Punta Cana and Bávaro
- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
The extreme eastern coast is best known for its all-inclusive resorts. It used to be that Punta Cana and Bávaro were two distinctively different areas (towns even!) with Punta Cana to the south and Bávaro farther north, separated by a long, winding road with little in between. Now, due to the tourism marketing, after trying on many different titles (like the Coconut Coast) the entire area is most commonly referred to as “Punta Cana.”
The all-inclusive resorts of the Punta Cana and Bávaro areas have spent much time and money to portray their venues as the only choices along the coast. This is not the case. While there is indeed an overwhelming number of luxurious and affordable all-inclusive choices, there are also a few independent and less tourist-packed options (mostly farther north).
The Bávaro and Punta Cana resorts are especially popular with spring breakers, who raise the volume around the pools and party all night long at the big resort complexes, which offer many nighttime entertainment options. On the other hand, the all-inclusives are especially targeted toward families looking to satisfy their myriad needs for less cost than other Caribbean vacations.
These resorts are like mini cities. Child care and kid-friendly activities give parents worry-free vacations and perhaps even some alone time for unwinding from a life otherwise consumed with car pools, PTA meetings, and laundry.
Some resorts cater to those who want child-free surroundings. This is especially popular with couples seeking the one-stop wedding and honeymoon vacation, where the ceremony, accommodations, food, flowers, cake, and honeymoon are bundled in one convenient package simple to arrange. Just bring your dress (or white bikini), tuxedo (or Speedo), willing-to-travel wedding party, and say “I do.”
The independent traveler might be happier in another part of the country. Since the big resorts have taken up so much of the area, driving through can be somewhat surreal. These walled cities seem to swallow up their “citizens,” many of whom will gladly disappear into their confines, emerging only to make their way to the airport at the end of their vacation.
Still, while the all-inclusives stretch for many kilometers along the coast, it is a long coastline that still has plenty to offer beyond the walls of the resorts if one desires a good search. Farther north, along the coastlines of the El Seibo and Hato Mayor provinces, await virgin beaches (think El Macao and Uvero Alto), wetlands, Taíno cave drawings, and the sky-combing coconut groves.
A vast majority of travelers to this coast are visiting the all-inclusive resorts and arrive via the Punta Cana airport. Most resorts have shuttle services that take guests directly from the airport to their compounds, making it a very worry-free arrival.
Combined, the Punta Cana and Bávaro areas are the gem of the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic, mainly known for their fantastic beaches. While Punta Cana does have some resorts and is the name that is tossed about as the major resort area, in reality, there are many more choices for all-inclusives and other accommodations nearer to Bávaro.
Europeans have been traveling to the Punta Cana area for decades, and most resorts try to make them comfortable by offering European comforts in the tropics (such as food choices in the buffets), but with the American influx, resorts have folded American tastes and needs to their accommodations.
For any services, there are plazas near Bávaro, but the only real town in the area is a small beach town called El Cortecito; it’s a great place for a break from the all-inclusive resort.
Getting to Punta Cana and Bávaro
By Air: The entire southeastern region is best served by the Aeropuerto Internacional Punta Cana. Catching a taxi to your hotel is no problem and can be quite inexpensive (US$30–60). This range reflects the Punta Cana area prices and up to Uvero Alto. Make sure to agree on the price before getting in the cab or letting them help you with baggage. Most people staying in all-inclusive resorts arrange for a ride on one of their resort’s free shuttles. Inquire about it when booking your vacation.
Although the country is easy to drive around and few fly between destinations within the Dominican Republic, air travel is a growing trend. Takeoff Destination Service S.A. (Plaza Brisas de Bávaro 8, Bávaro, tel. 809/552-1333, fax 809/552-1113, www.takeoffweb.com) has flights between Punta Cana and Santo Domingo (US$89), Puerto Plata (US$119), and Samaná (US$99). It can also arrange excursions, charter flights, shuttle transfers, and hotel pickups; it has a flight school.
By Bus: Guaguas are an option for independent travelers who arrive during the day. Just stand on the side of the road for the direction you want to travel and flag one down. Let them know where you are going before getting aboard; they won’t let you on if they’re not going in your direction. A ride on one of these small public “buses” is about US$1.50 but could be more depending on how far you’re going. Once the sun disappears, so does this mode of transportation.
Coming from Santo Domingo, you can catch an express bus in the Gazcue neighborhood bus station at the Plaza Los Girasols (Juan Sánchez Ramírez 31, tel. 809/682-9670, US$7) to the major resorts of the Punta Cana/Bávaro area. They all pass through Higüey two times a day (7 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
Buses also leave from Santo Domingo’s Parque Enriquillo for a two-leg trip connecting in Higüey. In Higüey, you must transfer to another bus. Most have signs in them displaying their destinations, but it is best to ask which one you should board. For each leg of the trip, you’ll pay on board the bus (US$5 from Santo Domingo to Higüey and US$2 from Higüey to Bávaro).
By Car: From Higüey, travel northeast along Highway 105 to the town of La Otra Banda, where you turn off onto Highway 106 to get to the Bávaro/Punta Cana area.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition