Travel Review: Punta Cana

I recently took a trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The idea was to find an affordable, relaxing, and Caribbean-style vacation for my wife and me to celebrate five years of marriage together. We invited a shit load of relatives to join us in a week of drinking, eating, and swimming, but only my wife’s aunt and boyfriend joined us. If I gained nothing more than this it was worth it; they are terrific people and awesome travel companions. I already knew they were terrific people before going to Punta Cana.

I knew by booking an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic that my photography would be taking a break as well. Most reviews on the Punta Cana region suggest staying within the borders of your resort or suggest taking day trips with tour guides that your resort has approved. So, I knew that I wouldn’t be doing much of my normal driving around looking for new spots to photograph in the D.R.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino still offered great views of the beach, ocean, and property that I tried to capture. I have a few complaints about my trip. The first was that our transfer from the airport to the resort, and then from the resort to the airport was garbage. We used Island Sun transfers that the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino website suggested only to find out that Blu transfers were the dominant transfer connection once at the resort. We had a really hard time finding our ride to the airport because Island Sun associates just weren’t on location, or should I say in the location that they should have been to direct their transfers. I did have a great time outside of some food poisoning on my last day. It knocked me down all day and most of the next day as well.

The actual beach, Bavaro Beach, was lined with soft white sand. The weather was phenomenal. But, the water left much to be desired. It wasn’t as clear as Turks’ Grace Bay as a comparison, but I’m not sure many other beaches are that clear. It was full of seaweed and wavy as fuck. I lost my nice sunglasses the first 15 minutes in the water on the first day by a rogue wave. I mean, the water was coming straight off the Atlantic so… The water was nice and warm though. I lost my sunglasses because I was too busy trying to capture waves with my newly acquired GoPro. 

As for the all-inclusiveness of the Hard Rock I can’t say enough. I loved most of my mixed rum drinks. I had Bob Marley’s, Miami Vices, and Sammy Sosa’s (all names of different drinks). I drank a ton of Presidente, the island’s own beer. Room service was probably the best thing. It ran all day and night. Most of the food was good, except the last night when I ate something sour at the Mexican themed restaurant. It could have happened here just as easily. 

We went on one excursion to Dolphin Discovery to swim with the dolphins. I have to say that I was a bit skeptical at first because I thought dolphins were a bit cheesy. I wanted to swim with sharks and stingrays but the price was through the roof. As I went in skeptical I came out amazed. These animals really are intelligent as fuck. I mean, they’re not geniuses because they’re in a pool pushing assholes like me around on a boogie board, but they’re still really smart. I highly suggest checking out the dolphins if you go on any trips that offer swimming with the dolphins. The only pitfall to this excursion as mentioned in every review is that the photographs are expensive afterwards as they do not allow you to bring your own camera in the water. 

Overall all parties had a great time while in Punta Cana. My favorite parts of the entire trip were the room service, poolside bar, winning at miniature golf, watching the Warriors win the Championship while drinking Dos Equis in a hot tub in our room, and swimming with the dolphins. I mean, it was all the time spent with my wife! All of that outweighed me getting sick, losing my sunglasses to the sea, and the shitty transfer service. When asked if we would return I said no. I think I'd like to check out the Bahamas, Aruba, the Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Turks and Caicos (again) before going back to the Dominican Republic. 

One of the more random things to happen on this trip was when I went to get off the plane after our flight home to Chicago. As I was leaving this really tall dude stepped out from in front of me as I was exiting the plane. It was Joakim Noah from the Chicago Bulls. I tried to play it cool when we were in the airport to respect his privacy, but once we were curbside waiting for our rides to pick us up I had to ask for a photograph. He said sure, and my wife and I took a weird selfie with the Chicago center and headed home. I think that made my trip more than the trip itself. 

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