We were airborne around nine o’clock in the morning from one of south Florida’s many airports and were wheels down less than 2 hours later in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana International airport has been gaining momentum for the last three to four years as it becomes a popular vacation destination.
At first glance, the airport looks rather unconventional with its Tiki Hut styled thatched roofs that sit atop the one story airport facility. We departed the airplane via a mobile covered ramp and walked across the concrete slabs to the arrival gates and onto the port-of-entry. We made it through Punta Cana’s immigration with no problems. I was rather amazed that the process was very easy to the point that we did not receive a paper visa to exit the country when it became time to do so.
We took the short walk to baggage claim, as everything is on one level. The carousel area opens up to an oversized Tiki Hut with giant propeller like fans that rotated above our heads. Talk about island motif, this particular airport has it going on in everyway. Hats off to the architect who came up with the unique design. We collected our baggage and headed towards the main terminal to find our shuttle service.
We made our way through the terminal and out to the shuttles, buses and taxis that were waiting to take their visiting guest to their designated resorts. We made ourselves at home in one of the newer air conditioned van, as so did a few other passengers who were going to the same resort. Our resort, Dreams Palm Beach was approximately a 20 minute ride from the airport. On the way to the resort we passed a peculiar point of interest. The life-like Tyrannosaurus statue stood fearful in the center of a round-about. Not something you really expect to see on an island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
We passed through a small developing community just before we reached the resort. On one side of the road there was several traditional shops, open air markets and smaller cantinas. On the opposite side of the street there are three and four story condo complexes being built. My guess is that they will most likely be used as second homes, vacation retreats or rentals. I have witnessed small communities like this one over the years develop into a thriving town fueled by tourism and second home destinations. A small fishing village in Mexico’s Riviera Maya by the name of Playa del Carmen began its famous reputation in the early 1980’s. It is now one of the Yucatan’s most sought after vacation destination. The potential is there with Punta Cana having year-round sunshine, economic advantages, relaxed lifestyle and the warm Atlantic and Caribbean waters surrounding its beautiful shores.
We arrived at our destination around 12:00. The luxury resort was very fashionable with its relaxing ambience and tropical Caribbean flare. We checked in rather quickly and then were escorted to our room along with our luggage. We immediately slipped into our swimming suits and found a couple lounge chairs that were calling out to us by the pool’s edge. We ordered a few beverages and our new adventure was on!
After a great nights sleep and a fantastic breakfast, we found an ideal spot on the resort’s light brown sandy beach. The best way to describe the day is to reach for the closest travel magazine and open it to the centerfold. The gentle emerald colored waves slap against the beach’s golden sandy shore, which plays host to swaying palms and blue skies above. We found two comfy lounge chairs under one of the thatched palapas that line the beach. The day went on into the evening. We extended our day by enjoying a great dining experience in one of the many theme restaurants on the resorts. The evening was a memorable one.
The following day we prepared for a snorkeling trip that we booked through an on-site tour company. We met the bus around 9:00 and were on the boat heading for a man-made island by 9:30. It took approximately 10 minutes to arrive at our destination.
The floating island was centered around a stationary – pylon supported, thatched roof structure (shown right). The palapa provided shade from the afternoon’s bright sun and a leisure place to enjoy complimentary snacks, juices and non-alcoholic beverages. We put on our snorkeling gear and jumped into the perfect 86 degree tempered water. The marine life was waiting for us. They swarmed all around as a staff member tossed bread crumbs directly over us.
There are sections that allow people to swim with stingrays that like to cuddle up to their admiring visitors. There is also an area that you can snorkel over nurse sharks that are 6 to 8 feet in length. These aquatic reef dwellers are cousins to some of the ocean’s most feared predators. The tour included a trip around the shallow reefs that circled the man-made island. There were various types of fish that followed us around hoping for handouts of food along the way.
After the 45 minute stroll around the reef, we retired ourselves back on to the floating barge to enjoy a well needed snack and liquid nourishment. We sat under a sheer-draped covered pergola and discussed all the marine life we saw while eating our sandwiches and fresh fruit. We took out a kayak and paddled around the perimeter for awhile. We took full advantage of the complimentary massage before preparing ourselves for the boat ride back to the mainland.
The ride back was much quieter than going. People were pretty tired from all the snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding. We got back to the resort just in time for the “Foam Party”. This is a first for us as we have been to several resorts throughout our many adventures. The foam machine seems to somehow add a party element to the whole experience. We hung around poolside for bit then got ready for dinner and planned for an early evening in.
I have seen some very unusual types of water crafts here in Punta Cana. I saw a grass topped Bimini boat (shown above left). How about the ocean going cars with a slide off the back. You have to love the creativity that shows up in the least expected places! What’s next, a glass bottom submarine?
Our trip to Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic was a very enjoyable one. The people, the culture and island surroundings were nothing less than spectacular. I will again experience this little piece of paradise in the near future.