Punta Cana: The New Caribbean and Next Cancun
After he first arrived in 1492, Christopher Columbus
declared the Dominican Republic to be "The fairest land that human
eyes have ever seen." In 2002, tourists are declaring it the "new
Caribbean." Like Columbus, tourists can appreciate this land full of
exotic landscapes; however, being discovered by too many can
overwhelm a place, something I discovered on my recent family
vacation to Punta Cana.
Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with
Haiti, draws more than two million tourists each year. Punta Cana
sits on the eastern most point of the country, and is a relatively
new vacation destination. In fact, its oldest hotel was built only
in 1985, with the majority of its other hotels built after 1995. The
area continues to build resorts at a record pace, positioning itself
to become the next Cancun. However, unlike Cancun, there aren't any
massive high-rise hotels, as local regulations only permit hotels to
be built as high as the highest palm tree.
Threaded along one of Punta Cana's best
palm-shaded beaches lies the striking Sunscape
Resort. It boasts privacy and natural surroundings, atypical of
all-inclusive resorts that the Caribbean does so well. There are 346
rooms, eight suites, four restaurants, and six bars (one that you
can swim up to from the main pool).
There are tennis courts,
game areas, Jacuzzis, a fitness center, and a full-service spa. For
kids, there's a terrific organized club for ages four to 12, where
counselors organize activities and outings. For adults, there are
tons of activities including water polo, volleyball, aerobics, and a
disco to name a few.
However, the big temptation with this
resort is to amble down to the beach and climb into a beach
chair—paradise for shameful sun seekers like me. For those not
content to simply soak up the rays, a few yards offshore lie richly
stocked reefs, which are easily accessible for snorklers and divers.
The usual choice of watersports includes windsurfing, sailing,
banana boat rides, parasailing, and deep-sea fishing. At night, the
resort offers excellent professional entertainment that often
extends into the wee hours of the morning.
Lying in the warm turquoise sea you could easily
think that you had died and gone straight to heaven—except for one
thing—the noise. This was by far the noisiest resort I've been to
since my 1986 college spring break in Ft. Lauderdale. The thump of
music from pool activities radiated down to the beach and could be
literally felt in your room. Food was either very good or very bad;
DeMario's offered the best, the Beach Café the worst. Service was a
mixed bag. Many employees were nice while others were just
indifferent. In fact, I found many Dominicans not as amiable as
other Caribbean destinations I've visited. Perhaps, being the end of
the tourist season they are just sick of us—at least that's the
impression I came away with.
Reader Don Banks of Atlanta
wonders if the Dominican Republic is safe. I found the area very
safe. However, if you venture out on the roads beware: Dominican's
drive a little fast and furious. In the end, for those who want an
efficiently organized vacation with few decisions to make, nonstop
entertainment, certain sun, beautiful beaches, mountains of food,
and safety, for the price, the Sunscape is tough to beat.
If You Go:
You can book a seven-day vacation
package (including air) with Apple
Vacations through a professional travel agent. High season
prices range from $999 to $1199 per adult; low season $799 to $899.
Children's prices vary; often kids stay free, as was the case for my
children. Airfare for kids ranges from $299 to $499. Hotel only
packages are available.
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