Swimming off the seaside at Playa Blanca. The water is so inexperienced!
“Do I want a motorcycle lock?”
The lady checking me in laughs. “A motorbike lock? Oh, you don’t want to fret about these sorts of issues right here.”
The Brooklyn lady inside begins to sweat. No bike lock?
I’m at the moment in Punta Cana checking into Tortuga Bay, a luxurious property with beachfront villas, butler service, deep Jacuzzi tubs and, presumably my favourite half, an escort upon arrival to escort you thru immigration and mean you can skip the traces. Whereas for a solo vacationers the $620 beginning value could be an excessive amount of for many, sharing with associates means a budget-friendly keep in paradise, one the place you possibly can experience your complimentary bicycle round in a bikini and never have to fret about the place you permit it (Observe: The on-site 4 Factors by Sheraton Puntacana Village begins at $99 per night time).
I’d by no means recognized a lot about Punta Cana apart for the very fact it was stuffed with resorts. Lately, PUNTACANA Resort & Membership was variety sufficient to ask me to attend their annual Kite Fest Punta Cana, in addition to to be taught extra concerning the ecological and lively choices of the world. It was excellent timing, as I used to be feeling a determined have to get away from Brooklyn’s icy winter chill (to not point out search a psychological escape from my latest breakup).
They don’t make seashores like this in Brooklyn…Searching over the Caribbean Sea in entrance of Tortuga Bay.
A peak into the lounge of our beachfront Tortuga Bay villa.
Golf carts and bikes are the primary modes of transport in Punta Cana.
My villa-mates and I in Punta Cana having fun with our porch view (and taking a selfie!)
What was astounding to me was that Punta Cana wasn’t a metropolis with a resort, it was a resort that actually constructed a metropolis, 45 years in the past when the land was solely coconut timber.
PUNTACANA Resort & Membership owns the entire accommodations within the space, to not point out the ecological reserve, shops, seashores, village…even the airport!
And whereas this implies you’ll be spending time in a really resort vacation spot, I used to be pleasantly shocked by its non-Cancun really feel. As an alternative, the vibe was chill, with plenty of water sports activities, ambient eating places, accountable tourism initiatives and ecological sights offering serenity.
There have been two principal locations I got here to like in Punta Cana:
Playa Blanca, full of locals and vacationers partaking in water sports activities, and the Punta Cana Ecological Reserve, a real escape with out truly leaving the resort. Significantly, no Dominican Republic journey expertise could be full with out visiting these spots!
A view of Playa Blanca from the Caribbean Sea
Me getting artsy on my paddleboard with my GoPro
Desk of Contents
- Playa Blanca
- Indigenous Eyes
- Punta Cana Ecological Basis
- A Good Weekend Ending
- Cigar & Rum Pairing
- Bonus Dominican Republic Journey Sources:
Playa Blanca was the location of Kite Fest Punta Cana, so I usually spent my days on the white sand seaside — paddle boarding, snorkeling close to shipwrecks (so shut they’re seen from the seaside) and sipping “Passionfruit Mojitos” on the waterfront Brassa Grill & Bar.
After lunch, I’d publish up on the seaside and watch the 50 native and worldwide kitesurfers, standup paddle boarders and wakeboarders compete for his or her relative titles. Whereas I really like rise up paddle boarding — it’s severely my meditation once I’m at a seaside vacation spot — kitesurfing makes my palms sweat a bit. The combination of aquatic and aerial journey, in addition to the religion they put into the wind is actually inspiring.
Sooner or later I’d like to be taught, but it surely isn’t a fast tutorial sort of exercise like SUP or windsurfing. The truth is, my group was in a position to take a lesson on the seaside; nonetheless, there’s no entering into the water till at the least six hours of coaching. Kiteboarding is not any joke, and it’s not exhausting to interrupt a bone or get harm if you happen to don’t perceive the technical features of it.
What you’ll really want to do to get began, humorous sufficient, is faucet again into your childhood kite-flying days, and actually get re-acquainted with the ability of flying a kite. Effectively, a very actually huge kite…that can be strapped to your chest…whereas your toes are booted onto a board. Gulp.
