Punta Cana and Bavaro are located right in the very east of the country. They are part of La Altagracia Province, which is the easternmost province of the Dominican Republic, this is the major tourist part of the country, which borders the Caribbean Sea at the southern end and the Atlantic Ocean at the northern part of the province.
Compared to the rest of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana has only been in existence since the 1970s. Previously it was an area which was impossible to reach by road, uninhabitable, apart from a few fishermen, and covered with thick jungle and mangrove swamps. In 1969, a group of canny American investors bought 30 square miles of this undeveloped land, seeing the most beautiful but inaccessible beaches, with pure white sand, amazing coral reefs and crystal-clear water. They were then joined by a Dominican, Frank Rainieri, and together they had a vision to create resorts which would provide a fabulous vacation experience. At that time, the area was not called Punta Cana, but Punta Borrachón, which means Drunkards Point! They decided that name was probably not suitable to attract tourists, and so renamed it Punta Cana. They probably also had no idea at the time, that not only would it be amazing for tourism, but would also become one of the best, if not the best, place in the country for expats to set up home, or buy a vacation property.
Within a very short time frame, they were joined by famous Dominican fashion designer, Oscar de la Renta, and Spanish singer Julio Iglesias, and formed the tourist development company Group PuntaCana.
The first hotel was built in 1971, and now there are around 70 hotels, all along the coastline with 50,000 rooms, and more being built every year.
Slowly more roads were built, to make the area more accessible – at that time, the capital city of La Altagracia province, Higuey, 28 kilometers away, took around six hours to reach – today you can be there in 30 minutes, and in 1982 Punta Cana airport, still privately owned, began construction, opening in 1984. Today it carries nearly 70% of all tourists to the Dominican Republic with around 8 million passengers arriving every year, making it by far the busiest airport in the country.
One of the main advantages of the fact that Punta Cana is so new, is that all of the services, such as water, sewage, electricity, roads were all constructed by Group PuntaCana, meaning that the area is significantly more modern and more efficient than the rest of the country. The electricity is not powered by the National Grid but by Consorcio EnergeticoPunta Cana Macao (CEPM), a private company and as such the prices for electricity are higher than the rest of the country, but that is more than compensated for by the fact that the electricity is much more reliable and there are rarely outages, unlike all other areas.
Today, Punta Cana is the most important tourist destination in the whole of the Caribbean, and, in addition, is becoming an increasingly popular place, not just for tourists, but for Dominicans, who have had enough of the heat, traffic and chaos of the country’s capital, Santo Domingo, and for snowbirds from Europe and North America, who come to spend the winter. Those who wish for the delights the Caribbean has to offer, with all the comforts of home, and without the headaches which might arise in the rest of the country.
The resorts in the Punta Cana area, along with the different businesses which have flourished due to the onset of tourism, have become the backbone of the local economy. It is worthwhile to note that today approximately a quarter of the country's GDP is made in Punta Cana. The initial investors couldn't have dreamt that the area would become so important for the entire country.
There are around 62 miles of beautiful coastline with the main beaches being Uvero Alto, Macao, Arena Gorda, Bávaro, El Cortecito, Las Corales and Cabeza de Toro, all north of the cape; and Cabo Engaño, Punta Cana and Juanillo south of the cape.
However, it should be clarified, that when people talk about Punta Cana, they usually mean the whole area, which encompasses a range of different locations which include the towns of Cap Cana, Cabeza de Toro, Bávaro, El Cortecito, Arena Gorda, Macao, and Uvero Alto.
Punta Cana is where it all started, and as well as having some tourist resorts, it is also home to several residential complexes, with Punta Cana Village having an excellent private school, shops and restaurants, and it is also close to the airport. It does have the feelings of a real village, with expats and professionals from all over the world living here.
Cap Cana has one of the most beautiful beaches in the worldcalled Playa Juanillo. There is no real mass tourism in Cap Cana, but instead it has the most luxurious, and expensive hotels, and is the area where the rich and famous come on vacation. Several own villas in the famous Casa de Campo gated resort, with its own marina and designer boutiques. There are majestic golf courses, some designed by Jack Nicklaus, fabulous restaurants and other marinas.
Cabeza de Toro is the name of one of the most beautiful beaches on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic, and is home to an important Nature Reserve which allows for amazing natural beauty. It is also close to the airport saving long cab rides on arrival or departure. There are fewer crowds here, but the same stunning beaches and ocean, along with the myriad of palms trees. In addition, there are several restaurants in the area, along with beach bars and a whole range of water sports
Bávaro is a long stretch of fabulous white sandy beach, lined with beautiful coconut palms and a full range of all-inclusive hotels. The hotels offer a range of sporting activities, there are shopping centers and several restaurants. Bavaro is the main center for the more mass tourism.
El Cortecito, a former fishing village, is now a smallneighborhood in Bavaro and often referred to as “the heart of Bavaro”. It has developed significantly over the past few years but manages to remain fun and laid back, and attracts locals as well as expats and tourists. Full of craft shops and local merchandise, it is casual and cool, with many water-based excursions.
Arena Gorda is one of the widest beaches in the whole country, so is perfect for swimming and relaxing. It also is home to several enormous, all-inclusive hotels.
Macao is in the northern part of the Punta Cana area, with a beautiful, unspoiled beach, much loved by the expat community, who go to surf and to eat amazing seafood from the shacks set up on the beach. The beach is different from others on the east coast as it actually faces north, hence the attraction for surfers.
Uvero Alto is right at the very top of the Punta Cana area, with a long, wide beach and wild waves, but dangerous undertows. There are resorts and bars and restaurants, and it has become home to higher end resorts, due to its quieter location. Often called one of the best-kept secrets of the Punta Cana area, it is more tranquil and has less tourists than the rest of the area, even during the high season.