Blue sea, a gentle blow of wind in your hair, white fine sands … this is what any person who has been to Punta Cana will describe. Whether you’re looking to spend your honeymoon, holiday or simply looking for an excuse to have a longer get away, Punta Cana will always offer holidaymakers a sense of self-restoration and relaxation.
We chose this destination for our honeymoon and visited again in 2023. In this article we would love to share with you our experience and why we would return to this place again.
Punta Cana is located on the eastern side of the Dominican Republic (DR) and its beaches face both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. This is a great location for your vacation with lots of stunning beaches to choose from.
The Dominican republic was once a Spanish colony and the base of Christopher Columbus himself for his expeditions to what he thought was East India. Or did he? You can see many Spanish cultural traits in the people, language and even food. Of course with a local blend.
Today, the connection to Spain seems to be still strong and one doesn’t have to go too far to see this. Pop in any supermarket and most items will have the “Made in Spain” label.
Punta Cana features a tropical wet and dry climate and the weather is fairly consistent all year around. When we went there in late August/ early September, the average temperature was around 31 °C (88 °F). It felt really hot for the first couple of days and then we just got used to it and we loved it! Be prepared for sudden rain falls during the rainy season.
During our visit in April the temperature was around 31 °C (88 °F), the weather was beautiful and there was no rain whatsoever.
August, September and October are the peak months of the hurricane season in Punta Cana, which we experienced first hand. In September 2017 hurricane Irma, a category 5 hurricane, made our trip truly unforgettable and we even got evacuated to the capital Santo Domingo for 3 nights.
The official language in the DR is Spanish. English is also widely spoken in resorts and tourist areas. In general, Dominicans also appreciate if you try to speak with them in Spanish. You don’t have to be fluent but a few words here and there will for sure attract some good attention.
The local currency is the Dominican peso or “peso” but American dollars are also widely acceptable. Tips are appreciated so make sure you have some pesos or one dollar bills for tips.
The time zone in the DR is GMT -4. We travelled from London and it took us 2 days to adapt to the time and stop waking up at 5 am. On the positive side, we saw some amazing sun rises!
How to Get to Punta Cana?
We booked an all inclusive holiday with flights, transfers and hotel included. We flew from London to Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ), the busiest airport in the DR. The flight time from London to Punta Cana is about 9 hours and 15 minutes.
We booked a package holiday with TUI, but if you prefer to organise your own trip, check our tips on how to plan a holiday. Read more about advantages and disadvantages of package holidays vs. independent travel here.
When we landed, we were really surprised to see the airport – there were no walls and the roof was made out of straws! Yes, you read that right!
Where to Stay in Punta Cana?
What you will notice is that most of the Punta Cana hotels offer an all inclusive experience. The hotels are massive and you are likely to spend most of your day there, so make sure you choose wisely.
There are a number of beaches and resorts in the Punta Cana area. Based on our research, Bavaro is the best resort to stay in Punta Cana.
During our most recent visit we stood at hotel Caribe Deluxe Princess. The hotel offers spacious rooms, excellent food, great service, beautiful wide sandy beach, well maintained hotel grounds and a range of activities to choose from to complete your holiday. Find out more about our experience at Caribe Deluxe Princess and what we liked and didn’t like about this hotel here.
During our first visit to Punta Cana, we chose a hotel called Catalonia Punta Cana Golf & Casino Resort for our honeymoon. We were really impressed by the attention we got from the hotel staff and their hospitality. We were given Honeymooner t-shirts and a special breakfast at the hotel.
Top things to do in Punta Cana
First and foremost – relax! Once you get to the beach, you find yourself in paradise and all you want to do is relax with a cocktail in your hand. The beaches are truly amazing and you just can’t get enough.
Check your hotel’s activity board
Most hotels offer a range of activities from early in the morning to late at night. During the day, we did some snorkelling in the crystal clear water, played beach volley, table tennis and wondered around the beautiful hotel grounds.
Usually hotels will offer activities and entertainment throughout the day, so you can join their stretching or aqua gym, foam party, competitive games and more. Ah, and Paul’s favourite activity – burying his wife in the sand. 😀 Dolphin swim is another popular activity, although we found swimming with dolphins a bit too pricey.
For cultural experiences, we attended the hotel evening entertainment every night and admired Dominican and international dances and performances. Every evening we enjoyed lively music played by talented local musicians, combined with cocktails and lots of dancing.