Fortunately, my buddy Dale from Wine Awesomeness — who helped sponsor the Kite Fest Punta Cana — is an incredible kiteboarder, and I used to be in a position to take a experience on his again as he bounded us over waves and flew us into the air on an enormous pink kite (clips of this within the video under). A lot simpler than truly getting licensed.
In the intervening time, I persist with what I’m good at. The spotlight of my Punta Cana itinerary is a paddle boarding journey to the Punta Cana Ecological Reserve (you possibly can e-book this on the seaside), encompassing 15,000 acres, 45 acres of which is the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park (sure, there’s loads of ecology occurring!).
The park is a singular forest path that explores a sub tropical transition zone forest and 12 freshwater lagoons fed by the Yauya River because it flows underground to the ocean, three of which visitors can swim in. It’s additionally a shocking place to discover Dominican Republic mountaineering.
Shockingly, apart for my group there are about three different folks whole on the paths to the lagoons. I can’t imagine we’re lower than 10 minutes from the beachfront and it’s this quiet.
The Indigenous Eyes…are you able to see it?
Exploring the lagoons underwater. Pure calm.
Climbing round Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park
Swimming within the crystal waters of the “Indigenous Eyes” within the Punta Cana Ecological Reserve
In Pre-Columbian instances, the indigenous Taino Indians of the Dominican Republic believed these lagoons seemed like eyes when the daylight streamed via the timber and created a glimmering impact on the water’s almond-shaped floor. Because of this, the lagoons are often called “Ojos Indígenas,” or Indigenous Eyes. It’s additionally believed by some the waters have medicinal properties. Whereas I’m undecided if that is true or not, I can say that one dip in these serene waters will instantly wash away any stress or detrimental ideas that will have been plaguing you beforehand.
Thanks to Dale of Wine Awesomeness for the celebration and kitesurfing photographs!
When you go to at least one lagoon, it must be Guamá Lagoon, the deepest at 26 toes (8 meters), which you’ll dive into from a platform. When it’s my flip to leap, I hesitate. I’m at all times afraid the water goes to be freezing. Plus, it’s so deep there’s no method I may stand or tip toe throughout the underside to maintain my shoulders dry. However, the smooth waves and clear-as-glass water beckon me ahead (as does the very fact I actually need to seize this second with my GoPro, see above).
I’m so enthralled by the pure attraction I exploit my complimentary bike transport to go to once more, biking the paved pathway alongside the seaside to succeed in the trailhead. The reserve is simply as spectacular the second time round, with only some extra folks there than final time. Once more, I’m undecided if it’s as a result of this place is lesser recognized or the vacationers are too busy on the seaside, however I’m in awe that I’ve such a pristine place virtually to myself.
Wandering across the Ecological Basis grounds, I got here to this little bit of serenity.
Palm timber and goats, an odd sight combo for this New Yorker
Agriculture happenings at The Punta Cana Ecological Basis
Exploring the paths within the Punta Cana Ecological Basis (and attempting to cowl myself from the solar — convey sunscreen!). Discover the bike tattoo, which is type of cool as a result of I biked to the Fountain.
Punta Cana Ecological Basis
To reinforce the expertise even additional, I cycle throughout the road to the Punta Cana Ecological Basis to be taught extra about what sort of sustainable initiatives are being spearheaded by PUNTACANA Resort & Membership. The trail- and garden-filled grounds are stuffed with well-marked indicators so you possibly can perceive what you’re taking a look at, even and not using a information, though workers are blissful to enlighten you.
“Our mission is to guard and restore the pure assets of the Punta Cana area and contribute to the sustainable improvement of the nation,” explains Jake Kheel, Environmental Director, Puntacana Resort & Membership. “We do that by researching, designing and implementing initiatives that present options to among the nations most difficult environmental issues like waste administration, water, coral reef safety and coastal administration.”
Wandering alone, I once more really feel fully at peace. There’s completely no one round, and I’m in a position to fully lose myself within the native ecology. The one sounds I hear, apart for some farming machines, are the island winds, birds chirping and cattle from the native petting zoo, a part of an interpretive path that explores the cultural and pure historical past of the Dominican Republic. It permits visitors to see among the animals that have been dropped at the island throughout the colonial interval and have performed an essential function within the improvement of the nation. I’m blissful to see the animals have large open areas and no cages are concerned.
