I went to a resort called "The Cocotal" in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It was well off the beaten path, yet had everything right there that I needed. However, this journal is not really about the Resort....I was more amazed at the island itself. I was somewhat afraid to visit the Dominican Republic, knowing that it's right next to Haiti. However, I read a few things about the tourism there and decided to go. Boy am I glad I did. I don't see why more people don't visit the island. The water there is absolutely gorgeous. The watersports are great too. Make sure you go all inclusive, as most non-motorized water sports are included in your fees. If you still want to do the banana boat ride, or rent jet skis, the prices are very reasonable. If you don't' know how to use the equipment, there will be plenty of ready and willing people to help show you. One warning: the sun is extremely dangerous there. You won't be able to tell until it's too late. Make sure to wear tons of sunscreen, and re-apply throughout the day. Bullfrog sunscreen usually does the trick and lasts a bit longer. I found all this out the hard way. Because the beaches were so beautiful, and the sand was great to play volleyball in...I looked like a lobster after only about 3 hours. So just be careful.
The natives of the island are so accommodating. Very friendly and nice. They try very hard to speak English, so don't be afraid of miscommunication...I don't think there was an instance where I had any problems whatsoever. In fact, one nice man on the beach was trying to teach me his language. They speak a mixture of French and Spanish. I took a few Spanish courses in school, so I could catch on to what he was saying. That was definitely an experience. I felt like a native myself just after about 30 minutes! It was neat being able to ask the bartender for a drink in another language!
When you fly in to Punta Cana airport, you usually have to take a long bus ride to your resort, as they are all pretty secluded from the cities. There isn't much to see or do in the cities, as they are very poverty stricken. However, we decided to take a tour of the city and found that the children are very intelligent. This gives me hope that one day they will rise above the poverty levels. It's pretty sad, and probably a culture shock for most people to go through the towns, as most people live in shacks. Even upper class citizens live in homes the size of and average apartment. They seem happy though. It's a laid back type atmosphere. The song lyrics "Don't worry, about a thing, cause every little thing, will be alright" come to mind when I think of that place. It's one of the most memorable experiences I have yet to have had.
Once you get to your resort (most are all inclusive), you will be warmly greeted with food, drinks, and music. It's the epitome of paradise. I just wish more people knew how great it is, and would visit. I think that if the island gets more tourism, there won't be as much poverty. Enough about their finances, because once you are at your resort... all you can think about is getting in that gorgeous teal water. I am an avid snorkel/scuba diver and found that they had some of the greatest reefs I have ever encountered. I highly recommend this area if you are into scuba. As far as getting to the island, a charter flight is your best bet. They are less expensive, and easier to come by. It makes the whole vacation just that much more affordable.
When it comes to the culture in the Dominican, in my opinion, it's a mix between, Hawaiian and Spanish culture. Their shows and performances are very interesting. If you get a chance to see one, you will see what I mean. They take different cultures, combine them together and make their own. I have been to many Caribbean islands, Hawaii, Spain, and Venezuela....and nothing seemed to be up to par with the Dominican Republic. To wrap this up. I am pro Dominican Republic, and hope to see their tourism increase much more in the near future. It's such a beautiful island. They have such beautiful people. I call it the "hidden gem of the Caribbean"