Where is Punta Cana, Dominican Republic?
Punta Cana is a city in the Easternmost part of the country of the Dominican Republic, which is located in the Caribbean. It shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. One of the most striking things I noticed when visiting Punta Cana was the ethnic diversity of the Dominican people. Approximately 74% of Dominicans are of mixed heritage, descending from the native Taino people, African slaves, and white Spanish colonizers.
I opted to stay at an all-inclusive resort, as I had to work online during the time I was there. While, admittedly, this didn't lend itself to the most cultural experience, it was also the safest option for a solo female traveler in this part of the world. I stayed at Be Live Collection, and it was really nice. The staff gave me an area in the most private part of the resort so it wouldn't be too noisy without charging me for an upgrade, so I really appreciated that. There was a decent buffet and a good selection of higher-end restaurants, although they all require a reservation several days in advance to eat at them. The food wasn't mindblowing, but it was perfectly acceptable.
On my second day in Punta Cana, I went to Coco Bongo, a famous nightclub/show where the individuals act out numbers from different movies and musicals. It was really entertaining, but a lot different than I expected. I had expected to sit and eat and for it to be more of a dinner show, but it was actually standing-room only unless you paid a significant extra amount, and there was no food available from what I could tell, although the website had said there would be. If you go, be prepared for more of a club experience. It is a load of fun if you're looking for nightlife in Punta Cana, and is definitely something everyone should do once.
My third day in Punta Cana was my favorite by far. I went to Scape Park, an outdoor nature and adventure park with caves that have stunning blue water. At this park, I did the highest and scariest zip line of my life, swam in a stunningly blue, 40-foot-deep cave lake, went spelunking, saw cave spiders, bats, and other animals, and went on a culture walk where I learned a lot about the history of the native people. I highly recommend spending a full day here. It was amazing to see these natural wonders and to learn all about the history of colonization and slavery in the Dominican Republic. It was the most fun experience that I had during my entire time in the country.
I had to work during my fourth through seventh days in the Dominican Republic, but I was able to do a variety of interesting things in the mornings and evenings. One of the highlights was a chocolate massage, one of the strangest things I've ever done. They covered my
body in melted chocolate and wrapped me in foil like a Hershey bar, then I washed off and they gave me a massage with chocolate-scented oil. It was very strange. Another fun thing that I did was Dinner in the Sky, where I had a delicious dinner at a table that was hoisted up by a crane several stories in the air. It was definitely a thrill, and the dinner was amazing. Finally, I took a Scubadoo tour, where a small group of us went out to the reef where the water was more clear and less sandy, and dove down using this device called a Scubadoo, which is essentially a water bicycle with an astronaut helmet full of air. I was really excited about this experience, but unfortunately, it made me a bit seasick so I probably wouldn't do it again. The same day, though, I got a little visitor! The little Hispaniolan Common Tree Frog you see here made itself comfortable in a pair of shorts I was drying on my balcony, and ended up giving me quite the adventure trying to catch it after it hopped under my bed and hid in the cracks of the bedframe.
On my last full day in Punta Cana, I went on a Dominican Culture Tour, which gave me the much-needed cultural experience I felt that I was missing. On this tour, our guide took us to see the famous Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, ride horses on a rancho, tour a local market (complete with bloody freshly butchered animals), visit a local homestead, and try locally
produced chocolate and fruit, eat a Dominican lunch, tour a cigar factory, and visit one of the most beautiful beaches in Punta Cana, Bavaro Beach. It was great to get to see Dominican Culture in a safe and controlled setting ( as multiple people warned me not to go off exploring on my own). Everything went by quite a bit faster than I would have preferred, but that is the nature of trying to cram every part of a culture into a day trip.
Overall, it was lovely to experience a new culture and see what the Dominican Republic has to offer. I would suggest not doing this trip solo, especially as a woman, but there are some things you can do alone such as tours, staying at the resort, and enjoying the beach which are fun and safe. If you go to Punta Cana, I highly highly recommend making sure you spend a full day at Scape Park, because it was just incredible. Overall, a really fun experience.