Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
It has been over a month since I came back from Punta Cana and I am getting around writing this post only now.
This post will probably be really long, but it is hard to describe one unforgettable week in only a few words, so here we go.
I went on this trip with a long time good friend, Sofia. We flew from Winnipeg on a Wednesday afternoon in mid August to Toronto, and had to spent our night there because our flight to Punta Cana was only in the following morning. Luckily, I have a friend in Toronto who was kind enough to pick us up from the airport and let us stay at his place for the night.
Up in the air somewhere between Canada and the Dominican Republic
Seeing Toronto again was incredible. I've only been there a couple of times, but never at night. What can I say? The pictures will probably speak for themselves. I'm happy I got to experience what it's like to be on a rooftop just in front of the CN tower and see the Toronto skyline in front of me.
Beautiful sunset from the plane above Toronto
Welcome to Toronto
I am not sure how we did it, but somehow we managed to wake up and be on the train to the airport by 7:15 am. The one hour jet lag sure did kick in on the plane. Even the coffee that we bought with our breakfast at the airport did not help. Four hours later (that felt more like six), we found ourselves on the beautiful island of the Dominican.
Floating with the clouds in Neverland
We were greeted by beautiful people playing up-beat Spanish music. I was hit with the humidity right away, and I absolutely loved it. Tropical weather is by far my favourite weather. My skin loved it (because I have very dry skin), I loved it, and everyone was happy. It took us some time to figure out who would take us to our hotel, and we were happy that we weren't the only ones that went to our hotel. It can get a bit overwhelming seeing so many taxi drivers yelling at you just to get your attention. As soon as we got to our hotel it started raining, and not just raining, it was pouring! I got a bit upset that that's how Punta Cana welcomed us, but at the same time I got to see one of the most amazing phenomenons in my life. As the rain was coming down, it evaporated as soon as it hit the ground. That's right, EVAPORATED. It was one of the most beautiful things I've seen. Rain no rain, we had to get off the bus and go to the hotel reception. As we waited to finally get our room key to start settling in, to our surprise, we, and another two guys who were on our plane, were not called in to get the keys. We patiently waited like probably any Canadians would do in that situation. After about 20 minutes our tour guide finally came to talk to us. She said with her thick Spanish accent: "Listen guys, so the hotel is fully booked and we don't have rooms for you." She waited a few seconds to let the information sink in. After she saw the worried and puzzled looks on our faces, she said "But don't you worry, I've got you. We are going to UPGRADE you to the Amber Luxury hotel (instead of Bahia Principe Bavaro where we were supposed to stay)." Seeing that my face expression stayed the same, very confused, my friend jumped in right away and said that it's much much better than the hotel that we booked. Then the tour guide reinforced my friend's words. About an hour later we found ourselves in a beautiful room, three minute walk from the beach, two minute walk from the pool, and one minute walk to the buffet (which was a legit restaurant). We were shocked by the good luck that fell on us. Not only that the upgrade included an 18 plus only hotel, we had FREE wifi all day anywhere we went (even on the beach), 24 hour room service, access to all the La Carte restaurants on the resort, a safe box (which YOU definitely NEED there. I highly suggest paying for it if it's not included in your package), a much better buffet with better and healthier food selection, private beach, and towels. What a way to start a great vacation, right?
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After unpacking our stuff and settling in the room, we went on the hunt for food. The buffet was already closed as we arrived after lunch time. Dinner was supposed to start in 2.5 hours, and we were absolutely starving. After 40 minutes we finally managed to find what they called a "Snack Bar" where you could just get food almost 24 hours a day, but the food was just typical fast food from back home. We tried to get the healthiest stuff we saw (salads, lots of veggies, etc.), and finally sat down to eat. Of course we also picked up a drink from the bar to go along with our food.
A few ours went by and we were already on our way to the buffet at our resort to have dinner. It was definitely a beginning of a beautiful relationship between the food and us. What can I say? When you have so much of everything three times a day, it's hard to say no. The buffet was absolutely amazing. It was basically a restaurant where you could go and grab any food your heart desired, but you also had a server who brought to you any drinks you wanted. I was amazed by how happy everyone looked. They genuinely loved being there. That night, our server's name was Wilkins, and he insisted on us having the best night of our lives. He gave us to try Mamajuana, and said that it's a traditional Dominican drink that we must try. I loved Mamajuana so much that I even brought it with me home. That night he kept bringing us drinks even if we didn't ask for any. To finish off the night on a good note, we went to a night swim at the pool. The water was really warm and we just chilled there for a couple of hours. It was definitely one of the best nights I have had a in a long time.
