Punta Cana Dominican Republic
Travel restrictions are making most international travel impossible, but the good news is that Punta Cana is still open to US travelers with a negative COVID test!
Last February, just a month before the COVID shutdown we were desperately wanting a break! Our schedules with sports, school, church, work etc. was overwhelming and the cold weather (40’s and 50’s) was getting us down. We didn’t have a lot of time to spare, but wanted to get away. The kids weren’t able to miss school so just Brett and I went with our friends. Some of Brett’s coworkers recommended Punta Cana (airline workers travel everywhere, so when they recommend somewhere you know it’s going to be good!) They said it was the “New Cancun” with its All-inclusive resorts and beautiful beaches, but less populated and cheaper prices.
Punta Cana is a resort city in the Dominican Republic. It has beautiful Caribbean water (like seriously the prettiest I have ever seen!) fun Latin culture, and perfect weather!
Flying to PUJ, the airport and driving through the city:
It only took us 2+ hours to get from DAL to FLL (Ft. Lauderdale) and then just another 2+ hour flight FLL to PUJ airport (Punta Cana) I think total it was like 4 ½ hours of flying so definitely doable for a short trip or with kids!
When we arrived at the PUJ airport, we were surprised that the airport was mostly outside. We walked off the airplane onto the runway and then into the open building (no windows) to pick up our luggage. It was an easy airport to navigate, and the live music added to the experience.
We were able to find a taxi service that charged $40 total for the 4 of us to get to the resort. We also scheduled a taxi to bring us back. The drivers in the DR are terrifying and crazy and I would NOT recommend renting a car.
Driving through the city I was surprised that it was more run down than many other islands we have been to. I found myself so relieved that we had booked an all-inclusive resort so we wouldn’t have to venture out into the city all that often.
Tropical Princess Resort and Spa:
We stayed at the Tropical Princess and I would definitely stay at this Resort again. We picked it because it was one of the cheapest all-inclusive beachside resorts we could find. It was $129 a night for an all inclusive package for 2 people. The employees speak English and Spanish so we could easily communicate with them. They had multiple stores located on the resort property to find everything from sunscreen to high end purses and clothes. The resort is located right on one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. There were plenty of chairs and umbrellas for relaxing or playing in the water.
There were at least 2 pools with swim up bars. There were multiple restaurants Brazlillian, Chinese, Italian etc. to choose from. Many required a reservation, but the buffet was always open. I loved most of the foods, but hated the way they cooked eggs. Haha
The amenities were impressive. Our friends loved their massages at the Spa. The resort has a game room with ping pong, air hockey etc. as well as many outdoor games. Throughout the resort we were able to enjoy seeing fun animals. Our favorites were the turtles, peacocks, and flamingos. They had boxes with food inside so you could feed the animals when you saw them. It was cool, and I kept thinking about how much my kids would have enjoyed this resort.
The entertainment was spectacular! Just the shows were enough to get our money’s worth from the resort. They had comedians, concerts, fireworks etc. My personal favorite was a Micheal Jackson concert!
Complaints: There was only a few downsides to this resort. The WIFI only worked in the lobby area unless you paid for more access. We had to go to the lobby each night to facetime our kids. It was kind of loud so that was a little difficult, but not impossible. My only other complaint was the beds. They were stiff and caved in the middle. Clearly old mattresses and outdated comforters. All in all though, it definitely wasn’t a deal breaker for the money!
Punta Cana in February:
High travel season for the caribbean is from Jan-April because of the cold weather up north. This is the most expensive time to go. It was perfectly sunny all week with weather in the 80’s. The water is colder this time of year. (in the 70’s) . You can still play in it, but be prepared that it doesn’t feel like warm bath water you picture when thinking of caribbean water. Did I already mention how crazy beautiful the water is? Yes? Just wanted to drive that home. Although I didn’t play in the water much, I found it hard to close my eyes when laying out in the sun because it was so beautiful. Overall I would definitely pick to go this time of year again. It was such a relief to feel heat and sun in the middle of the winter!
Excursion to Saona Island:
We booked an excursion for Saona island We got them to take the payment down from $129 to $89 a person. I wasn’t sure this excursion would be worth it since we were already located on a beautiful beach, but it definitely was! The catamaran ride was a blast! The employees showed us true Dominican dancing and encouraged us to dance along! Brett learned a few good moves!
Saona Island is on Pirates of the caribbean. It’s the Island that captain Jack Sparrow gets stuck on. I was in shock of how pretty this Island is! It felt exotic and empty! There was only a few extra people there that weren’t from our catamaran. The water was gorgeous and clear! We took a short walk through the jungle (also fun) to reach the beach and lunch site. This was the prettiest water we saw the whole trip! I was so glad we got to see this. The starfish hunting on the way back was a disappointment. They really just dropped us off in the middle of the ocean where there was a sandbar. We waded in the cold water until they said we could get back in the boat. We didn’t see any starfish or other cool creatures, but it was crystal clear.
The people are fun and I enjoyed experiencing their culture, but I was surprised that they are not as friendly as other islanders and can be quite pushy. They try to trap you into using their help, and then expect a tip. They won’t leave until you give them one. Overall their island is poor, and they aren’t paid much so we didn’t feel bad tipping them, but be prepared if they just pick up your luggage without asking.
Going home: Our trip was more than I hoped it would be! It was amazingly relaxing, and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery. If you are looking for a relaxing affordable beach destination with great food, and fun culture then Punta Cana is the place for you!