It’s about that time of year when we all, especially here in the PNW, start dreaming about warm places, sun on the skin, and a nice golden tan. My husband and I went to Punta Cana to enjoy the sun and sand. I thought I’d give you a run down on my favorite parts of what we liked and what we didn’t. I’ve given a very detailed description about everything so feel free to scroll down to the summary.
It all started on a Saturday, we flew with Delta down to Atlanta (Delta rocks btw). Like most Caribbean flights from Washington we had to stay in Atlanta for the night. We stayed at the Red Lion Hotel Atlanta Airport and it was super easy to get to and we used the free pick up shuttle from the airport to the hotel. The Red Lion was clean and cheap, a perfect place for one night. Note: Coming home only took one day due to the time change.
Entering the Dominican Republic:
The next morning we were up early and got to Punta Cana by noon. When we arrived we went through customs. This is a good time to tell you about the entrance fee/tourist card…it’s a $10 fee, no bigge right? You can read about it and purchase it here. http://www.dgii.gov.do/tarjetaTuristica/EN/about/Paginas/default.aspx
We didn’t purchase it online, there are a few kiosks that have them for sale when you arrive. If you get lucky there won’t be a line. Just make sure to bring some cash with you for this purpose.
After getting through customs we got on our prepaid shuttle. I recommend doing a prepaid shuttle because it is a little sketchy at the airport. Tons of people hassling you about all sorts of tourist stuff, rides, and timeshares, typical for these sorts of places. It was pretty cheap, only $36.00 round trip for two of us. The round trip shuttle I got was called Blue Travel Partner Services, the van had air conditioning and wifi which was handy (gotta text mom you know ;).
The hotel we stayed at is called Barcelo Bavaro Beach Adults Only All Inclusive. This hotel was huge, the biggest I’ve ever stayed at. We were greeted with a drink and check in was pretty fast. I booked through Expedia, and got the Superior Room – USA & Latam (P). This package was to include a “golf credit” which is basically a ruse (the golf course is beautiful but ridiculously expensive and the credit doesn’t cover much, kind of like a buy one get one type deal, only worse). The room included a king bed – nonsmoking. The view was ok, it looked out over the court yard, wonderful palm trees but nothing to write home about. The air conditioning wasn’t great, if it was much hotter weather (85+) I think the air conditioning wouldn’t have done much to cool the room. The room was outdated but clean (I do think they might be remodeling rooms). Over all the room was ok, the price was right.
– Beautiful clean beach and chairs (this was really great compared to other hotels!)
– Clean grounds
– Out dated rooms
– Hard to understand staff/bad language barrier
– Bad air conditioning
Breakfast options were pretty good, everything you could possibly want was at the buffet. Sometimes you just had to find it. A lot of meat and interesting breads were available. Overall I was satisfied with the options for breakfast.
Lunch options weren’t the greatest. My husband and I a pretty “typical American” (insert jokes here #fatamericans) when it comes to lunch. We just wanted easy options, sandwich stuff would’ve sufficed but it just wasn’t good food.
The dinner options were pretty good, we didn’t try all of the restaurants but most were good. You must get reservations to the dining establishments. I suggest doing this the first day you arrive. We didn’t understand the person checking us in so we didn’t realize we had to have reservations until day two. Our favorite restaurant by far was Chez. This restaurant was fancy, bring a nice dress and men must bring pants/collar shirt. The other buffet on the other side of the resort had much more to choose from but you must brave the crying, cranky, and spoiled children.
The drinks were pretty good, there really isn’t a good beer there which kind of sucked. Mixed drinks are best but we never really got the hang of ordering. I’m not the best at reviewing alcoholic drinks but I did like their pineapple concoctions. I wish I had found these sooner. I believe they cost $5 but totally worth it. You can buy these heavenly drinks at the far end of the resort (the end away from the kids side/next to the adult side). If you want a more premium/top shelf liquor you can purchase another type of wrist band that gives you these privileges. *I’d recommend bringing your yeti cup or other thermos type mug…its clutch in keeping your drink cold. If you want better service I’d recommend bringing plenty of 1’s with you, the more you tip the better the service.
The beach is to die for. The sand, sun, and sunset were awesome. This hotel takes pride in its beach and is very clean, has nice chairs to lounge in, and the water is super clear. The bar maids do not come out on to the beach so bring your big mugs! The snorkeling here was nonexistent…it’s all clean sand and a few patches of seaweed. Find another hotel to stay at if you want to snorkel. *bring multiple bottles of sunscreen, they cost $20+ when bought there.
