Winter is long in Canada, or it can be, especially those winters when it snows and gets cold before Christmas, which is what happened this year. That's what led my wife and I, along with a couple of friends, to take a winter vacation to the warm waters and white sand beaches of The Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is a small island in the warm end of the Atlantic, sunshine and warm temperatures along with extremely friendly people make the Dominican Republic a very popular winter vacation destination for Canadians, Americans and Europeans. It's an especially popular spot among Canadians, the people love Canadians. In fact, more than once I heard the phrase, Punta Canada or Punta Canadian, while we were in Punta Cana.
So we got together with our buds and decided that we wanted at least a 4 star resort, and it had to be an adult only resort. Not that we don't like kids, but an adult resort has more going on for the older crowd like us, and the idea of the women getting in some topless sunbathing didn't escape the men...
Here is what the Dominican Republic Official Tourism Website says about the Punta Cana beach area:
"Punta Cana beach is often referred to as the coconut coast due to its hundreds of swaying coconut palms scattered along the 30 miles of super fine white sand.
This resort area is perhaps the DR's most popular vacation destination.
Punta Cana is outlined by a large concentration of all-inclusive resorts, each with their own garden of sun chairs and cabanas.
However, despite the number of people who idle the day away here, the beach's size ensures visitors will never feel crowded. Those who don't want to spend their time simply baking in the sun can participate in an array of activities from beach volleyball to parasailing."
So we decided on the Punta Cana Princess Resort in Punta Cana of course. It is one of a chain of Princess resorts, and in fact I believe, now that I have been there, that is is the best. We visited a couple of the other resorts during our vacation, but found the Princess where we were to be the most to our liking.
The Punta Cana Princess has just about everything you would want. There is a beautiful swimming pool with a swim-up bar, as well as a long stretch of sandy beach on the ocean. Lots of lounge chairs and little thatched roof cabana's to get under to get out of the sun.
In addition to the pool and beaches, the Punta Cana has several restaurants, including our favorite the Casabe Buffet that features more food than you can imagine, and something different nightly.
There are activities in the pool in the afternoons, usually a water volleyball game and some arobic exercises which are fun to watch if not participate.
Led by a member of the activity team, they really gets things going, and everyone who takes part knows that they have received some exercise by the time it's over. I enjoyed watching it, Wendy was a regular particpant, thus leading to the need for a massage at the spa later in the week....I think she had that planned in advance!
The Punta Cana beach is long and wide, with activities going on everyday, from boat rides to para-sailing to sailboat rides and you name it, there is something for everyone from the daring to those who just want to lay on the beach and soak up the sun.
There are day-trips and excursions into the Dominican countryside as well if you are interested in exploring local Dominican culture.
We walked the long beach on several occasions, passing the other resorts along the way, visiting the shops called the 'flea market' and talking to the vendors who do their best to sell you something from their shops. However, a firm "no thank-you" will end it.
Watch out for the fellows trying to talk you into giving them an hour of your time to visit another resort. They are selling time shares and will lure you with a gift, usually a bottle of local rum, to go with them to see the other resort. I found this a little annoying, and had to tell one of them to basically bugger off, because I was not interested.
Other than that, and that really wasn't that bad, the beach was a great place to walk and people watch, as well as swim.
You do have to watch out for the boats, the locals have a habit of running full throttle up on to the beach, which could be a little dangerous if you were standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think they are pretty careful though not to hit anyone.
As well as the Casabe Buffet, there is an Italian restaurant, Il Bacio, a Tex Mex restaurant, the Rio Grande, a Mediterranean, called Mare Nostrum, as well as room service and several bars, the Oasis, Splash, and a beach bar. A drink is never far from your hand, served by accomplished bartenders who go well out of their way to make you happy and attend to all your refreshment needs. I recommend the Banna Mama a wonderful little concoction that we loved!
In addition to bars and restaurants, the Punta Cana Princess has an aquatic centre, volleyball court, mini golf, two spas, lots of clean restrooms, a tennis court and basketball court, a games area and even a medical center with a doctor available.
I mentioned this earlier, but it is worth mentioning again, from the moment you enter to the time you leave, the staff will impress you with their pleasant manners and welcoming smiles and friendly "Hola's" whenever they see you. Here is Hector, bartender at the Oasis Bar in the main Lobby of the Princess resort.
Many are fluent in several languages, although some of them are limited in english, however, they still do a wonderful job communicating. It is not a problem. Spanish is their language, and they do a good job of teaching their guests a few Spanish words and phrases which I found most enjoyable. In fact, by the end of the week, I had added several spanish words to my vocabulary and know I would have learned a good deal more had we been in the Dominican longer than a week.
Although it is an 'all-inclusive' resort, the staff do appreciate a U.S. dollar in their hand as a tip, although they don't particularly look for it at any time, some do, but not much, and it is really quite unobtrusive. It seemed to me they earned it.
Our room featured a view of the swimming pool and the beach, and had a king sized bed, large bathroom, valuables safe, telephone, clock radio, closet, bureau, day bed, flat screen television with satellite TV and a nice balcony overlooking the grounds.
It also had a bar fridge that was kept stocked with two beer, two bottles of Coke, two bottles of Sprite, and two bottles of water. It was refilled daily.
The room also came with two fluffy robes to snuggle up in, and lots of closet space to hang clothes etc.
And...I almost forgot, an umbrella which came in very handy on the days when it rained.
Upon arrival in our room we found a complimentary bottle of whiskey, a bottle of rum three cigars and a fruit basket. Nothing was left out in making this a memorable vacation.
I can say that there was nothing I was left wanting for in Punta Cana....except maybe to spend a few more days there.....Now that we are home in the cold again, breaking ice, the beach in the Dominican seems sooo far away.....I wanna go back....
In the sidebar to your right, you will find the links to the archives and posts I wrote about our vacation to the Punta Cana Princess including lots of pictures.