Exploring the Caribbean – Punta Cana in Dominican Republic

PUNTA CANA, DR: It was time for our 2nd girls trip and this time it was going to be somewhere in the Caribbean. It was the fearless five of us out to explore a new place while having some girl time. Initially, we were going to go to Montego Bay. But sorry Jamaica, Dominican Republic had better deals on flights and logistics.

Punta Cana in Dominican Republic - one of the top destinations in the Caribbean

Punta Cana in Dominican Republic – one of the top destinations in the Caribbean

 

Punta Cana, it is the home of white sandy beaches, great food, fantastic warm weather, and genuinely friendly people…and all these make this place one of the top Caribbean destinations. For tourists, like me, who can’t speak much Spanish, not to worry…most of the people we dealt with, like in restaurants, cab drivers, and etc spoke at least some English.

Beautiful beaches of Punta Cana, DR

Beautiful beaches of Punta Cana, DR

Punta Cana International Airport is about 40-45 minutes drive from all the resorts and hotels area. About currency, I only exchanged $100 to Dominican Peso from the airport and I didn’t even have to do that (but it’s always good to have some local currencies in the pocket in my opinion). We could and did use USD almost anywhere and everywhere.

TIME of TRAVEL: We visited Punta Cana at the very end of November last year. It was probably the best time to go there. No spring-break or winter holiday tourists, weather was around 80s…no scorching heat or humidity to deal with. We did get tropical rain couple nights, usually around 9/10pm.

OUR HOTEL: Sunscape Dominican Beach Punta Cana is where we stayed during this trip. We had the deluxe tropical view, basically just looking over the other buildings and the grassy areas of the resort.

Overall, the resort itself was good. They had good service, big and clean rooms with balcony, friendly services, and all that. I wasn’t a big fan of their food, except for the breakfast where they had fresh papaya, watermelon, passion fruit juice. But other Japanese, Mediterranea, French places were very disappointing. Another thing we should have complained to the hotel concierge, is that Punta Cana gets tropical rain here and there, and when it rains, all the paths inside the resort get really slippery. My friend fell on that (and later we found out few others too) and hurt her ankle really bad. There has to be something the hotel management can do to provide more safety in weather like that.

EATING and SHOPPING: This was a lesson learned for me that not all-inclusive places serve good food. Most of the meals that we had in our resort, if not all, were below average. I mean, even their pizza and hotdog tasted like chewed up beach slippers. I was, at one point, craving to taste some local food at some local restaurants. We did get delicious Dominican BBQ chicken and fish in our trip to Saona Island. But after few meals at the resort, I couldn’t take it anymore. So finally, the last day, we decided to go out and have dinner at a place, called La Delicasa, recommended by our hotel. It was more like a semi-fast food place, serving authentic Dominican food. Loved it, period.

Our lunch in Saona Island in Dominican Republic - BBQ chicken

Our lunch in Saona Island in Dominican Republic – BBQ chicken

For souvenirs, Taino Art works (like paintings, wall decor, masks, statues) are very ethnic and traditional gifts to bring back from DR. They are usually locally handcrafted containing tribal signs and symbols that supposed to bring good luck. Other wooden arts are also very popular here. I, myself, bought tapestry, Taino art paintings, Dominican coffee, chocolate, and coconut shell candle holders. Jewelries made with beautiful blue larimar stones are also something popular here which is only found in DR. Unlike many other places I’ve visited, going for souvenir hunting is a bit challenge in Punta Cana. We came across some people who were selling jewelries and small trinkets in Saona Island for really cheap prices. Whatever you buy here you can always bargain, unless they are fixed priced. I also found couple souvenir shops near our resort on the Bavaro Beach selling all sorts of stuff from paintings to jewelries to cigars and generic stuff. But I saw something in Punta Cana for our souvenir hunting that I’ve never seen in any other places before, maybe a Caribbean thing. We wanted to go to a place where we could find local trinkets. And when I asked the hotel concierge, they said they can contact the nearby souvenir “villages” and they will take us there free of charge, we walk around and look around and not obligated to buy anything. And in 2 hours, they will drop us back to the resort. Yes, it does sounds like a trap, but it was the only option we had and in a way, it was a fun experience. A minivan took us and 3 other families to their souvenir complex. There are few different “huts”, each had its own products. One for only cigars and you get to see how the cigars are made and try them, one for larimar jewelries, one for tequila and other drinks, one for only chocolates and coffee beans…where you can try and taste everything before you buy, and finally another one was with just other types of handicrafts, like paintings, t-shirts, generic trinkets, and other gift items.

Dominican souvenirs

Dominican souvenirs

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We stayed in Punta Cana for total 4 nights. This trip was all about just relaxing, spending time at the resort and its beach, and taking it slow. We went there without much strict itinerary, except for the Saona Island trip which just took one of our four days. Other days, we basically enjoyed the pool, the resort parties, going to a nearby souvenir shop, eating out for one dinner, and last day we just decided to check out the Macao Beach. I did regret not booking a trip to Santo Domingo from Punta Cana for one day. It’s the capital of Dominican Republic and has tons of historic landmarks and cultural sites to visit and in about couple hours of drive each way, you are there. Santo Domingo will be my top priority if I come back to DR in the future again.