As I’m strolling, I come to an enormous pit stuffed with huge iguanas, Rhinoceros Iguanas, to be actual, which might develop to be 54 inches (135 centimeters). Indigenous to the island of Hispaniola — the identify for the whole island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti — these iguanas have been as soon as plentiful; nonetheless, as a consequence of human poaching, habitat loss and the introduction of non-native species like cats, canine, pigs and mongoose, they’re at risk of changing into extinct. The Punta Cana Ecological Basis has enclosed 16 Rhinoceros Iguanas for defense and breeding, to be re-introduced into the wild. They’ve an analogous program for the endemic Ridgway Hawk, one of many world’s rarest birds.
Rhinoceros iguanas are named for the three bumps above their nostril.
I additionally discover the Worm Composting undertaking fascinating, because the Basis has created an answer for natural fertilizer for native golf programs. Native resorts give their natural waste for India Blue Worms — which might eat their very own weight in natural materials and lie in rotting vegetation and compost — to eat and digest. These worms flip the compost into fertilizer, which might then be used as a wholesome various to chemical fertilizers — which additionally protects the native oceans from poisonous runoff.
Lionfish — a non-native species which might be killing native fish and destroying Caribbean reefs — are additionally being managed, because the Punta Cana Ecological Basis purchases these fish from native fisherman and sells them to Punta Cana eating places for wholesome and scrumptious meals (Significantly. Scrumptious. No fishy aftertaste). They’re additionally taking issues one step additional, and empowering native ladies by having them stuff the meat-less fish to be offered as handicrafts.
Together with the applications, I see quite a few themed gardens: medicinal vegetation, desert flora, fruit timber, palm timber, a historic sugar cane exhibit telling the historical past of Caribbean multiculturalism via agriculture (when Spanish colonizers started bringing over African slaves to have a tendency the sugar cane, they modified the demographics of the Dominican Republic, creating the multi-cultural island you see as we speak). Apparently, “Punta Cana” interprets to “Tip of the White Cane Palms,” paying homage to the world’s cane palms.
A beekeeping space additionally turns the over-abundant native bee inhabitants right into a working honey farm, with the honey altering shade and taste with the seasons, relying on what native flora is in bloom for pollination. I savor this honey at breakfast every morning, and might vouch it tastes a lot, significantly better than that over-caramelized, chemical-filled honey bear rubbish you purchase on the grocery store.
A Good Weekend Ending
Biking again to Tortuga Bay takes lower than 10 minutes, and as I enter the property I discover that the sensation of being the one one round continues to be current. Regardless of being at a resort, all is quiet. Evidently many of the “motion” occurs at Playa Blanca.
Which might be why it’s the place the weekend culminates, with a sundown Kite Fest Punta Cana seaside celebration. Locals and guests alike maintain beers and pina coladas, dancing within the sand and lounging on solar chairs, listening to the DJs on the waterfront stage. I additionally discover virtually everybody in some unspecified time in the future had some sort of cigarette or cigar of their mouth.
Punta Cana sunrises and sunsets are so colourful. Right here is the dawn as seen from Tortuga Bay.
Cigar & Rum Pairing
Which jogs my memory, there’s one different place that I’ve uncared for to say that I completely fell in love with: the Don Queco Cigar Bar. Located close to The Westin Puntacana Resort & Membership pool, the venue encompasses a lengthy bar with plush couches and bar stools and, the spotlight, a separate enclosed area showcasing cigars from across the Dominican Republic and past specified by lovely humidors.
I’m not likely into smoking of any variety; nonetheless, when Victor, my now favourite bartender on the planet, leads me via the cigar room to scent and be taught concerning the origins of every one, I’m astounded. Who knew cigars may very well be as advanced as wine, truly having a physique, aromas, age-ability and even terroir. When Victor tells me he would have the ability to pair a cigar with a neighborhood drink for me, I used to be offered. Plus, I can by no means flip down a cultural expertise.
When in Rome Punta Cana.