We’ve just left the Dominican Republic after renting a condo in Punta Cana for 6 weeks to escape the miserable New England winter weather, and we’re happy to report is was a great success. Here’s what you need to know about vacationing in the DR.
Overall Impressions of the DR:
- As I walked along a sidewalk in St. Kitts today, it struck me that I truly miss the lyrical call of every person passing by offering a cheery, “Hola!” – almost like a song, and always accompanied by a smile. The Dominican people are a pleasure to know – easy going, likely to be singing, quick with a smile, handshake and hug. We enjoyed meeting ‘the locals’ and conversed with them as best we could.
- We felt safe everywhere we ventured whether it was a tourist area or a bit off the standard route. Security guards were visible everywhere.
- The weather was SPECTACULAR – 45 days straight of sunshine and temperatures in the mid 80’s (from January 1st until mid February). While it was 50 in Florida it was tropical and sunny in the DR.
- Driving was close to suicidal – no traffic laws, everyone for themselves, and might is right ruled the day. Speed bumps appeared without warning to slow traffic on local roads and highways alike.
- Grocery shopping was a distinct challenge. We actually celebrated the day we found Cheerios. I would have killed for a bagel, English muffin or Triscuit. In contrast, food at the all-inclusive resorts was plentiful and sometimes even good. Frozen chicken dominated our menus at the condo, and fresh fish was the choice at local restaurants. Presidente, the local beer was excellent.
- Beaches in Punta Cana are spectacular -mile after mile of soft white sand, turquoise water, rolling waves.
- Golf courses are plentiful and affordable if you can play as a resident – more pricey as a hotel guest.
About Our Rental:
We rented a 2 bedroom modern condo in the Bavaro area of Punta Cana at Karibo Suites. Although the condos are located directly across the street from a golf course, the course was closed for redevelopment which was a disappointment. However the complex was a real winner. Units were large, modern, clean, and comfortable. We particularly loved having two balconies – one facing the pool for morning sun, and a large balcony off the livingroom with a view of a bird-filled meadow. It even had a jet tub. The staff was delightful, always willing to help or give us a ride wherever we were heading. It was a 5 minute ride to the beach, and a 10 minute walk to the town. The lobby restaurant and bar was a perfect gathering spot to meet new friends and socialize. We would definitely come back again, especially at the rate of $1,750 per month rental fee.
Other Resorts We Visited:
We had heard that it was easy to obtain day or night passes at local all-inclusive resorts. This turned out to be a fallacy. While they were sometimes available, it was never an easy process. It was easy however to spend the day at one of the beach clubs that are operated by local restaurants. Use their lounge chairs, bathrooms, etc. as long as you’ll be purchasing lunch. We did manage to inspect quite a few resorts as press. Here’s my top picks of the all-inclusive resorts:
Secrets Sanctuary, Cap Cana – Best for Honeymooners or couples who are looking for an intimate luxury resort.
Paradisus Palma Real – Best all around luxury resort for couples and/or families. If I could pick any resort to vacation at, this would be it. It’s elegant and indulgent with fabulous pools and loads of private thatch roof pilapas. Most importantly, it was a fun resort – very upbeat. Food was well executed and delicious. I especially like the fact that most restaurants had water views – not hidden in the back of the property like many hotels. Watch my video tour.
Paradisus Punta Cana – Is also a top resort – not as upscale as Palma Real, but still lovely. Video Tour
Princess Bavaro, Punta Cana, Tropical, Caribe – all decent choices for mid-range properties. Video Tour
The Iberostar Grand Bavaro – Elegant, impressive, gourmet food. When I think of the Iberostar Grand, I think of a very upscale golf club atmosphere. If you enjoy getting dressed to the nines on vacation, this is the resort for you. Other Iberostar Resorts were large, busy and everyone seemed to be having a good time.
Ocean Blue – Fun resort with a tribute to the 50’s feel. Plentiful food, not gourmet.
Grand Palladium – not my favorite, just ok.
We heard favorable reviews about the Excellence Resort but didn’t get a chance to visit.
You might enjoy my article published in the Huffington Post:
A Lover’s Guide To The Dominican Republic
Practical advice for traveling to the DR:
- There are mosquitoes and sand fleas, bring some sun & bug lotion
- Bring a book or two, English language reading material was non-existent
- Beach and street vendors are persistent – be firm about saying no thank you – “Lo Siento” means I’m sorry no.
- Every shop has virtually the same merchandise. Get a price in your mind and stick to it. We wanted to buy a mug that started off at $30, we purchased it for $7.
- Avoid buying cigars on the beach, they are low grade and probably dried out.
Vacationing in the DR is very affordable and the majority of resorts are really very nice. It’s a great choice for a week of sun, warm weather and pleasant people. Feel free to send me any questions you have and I’ll send you my impressions.