You've worked hard, saved your money and now you deserve the best vacation ever. Whether you are traveling to Punta Cana for 3 days or 2 weeks, your time is important to you so I have put together some tips to make the most of your vacation time.
Throw away your watch
You are going to be on Dominican time which runs anwhere from 1/2 hour to 2 hours behind the rest of the world. Learn to be patient, enjoy the weather and your relaxation time and don't fret because it took 2 hours for the maid to bring your towels. Most Dominicans do not have the sense of urgency in their day that we are acuustomed to and think nothing about arriving late. When they say they will do something right away, automatically add on a couple of hours in your head so you are prepared.
Arrange private transportation
How much did you spend on your vacation? Yes it may include complimentary transportation to your resort, but why would you want to wait in a bus for all the other passangers, then arrive at your resort where you have to stand in line with all of the other people on your bus. Why not pay out $50 or so for a taxi and be delivered straight to your lobby, where you can get your room ( if it is ready) and be sitting by the beach enjoying the sun when the rest of the passengers on your plane arrive.
Make time for rest, play and learning
Take some time to to do nothing and unwind, read a book, laze in the sun, take naps. We all need to have our batteries recharged and your vacation time is a perfect time to do that. But if you are going to sleep your whole trip then you might as well save your money and stay home. Try some different experiences like scuba diving, dance the bachata or para sailing. Get away from your resort and learn more about the wonderful culture and and view the beautiful scenery, you can even combine that with another activity like horseback riding or zip lining. Taste some of the local cuisine, the food of the Dominican Republic is varied and dates back to the recipes of the Taino Indians, Spanish and African influences.
Do your research for activities
Check out trip advisor for the top sites to visit and activities in Punta Cana, Bavaro and the surround areas. Reviews by real people will give you a look at which places and which tours are going to interest you the most. Always keep in mind that everyone has different opinions but you can get a great sense overall on how the excursion will be. By waiting until you arrive at your resort you are depending then on your representative to sell you the tour he makes the most commission from, rather than you telling him which tour you would like to receive.
Eat your meals off the peak times
Head out early to the breakfast buffet, late to the lunch and dinner buffets. By choosing the less busy times, you will get through the buffet lines quicker and receive better service at your table for a more enjoyable meal. Take time to interact with your wait staff, they are usually extremely friendly and can make your dining experience more pleasurable.
Limit your sun exposure
Don't think you are imune to the stronger rays of the Caribbean sun. Use your sun screen and head for the shade after a reasonable time. Don't forget some of those little thought of areas like your feet and armpits when applying your sunscreen. There is nothing worse than suffering with a sunburn on your vacation. The oceans reflectiveness can increase the UV intensity to 50% so reapply often and be smart, cover up or get out of the sun.
Watch what you drink
All inclusive means all you can eat and drink but use your common sense. When you factor in the heat with all of the alchol it can lead to one nasty hangover. A little known fact as well is that the coconut drinks you are downing are a natural laxative so if you have too many you could find yourself with a nasty bit of diarrhea. Limit your intake so you don't loose time on your vacation feeling horrible.
Remeber you are in a developing country
The Dominican Republic is not like crossing the border from the United States to Canada or vice versa where you can't tell that you have changed countries. There is more poverty there, different standards and as well a different culture. Don't expect all of the staff to speak fluent english, your key personal such as front desk and wait staff will speak english but the majority of workers do not. Expect your room to smell musty, you are next to an ocean everything will be damp. Outside of the resort, expect people to try and sell you things at inflated prices or to beg money from you. It only takes one person a day to give in and overpay or give money and they have their weeks wages, of course they are going to try! If you are firm in your responses, they will leave you alone and try to find someone they know they can have success with. Do your part to help keep their country clean but remember, our countries programs of education and awareness to make people recognize the need to not throw trash at the side of the roads started in the 60's and 70's. The Dominican Republic has only started this education process.
What to Do in Punta Cana
Well, you've got your resort booked in Punta Cana so now its time to plan your stay in the Domincan Republic. If you stay on your resort the whole time you won't have the opportunity to truly experience all this beautiful country has to offer.
The first questions that may come to mind may be "Is it safe to travel off the resorts?" Trip Advisor has an article regarding this stating " Since 2006 Punta Cana has been reported as having one of the lowest crime rates in the world, mostly because of the low drug crime here." read full article here Violent crime is rare in the Dominican Republic and you should always use common sense as you would in any city of the world. Protect your belongings, don't carry large amounts of cash and avoid traveling at night. The Domincan people are very friendly and helpful and you should not be afraid to travel amongst them.
There are a large number of tours available in the Punta Cana area. Some of them you can reserve through your resorts and others you need to reserve directly through them. Your resort may tell you that it is unsafe to book with anyone other than their tour operators, however, keep in mind that they are getting a portion of your payment. I will try and list as many of the tours below that I can with their direct website address or contact information.
Macao Surfing - This is a great opportunity to try your hand at surfing. They give you instructions and provide you with a teacher that will help you get set out on the board and before you know it you'll be hanging ten. This is a must do if you are adventurous at all. You won't find this at the resorts, you can contact them by email at email@example.com or you can just take a taxi to Macao Beach, they're open every day.
Macao Beach - This beach is a must see. It is one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere with a great surf that gets quieter the further along the beach that you go. If you keep an eye out, you might be able to see whales off in the distance. They have a few primitive restaurants set up along it where you can get freshly cooked fish or lobster that is done on a fogón which is an outdoor wood stove. The capitan (type of fish) is absolutely delicious. Caution should always be used when eating any food in the Dominican - eat only freshly cooked hot food and avoid any fresh produce unless it has been peeled or cooked. Of course these restaurants also have ice cold Presidente! There are also a few people selling souvenirs.
All of the safaris pick you up in one the big jeeps and take you through the countryside stopping at plantations, ranches and include a typical Dominican lunch. There is time to stop for souvenirs and some of them also take you to Macao Beach
Country Adventure Half Day and Full Day Safari - the full day safari visits our ranch for lunch and a 20 minute horseback ride. This tour can be reserved in the resorts. Country Adventure Tour
Outback Adventure Tours https://www.outbackadventuresdr.com/ Half Day and Full Day Safari
Punta Cana Safari http://www.puntacanajustsafari.com/punta-cana-jeep-tour/
Monster Truck Safari http://www.monstertrucksafari.com/ Full Day Safari
For a more personalized tour try Mike's Country Adventure http://www.puntacanamike.com/ These tours are smaller and more personalized than the the mega truck tours.
Swim with Dolphins
Swim with Dolphins at Dolphin Explorer http://www.dolphinexplorer.com.do/
Swim with Dolphins at Manatee Parkhttp://www.manatipark.com/
Deep Sea Fishing
First Class Fishing http://www.firstclassfishing.com/
Gone Fishing https://www.gonefishing-puntacana.com/
Marina Caribe Catamaran Tours http://www.marinacaribe.com
Mike's Marina http://mikesmarina.info/
Kathy Buttigieg is the President of HorsePlay Punta Cana and HorsePlay Niagara. A former competitor and instructor she now devotes herself full time to managing HorsePlay Tours.