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Old 08-20-2019, 11:32 AM
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This thread is focus on the Punta Cana vacation area. With time I will add information and photos (mostly from Google Street View) about the area and of major buildings, what is there to see and do in the vicinity, etc. Considering this area is one of the major vacation places in Latin America, currently attracts about 70% of tourists to the DR, and impacts many people on both sides of the Atlantic; it deserves a thread of its own.

Introduction to Punta Cana

Punta Cana in the eastern extremity of the Dominican Republic is the most visited area in the insular Caribbean and one of the most visited places in Latin America. The main attraction is the beach. Not only does it have one of the world's longest natural white sand beaches, its airport is among the 5 top airports in Latin America and has the most connections to Europe of any airport in Latin America, beating airports of most major cities in the region.

From the times of the Taino indians until the 1960's the area was devoid of population and development of any kind. The ground in this area is made of coral rock, not a good soil for farming. The climate is drier than in most of the island, but not desert which is also present in other parts of the island. This can be seen by the natural vegetation of the area which consist of low lying trees and there were clumps scattered here and there of the Cana palm tree (Sabal dominguesis), which is native to the island and grows naturally and profusely in areas of transition from a very wet to a very dry climates. Very close but inland the profusely appearance of Royal palm trees studs the countryside and the trees get larger, a sign that the climate there is much wetter and the soil is much better. If a person go to an area such as Santiago, which is in a transition zone, they will notice that east of city the trees are bigger, the number of Cana trees go down in preference for the Royal palms and the air feels more humid or wet. West of the city the trees very rapidly become small, Royal palms become more scarce and Cana palms become more abundant, and the air feels less humid. Cactuses growing wildly begins to appear very close to Santiago and can be spotted along the highway, which is another sign that the area doesn't get as much rain. This is a difference that can take a few short minutes to travel by car, very short and quick. Dominicans are not surprised by this, but generally distances between different climates tends to be greater, not so on Hispaniola. A person can wake up in a coastal area enjoying the tropical weather and surrounded by palm trees and just two hours later the same person can find themselves in a mountain region forced to wear a jacket or a coat due to the much cooler weather and surrounded by Pine trees with no palms of any kind in sight. Then the same person can descend from the mountains to a valley that is very dry, not as humid, and surrounded by cactus and low lying trees all in one day and very close to each other.

Coming back to Punta Cana, the area began its development in the 1960's but there was nothing there except a nice beach and trees. Along the coast some Coconut palm groves were formed as coconuts from Hispaniola and Puerto Rico would float on the ocean and become imbedded on the coast, with time creating mature Coconut groves on the powdery white sand beach, perfect for tourism. In 1984 the Punta Cana International Airport open its doors and didn't look like the monstrosity it's today. It became the first private airport open to the public in the world and was built for attracting customers to the Punta Cana Resort nearby (it was closed a few years ago) mostly from Puerto Rico. It has to be said that Puerto Ricans were big supporters of Punta Cana at a time when it was not even believed by the Dominican government. There was a saying in the DR that said "¿Los turistas dónde están? En la mente de Miolan" (Where are the tourists? In Miolan's head. - it rimes in Spanish and Miolan was a major promoter of tourism in the DR after visiting Spain and seeing what tourism had done there in a few short years).

In the 1980's the Barceló hotel group in Spain believed in the DR and they decided to built a resort on Bávaro beach, the first of its kind on that place. Club Med also believed in this project and built a resort on Punta Cana grounds. Both places are still in operation, though the Barceló property was expanded and renovated a few years ago. In the 1990's, as the area continue to attract attention from major hotel chains mostly in Spain, the area became popular with Europeans (at that time mostly from Spain, France, Germany, and Italy) and Canadians. Since Punta Cana was quite away from Dominican society, the habit of young European women sunbathing topless didn't became a problem, a practice the Dominican women frown upon and complain about in resort areas. In the 2010's the area became very popular with American tourists, first from the east coast and then from other parts of the USA. It also became popular in Rusia and many places in Eastern Europe, as well as many places in Latin America (Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil). The area had trouble attracting Mexicans, but they tend to go to Santo Domingo while beach vacation they do it more in there own country.