If you stay at this hotel I would greatly recommend going to see the shows performed on the big stage in the large part of the hotel. We saw the Vegas act and a few others, they were amazing! These people are truly talented. Definitely worth your time.
I must say that this was the biggest flop I’ve ever been a part of. OMG. Never will I ever again. Ahhh, not true I probably will try it again. The weather was super windy for the first half of our trip. It actually was a little too cold to be in a bikini the whole day. The fishing trip was a bust, the whole boat, all of us plus a little kid were sick, some more than others. I was unfortunately very sick, puking my guts out. The weirdest thing I’ve ever felt. I’d be fine for 15 minutes then puke, then be fine again…this continued for 2 hours. There were 13 foot waves the day we went. Take my advice…if there are 13 foot waves, DO NOT GO. Eat the money you deposited. This totally ruined our whole day. We even took Dramamine and that just left us sleepy for the rest of the day. We were supposed to catch marlin and sail fin but we didn’t catch anything in the two hours we were out so they turned the boat around and I ate my $350.00 charge to go fishing.
Note: this picture was taken while we were docked! (Pre -“Perfect Storm” waves)
The company that we went with was very nice. The people were very gracious and the owner came and picked us up at our hotel. Once we got to the beach to get onto the boat the owner left and the crew briefed us on the rules and what not. I didn’t understand a word, like most other service staff in the DR they talked extremely fast.
My recommendation is to not buy or reserve spots to fish until you get there, if it’s windy at all I think that it’s a waste of money. If you do, here is the link for a good, reputable company.
Another thing that I didn’t expect with the fishing was that it’s not like typical fishing. The boat is going pretty fast and there are 4 or so hooks out at one time (I’m a rookie what can I say). We drew names from a hat to pick which person got to reel in the first catch, it’s not like you had your own pole (I like lake fishing!).
Culture and Safety:
I must say this culture was something very different than anything I’ve been around. The people are very in need of money, we knew that before going. Some of the service workers definitely let their need of money influence the way they work or serve people. At the bars it was particularly evident that if you were a big tipper you would get refills quicker than others. Similar to Mexico but I believe the service in Mexico is better… speaking just from my experience.
All of the local people that we encountered spoke so fast that we couldn’t understand anything. For most of the trip we had no idea what was going on.
I felt safe at the hotel but as soon as our van drove out of the compound I could tell that it wasn’t the best place to be roaming about, but definitely not the most unsafe I’ve felt. We were also warned by a resident Canadian that it wasn’t safe to walk around outside of the hotel compound. I thought that it was going to be like Mexico in the way that there were bazaars to roam around about as well as small restaurants. This wasn’t the case, there was only one bazaar that I saw to get trinkets, the hotel compound was far away from any real city, and most of the city was nonexistent with abandoned or half-finished buildings.
Summary Review on Punta Cana:
If you’re looking for a great beach, unlimited drinks, and a great pool to hang by, look no further. This is your place, especially when its -10 degrees at home and 80+ in Punta Cana. I would assume it’s probably very similar to southern Mexico destinations (Mexico has a sweet spot in my heart). I really enjoyed our time together in Punta Cana, I’m glad we went but I just don’t think this destination is a repeat vacation spot for us. Our hotel grounds were amazing and the food, beach, and sun were great. We like to hike, see pretty mountains, and interact with the locals of the places we go, this place just wasn’t set up for us to do that. All-in-all I would recommend the DR for someone who can speak a little bit of Spanish and someone looking to relax on the beach.
Punta Cana Pros:
- Beautiful Beach
Punta Cana Cons:
- Language barrier/hard to understand English/service people don’t try to help you understand
- Windy / not all of the time
- Not to many do-it-yourself tourist destinations
- Typically unsafe at night or walking by yourself (where isn’t though)
- Takes two days of travel to get to/long day getting home (from Washington/West coast mostly)
- Never found a good snorkel spot
All in all Punta Cana is a good, cheap get away!
Flight + Hotel + All Inclusive: $3008.04
Atlanta Hotel: $90.00
Food + Beer during flight/airport: $150.00
Fishing Excursion: $350.00
Total Expenses: $3698.04
Let me know what you think or if you have questions leave comments below!