1. Most of the resorts in Punta Cana are all-inclusive
By some estimates, 90 percent of the resorts in Punta Cana are all-inclusive. That means travelers pre-pay for packages that include room rates, food, alcohol, and some entertainment. There are great deals to be found and there’s nothing more relaxing than leaving your wallet in the room safe before a night of eating and drinking.
2. Bring cash for the airport and tips in Punta Cana.
Even if you’ve booked an all-inclusive resort (and you probably did), you’re still going to need some cash. Don’t worry about exchanging U.S. dollars for Dominican pesos, as dollars are accepted almost everywhere in Punta Cana and the exchange rate is close enough if you’re planning on making small purchases like souvenirs. At the airport, Americans are required to purchase a $10 visitor’s card, valid for 30 days. Payment is required in cash, and if you pay with a larger bill, you’ll get your change in U.S. currency. At the resort, expect to tip as you would in the U.S. A few dollars should be given to anyone who handles your bags and to the housekeeping staff. You’re not expected to tip for every bottle of beer at the bar, but do tip at the end of the night, especially if you’re ordering complicated cocktails.
3. Punta Cana’s beaches are legit
Punta Cana’s beaches are what made the area famous, and everything that’s said about the soft white sand, clear blue water, and coral reefs is absolutely true. There are 10 different beaches in the immediate area, and several different ways to explore them: by foot, horseback, Jeep tours, or getting out on the water with a scuba or snorkel tour. Watch for flags that mark dangerous surf conditions. Lifeguard towers are dispersed along some of the beaches, but not all.
4. Rain in Punta Cana rarely lasts for very long.
For the majority of the year, the weather in Punta Cana is sunny and in the 80s. Temperatures spike slightly in the summer months and hurricane season usually hits in September and October. That said, you can usually expect pleasant weather with a few unexpected and strong rain showers. The rain seems to go as quickly as it comes and adds a little excitement to the pool scene.
5. Discos and nightclubs are everything in Punta Cana.
Dominican culture is serious about music and dancing, so it’s no surprise that resorts usually include a disco that stays open well into the wee hours. Budget-friendly resorts might have little more than a DJ booth and a dance floor, but higher-end counterparts go all out with light and smoke shows and lounge-like setups. Note that music requests can and should be made.
6. Taxis are expensive.
Hiring a taxi is almost prohibitively expensive unless you have a large group to split the costs. The airport is about a 30-minute drive from most of the resorts, so arranging an airport transfer with your travel advisor is usually the smartest and cheapest option.
7. Don’t overlook the spas at Punta Cana’s resorts.
Spa treatments generally cost extra (even with an all-inclusive plan), but many resorts offer free access or day passes to their hydrotherapy circuits which can include open-air pools, whirlpools, steam rooms, saunas, and relaxation areas with fresh fruit and tea
8. Sip some mamajuana.
That’s mamajuana, not marijuana. Mamajuana (sometimes written as mama juana) is a traditionally homemade alcoholic drink with rum, red wine, honey, and local leaves and bark. The flavorful concoction is thought to be an aphrodisiac and is jokingly referred to as liquid Viagra, though it was originally invented in the 1950s as a tonic for cleaning the kidneys and aiding in digestion. Today, you can purchase bottled mamajuana or make it yourself. Excellence Punta Cana has a small weekly workshop with all the materials for guests who want to make their very own souvenir bottle.
9. Nudity is a no in Punta Cana (except your private pool).
The Dominican Republic is mostly a Catholic country and it’s against the law to be nude or topless in public.
10. Seek out Dominican food.
One of the main complaints of staying at an all-inclusive resort is the lack of local culture, and that can feel like a problem in Punta Cana. Resort restaurants tend to cater to a wide variety of palates and offer international fare like Japanese, French, and Italian. While we’re not complaining about too much variety, we do think it would be a mistake to skip out on Dominican fare, made with a combination of Spanish, indigenous Taíno, and African influences. Many resorts offer Dominican dishes as part of their buffet spread. Look for fried green plantains, rice and beans, and pastelitos (like mini empanadas). Chivo is a rich goat stew. Desserts using tropical fruit and cream are especially popular and Presidente is the local brand of beer.