Drunken Point. Ever hear of it? Less than fifty years ago, that’s what the area now known as Punta Cana was called (“Punta Borrachon” in Spanish). At that time it was nothing but dense, forbidding jungle with no access roads. Farsighted investors, however, saw the possibilities. In 1969, they bought 30 square miles of undeveloped land, and the first hotel, with only ten cabins, opened in 1971. There were still no roads, only a dirt airstrip, so guests had to arrive and depart by plane.
Today, Punta Cana is a world-class tourist destination filled with hotels, mega-resorts, golf courses and casinos, and it is one of the most popular beach destinations in the Caribbean. If you have your sights set on a beach getaway to the Dominican Republic—and you should—we’d like to mention some of the top attractions in this sparkling corner of the Caribbean.
Any list of attractions in Punta Cana would be woefully incomplete without a nod to its best and most important asset—endless stretches of idyllic, postcard-worthy beaches. More than 30 miles of golden sand, arching palm trees and aquamarine water wrap around the easternmost point of Hispaniola, and in Punta Cana, the beaches are the main event. Some, like Bávaro Beach, are backed by sumptuous hotels and resorts, and tourists take advantage of the Dominican sunshine as well as the many beach and water sports available. Others, Like Macao Beach, are public and undeveloped, and both locals and visitors gather to enjoy the pristine, unspoiled splendor of simple sea and sand. In the Dominican Republic, a beach is not just a beach; each has its own character and vibe. Check out as many as you can.
The “Blue Hole”
Take a trip to Hoyo Azul—the “Blue Hole”—and take a unique swim in a refreshingly cool freshwater cenote ensconced in a lush tropical setting. Take the stairs or jump off the elevated platform into the crystal clear water for a snorkeling experience like no other. Hoyo Azul is located inside Scape Park, and the best way to see it is on a tour. Hike through the forest to the swimming hole or get there a different way—gliding over the Cap Cana forest on a series of zip lines.
If you need to escape the tourist crowds, take a boat to Saona Island just a couple of miles off the coast of Punta Cana. Because it’s part of Parque Nacional de Este, you won’t see a single hotel or casino there. Just native beaches and a relaxed, laid-back vibe. Many of Punta Cana’s resorts offer tours to the island and throw in extras like open bar, lunch, and various activities on the island.
Swim with Dolphins
A trip to Punta Cana is in itself pretty memorable, but you can catapult it into a never-to-be-forgotten vacation by swimming and interacting with these gentle denizens of the sea. Get hugs, kisses, boogie pushes and belly rides from friendly dolphins, watch their fascinating tricks and games, and talk freely with guides to learn more about one of the world’s most intelligent creatures. Different tours and packages are available through companies including Latika Tours Excursions Punta Cana & Bayahibe.
Altos de Chavon
Mix history, art and local culture on an intriguing and enjoyable outing to this replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village. Dominicans, tourists and working artists from around the world come to Altos de Chavon. Stroll the cobblestone streets and watch artisans weaving, making pottery and engaging in many other crafts and trades. Browse the shops and boutiques to find something special and unique to take home. Visit the local archaeological museum, see St. Stanislaus Church with its lovely plaza and fountain, and take in a show at the 5,000-seat, Roman-style amphitheater. And bring your camera, as you won’t want to stop taking pictures of the picturesque Chavon River and the topaz Caribbean.
Hit the Links
Punta Cana is, quite simply, a golfer’s paradise. It would be hard to find another location where so many top-quality, gorgeous courses are all in one place, and the setting is, of course, spectacular. Pete Dye’s Teeth of the Dog is here—a course that has been ranked No. 1 in the Caribbean and No. 9 in the world. Cap Cana has no less than three Jack Nicklaus-designed courses. One of them, Punta Espada, was named by Golfweek as the No. 1 course in all of the Caribbean and Mexico. Many resorts have their own private course, and there are golf outings and packages to suit every skill and preference.