Take a day trip to Santo Domingo
The Republic’s capital and one of the western hemisphere’s oldest European settlements. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it has more than its fair share of colonial heritage, with 500 years of architecture on display.
Punta Cana has several shopping centres to explore, provided you can peel yourself away from the beach. The San Juan Shopping Center (Avenida Barcelo) is crammed with shops, while the Plaza Bávaro Shopping Center (Bávaro) has a mix of modern and traditional vendors. A contemporary shopping experience can be found at the Palma Real complex (Bávaro), while for souvenirs, there’s the beachside El Cortecito Flea Market (Cortecito). One of the more attractive items on sale is amber jewellery, a Dominican speciality. Larimar is another typically Dominican stone; its mottled blend of blues, whites and turquoise embodies the island’s beautiful waters. Other items of note include woodcarvings and pottery.
Food & Drink
Fresh flavours can be enjoyed in abundance in the Dominican Republic, where you can tuck into succulent papaya, mango and passion fruit or glistening seafood. In traditional restaurants, popular dishes include la bandera (a mix of rice, red beans, stewed meat and fried plantain) and sopa criolla dominicana (a meat and vegetable soup). Passion by Martín Berasategui in the Paradisus Palma Real Resort (Playa de Bávaro) is a great fine dining spot, while tasty and reasonably priced pizzas are served up at popular Le Petit Jardin (Entrada de Las Corales). Chiquita Bonita (Avenida Alemania) is the place to indulge in delicious dollops of cooling ice cream.
Santo Domingo Carnival
Santo Domingo comes alive every February with the largest and most enthusiastic carnival celebrations in the country. Scantily clad dancers, costumed characters and lively musicians contribute to this exuberant street party.
If cigars are your thing, join a bevy of cigar enthusiasts in La Romana to learn about the history of the Dominican Republic’s cigar heritage through tours of a cigar factory and tobacco fields. The focus then moves to Santiago for further cigar-related exploration.
Commemorating the Dominican War of Independence in 1844, Independence Day celebrations are often combined with carnival festivities. Smaller-scale parades mark the day in some of Punta Cana’s resorts.
Punta Cana Carnival
This colourful extravaganza is a popular spectacle with locals and tourists alike, who come to admire groups from across the country. These artists dazzle Punta Cana village with their fantastical masks, elaborate costumes and dance techniques.
Dominican Republic Global Film Festival
This annual film festival takes place across the Dominican Republic, with venues in Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo and Santiago amongst other cities. It’s a great way of seeing the work of the Dominican Republic’s filmmakers at first hand.
Beach resorts with gleaming pools and drooping palms are the way to go in Punta Cana. Sanctuary Cap Cana (Boulevard Zona Hotelera) on Playa Juanillo is an all-out luxury resort with multiple swimming pools and cocktail-making classes. Another prime coastal offering is Tortuga Bay (Puntacana Resort & Club) with its private stretch of beach, balconies and Bamboo restaurant serving a mix of Caribbean and Asian cuisine. Centrally located in Punta Cana village is the Four Points by Sheraton (Boulevard 1ero de Noviembre), a crisp, clean and contemporary base complete with a gym and pool.