The following day (Friday), we booked all our excursions for the rest of the week, made dinner plans for every single night, and spent the day exploring the resort. We met some people from Spain, and some locals who were working at the resort. They tried to convince us to go to the club with them outside the resort, but we decided to go to the disco in the resort instead. As soon as I heard the Spanish music, my heart skipped a beat, happiness washed my body, and my excitement was through the roof. I was waiting for this moment for such a long time, and I finally was able to experience it.
One of the most peaceful moments during this vacation- chillin' at the beach
So we went exploring other parts of our resort, and decided to spend some time at this beautiful place
Saturday was the day we finally got to go to our first exertion that we booked outside the hotel. We booked a snorkeling adventure with Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures that I found on Trip Adivsor. I was beyond excited and could not wait to go snorkeling already. The reviews on Trip Advisor were fantastic, and the price was worth the experience ($99). We met some people from Texas, and could not get over their thick accent. I was secretly laughing in my heart. I think their accent is one of the coolest ones there is out there.
Every single time we had to leave the resort, we had to go to the main lobby to catch our ride. To get to the main lobby, Sofia and I had to take a ride from one of the carts that drove people to places in the resort as it was so big. The carts looked like golf carts and were always driving so slow. You have no idea how many times Sofia and I had to run to catch those carts in order to get to places on time. I don't know how we did it, but somehow, we always made it wherever we needed to go. Back to the story- we got to the lobby and started looking for our ride. After 10 minutes from the time we were supposed to meet him (the driver), I started panicking. I decided to go inside the lobby to find someone who could contact that company and ask them where the driver was. As soon as I walked into the lobby, I saw someone holding a sign with my name. I thought to myself "Thank God" and ran to tell him it was me. The driver told me that he was waiting there for at least 20 minutes already, but he did not see me. I told him that Sofia and I were waiting outside. We both laughed and hurried to the car.
We picked more people up from different resorts on the way, and were dropped off somewhere at the beach where the company's office was. In our group there were people from England, New York, and Texas. We were the only ones from Canada and proudly represented it.
For about an hour we just chilled on the catamaran as we were sailing to a deserted place in the ocean to go snorkeling at.
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After some time we got to a beautiful place and were given snorkeling equipment. We were instructed to put it on and jump in the water. This was my third time going snorkeling, so at this point I was really excited to try it out again. My friend, on the other hand, was experiencing this for the first time, and therefore was a bit hesitant. If you want to know if she made it through..well..she sure did! The staff were so amazing and did not leave her side the entire snorkeling experience. She sure was doing better than I did when I snorkeled for the first time (I had a panic attack and forgot how to breath).
Not only that the staff were always with us, they tried to make sure we had a good time, and even snapped a few photos for us like the one below and the group photo.
After snorkeling for an hour, we got out of the water and sailed to a small deserted beach to have fresh coconut water.
Then we got back on the catamaran only to see trays with amazing sea food. I have to admit that I absolutely HATE sea food. I just cannot stand it. It tastes weird, the texture is weird, and don't let me get started on the smell!!!! But the food that they made for us was HEAVENLY, except for the squid which just had the worst texture. The food that they made for us was 100% fresh as everything on that tray was caught that morning. What you can see on the tray is a local fish, shrimps, lobsters, squid rings, and grilled peppers. Of course, we also had the fresh coconut water that we got earlier to go along with the food.
When we finished eating the food, the fiesta started. There is something about Spanish music that really touches my heart and my soul. As soon as the staff turned the music on and started dancing, I jumped to the dance floor to join them. I did not care that I was the only one dancing. I did not care that I was not getting the moves right away. All I cared about was feeling the music, and living in that moment. I felt pure joy and happiness at that moment, and I will cherish it forever. I was very lucky that my beautiful friend caught a glimpse of that moment.
Learning how to dance bachata and enjoying every moment of it
We got back to the hotel late in the afternoon and went to take some photos as the beach. Clearly we weren't at the beach enough on that day and had to go for another round.
We knew it was time to move to a different activity as soon as it started to rain, so we decided to hit up the gym. We figured we did not work out enough when we were snorkeling, so why not do some cardio and bodyweight exercises?
A couple of hours later, we went to put some weight on at the Bella Italia restaurant- our first La Carte restaurant. The food was amazing.
