Located about 100 mi/160 km east of Santo Domingo, Punta Cana and its neighbor, Bavaro, are ground zero in the ongoing all-inclusive resort explosion under way in the Dominican Republic (affectionately known as just "DR"). They're located along a beautiful 30-mi/48-km stretch of white-sand beach lined with coconut palms that was once nicknamed the Costa del Coco for marketing purposes; the Dominican Tourist Board, however, no longer favors the moniker. This lovely strip of shore looks like it was taken straight off a travel poster and has perhaps the finest (and certainly the longest and whitest) beaches and most beautiful turquoise and jade seas in the country.
Most hotels concentrate in Bavaro, although the entire coast has become known as Punta Cana, which is really a separate and somewhat more exclusive area about 10 mi/16 km south of Bavaro. In the communities just inland from Bavaro, unregulated development has stolen all charm away from the sands and seas.
The largest complex is the Barcelo Bavaro, with more than 1,800 rooms between its two hotels, its own casino, two discos, a theater, a dozen dining options and an 18-hole golf course. The Bavaro hotels are closer together than those in Punta Cana, allowing for more movement between properties. Hotel development continues to make public beach access more difficult year by year, although several narrow access lanes lie hidden between the resorts.
Although more development is moving into the area, the resorts of Punta Cana have so far retained the relaxed atmosphere most visitors expect from a Caribbean vacation spot. Much of the ongoing development is centered on Cap Cana, south of Punta Cana proper; and at Macao and neighboring Uvero Alto, about a 40-minute drive north of Bavaro.
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