If you plan to be in Punta Cana for more than 5 days, it would make sense to rent a car. This would enable you to spend time outside of your resort. There are good restaurants, beaches and other spots out there for you to explore.
Playa Macao isn’t very far from where all the resorts are located. You need to keep going straight on Road 3 and you will come to an intersection that will indicate that Macao is on the road that goes right. The narrow road will lead you straight to the beach. This beach gets high tide making it popular for surfing. Make sure you are strong and brave enough to go into these waters because the waves can be really high and strong. The sands are pure white and soft and the water is really clear. There are patches of seaweed but lots of clean areas. There are a few snack shacks there which will sell beer, water, chips and provide lounge chairs for rent. Outside the beach, the other activities I noticed were horse rides and ATV rides.
The waves were too strong for me. So I just sat at the edge of the wet sand and waited for the mellowed down waves to reach me. This was one of the best times I had during this trip. The water temperature and color was just right and it was an amazing feeling.
And that’s me
This is the closest downtown area. If you are bored of being stuck in the resort and want to walk around a bit, you should go to Bavaro city. It has 2 malls (one high end and one local), lots of resorts and restaurants, shops and a beach. We went there multiple times to eat and for rescue shopping at the mall (did I mention I simply LOVED shopping at their fashion accessories store called KB?). I am going to talk about some of their good restaurants soon.
Bavaro also has some good accommodation options. If you are going to be in Punta Cana for more than 5 days, then it would be a good idea to stay in a resort for some days and stay in one of Bavaro’s hostels or apartments for some time (Check out Whala). This way, you would be in the heart of the city and be surrounded by a lot of energy. On the couple of times we went there for dinner, I found that the energy of the young tourists was contagious.
La Casita De Yeya Restaurant, Downtown Punta Cana
This restaurant is located right at the intersection of Road 3 and the road that leads to Bavaro village. It is a popular joint for local Dominican food. In a tourist heavy place like Punta Cana, we had a hard time finding anything authentic and this discovery was heartening. We were sick of having pasta and sushi and breads at the resort and really, we did not fly here all the way from California to have pasta!
The interior of the restaurant is simple, cozy and traditional. The place was full of tourists and locals. We ordered for fresh pineapple juice, chicken stew and Fajitas. The pineapple juice was A+ class – huge serving, really fresh and pleasant. The chicken stew, served in their typical metal bowl (I wish I knew what the bowl is called and I wish even more that I could buy some for myself) was very authentic, with a mild flavor but something that grows on you. It was great for my pregnant state that is off spicy and alien food. My husband said the fajitas were the best he has ever had.
The staff has problem with English but they do have an English menu. Do ask for it if you have a hard time communicating in Spanish.
Their menu is full of traditional dishes like Mofongos, Sancochos, etc. If you are a foodie and love tasting local flavors, you must visit this restaurant and let your taste buds go wild.
Pranama Restaurant, Bavaro
After having said that we enjoy local food, we do crave for Indian food once in a while and don’t miss an opportunity to hit a good Indian restaurant, if available. Pranama had got rave reviews online – listed in the top 5 restaurants in Punta Cana by Tripadvisor and we went there drooling.
The restaurant opened not long ago in August 2015 and looks like they are still trying to get a hold of things. They are clearly understaffed (probably even in the kitchen). On top of that, Dec – Jan was peak season for the town. We had a total wait time of 2 hours there. I am sure it was only due to the peak season. We had Rose Mojitos (virgin for me) in the meantime and they were delicious. You must try them. For main course we ordered for Madras Chicken Curry, Goat Masala, Rotis and Mango Rice. Because the owner was Indian too, we asked him to make the curries spicy. The food was great. We managed to finish everything.
They have lot of Indian dessert options but we went in for their homemade Chocolate Mousse and it was one of the best I have ever had!
If there isn’t much rush in the restaurant, try talking to the owner, Krishna. He truly embodies the famous Indian hospitality and is very warm, helpful and friendly.
Source: Pranama Facebook Page
2-day Trip to Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is the capital city of Dominican Republic. I did not see a lot of tourists there and I wonder why. The city has several historic architecture and places. Apart from that, if you want to enjoy Domincan Republic like a local, this is the city to be in. You can roam around Zona Colonial (a historic neighborhood in the city) and enjoy local flavors, sights and architecture. The neighborhood has a ton of colonial style architecture and bigger structures like Fortaleza Ozama and Cathedral Santa Maria La Menor. The Cathedral is majestic and the entry fee is pretty minimal.
The beautiful cathedral
The streets of Zona Colonial
Some fun sights at Zona Colonial
We were in Santo Domingo for barely 2 days and I feel those weren’t enough. There is so much to see around the city. Sit on one of the benches at Parque Colon (a central square facing the Cathedral) and look at locals passing by. Eat Chicken Stew and Papaya Juice with Milk at El Conde Restaurant and look at the group of men who always hangout under the tree opposite the restaurant. Walk along Calle del Conde (a pedestrian only street lined with street vendors, shops and cafes) and buy fresh coconut water along the way. If you are courageous enough, go to D’Comer Colonial, a basic dining place on one end of the area and have really local Dominican food.
The typical chicken stew bowls
This area is super fun.
We had rented a car and drove around the city. You need to be brave to drive around the city but that’s the only way you get around. Moreover, the drive along Road 2 is pretty as you drive along the ocean. We never stop and go near the water but we could see that the waves were wild.
Another restaurant I want to talk about is Cappuccino, an Italian café. There are two restaurants of a similar name beside each other. One is a fine dining restaurant whereas the other is a café-cum-restaurant. We went to the latter and had one of our best meals in the Dominican. We ordered for a simple Veggie pizza, some wine and fruit juice and ended with ice cream. The staff was pleasant, the décor was very elegant and pretty and food was A-class. I am very glad we stumbled upon the place.
There are lots of hotels in the city around Zona Colonial but we stayed in a rented apartment in Jardines Del Sur, which is right by the ocean. It is a quiet locality and isn’t very far from Zona Colonial.
One general tip I will give all travelers is that you must know basic Spanish to manage in Dominican. English is quite rare there. Carry a translator or a book of basic Spanish so you can converse easily.
Anyone other there who’s been to Santo Domingo or Punta Cana? Do share your experiences.