If your hotel is organising a beach party, make sure to attend this as well. These have been highlights of the evening entertainment.
During your stay in Punta Cana, you can consider some day trips. You will find travel agents and local companies offering excursions with pick up from the hotel. To get the best excursion deal, make sure you negotiate your price and maybe even consider buying more than one trip. Here are some suggestions.
Higuey and La Romana
To further experience Dominican Republic as a local, we decided to design our own day trip and visit two cities. We took a local bus from Punta Cana to Higuey and then another one from Higuey to La Romana before returning back to the hotel.
Higuey is a city located in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic and is famous for its religious sites, cultural landmarks, and natural attractions. It’s mostly famous for the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, a stunning basilica that is dedicated to the patron saint of the Dominican Republic.
La Romana is a city located on the south-eastern coast of the Dominican Republic, known for its beautiful beaches, historic sites, and natural attractions. It is also known for its connection to the cigar industry. The city is home to several cigar factories and tobacco plantations where some of the world’s finest cigars are produced.
Needless to say that we visited a cigar factory in La Romana and of course treated the husband to a box of these. Although prices are displayed, these are mostly indicative. Feel free to try your bargaining skills!
Overall we felt safe but the locals were definitely surprised to see tourists on public transport.
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Visit Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city of the Dominican Republic. It’s relatively far from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo, 185 km so be prepared for an early start.
This is the place where Christopher Columbus and his family have ruled and have set out on their voyages and expedition and there are some interesting sights to see, so a trip is highly recommended!
Interesting fact – Santo Domingo is the site of the first university, cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress in the New World.
Spend a day at the famous Saona Island, one of the most visited locations in the DR. If you want to find out more about Saona Island, check our Saona Island article with tips and recommendations for an amazing trip from Punta Cana.
We were sold on sunbathing, turquoise beaches, holding starfish and snorkelling and swimming in the crystal clear turquoise water. We booked our trip to Saona Island but due to hurricane Irma we weren’t able to visit.
This was another reason to go back again and we did! We were picked up by the hotel, sailed a catamaran, visited Saona Island, went to see the starfish nearby and returned on a speed boat. It was a great experience and we would recommend!
There are many other things you can do in the Punta Cana area and I am sure you will be approached by local sellers and tour guides. Here are some suggestions.
Food and drinks
Another highlight of our all inclusive hotel was the abundance of food and drinks. In addition to the buffet food, we also visited a traditional Dominican restaurant, a steak house, Brazilian Steakhouse and Japanese teppanyaki which were included in our hotel offering.
If you ever wondered how food is prepared at an all-inclusive hotel, then read our article “Inside an All-Inclusive Kitchen” for more details.
Dominican food is a mix of African, Caribbean, Spanish and Taino indigenous influences offering great flavours and food combinations. We enjoyed eating plantains and lots of yuca (also known as cassava) which is grown in the DR.
There were 3 main drinks dominating our trip. Fresh coconut water was a favourite. We made friends with one of the gardeners and in exchange for a few pesos, we had fresh coconuts cut for us on the spot.
Dominican rum was another beverage consumed daily. We even found a local brand, Brugal, which we really liked and even brought a few bottles back home (no judging). Needless to say that we had a lot of cocktails including mojitos, piña coladas and Hristina’s favourite “banana mama”.
One drink you need to taste, is the local Mamajuana. It is concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. It tastes similar to port wine but better!
There are so many reasons why one would travel to Punta Cana and choose this for their next vacation. Punta Cana has some amazing beaches to offer and is an excellent choice for a beach holiday. From personal experience, it’s suitable for young adults, couples and is a great choice for honeymoon.
If you want to visit the Caribbean’s, put this on your to-go list. You will enjoy the all inclusive hotel experience and some time in paradise. Even after experiencing a category 5 hurricane, we would still return to Punta Cana to explore this beautiful part of the world.
If you are looking for other paradise-like destinations, read more about Playa del Carmen, Mexico here.
Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:
- Flights – we use flight aggregators such as Skyscanner and Google flights to find the best options. You can find more information about finding cheap flights here.
- Flight compensation – Compensair or AirHelp for flight delays and cancellations.
- Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.
- Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.
- Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.
- Internet abroad – with Airalo you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.
- Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.
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