After 7 hours of driving through heavy rain from Samana, navigating through 100’s of pot holes, the road slowly turned into a beautiful four lane highway passing through sugar cane plantations as we got closer to Punta Cana. Based on the more developed highway infrastructure, we can feel that we were approaching an area of mass tourism.
After spending the past week navigating through the remote northern part of the Dominican Republic, we were ready for a bit of civilization and luxury. The thrill and fun adventures of busting two tires, digging our car out of a sand pit, and using our broken Spanish to get locals to help jump start a dead battery, started to wear us down and we were ready for a break.
After about 45mins on this highway, we arrived into Bavaro and were greeted with swaying coco palms, aqua-blue water, and beautiful white sand beach that rivals many of the top beaches in the Caribbean.
Why go to Punta Cana?
Bavaro/Punta Cana area is a top Caribbean beach paradise, but more affordable than most other Caribbean destinations. Ask anyone who’s been to Punta Cana, and they will tell you that the beaches are among the most picturesque that they’ve ever seen. Here, tall coconut palms dot much of the seashore, and the soft, white sand is inviting. What is there to do? Well, lots and lots of beautiful beaches; 35km of continuous pristine white sand.
Check out the video on Punta Cana
Overview of the Area (Punta Cana and Bavaro)
At first impression, Punta Cana/Bavaro is very similar to Playa Del Carmen in the Maya Riviera area of Mexico. It is basically a midsized tourist town that is surrounded by beautiful white sand beach and many mega all-inclusive resorts that are more like cities themselves than a resorts.
The main tourist area comprise of the Bavaro (accessible to the public) to the north side of the airport and Punta Cana (gated and tourists who are not staying at one of the Punta Cana’s resort can only access with a day pass) to the south side. Whether they know it or not, most tourist that said they been to Punta Cana really spends their time in Bavaro, which is the main tourist hub.
Because of the gated area, Punta Cana is more exclusive/private (often higher end) than Bavaro; however, it is far way from any town or night life. Punta Cana area is pretty much a beautiful master planned community of high-end resort and golf courses. Many tourists love this beautiful exclusive feel; however, complain that it lacks culture.
Bavaro has some of the most beautiful beaches in the area, closer to town, but lacks the privacy and exclusive feel of Punta Cana. The leaning palm trees, the soft white sand, and the gentle waves make this area the picture perfect beach. All water sports activities such as parasailing, windsurfing, and jet ski are readily available.
In our opinion, we prefer the more beautiful beaches of Bavaro and the ability to easily escape from the resort to try out local food and night life in town. Perhaps a better way to put it is that Punta Cana is more for couples/adults only and Bavaro is more for the family. But honestly, there are so much white sand and aqua-blue water here that you will likely have your own choice of your favorite beaches.
Things to do
Punta Cana and Bavaro has something to offer for everyone of all ages.
Relax – The typical day is usually filled with activities at the resort such as yoga, parasailing, windsurfing, kayaking, sailing lessons, or swimming.
Party – Punta Cana/Bavaro has some night life, but it is much more toned down than that of Cancun or Cabo. Party boats during the day or at sunset are available and can be booked through your hotel concierge or at any restaurant.
Golf – There are so many golf courses around, especially in the gated Punta Cana resort area, where the courses are right on the edge of the ocean.
Beaches – Many tourists just stick to the beach in front of their resort. However, if you have a rental car (highly recommended), then you should venture out to the numerous beaches along the 35km of continuous white sand. Driving during the day is fine, but at night is not recommended (many cars/motorcycle with no lights are on the road). Also, you should know that gas in DR is very expensive.
Excursions – Highly recommended is the Saona Island exursion. It is a must visit and is 1 hour from Punta Cana. Typical cost is about $60-70USD and $25 for transportation per person from Punta Cana. If you drive there, then ignore the $25 transportation cost.
Eat – Escape from the resort by cab or car to sample some local food. Most of the local restaurants and night life are located in the El Cortecito waterfront area, intersection of Avenida Francia/Avenida Espana (Plaza Punta Cana/Plaza Bavaro), and the intersection of Avenida Estados Unidos/Avenida Espana (around the Texaco gas station). Our favorite which we ate four times during our visit is Delicias de Bavaro (at intersection of Avenida Francia/Avenida Espana), a place filled with locals.
If you are looking for that picture perfect white sand beach, yet affordable Caribbean vacation, look no further as Punta Cana/Bavaro as the beaches rival some of the best in the Caribbean at half the cost.