PUNTA CANA (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC) OVERVIEW
Unlike most of the self-contained island nations in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is in the unusual position of sharing the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. The country has become one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean, with millions of yearly visitors from around the world. The coast of the D.R. was the first thing Christopher Columbus saw on his first voyage to the New World, and he immediately pronounced it the most beautiful island in the world. This natural beauty has continued to amaze visitors ever since.
Languages:The official language is Spanish, and if you plan to leave your resort, it is best to have some knowledge of the language.
Airport:The airports most commonly used by tourists are Punta Cana International Airport and Las Américas International Airport.
Time Zone:Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4 hours). The Dominican Republic does not use Daylight Saving Time.
Currency: Dominican Peso or RD$. US dollars are also widely accepted.
Entry Requirements: Upon arrival in the D.R., visitors are required to purchase a tourist card for RD$333, which sounds steep but is actually less than 10 dollars. The card and receipt are required to leave the country, or else you’ll have to pay again. The card is good for 90 days from purchase.
WHERE TO STAY
The capital and main city of the D.R., and the place to be if you’re interested in history and culture, is Santo Domingo. There is no beach, though, so if you’d rather head for surf and sand, it’s better to look elsewhere. The most popular areas of the country are almost certainly Punta Cana and Bávaro. The beaches and resorts are beautiful, but the chances of interacting with anyone outside the tourism industry are slim to none. Another popular destination is Puerto Plata, which has a more urban feel than Punta Cana. Nearby Playa Dorada is one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and is surrounded by all-inclusive resorts. If you want to see the Caribbean the way it used to be, you can head to the Samaná Peninsula, but it’s very remote and far less built-up than other parts of the country.
Food in the Dominican Republic is based off of similar influences to the rest of the Caribbean – Spanish, Taíno (the pre-Columbian indigenous people), and African influences working in harmony to create something outstanding. Dominican cuisine incorporates all the major food groups, with a special emphasis on starches like plantains and rice. In general, dishes are lightly spiced.
Weather in the Dominican Republic is much like that of the rest of the Caribbean – the winter is warm and mostly dry, while during the rainy season the skies can open at any moment, producing a downpour that is over quickly. Hurricane season, though, is worse in the Dominican Republic than it is on many other islands. While there is plenty of advance warning about these storms, the island is particularly susceptible to them. There is no need to avoid hurricane season (June 1 – November 30) completely, but if a storm is heading for the country, it may be best to rebook, or call ahead to see what backup plans the resort has created.
INSIDER TIPS FROM OUR TRAVEL EXPERTS
The D.R. is an amazing destination, but there are several precautions that all travelers should take. The first (and maybe simplest) is to avoid the country’s border with Haiti. It is perhaps the most dangerous and violence-ridden part of the entire island. Visitors are also warned against getting into unmarked taxis – this is generally how tourists are abducted, assaulted, or robbed. The best advice visitors can follow is to use common sense and regular travel precautions. Other than these few small issues, the D.R. is a beautiful and inexpensive destination, the perfect way to see the best of the Caribbean.