Punta Cana: Honeymoon and Play
by Habeeb Salloum
Thinking of the sun and palm trees, one snowy and stormy weekend in Toronto, I decided to take my daughter Muna, along with my grandson Mazin, and his wife Margarita, as a belated honeymoon gift, to the Dominican Republic. Now as we explored the huge Bahia Principe resort complex in Punta Cana, the Republic’s resort par excellence, we were living our dream.
As we walked the white sandy beach, Mazin remarked, “A great trip! I love your honeymoon gift! This is the first time that I’ve been to a real ocean beach!” I felt elated with his words and with the seductive atmosphere as the sand and the blue waters caressed our feet. The whole aura of the beach was conducive to being on a honeymoon. And well it was, as I remember my grandson and his wife locked hand in hand strolling on the sands of romance. Punta Cana, a part of the easternmost province in the Dominican Republic, is best known for its beaches where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic. It has been a popular tourist destination since the 1970s.
The Punta Cana region, with a population of some 100,000, has become one of the major tourist destinations in the Dominican Republic, drawing tourists from North America, western Europe, Russia and beyond. In the winter, it vibrates, crowded with the life of the masses from the north that pour in to enjoy the sandy beaches, the lush greenery, and the warm weather of the Caribbean.
The major part of the island of Hispaniola, the second largest Caribbean island after Cuba, the Dominican Republic in the last 10 years has become the most popular vacation destination in the Caribbean. At the top of this tourist boom is Punta Cana with high class resort hotels and sandy beaches overshadowed by thousands of inviting palm trees swaying above crystal clear blue waters flowing over fine white sandy beaches surrounded by green forests and coral reefs.
Standing at the top of a series of these sands is Bavaro Beach, an inviting piece of ocean shoreline with high class resorts. One of these is the massive Gran Bahía Príncipe Bávaro Resort complex encompassing five resort hotels that become home during the winter months to nearly 7,000 vacationers served by 3,000 staff. The resort is just like an independent city, catering to every need the visitor may have. A little overwhelmed at first, the visitor gets the feel of the resort after a few days. All in all, this is an ideal getaway for families, couples, singles and above all honeymooners seeking a place of comfort in the sun.
Many like to choose the Bahia Principe as their wedding destination venue where not only family and friends can partake in the wedding ceremony but they too, just as the newlyweds, can lounge on the beautiful beaches and massive pools. The honeymooners have the option of going it alone or joining their wedding party for the duration of their stay.
The resort is well organized for weddings. When soon-to-be newlyweds and their parties reach the Bahia Principe, before and after the wedding, they can partake in the activities of the resort and these are many. There are water sports galore and all types of sailing crafts can be rented for romping in the sea. Also there are numerous excursions offering trips to other parts of the island and the nearby inviting sea.
The Bahia Principe is prepared well for weddings. A world of white-sand, azure sea, blue sky and lush tropical gardens, create a magical setting for an unforgettable wedding day. It will be as the promo literature says, “a special day set in paradise.”
The hotel wedding coordinators will ensure that everything needed for the wedding is there. The ceremony location, flowers, romantic ornamental decorations as well as even the bride’s bouquet and groom’s boutonniere will be perfectly prepared. A gourmet wedding cake, music for the wedding ceremony, wedding photos, wedding reception dinner and other wedding amenities will be prepared according to request.
After the wedding celebration, the Gran Bahía Príncipe Bávaro will be the perfect place to spend the honeymoon. In the midst of white sands and neat tropical gardens, enclosing luxury accommodations the lovers will be able to spend their honeymoon in a dream location, enjoying their wedded bliss.
However, here are a few drawbacks in this paradise-honeymoon spot. The resort complex is so big that a guest or honeymooner would be somewhat confused about moving about and finding what they are seeking.
In my travels to these wedding and honeymoon nooks, I have always found that the various restaurants on these establishments are always much better than the buffets. But in this resort of sun and sand I found the resort’s buffet to be much better than the a la carte restaurants except for the Spanish restaurant, El Meson, that offers gourmet meals with all their trimmings – fantastic food.
One other observation – for a country that prides itself in mangos and seafood, this resort complex is void of these national products. I had to return to my home in Toronto to enjoy these wonderful Dominican delights. In the words of my daughter Muna, “There is always a little snake in Paradise but it is a great place to honeymoon and play.”
IF YOU GO
Tips on Punta Cana:
1. For further information about Gran Bahia Principe Bavaro: see www.bahia-principe.com/en/hotels/punta-cana/resort-punta-cana/discover
2. The Punta Cana International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the Caribbean through which pass near 4 million annual visitors.
3. For those interested in golfing, the Punta Cana area has 12 professional golf courses – a number of these among the best in the world.
4. The conversion rate of the Dominican Republic’s currency fluctuates at around 40 pesos to a U.S. dollar – change money in banks – some have branches in the major hotels. However US and even Canadian dollars are readily accepted almost everywhere.
5. Drink bottled water only – never from the tap.
6. Except in tourist oriented shops where goods are excessively priced, always bargain when shopping. In some instances, prices are inflated up to 8 times their true value. Best buys are the semi-precious stones amber and larimar.
7. All hotels and resorts in Punta Cana have evening international entertainment with live music – merengue, bachata, salsa and others – which is included in the all-inclusive deals. However if visitors are searching for more nightlife there are bars, discos, nightclubs and other entertainment establishments that cater to every night prowler need.
8. Three popular excursions to take when staying at the Gran Bahia Principe Bavaro are: Caribbean Festival: snorkel with sharks-$104 U.S.; Saona Golden: a catamaran cruise-$99 U.S.; and Mega Trucks Dominican Discovery: a full day adventure- $99 U.S. per person.
9. Remember always keep $20.for departure tax.
For Further Information, Contact:
In Canada -Dominican Republic Tourism Office in Toronto, 201 – 26 Wellington St. East Toronto, Ontario M5E 1S2 Toll Free 1-888-494-5050 or Tel: (416) 361-2126. Fax (416) 361-2130. Email email@example.com v.do or Dominican Republic Tourist Office, 2080 Rue Crescent Montreal QC H3G 2B8. Tel: 1-800-563-1611 toll free in Canada. Tele: +1 (514) 499-1918. Fax: +1 (514) 499-1393. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Dominican Republic Tourist Office in New York, 136 East 57th Street, Suite 803, New York, N.Y.240 10022. Tel: 1-888-DR-INFO-1 (1-888-374-6361) toll-free in USA, Tel: +1 (212) 588-1012. Fax: +1 (212) 588-1015. Email: email@example.com
Photos courtesy of the author.