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Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The Punta Cana/Bavaro area is an affordable destination in a magnificent tropical setting.

By Lisa Mullins Bishop and Paul Mermelstein, Caribbean Edge Staff Writers.

If you are dreaming of spending your vacation on a fabulous beach, try a stay at one of the resorts in the sun-drenched Punta Cana/Bavaro region of the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana and Bavaro anchor either end of a 20-mile stretch of a wide, white sand beach, known as the Coconut Coast. Well-known to Europeans, this area, three hours from Santo Domingo, is gaining in popularity among US and Canadian travelers looking for fun in the sun.

The Punta Cana/Bavaro area is an affordable destination in a magnificent tropical setting. The calm waters around the Punta Cana area make for great swimming, especially for younger children, and are ideal for watersports as well. The Bavaro area has great waves and is perfect for bodysurfing. Many of the resorts here are all-inclusives--everything from food and drinks to accommodations to activities is included in one set price. Club Med established the first resort here in 1981. Since then a dozen or so resorts such as Riu and Iberostar have discovered the Coconut Coast.

Club Med, Punta Cana

Famous as a haunt of singles, Club Med also operates wonderful resorts for families like this one in Punta Cana. This beachfront resort offers all kinds of activities. Windsurfing, sailing, swimming, snorkeling, water polo, beach volleyball, tennis, flying trapeze, archery, kayaking, basketball, rollerblading, and soccer are just a sampling of things to do. Every day the resort has a sailing regatta. Those interested in deep-sea fishing, golf, and horseback riding can take advantage of nearby facilities offering these activities.

All rooms have a view of the ocean or the lovely tropical gardens. Each room has air conditioning, cable or satellite TV, and minifridge. Guests are never far from the beach at this resort.

"We like the European feel of Club Med," said Kenneth and Lynne Ownes of the Philadelphia area. "This is our twelfth Club Med trip." At this Club Med, about 50 percent of the guests at this were Canadian, 20 percent Dominican, 20 percent French, while the other 10 percent are from the US and other countries.

This Club Med is not just for adults. Club Med has one of the best children's programs anywhere. The children's program is broken into groups according to age. There is no charge for ages 3-13, but there is a fee for children age 2 and 3. With separate play areas and lots of counselors, the children are kept entertained. Children can learn various watersports, try the flying trapeze, and participate in lots of other activities. Parents can choose to bask in the sun, swim, get a soothing massage, or enjoy a cocktail at one of the resort's two bars.

Guests can select from a variety of dining options. Samana, the main restaurant, serves breakfast and dinner. The breakfast buffet features made-to-order omelets, fresh fruit, pastries and other breakfast goodies, and every evening there is a different theme buffet at this restaurant. Located on the beach, the open-air restaurant Hispaniola offers diners a spectacular view of the ocean. Guests can enjoy Club Med's famous white chocolate bread as well as Dominican favorites, Caribbean fare, and other international specialties.

Located on 103 acres, this sprawling resort caters to its guests. The resort offers great transit rooms equipped with large lockers and showers so guests can swim and enjoy the day until their plane leaves at nearby Punta Cana International Airport.

Iberostar Bavaro Resort

Located in Bavaro, this all-inclusive resort has three different resorts on site at this Spanish-owned property: the Bavaro, Punta Cana, and Dominicana. Guests at the Bavaro Hotel, the resort's original hotel, enjoy privileges at all three hotels. Guests of the Dominicana can also use the facilities at the Punta Cana. The resort has a European ambience with 50 percent of the guests coming from Spain and 30 percent from Germany. The resort is popular with Europeans because of the value of the Euro and the increased European flights coming into nearby Punta Cana International Airport.

There's plenty to do here with two pools, tennis courts, fitness center, PADI dive center, casino, disco, and Caribbean Street Shopping Village. Children will enjoy the ice cream parlor, video game room, children's pool, petting zoo, and special children's program. Shuttles run from the rooms and restaurants to the beach.

The Bavaro Hotel features spacious junior suites with air conditioning, cable TV, complimentary mini-bar, and balcony. Guests have numerous dining options at this all-inclusive from lavish buffets at Los Haitises, the main restaurant, to La Dorada, a Mediterranean seafood restaurant. Other al a carte restaurants include Hashiru for Japanese food, La Marimba for Caribbean specialties, and the Bavaro steakhouse. Those looking for a spot to enjoy a cocktail have their choice of three bars.

The Dominicana has about 500 rooms, all with air conditioning, cable TV, marble-floored bath, and balcony. Guests can use the facilities at the Punta Cana property. This beautifully landscaped property has a lovely courtyard with hanging vines, palms, and lush greenery. There are four bar/lounges on site and five restaurants, offering guests their choice of lavish buffets at the main restaurant or al a carte dining at the resort's Mexican, Caribbean, and steakhouse restaurants.

The resort has something for all ages. "We came here to celebrate my daughter's 15th birthday," said Ruth from New Jersey, who came to the resort with a group of 40. "My daughter found the resort on the Internet and chose it. Everything was great and all 40 people are very happy."

RIU Resort, Punta Cana

The RIU hotel chain also has an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana comprised of five hotels. The property runs from the beautiful white sand beach back to the lush tropical interior, where the accommodations are located. Shuttles take guests between the restaurants room, and beach. At the Taino hotel, there are 90 family suites and 12 other suites in numerous bungalows. The suites have air conditioning and satellite TV. Each building has four units and the buildings are clustered together so guests have view of the beautiful tropical gardens. The Taino has five restaurants, including a steak house and a Mediterranean restaurant, and numerous bars from a swim up pool bar and the La Fiesta lounge. The Taino also has a disco that is open to outside guests, so there is a charge for drinks served at the disco.

Bavaro Princess

Located on a mile-long private beach, the Bavaro Princess is an all-inclusive resort with plenty to do in beautiful setting. "We were looking for somewhere special and affordable, beautiful with nice gardens, sun, sand, and shopping," said Shilagh Ostorsser of Canada. Although she a rough time at check in she said that "Everything is great here and the staff is warm, generous, and helpful."

All the accommodations are air-conditioned junior suites in a complex of 86 bungalows. With seven restaurants and a disco, there's plenty of nightly entertainment. Children love the ecological trails and mini-zoo, and both adults and children can take advantage of the four tennis courts and two pools on the property. Those looking to work out can do so in the resort's health club.

Punta Cana Resort and Club

Golfers love this resort for its golf course designed by Pete Dye. The course offers spectacular views of the sea. This 15,000-acre resort is only ten minutes from Punta Cana International Airport and offers a variety of accommodations from villas to condos to hotel rooms. Unlike many of the resorts in the area, the Punta Cana is not an all-inclusive but offers a modified American plan.

Native son Oscar de le Renta decorated the Tortuga Beach villas, which feature three-bedrooms, a kitchenette, and living room on two levels. These villas are in a private area along the ocean. The two-level villas have separate entries on each floor. In addition to the Tortuga Beach villas, Punta Cana also has two- and three-bedroom beach villas that are ideal for families or friends travelling together. Each bedroom has a private bathroom and cable TV, and there is a living room common to all the rooms.

With two pools, four tennis courts, a marina, a nearby equestrian center, a spectacular beach, and a challenging golf course, guest can be as active as they wish. Those wanting some R and R have plenty of room to spread out on the six-mile long white sand beach. A spa is scheduled to open in winter 2005.

The resort has a dance club, five bars, and five restaurants including one, the Coccoloba, designed by Oscar de Le Renta. The gourmet Coccoloba restaurant is located at the golf and beach clubhouse, a beautiful building with its own pool and magnificent views of the ocean.

The Punta Cana and Bavaro area has much to see and do in a magnificent tropical setting. The area offers great value, great beaches, and great facilities for families. If you are looking for an affordable vacation in the sun, this may be the place for you.

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