“Where can I go in the Caribbean that is nice yet affordable?” “I want to go somewhere that is relaxing but cultural… I want the experience of a pampered resort, but I don’t want to feel like I’m in the U.S. transplanted somewhere else, surrounded by buffet-loving tourists.” These are the questions and comments I keep hearing from friends searching for beauty and relaxation with an authentic, cultural component. It’s exciting to see travel trends moving toward interactive and immersive experiences.
Lately, when I hear this question, my first suggestion is always the Dominican Republic. I’ve never been, so that’s probably a strange answer, you might say. I guess I keep recommending it because I’m heading there for the first time this week, and I’ve definitely done my homework.
Based on everything I’ve learned, the DR has it all. If you want exclusive, all-inclusive resorts, Punta Cana is your oyster. Interested in history and culture? Make your way to Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial, the oldest colonial city in the “New World.” Palm-fringed, pristine beaches suited for indie-travel calling your name? Then Samaná Peninsula is the place for you.
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The first two days in Santo Domingo, I’ll be staying at El Beaterio in Zona Colonial. Then I head to Punta Cana for a few days at Paradisus Punta Cana, a vacation package I won (first and only time I’ve ever won anything!) from Expedia, followed by a night in a rental apartment. Heading back to Santo Domingo for a night, I’ll be hosted by The Mercure Hotel, an Accor Hotels property. For the final leg, I’ll drive to Las Terrenas on the Samaná Peninsula and stay at a property I booked through Flip Key. Finally, I’ll return for one last night in Santo Domingo at the Mercure.
While in Santo Domingo
I plan on exploring Zona Colonial, the first colonial city in the new world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The origin of the New World, Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial holds some of Europe’s colonial “firsts” in the Western Hemisphere. There’s the oldest operating cathedral, the oldest surviving European fortress, the first nunnery, the first paved road, and the first hospital in the New World, to name a few.
While in Punta Cana
Relaxation is the name of the game. Sun, sand and food will be my main concerns while in the Southeastern region of the Dominican Republic. Taking the opportunity to relax in Punta Cana’s dramatic seascape, where pristine beaches meet the cerulean sea, I’ll allow myself to be pampered at the all-inclusive Paradisus Resort. I’m looking forward to trying many of the ten restaurants available and hanging out on the beach with my youngest sister, who will be joining me on my babymoon.
While in Las Terrenas/Samaná Peninsula
I plan on logging some serious beach time at Playa Casa Bianca, Playa Las Terrenas, and maybe even Playa Bonita. A half day trip to Cascada El Limon (waterfall) is the only “ambition” on my radar.
The town of Las Terrenas has transformed in to somewhat of a French colony (with plenty of Italians also representing). I’ve read about the stylish European women in designer sunglasses toting fresh baguettes on their ATVs. The pull between local and expat supposedly delivers an interesting social and stylistic mix. Sounds intriguing.
We’ll also be relaxing at our Flipkey rental house a good bit. My sister-in-law and niece join me for this leg of the journey! Pregnant lady and mom with a babe…