advertisement

Visitor Information

Amazingly, with the largest concentration of visitors in the entire Caribbean Basin, and with visitors numbering at least 750,000 a year (no one knows for sure), the Dominican Republic government, in their infinite wisdom, has yet to open a tourist office. However, you can search www.dr1.com/travel/puntacana.

The Lay of the Land

One of the most remarkable real-estate developments in the Caribbean, Punta Cana grew out of the perceived need for a mass-market vacation destination, capable of receiving visitors from Europe and North America, that was near a worthy set of beaches, on land that was cheap, plentiful, and undeveloped. The result is Punta Cana and Bávaro, two resorts completely dependent upon an international airport (which they have), a string of sandy beaches (which they have), and a maze of tarmac-covered roads that wind in a labyrinth through land that used to be (and which to some degree still is) covered with sugar cane.

Don't expect a burgeoning downtown settlement, because until recently, there weren't any sizable communities in the region at all, and certainly nothing with the deep historic appeal and long-established roots of Puerto Plata.

Today, two communities that fill in the gap are the hamlet of Friusa, a dull and dusty settlement with banks, gas stations, repair stations for cars, and refrigeration facilities, but with very little appeal to temporary visitors; and the even smaller but somewhat more charming hamlet of Cortecita. Cortecita originated as a preplanned community intended to house the workers who built the first of the region's hotels. Today, having adopted some aspects of an independent community in its own right, it's the site of several eateries and bars. And don't expect a coherent set of roads with names, because most of them are unnamed. Look instead for signs with arrows that point the way to the individual hotels, each of which was designed like cities unto themselves. Each resort -- especially the all-inclusives -- has enough amenities to keep visitors happily sequestered on-site for the duration of their holiday. The result is a necklace of self-contained communities, each with drugstores, food markets, coin-operated laundromats, and all-inclusive food services, draped along the waterfront of the peninsula.

Whereas the policy of self-containment (which is encouraged by the architecture and the closed-off, fenced-in nature of each resort) suits the hoteliers just fine, many small start-up businesses, including restaurants, must rely almost exclusively on local Dominican business for their livelihood, having been cut off from the masses of foreign visitors who remain within their individual hotels. And since the hotels do everything they can to increase their allures in-house, there simply aren't a lot of independently operated Dominican businesses, outside the big resorts, in this community.

Every large resort maintains at least one beachfront kiosk loaded with staff and watersports equipment. They tend to be operated by the same central organization, charge all the same prices, and even move their staff from one kiosk to another, regardless of whose beachfront they're sitting on. And it's entirely likely that the scuba or snorkeling trip you sign up for at the kiosk of your hotel might combine your outing with clients of several other hotels along the same beachfront.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.