The area is huge and now broken into five major zones (from south to north):
  • Cap Cana
  • Punta Cana (the airport is located along the most northern part of the 'real' Punta Cana)
  • Cabeza de Toro
  • Bávaro (currently this is the area where most of the resorts are located)
  • Macao (area that remains mostly virgin, but will have a huge transformation during the next decades; the courts now allows this area for highrise buildings away from the beach)
  • Uvero Alto

The beach becomes a little different as a persons moves northward, from the much more calm studded with mature Coconut palms in Bávaro to the rougher beach with more waves in Uvero Alto. The Punta Cana and Cap Cana areas have the best looking beaches in the area with powdery white sand and a tranquil sea, but its also the most exclusive areas. The beaches look better than most of the places the tourists come from, but beaches from the Bávaro and Punta Cana areas is often used for advertising the region.

Since the area has been developed mainly in the last 20 years or so, the people are mostly from somewhere else in the DR and abroad. Countries that immigrants tend to be from are Haiti, Colombia, and Venezuela. While the gated communities here has the same characteristics of most other places, namely that Dominicans tend to be the major purchasers of real estate, this area and a handful of areas in La Romana, Puerto Plata, and Las Terrenas has gated projects where most of the purchasers are foreign people. The most recurrent nationalities in this respect are Americans, Canadians, Spanish, French, Germany, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, and lately Russians. Tourist come from all over in Europe and the Americas.

One thing that will be noted by anyone putting attention is that Dominicans are less likely to walk even moderate distances, a cultural habit that has existed for centuries. Also, people driving private cars and SUVs tend to be many shades lighter than people walking on the sidewalks. There are several reasons for this. Dominicans on average are much lighter than Haitians and less likely to walk moderate or long distances than the former. Haitian immigrants are the majority in sectors such as construction (especially booming in the area), motoconcho (motorcycle taxis), and wachimans (private security and/or gate opener/closer). A small number of tourists rent cars and most are white. Some other foreigners also live in the area in most are either white or light skinned mestizos.
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Old 08-20-2019, 11:42 AM
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The Punta Cana Area from South to North

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Old 08-20-2019, 11:51 AM
Location: Pereira, Colombia
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I never made it to that part of the DR, but when I was living in Puerto Rico it seemed like a fairly popular spot with Boricuas.
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Old 08-21-2019, 09:51 AM
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Aeropuerto Internacional de Punta Cana

The main gateway for tourism in the Dominican Republic and the second busiest airport in the Caribbean archipelago (number one is Luís Muñoz Marín in San Juan, Puerto Rico), surpassing several airports in major Latin American cities (among the top 5 in the region). The DR now has the busiest airspace in the Caribbean, but its decentralized as several airports through out the country play a role in this. The airport was open for business in 1984, considerably smaller and becoming the first private airport open to the public in the world. The airport consist of two terminals directed to most travelers and several smaller terminals directed to national flights, private jets, etc. The DR has three international airports where tourists dominate (Punta Cana, La Romana, and Samaná), two international airports where Dominicans are half (Puerto Plata) and 60% (Santo Domingo) respectively, and two international airports that are dominated by Dominicans (over 90% in Santiago and La Isabela). The design honors the Taino indians, the original inhabitants of Hispaniola and the Greater Antilles, and a cultural expression of the Dominican people. This airport is constantly being expanded and some area is under renovations. In addition, this airport has become one of the primary cargo by air from the DR to major cities in Europe. Some countries, such as Peru and Ecuador, uses this airport for much of their exports to European cities that they don't have direct flights (this one has the most connections to Europe of any airport in Latin America). This is also one of the world's most greenest and environmentally friendly airport.

A sign pointing to one of the entrances of the airport.

Terminal A, where departing and arriving areas are in one floor.

The columns in the check-in area has the original theme.

All airports in the DR have offerings in terms of food, bars, shops, etc. Even the international chains have Dominican owners who are granted the DR (some brands also offer them other islands in addition to the DR) as there exclusive market.

Terminal B is the newer and modern of the two. It has accents honoring the original inhabitants.

In a year or two it also became the first airport in the world to have a pool overlooking the tarmac.

