BEST TIME TO GO: November through April
FUN FACT: Winter League baseball games feature many of Major League Baseball’s future stars
GETTING THERE: Delta flies from Atlanta to Punta Cana and Santo Domingo; from New York (JFK) to Punta Cana, Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo and from Detroit and Minneapolis to Punta Cana
ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport
CURRENCY: Dominican peso
MUST-TRY LOCAL FOOD: La bandera (the flag), is an entree featuring meat, rice, beans, vegetables, and fritos verdes (green plantains)
BEST BUYS: Cool T-shirts—yes, cool T-shirts—at mangobajito.com in Santo Domingo
INFORMATION PLEASE: Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism—godominicanrepublic.com
Where to begin? Barcelo, Dreams, Iberostar, Paradisus, Secrets, Zoëtry and Hard Rock all have resorts here, in Punta Cana, as do many independents. The Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & Spa has opened a new convention center, and this all-inclusive collection of several hotels features a long menu of sports facilities, a children’s program, 15 bars (that’s not counting the nightclub and sports bar), and a mere 18 restaurants.
One of the many advantages of this destination is wide range of hotels at different price points, with very inexpensive inns like El Cortecito, plenty of mid-range and upmarket all-inclusives, and at the high end, the Puntacana Resort and Club, the only AAA five-diamond resort in the Dominican Republic. Built by Oscar de la Renta and Julio Iglesias, it offers accommodations that range from luxury hotel rooms to villas and has three golf courses designed by Tom Fazio and P.B. Dye, superb tennis and watersports programs, the Zen-flavored Six Senses Spa, world-class dining, and its own nature preserve.
Want something special for the kids? The Sirenis Cocotal Beach Resort Casino & Spa has opened a new water park, Sirenis Aquagames Punta Cana, and non-guests may use it for a fee. This 11-acre attraction boasts a Caribbean Pirates children’s area, water jets, sprinklers, towers, slides, and more slides.
People also fly to Punta Cana if they’re staying at Casa de Campo, the classic megaresort with both hotel and villa accommodations, three golf courses (including the world-famous Teeth of the Dog), every other imaginable warm-weather land sport from horseback riding to polo and from tennis to skeet-shooting, a slew of water sports, a state-of-the-art spa, and even its own artists colony. Why fly into Punta Cana when there’s an airport in La Romana? For one, it’s 50 percent less expensive; for another, nonstops to La Romana are not easy to come by.