Since Feb. 2015
Lebawit Lily Girma is a freelance travel writer and photographer who splits her time between the US, Belize and the Caribbean. A serial expat, she has traveled the Caribbean for the past ten years. Lily's articles and photography, which focus on culture and adventure, have been published in New York Magazine, CNN Travel, The Travel Channel, American Way, BBC Travel, and others. She's the author of Moon Belize (Avalon Travel/Perseus Books) and is currently writing Moon Dominican Republic. You can follow Lily's Caribbean travels on social media @sunandstilettos or on her blog, Sunshine and Stilettos.
Nature & Wildlife Areas, Parks
Bodies of Water
Bars & Clubs
Dance Clubs & Discos
Located on the Punta Cana Club and Resort grounds, the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park is a 1,500-acre private reserve with a verdant, shaded forest trail leading to 11 freshwater lagoons. Hike for about 20 minutes to reach the Indigenous Eyes Lagoon, where you can jump from a platform into a gorgeous, crispy cool turquoise pool!
The Hoyo Azul cenote is located inside Scape Park, an adventure park located in Cap Cana, on the southern tip of the Punta Cana coast. A 20-minute hike through the park, past an informative medicinal plant and orchid trail, takes you to this deep turquoise pool, which sits at the foot of 246-feet-high cliffs. There are steps where you can lower into the water slowly, or a wooden platform from which the more adventurous can jump into the deep waters.
On the southern tip of Cap Cana, diamond-white sands and impossibly thin and tall coconut trees give Juanillo Beach a dreamy feel. You'll find fewer people here because of the remote location, and that's exactly what makes it worth visiting. Sit at the Juanillo Beach Bar and enjoy a cold beer, cocktails, and a burger.
A gorgeous sandy stretch facing a row of all-inclusive hotels, Bavaro Beach is just like the magical scenery you see on a dreamy Caribbean postcard. Soft white sand and crystal clear, perfectly refreshing yet warm, waters make this one of the most coveted beaches in the country.
On a free guided tour of the Chocolate Museum in downtown Punta Cana, you can learn all about the making of cacao in the Dominican Republic. Following the 10-minute introduction, you'll sample various types of organic chocolate, as well as chocolate drinks. The Dominican Republic is one of the world's top 10 cacao producers, so it's worth a stop to find out why.
Macao Beach is breathtaking, especially as you approach the top of the hill and get that initial glimpse of the deep blue ocean and those towering coconut trees. The serious wave action here, makes Macao a favorite among surfers and boogie boarders, and you can even rent equipment on site. The Atlantic Sea is a wonderfully cool temperature, and the beach is wide enough that you can easily find your own corner.
Captain Cook Restaurant allows you to dine under the stars, your toes buried in sand. Here, you pick your fish, weigh it, and take a beachfront seat while your meal is prepared fresh. Located in Bavaro, in the local community of Cortecito, this local seafood restaurant attracts both Dominicans and tourists alike with its authentic fare and convivial atmosphere.
At 45,000 square feet, Hard Rock is the largest casino in the Dominican Republic. You'll find 40 unique game tables as well as more than 400 slots here, and when you're done, you can head over to the on-site Oro Nightclub.
The hottest show in Punta Cana is Coco Bongo, both a nightclub and a Vegas-style performance that begins at midnight and runs until the wee hours of the morning. Prepare to be stunned by non-stop entertainment — from the exhilarating lights and visual effects, to the performances of acrobats and dancers — upon entering this small but impressive club. Local drinks are all-inclusive, and there are tables available at an extra cost if you don't want to stand all night long.
Dancing inside a cave (where bats still roam) is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That's what makes Imagine Disco a must-do for Punta Cana visitors. There are two separate chambers where DJs spin a variety of music, from techno to meringue to R&B. If you're in the mood to let loose and party all night with 20-somethings, this is a solid choice. It also makes for great photos!