If you caught last week’s part one of this Dominican Republic travel guide, you know I completely fell in love with Santo Domingo. It tops the list as one of the “can’t miss” places in the Caribbean. But since everyone always talks about Punta Cana, here’s what to know before you go!
If you’ve heard of the Dominican Republic, you’ve heard of Punta Cana. And vice versa. It’s one of those vacation hot spots with a strip of all-inclusive hotels and great weather, plus the travel time from the United States isn’t too bad considering there are direct flights from Punta Cana. But how can you do it differently (and I strongly recommend you do!)? Here’s how.
Where to stay in Punta Cana.
We stayed at Puntacana Resort & Spa which is a group of hotels and properties. I feel like I’m seeing this concept more and more especially after our trip to the Bahamas with Baha Mar earlier this year. And it’s not a bad idea. As the customer, you get access to more perks for a better rate! We stayed at The Westin specifically which is a great option if you want something familiar and if you’re an SPG member.
Similar in concept, there is Cap Cana 20 minutes down the road. There are several properties including luxury condos to stay at here plus they offer excellent entertainment options, it’s a popular destination. I’ll get into more specifics below because you can definitely spend a day here even if you opt to stay elsewhere!
If you’re up for staying somewhere in between Santo Domingo and Punta Cana, Casa de Campo is a must. It’s the first place we would stay if we go back. It’s about an hour outside of Punta Cana and it’s incredible. You can literally experience everything you need without leaving the property. Trust me won’t even want to leave!
Then, there is the strip of hotels in Bávaro which are mostly all-inclusive and quite a different vibe than Cap Cana and Puntacana. I’ve stayed here in the past with girlfriends and it’s great if you want an easy party destination with tons of sun at varying price points! However if you’re looking to add a little culture or maybe something good for the environment, look into the two options above!
What to eat in Punta Cana.
Continuing our streak of incredibly delicious meals in Santo Domingo, we ate extremely well at Puntacana too! Here were our favorite spots!
Talk about romance! This was our first dinner in Punta Cana and La Yola set the bar so high. It also had one of my favorite dishes on the entire trip which was their breaded eggplant with marinara and plantains. It sounds weird, I know, but it was sooo good. I don’t even like eggplant and I loved it! The restaurant is right on the marina overlooking the harbor with market lights strung throughout. There was also live music which would come by and serenade each table. They even took requests!
We grabbed lunch at Brassa Grill (it’s located in The Westin) and I can’t tell you if the food or the view was better. It looks right out over the white sand beach at the hotel and the water is so crystal blue. We ordered a little bit of everything to share for the table and it all was delicious! Even something as simple as the veggie quesadilla completely blew me away. Matt ordered the fish of the day and it was enormous and prepared Boca Chica style!
The atmosphere at Bachata Rosa was unlike anything else. It was opened by a Dominican Republic musician named Juan Luis Guerra and the culture of the country comes through immediately. The menu is a mix of local cuisine and influences from around the world. There’s crazy decor, songs by Juan Luis Guerra playing in the background, and it’s located in one of the newest malls in Punta Cana if you want to do a bit of shopping before or after your meal. It’s definitely a place to escape your resort and have a little night out! Regardless of who you’re with!
What to do in Punta Cana.
Since Punta Cana is such a popular destination, I’m sure you can guess at the usual activities. Beach days, poolside lounging, various water activities – all of these can be found in the Dominican Republic and especially in Punta Cana. You can also find quite a few resorts that are all-inclusive so if you want to spend the day in the sun with a frozen drink in hand, this is the place to do it. However, there is also more to it than that! Here are some of the more unique things to do in this beautiful place!
I don’t even know how to describe this place. Coco Bongo is a variety show that meets a night club and it’s thoroughly entertaining. There are multiple locations throughout the Caribbean and if you’re near one, it’s worth the money and staying up late. It’s better than any show and club I’ve been to in Vegas! It’s just unbelievable and this is coming from someone who likes to be in bed by 10PM! We didn’t leave until 2AM and we had gotten up at 7AM that morning so this just goes to show how good it was!
If you love nature, pay a visit to the ecological reserve at Puntacana Resort. Or if you just love a swim in a lagoon with water that makes your skin feel completely renew! We spent about 30 minutes learning about the various projects they manage at the ecological reserve. From protecting the turtles to reducing waste, there are so many things going on and it was great to see that Puntacana Resort is finding ways to give back. This is rare to see from a mega resort! I loved it! After we learned about the projects, we took a 15 minute walk through a tropical jungle (it was an easy walk) to freshwater lagoons. They were so beautiful! You could easily spend a day, pack a picnic, and enjoy the trail through the forest and fresh water. The pH balance of the water is extremely high so your skin feels so good after taking a dip in the water!
This spa at Six Senses it a bit away from the other resorts at Puntacana Resort & Club. Matt and I treated ourselves to a couple’s massage and yet again, he fell asleep during the massage. That’s when you know it’s good! We went over in the afternoon and I wish we had planned to spend more time there! The spa is located in the same building as the Golf Club, 2 restaurants, and another pool so there is quite a bit to do there. It’s truly gorgeous and the spa is incredibly relaxing. I need to know what essential oils they were diffusing there because it smelled amazing!
Don Queco is the cigar and rum bar at The Westin and this was the best part of the trip for Matt! If you are traveling with a guy or love cigars/rum yourself, definitely stop in. The bartender had such a depth of knowledge about the rum we were served and walked us through the cigars they had on hand at the bar. We learned all about cigars – even more than we did in Cuba!
This was one of the most interesting park concepts I’d ever heard of. Scape Park has zip lining, water rides, rhinoceros lizards, and offer weddings too! I originally was skeptical of how cool it would really be but within a few minutes realized that it’s definitely a place to go whether you’re with kids or without! For the adventure couple, I’d definitely recommend looking into a destination wedding there. We got to meet the wedding planner and see some of her work – everything was really chic and reminded me a lot of our wedding!
Have you been to Punta Cana? What did you do while there?