At long last, Courtney actually visits Punta Cana!
Our agents travel to some pretty awesome destinations. When they return, our excitement to hear about their adventures is almost as great as their excitement is to share them. In ON LOCATION, they talk about the little nuances that make each place special. From Peru to South Africa, Switzerland, and Croatia, experience a fantastic second-hand journey and maybe take away some travel inspiration while you’re at it.
She may not have found a new pet to bring home, but she did bond with some monkeys. Was this your first time visiting the Dominican Republic?
Yes. We’ve sent many groups there, so I felt like I’ve been there before, but this was my first time experiencing it first-hand.
Where did you stay?
I stayed at Secrets Cap Cana. It’s a gorgeous adults-only resort that just opened up last year. Everything was fresh and new. I loved it! The area felt very safe because it was in the gated community of Cap Cana. The landscaping was amazing, the design of the resort and room were super posh, and our room had a great view of the pools and the ocean.
What did you expect before going and did it live up to your expectations?
I was expecting great beaches and tropical animals. The beaches lived up to my expectations, however the tropical creatures did not. All I saw was a hermit crab, a sand crab, and one fish. There weren’t even any bugs. Not a single mosquito bite! Oh, I guess I also saw a small lizard at the resort, but that was pretty much it.
What about the picture of you on Instagram with a bunch of monkeys?
That was at a place called Monkeyland! None of the squirrel monkeys are native to the area, though. It is a tour you can go on to meet, feed, and hang out with some lovely monkeys. They ate a lot! They would grab the food and perch on our heads as they ate. They were very gentle while climbing all over us. The Monkeyland habitat was very nice and up in the mountains of Anamuya. They had a lot of freedom to roam in a very tropical-style enclosure. They loved being around people and seemed really happy.
How did you hear about Monkeyland?
I had a recommendation from Karla Nilson (from our Sales team) who is also an avid animal lover. I’m not one for zoos, so I was a little hesitant to visit this particular attraction but she told me how well they treated the monkeys and how happy they seemed. She knows that my family and I love animals and told me I had to go. I’m glad she told us! We loved it.
What sorts of activities, other than Monkeyland, did you do?
Near Monkeyland, they had a small setup of a typical Dominican house where they showed us how some of the locals make and process coffee, sugarcane, coconut oil, and chocolate. They gave us samples along the way of everything they made. We also tried a sample of a local drink called Mama Juana, that is concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. According to our guide, every household in the DR keeps Mama Juana on hand because they claim it helps get rid of the flu, aids in digestion and circulation, and helps cleanse the blood, liver, and kidneys. So, I obviously had to buy some to bring home.
But back to the chocolate—it was cool how they showed us how they break open the pods and to get the cocoa beans out to make the chocolate. They had us try the raw bean, which was not my favorite. There was this white gooey stuff that covered it that made for a weird texture.
Sounds like quite the experience! Did they have activities at the resort?
Yeah! At the resort, if you stayed by the pool, they offered Spanish lessons, dancing, and pool volleyball. If you went to the beach they had kayaking, snorkeling, some sort of sailing, and more volleyball. I only tried the kayaking, which was fun, but it was really quite windy.
Speaking of the beach, the resort had a really good one. It was really large with ample seating to lay out on and very fine sand to walk on. The water was quite warm and only got about waist deep and seemed to go for about a mile out at that depth. They did not have any lifeguards though, which thinking about it, is kind of strange.
What types of local foods and culture did you experience?
I didn’t really leave the resort much other than to go to Monkeyland and look at some other hotel properties. The food at the resort was really good though. They did require a certain dress code to eat in the restaurants at night, anywhere from casual to formal. So just be mindful of that if you want to stay on the resort and eat anything other than room service.
You mentioned other hotel properties. Where did you visit?
I went over to the Breathless Punta Cana and Now Onyx, which are side by side. It was my first time to visit both of those brands. I thought it was great that you could get two different types of design in such close proximity and be able to share some of the same amenities.
Did you have a favorite between the two?
Yes. I really loved the Now Onyx. It is quite new, which is probably why I gravitated towards it. I really liked the design of the restaurants, the pools, and the rooms. It had a spa-like feel which I didn’t think was possible in a family-friendly resort.
Would you recommend Punta Cana to your family and friends?
Yes, it was a wonderful place! If you’re looking for somewhere warm (but not too hot), where the view of the ocean is spectacular, the beaches are swimmable, and the culture is super-friendly, then Punta Cana is your place.
One of the things I was a little disappointed in was the lack of wildlife. On other trips, I’ve been able to swim with turtles and tropical fish in the ocean right near the resort and also have had lunch with iguanas by the pool. I was a little bummed out not to see any cute creatures.