That night and all the rest to follow, we went dancing at the local disco on the resort. It was hot and sweaty like no other club I have been to, but they just had the best music in the world.
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On a beautiful Sunday morning, we went on a buggy excursion. This exertion we booked through the hotel, and I DO NOT recommend doing what we did. We paid $60 USD for this exertion, and we got what we paid for. After getting to the place where the buggies were, we had to wait for an hour until the staff let us get on the buggies. Our ride on the buggies was relatively short, and we did not get to drive fast (where's the fun in that?). We drove maybe about 30km/hour. Regardless, I was grateful for the opportunity to get outside the resort, explore the Dominican a little, see beautiful landscapes, and see how people live there. I tried to capture as much beauty as I could in the pictures below.
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We stopped by a local plantation field and were shown how the Dominicans make their coffee and cigars. We were also shown real cocoa, coconut oil (that had a different smell to it than the one I buy in stores in Canada), vanilla extract, oregano, and cinnamon. They were selling all those products and donating all the proceeds to a nearby school to pay to the teachers. My friend and I really wanted to help, so we bought cocoa and coffee.
After the exertion, we decided to go to the beach and relax for a few hours before heading to our dinner reservation. I felt so lucky to be able to see this beautiful sunset.
To finish off the night, we went to a Japanese restaurant that had such an amazing food. I really liked how the restaurants in the resort were all breath-taking with astonishing service, and the most delicious fresh food. I felt like a princess the entire week that we were there.
Monday was the toughest day of the week we were there. We had an exertion to the Saona Island that we booked through the hotel (cost us $99 USD for each person), and needless to say, IT SUCKED. We had to be ready and wait for our ride at the main lobby at 6:15 AM! The buffet was supposed to open only at 7:30 am, so we did no have time to have breakfast or take anything with us. We did order room service, but the food arrived 2 minutes before we had to leave, so we did not get to eat anything.
We drove for about an hour just to get to the beach where the catamaran was waiting for us. Then we spent over an hour on the catamaran and were only been given drinks (no food). Once we got to the island, we had to wait for another hour, at least, before our lunch was served. I thought I would die on the catamaran ride because I got really sea sick, and did not know how to handle it. It was the first time in my life ever getting sea sick, and I knew it was because of the lack of food in my system. All I wanted was to get to the ground already and not be in the sea for another couple of years. The ride to the island felt like years, and I already regretted that we signed up for it. I also could not enjoy the view that much because all I wanted was to eat and get off the catamaran.
Once I got food in my system, the exertion started to look a lot better. Sofia and I took a nap, and then we went swimming for a bit. We chilled for about an hour, and then were ready to leave the island. To be honest, all I wanted was to get back to the resort because I was just very exhausted. But no.... that did not happen. A speed boat took us to a shallow area in the ocean, and we were instructed to leave the boat and spend some time in that natural pool. I barely dragged myself out of the speed boat, and spent about 20 minutes looking at people interacting with star fish. Slowly, people got back on the speed boat, and we were off back to the mainland, or I should say, back to the bigger island.
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The bus ride back to the resort was very blurry as I slept throughout the entire ride just like all the people on the bus. We got back to the resort at 6:00 pm instead of 5:00 pm, and had some time to relax before our reservation at the Mediterranean restaurant.
The food at the Mediterranean restaurant was the best from all the restaurants we have been at. I was very impressed and highly recommend checking out that restaurant if you ever decide to stay at that resort.
Later at night we went dancing (third night in a row), and I just could not get enough!
Days 7 & 8
The next day and a half, Tuesday & half of Wednesday we just spent at the beach, pool, shopping, and eating.
One cool thing that I have to mention about the Dominican.. they have timers on the lights so the drivers know when the lights turn from green to red and vice versa. It definitely helps to control the confusion when the driver has to decide whether he/she will have enough time to go through that yellow light.
Saying goodbye was one of the hardest parts of the trip. Our cab that was supposed to take us to the airport never showed up, so when the hotel finally realized that maybe they should call another cab, it was almost too late. We arrived to our gate 10 minutes before the boarding to the plane started. It sure was a very close call. The good thing was that we got upgraded to plus seats (sorts of like business class). We were given really good food, and a treatment of celebrities. This trip was nothing but luck and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to see this magical place.
THANK YOU PUNTA CANA AND THE STAFF FROM THE BAHIA PRINICPE RESORT.