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Old 08-21-2019, 10:30 AM
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Just make sure not to drink from the hotel mini bar
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Old 08-21-2019, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Sophiasmommy View Post
Just make sure not to drink from the hotel mini bar
Certainly. I think there are more tourists in one photo at the airport than the total number of tourists that died from the hotel mini bar or in general.
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Old 08-22-2019, 08:07 AM
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This is my least favorite part of the DR, flat and dull...like Florida.
Tourists can have it, leave me Barahona and Samana.

Never understood why anyone would visit the Garden of Eden that is the D.R.; yet never leave a resort.
There are family owned hotels near Punta Cana, without mini bars; use the savings to rent a car and go see Los Haitses.
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Old 08-22-2019, 08:47 AM
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Few areas of the DR are designed for foreigners and most of that is concentrated on a few areas on the coasts. Tourists areas probably amounts to 1% or 2% of the land area. With Punta Cana, which is the area where 70% of tourists go, the total population doesn't reaches 1% of the DR's total population. When the total population of other tourists areas is added the population probably reaches 5% or 6% of the total, taking into account that most people that live in the Puerto Plata areas don't have anything to do with the tourist industry or businesses that cater to that group or that type of businesses (more so in Puerto Plata town itself than in Cabarete, which exists due to Windsurfing and survives on international and national tourists).

Outside of those areas the DR is basically designed for Dominicans and Dominican-Americans, Dominican-Spaniards, etc. Foreign people may or may not like it (depends on each person), but generally that isn't the focus of attention. It is a different culture from most of the tourists with different tastes, different reactions, etc. Dominicans are also aware of certain things that other people may nit know. For example, an international Spanish chain that has resorts in Punta Cana many years ago built a beach resort near Barahona and eventually it flopped. Holiday hotels that cater to Dominicans that do internal tourism there are open, but those focus on international tourists are either closed or refocuses their attention to the Dominican market.

Generally the tourist market in the southern region is mostly geared to Dominicans because international tourists tend to like areas like Punta Cana than areas like Barahona. In the southern region the beaches that can attract international tourists happen to belong to protected national parks and that prevents them from being developed. When many of those parks were created people weren't thinking of developing that region for tourism, but it is what it is. The nicest looking beach in the whole region is probably in Bahía de las Águilas (Eagles Bay) which has a much more arid climate than Punta Cana, with basically no coconut palms growing along the beach and behind it studded with cactus and other plants that can live on low rainfall. The entire beach is a dream and basically perfect, but it's entirely inside the Parque Nacional de Jaragua, preventing its development. The DR actually devotes about 25% of the territory to national parks and scientific reserves, one of the highest of any country in the Western Hemisphere. Most people also know why that is the case (related to a reality that affects the island of Hispaniola and it has not much to do with the DR).
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Old 08-22-2019, 10:08 AM
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Six Senses Spa

The exclusive Six Senses Spa at the La Cana Golf Club is only one of fourteen in the world. The rest are found in Marbella (Spain), Mykonos (Greece), Gstaad (Switzerland), Dubai, Kuwait, Paris, etc. The building in Punta Cana is made of coral stone, which is native to the Dominican Republic, with a beautiful tile roof in the Danish style. Amenities are top notch and it is pricey. In either case, this is the closest to the United States and Canada, and the only one in the Western Hemisphere. Famous people from throughout the Americas, Europe, and other parts have been here.

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Old 08-22-2019, 02:16 PM
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Tortuga Bay Hotel

This boutique hotel is Dominican owned and operated. The only 5 diamonds hotel in the Caribbean (hotels are graded from one star to five stars, then the best of the best in the world are granted in diamonds). Its very exclusive and private, not an all inclusive. It consist of a few villas by the seaside and great attention to detail and service. Many famous people have stayed here including Bill and Hillary Clinton who vacation here every year, King Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, and many other notables from both sides of the Atlantic. The likelihood that staying here a person will rub shoulders with someone famous is very real. This hotel has won several prizes in the Caribbean and when it open was the first luxury boutique hotel in the Dominican Republic. Today there are several luxury boutique hotels scattered in different areas of the country.

Believe it or not, this cozy place is the main lobby and the check-in area.

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