The Dominican Republic
A Colorful, Cultural Caribbean Destination
by Olivia Balsinger
With multiple direct flights per day from both the United States and Canada, the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic allows seamless access to your dream paradise getaway; a mere number of hours transports you to a world of color, of hospitality and of superior hotels, among natural wonder and enriched by fascinating culture. As soon as I touched down in Punta Cana, I was greeted with a pina colada and a smile, and, consequently, the certainty that I would be enjoying this journey as strongly as the sun beamed down on my shoulders. The new slogan of the Dominican Republic is that the destination “has it all” – and as a recent visitor, I can attest these words ring true.
Punta Cana’s reputation for five-star luxury is well deserved; nonetheless, the destination is certainly more than just highways and resort developments, having truly blossomed into a dining, dancing, and glitzy hub of excitement. One gem of the city’s nightlife is the the Coco Bongo Punta Cana show — an experience not to be missed. More than a disco, this two story dynamic club boasts mind-boggling shows every twenty minutes. Acts include a Beatles cover band, snippets from the Broadway show “Chicago” and even a dazzling Spiderman show. And I would be remiss to neglect mentioning Punta Cana’s miles of pristine white sandy beaches and Caribbean Sea—a relaxing retreat.
Where to Stay: All-inclusive, affordable luxury is located right beside one of the world’s ten most stunning beaches in Bavaro Beach. Barceló Bavaro Palace is five-star accommodation that guarantees the highest degree of rest and relaxation during an island getaway. Paradise surrounds you, in all its natural majesty — from the constant, energizing sunshine, to the cool, crystal clear waters, and the uplifting breeze that sweeps through the lofty leaves of the palm trees. Here I would begin a day of sheer paradise by waking up in one of the hotel’s spacious, comfortable rooms; 80% of which face the oceans for breathtaking views of the beach landscape.
With such a close proximity to the breathtaking Bavaro Beach, the hotel gave me easy access to the best that the island has to offer. The beach is protected by a coral reef, which ensures a perfect, calm current to explore the beautiful water. And after a day of these adrenaline-fueled experiences, unwind I would appreciate unwinding in a comfortable space in the resort’s spa, and refuel in the evening at the casino, clubs and performances.
The Westin Punta Cana lines three miles of the Playa Blanca shoreline, with white sand beaches separating the resort paradise from the surrounding turquoise water. Offering everything fun under the Caribbean sun—including two championship golf courses, and a world class spa—this 26-square-mile slice of paradise is the perfect place to check all the ticks on your island-vacation getaway bucket list.
The colonial city of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, is just 2.5 hours from Punta Cana, and home to some of the best preserved structures of the area’s heritage. One of the largest cities in the Caribbean, Santo Domingo is home to over 4 million people and though as early as five years ago it may have been dangerous to even walk the streets of the city during the day, it has undergone a renaissance of sorts and continues to become safer and more welcoming to tourists. Despite this change being especially prominent in the Colonial City, the authenticity of the heritage and culture have remained remarkably steadfast.
New stores and bike tour companies now neighbor an enormous, landmark castle, once owned by the son of Christopher Columbus. It also is home to innovative cultural spaces, such as museum and galleries, with unique additions such as micro theatres and bookstores. There are two main colonial monuments that have been built in the early sixteenth century that have fully restored as museums. I love that the city is alive with vibrant colors, music and a vast array of delicious, international dining options.
Where to Stay: En route to Santo Domingo, the self-proclaimed “most exclusive resort in the Caribbean” is the stunning 7,000-acre Casa de Campo Resort and Villas. Guests can spend their days on the ultra-secluded secluded shores of the nearby Catalina and Saona Islands. Casa de Campo is also home to Teeth of the Dog—the #1 ranked golf course in the Caribbean. There is also superb tennis courts and polo facilities, as well as an expansive list of daily activities, such as water sports and outdoor excursions.
Additionally, Royal Hideaway Hotel is a luxury accommodation conveniently located in the capital of the Dominican Republic. It offers five-star comfort for guests looking to explore the historical and cultural trove that is the stimulating, colorful, and multi-cultural city of Santo Domingo. All of the El Embajdor’s 298 rooms come complete with spectacular views of either the sparkling blue Caribbean Sea, the captivating cityscape of the lively Santo Domingo, or the tranquil scene of the resort’s exotic gardens.
Samana is situated on the northeast cost of Dominican Republic, about a two hour’s drive north from Santo Domingo and four hours from Punta Cana. Samana lies on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, in the northeastern part of the Dominican Republic. It is formed almost entirely by mountains, whose looming adjacency to the province’s endless beaches, coves, bays, and waterfalls, makes for a picture-perfect backdrop for your island getaway. It is a trove of natural treasures that does not only offer awe-inspiring views, but also the perfect location to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.
En route to Samana, you would be remiss to miss Cueva Fun Fun, an eight-hour or so excursion that shows you the highlights of popular activities in the area. The company offers complementary pick-up and drop-off between your hotel, and provides a comprehensive itinerary of horseback riding, hiking, repelling, and, finally, exploring the deep trenches of the largest cave in the Caribbean comprised of over 28 kilometers of tunnels and underground passages.
Samana is an entirely different world from Punta Cana. Waterfalls and fjords replace flashy five-star nightlife. One of the highlights of the region is Los Haitises National Park, a paradise made of limestone karst plateau with conical hills, sinkholes and caverns, all navigable by boat. My adventure cap on—Indiana Jones style—I discovered petroglyphs—fascinating and spooky at the same time, dating back hundreds of years to the time of the Taino people.
Where to Stay: The Luxury Bahia Principe Samana, tucked into an unspoiled cliff along the coast, features an adults-only, all-inclusive experience, whose program is guided towards your wellness and self-care. The spa in the luxury Bahia Principe’s Samana is a high-tech haven set against the cliff-side view. It is complete with a Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, tropical storm shower, and dynamic pool. For those truly looking to unwind, take advantage of the resort’s WE Wellness Experience — an exclusive program of intensive care. There is a choice of the different types of therapies offered: WE-Care for a relaxing experience, WE-Train for sport’s therapy, and WE-Balance, a harmonic senses therapy.
A short ferry ride away is the fantasy getaway that awaits you at the Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado, situated on the idyllic island of Cayo Levantado. This all-inclusive escape offers an ideal environment to unwind and collect unforgettable memories of otherworldly beauty. The secluded beach setting of Cayo Levantado is an awe-inspiring vision of transcendental beauty, and includes the world-renowned, pristine bay of Playa Rincon. It is a setting that awards countless opportunities to become intimate with the gorgeous nature that surrounds you. Whether your trying it for the first time or just shaking off the rust, the resort’s water sport program has options that I very much enjoyed.
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