to Punta Cana are staying at a resort. With a resort package most hotels will have airport pick up arranged for you at the Punta Cana Airport. You will find this area to the right as you depart the final customs check area. Just look for your hotel name on a sign that many guides will have, and they will direct you to your bus. Private taxis are also available at fixed prices.

In fact, Punta Cana has one of the busiest and best connected airports in the region being at times reported as one of the busiest airports in the entire Caribbean, and usually receiving more flights than the Aeropuerto Internacional de Las Américas, in Santo Domingo (about a three-hour drive).

The Punta Cana Airport has a beautiful thatched roof and is an open-air design, also meaning that few areas of the airport have air conditioning. Upon arriving at the Punta Cana airport, each passenger is required to purchase a USD10 tourist card before entering immigration, often included in your documentation upon departure or issued on the flight (unless you have a Dominican passport, a cedula residence card or your foreign passport shows that you were born in the Dominican Republic). After retrieving luggage and clearing customs, arriving passengers will be greeted by their tour company representative to the right and directed to board the correct bus for transfer to their resort. Do not venture out looking for your bus without first checking in at the counters. The buses are numbered, thus you will not know which one to get on to.

Taxis are waiting just outside and drivers know all big resorts (though not necessarily the few small guesthouses or hostels).

In Punta Cana there are various companies that provide official airport transfers. When you arrive after an international flight at your destination it is the most convenient option to have your transportation pre-booked and the shuttle waiting for your arrival. All hotels in Punta Cana or Bavaro Beach can easily be reached via private or shared transportation. Most of the transportation companies offer customers the option to prebook online. Some of the well-known companies offering shared and private transfers are:

Amstar DMCGray Line

By Bus

Expreso Bavaro and Caribe Tours go from Santo Domingo to Punta Cana (from their respective terminals in Santo Domingo). Buses are modern (toilet, movies, some with WiFi) and drivers drive safely.

Get around

Tour Operators: Most passengers arriving in Punta Cana International Airport have prearranged local transportation through a tour operator. These companies have representatives at the airport to guide guests to vehicles waiting to take them to the reserved resort. If you are travelling with a tour operator it is highly recommended that you attend any welcome meetings and orientations offered by your tour operator. In these meetings you'll receive important information regarding your hotel and immediate area information, activity and excursion options, and departure information.

Taxis: If you are not travelling with a tour operator, a number of taxi drivers are available just outside the Customs area to provide you transportation to the place of your choice. All taxis operate with standard rates; most drivers carry a copy of these. The best thing to do when hiring a taxi is to clarify your destination and the price in advance. You pay upon arrival at your destination. Most hotels have taxi stations on or near their property; in most cases a bellman or front desk clerk can order a taxi for you. Taxi drivers accept dollars, pesos, and euros.

Local Buses: For the more adventurous, the local bus lines operate on most of the roads of the area, for a minimal cost. The downside to public transport in the Dominican Republic is irregular bus schedules, crowded vehicles, and potentially unsafe vehicles (689 casualties in 2007), drivers, or passengers. Although for the most part it is a safe and effective means of transportation, it is generally recommended to use one of the more frequented means of getting around.

Rent-a-Car: A number of car rental agencies like Europcar, Budget, and Avis offer service in the area of Punta Cana and Bavaro. Many hotels have car rental concessionaires on their properties. Driving laws, habits, and conditions may be different from the ones you are used to. When renting a vehicle always take the maximum available insurance, keep a map of the area you intend to drive in, and make sure you are comfortable with the drive.

Motoconchos: Motorbike taxis are by far the cheapest and fastest private mode of transportation (DOP100 for a ride from Friusa to Bavaro beach). Depending on the area, one will be either offered rides permanently (e.g. in Friusa) or will have to look for them. At the beaches, staff at the shops usually can point one to the place where they are waiting or even call one. Helmets are not provided though and one should not use a motoconcho while inebriated.

See

Do

Buy

Make sure you spend the remainder of your Dominican pesos. It is next to impossible elsewhere to convert your pesos back to US dollars or euros.

There are a variety of shops along the beachfront of each resort. These shops are owned and operated by the locals. Shopping outside of the resort complex in Punta Cana/Bavaro can be kind of an adventure. In most shopping plazas, you can expect to be approached by one or more friendly, but insistent salespersons. The people of the Dominican Republic love to barter. You can expect that once in one of their stores you will be taken for a ride. You will initially be quoted ridiculously outrageous prices. It is imperative that you get the item as cheaply as you can. This can become quite an ordeal as the shopkeeper fights with you, insults you for your frugality, etc.

When walking along the beach vendors will solicit your business. It can be annoying as they will keep pestering you until you come and look at what they have to offer. Tell them that you are not interested and keep walking. The best way of letting the locals know that you are not interested is to tell them that you have no money. The people of the Dominican Republic are very friendly and are offended when you walk past them with no acknowledgement of their presence. A simple "no, thank you" may sometimes work, but in most cases, they will not take no for an answer and will continue to chase and harass you.

Do not buy dried animals (turtle shells, sea shells, etc.) because a) It is illegal, so you will not be allowed to bring them through customs, and may get arrested trying; and b) it encourages the locals to kill these creatures. Reef life should stay in the sea, so help to preserve these endangered animals by buying other types of souvenirs.

Eat

Drink

Beer

Presidente is the most popular national brand of beer, and it is readily available anywhere. It is available in both regular and lite versions. For a beer with a bit more taste, you should try Bohemia, made by the same company, but with a fuller flavour. Also available in a lite version.

Rum

You will encounter many different types of rum:

Most often, you will be offered Brugal or Barcelo rum. Highly recommended rums are Burmudez Don Armando and Anniversario 1852, as well as Macorix Eight Year.

Coffee

Though in most Latin and Central American countries coffee is produced primarily for export, most of the coffee grown in the Dominican Republic is savored within its borders. And Dominicans, like Europeans, enjoy their coffee strong and black. One useful phrase for tourists to learn when ordering coffee is "sin azucar" (no sugar) for the simple reason that the locals measure by tablespoon rather than teaspoon.

Sleep

Connect

If you walk outside your resort, Internet cafes will be half the price (yet still pricey by Dominican standards). For example, USD8 per hour in the resort, USD4 per hour in town in Punta Cana or Bavaro. In other parts of the DR, Internet cafes are USD2 per hour or often less.)

Medical/dental

Pharmacy

Police

Go next

The north is hard to reach, unless going by private car, so Santo Domingo or, on the way, La Romana and Juan Dolio are the only logical next hops.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, December 19, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.