My wish was to experience a small part of Dominican Republic in 10 days. I made Punta Cana as “my base” and travelled around from there. It’s fairly easy when you figure out the public transport and even better, if you have a car or a tour.
I visited many beaches (short description in my previous post), the capital Santo Domingo, closest big city to Punta Cana called Higuey, I went watching whales that come to Samana in this period, did an adventurous ride up to Montaña Redonda and experienced a safari.
Travelling alone as a women was totally fine but I stuck with only certain parts in each city. Locals recommended to take a taxi to different sights. I’m usually not discouraged by that. I walked a lot anyway however, you can see straight away in which areas is best to walk quicker if alone, like for example market in Higuey or China town in Santo Domingo.
5 of the best trips that I did from Punta Cana:
1. Santo Domingo (Colonial Zone)
From Punta Cana to Santo Domingo you can catch the Bavaro express bus. It’s possible to do the trip in a day but better to sleep over at least for one night. Upon entering Santo Domingo and coming back to Punta Cana, the driver is flexible on letting passengers off basically everywhere. To get to the Colonial Zone you should get off at the corner of Calle Josefa Brea & 27 de Febrero, Parque Enriquillo. Sometimes they will try to trick you to get off earlier and take a taxi so the taxi drivers make some money. Try to avoid that by asking more people on the bus for info.
I basically stayed for one night in the Colonial Zone only. It was great to walk around and check all the vibrant streets. It’s an important historical site full with locals.
Founded in 1498, the Santo Domingo Colonial Zone is the oldest European settlement in the New World. Top attractions include the Catedral Primada de América, the first cathedral in the Americas, and the Alcázar de Colón, the former residence of Christopher Columbus’ son. Other attractions include the Convento de los Dominicos, the first monastery in the Americas, and Ozama Fortress, the oldest fortress in the New World.
Parque Colón, in front of the cathedral, is the perfect place to take a break and watch the people strolling by. Plaza de España it’s also the backdrop for live music and dance performances every Friday and Saturday evening.
To get to Higuey you can start from the same bus stations as for Santo Domingo. The bus company I used is called APTPRA. To go back to Punta Cana go to the bus station Sitrabapu and they will scream out loud about which bus goes where. The return bus ride will cost you 240 pesos and you pay in the bus. One day is enough for a visit.
This is the town in which many of the resort staff working in Punta Cana live. It was very educational to see the everyday activities of citizens from a different culture and walk around on cute streets. The market was very nice however, as I was there alone as a women I felt a bit uncomfortable, many people staring at me. I didn’t take a lot of time in it. Nothing to buy here from a tourist point of view, but a visual and sensory delight! The butcher was interesting just having his meat hanging out in the open and blood all over the floor where you walked. I guess that’s why they fry their food so much to get rid of some bacteria. 🙂
The most important monuments in the city are the Basilica of La Altagracia (40 years old) and the Church of San Dionisio, from the 16th century.
There will be people approaching you at churches and just starting to talk to you. They are sort of guides, so they want to show you around for some money. It’s usually fine to hire them, they will give you some info but agree on the price beforehand. Even if you’re not a religious person or practice the catholic faith, both churches are a place of peace, beauty and worth the visit.
3. Whale watching tour
One of impressive things you can experience in DR is seeing whales. It’s not really located in Punta Cana but you can take tours that start here. Humpback whales come from the seas of Iceland, Greenland, Canada, and North America, to give birth and seek a mate in the hot water. This happens between January and March. There are many tour providers that can pick you up at your hotel and take you by taxi to the start point- usually Miches if you go from Punta Cana.
The day I was visiting the weather was not the best and the waves were big. Unfortunately, I could not take photos and was also trying to just enjoy this once in a life time moment. I can share with you two short videos but pay attention to see something.
Let me know if you need a list from my research on tour providers. from Punta Cana.
4. “Safari” tour
I decided to take a paid professional tour to see the countryside and learn more about Dominican people. It was very good and I can easily recommend this experience. The tour provider comes and pick you at your hotel or closest hotel to your Airbnb.
With Outback Adventures safari you’ll visit a typical Dominican home, meet the family that lives there and enjoy a drink of freshly made coffee. Pass by local schools and villages as you see friendly Dominicans smiling and waving at you. You also see coffee and chocolate growing on trees and experience how they use their coconuts.
Outback Adventures is also very active locally, they give back to the community like help build schools and provide to the kids. They will be happy to take your donation (money or supplies) and bring it to the school kids around Punta Cana.
The lunch was a highlight for me (being a food lover). You can enjoy a family-style Dominican meal at a countryside ranch with a view and walk through a fruit plantation, you’ll even get to taste fresh fruit and sugarcane, see native animals like crocodiles and iguanas.
5. Montaña Redonda
This trip was just spectacular. Adventurous off road and stunning views.
It’s so easy to find, since you just go straight to Miches, passing Macao Beach and Uvero Alto. You can do a full day trip hopping to different places.
The parking fee is 100 pesos and another 100 for entrance. In my opinion it’s a bit ridiculous to pay entrance to a mountain but you have to, even if you walk up. From there you can continue with a local driver or if you have a really good jeep car on your own. It’s not a smooth ride due to bad roads but I loved the off road feeling and excitement. Definitely adventurous and you’ll be rewarded with a view of the ocean and lagoons on one side and peaks that seem to touch the clouds on the other side.
On the top you have small shops, a restaurant with good food and many special places (like a huge swing) to take photos. My photos aren’t perfect because it was quite cloudy. Come here knowing that you help local economy to develop outside touristic area of Punta Cana.