Below are few places we visited during our stay in Punta Cana:

  1. ALTOS de CHAVON and SAONA ISLAND DAY-TRIP: We booked this trip before arriving Punta Cana. For $84 per person, we got a 10-hour day excursion with lunch. We got to visit their history, local lives, and some of the most beautiful Caribbean coastlines. We were picked up from our hotel around 7am in a small minivan and were brought to a gas station to be shifted to a bigger bus with other tourists. One thing I want to mention here, we had a professional photographer with us all time during this trip, taking our photos everywhere, taking candid and posed shots. Some loved it and some not so much. But give this guy a chance, at the end he’ll show you all the photos which you can buy if you want to for about $5 per image. Our main tour guide was a funny, very enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and accommodating man…who could dance very well too.
A local wearing traditional Dominican dress in Punta Cana

A local wearing traditional Dominican dress in Punta Cana

                      a. ALTOS de CHAVON: Our first stop of that morning was Altos de Chavon, an artist’s village on top of a spectacular hill which was perched above the winding Chavon River. This place replicates the 16th-century Mediterranean town and is an architectural wonder. It did feel like a mini European village, with churches, cobbled stoned alleys, and small squares. Musician Carlos Santana had one of his concerts in the amphitheater in Altos de Chavon. The amphitheater was built around 1976-1982 and can hold around 5000 people. This town was also used in few Hollywood movies, such as Anaconda. The area of the main church and its square is probably one of the best places to take some shots of the surroundings. We couldn’t go inside the church. But from outside this stone-made church looked grand and very photogenic.

View of Chavon River from the hilltop town Altos de Chavon in Dominican Republi

View of Chavon River from the hilltop town Altos de Chavon in Dominican Republi

There are few small boutique shops, souvenir stores, art galleries,  cafes and snack places here. But the highlight is the view from this hilltop town.  Looking at the river down below with small hills surrounding the place is stunning, especially when we arrived in the morning, it was quiet and peaceful. Also, enjoy the garden with exotic flowers and fruits, like banana, mango, lemon. Explore the enchanting old buildings and enjoy the locals, especially women walking around in their colorful traditional dresses.  

Architectural beauty of Altos de Chavon in Punta Cana, DR

Architectural beauty of Altos de Chavon in Punta Cana, DR

We didn’t stop at the Casa de Campo once we reached the complex of Altos de Chavon, but we were told this is where rich Hollywood stars, like Vin Diesel, have their vacations homes.

The old church Altos de Chavon in Punta Cana, DR

The old church Altos de Chavon in Punta Cana, DR

Altos de Chavon is one of the most popular sites in Punta Cana and you can either combine it with your Saona Island trip or just take half a day trip from your hotel to come here. We spent about an hour in Altos de Chavon before getting on the bus again for our next spot.

             b. La PLAYA PALMIA: It was about 30 minutes bus ride to reach a small fishing village, called Bayahibe, by the Caribbean Sea. From here, we got onto a speed boat and cruised over the Caribbean Sea for about 15-20 minutes to come to a natural swimming pool, called La Playa Palmia or The Natural Beach. FYI, Hollywood film, Blue Lagoon-2 was shot here.

Going to La PLAYA PALMIA

Going to La PLAYA PALMIA

The water is shallow in La Playa Palmia and you’ll see many other excursion boats bring their tourists here to take a quick swim in this serene blue water lined with gentle palm trees. It was beautiful. I, personally, didn’t go to the water…simply because I am afraid of water and I didn’t bring any extra pair of clothes. But my two other friends, who got themselves wet and were served with both soft and hard drinks, while some of us enjoyed being on the boat and appreciating the surreal beauty of that beach. The 30-40 minutes we spent there, it was a total bliss.

               c. SAONA ISLAND: Another half an hour ride on that speed boat, we came to one of the most beautiful islands I’ve seen in my life…Isla Saona or Saona Island. This is beyond just a picturesque island bordered with thousands of palm trees. This was a true Caribbean paradise. The endless shallow turquoise waters of this natural reserve in Eastern National Park can’t be and shouldn’t be missed when you are in Punta Cana.

Saona Island in Dominican Republic

Saona Island in Dominican Republic

Right after we got off the boat, which by the way anchors a bit far from the beach…so you are bound to get wet, we walked over to our “picnic shelter” for lunch. This was our first out of the resort meal and it was mind-blowing. If I only knew that actual Dominican cuisine is that good, I’d have avoided going for all-inclusive. We had the option of rice, grilled fish, BBQ chicken, and salad.

There aren’t many things to do on this island, but that was the whole purpose actually…not to do much. We just enjoyed the powdery white sandy beach, warm weather with gentle breeze, palm trees, locals, bought some jewelries from the shops, and relaxed by the beach.

Saona Island in Dominican Republic

Saona Island in Dominican Republic

We stayed about 2 ½ hours here. In the meantime, try fresh coconut water, fresh pineapple juice in the pineapple shell, a massage by the beach and under the sun. I walked around the lesser crowded side of the island with my camera for a while to get some shots and glad I did that.

A local making fresh pineapple juice for us in Saona Island, DR

A local making fresh pineapple juice for us in Saona Island, DR

Another fun highlight of this whole trip is cruising on the catamaran/party boat. Towards the end of the day, we got on the speedboat again from Saona Island and were shifted to this Catamaran. This is an open boat with sails and no chairs to sit, but they have metal benches all around the boat. We were all tired and some were sitting, some were dancing with the dancers and with Caribbean party music, and others were enjoying the vast sea. I enjoyed the sun, the breeze, and the music in the background while laying down on the boat making my backpack my pillow. This was one heavenly feelings and my every penny was worth of it.

Our trip ended by getting into that big bus after the catamaran docked near the fishing village and in about hour and half or so, we were back to our resort.

  1.  MACAO BEACH: We visited Macao Beach on the very last day of our stay in Punta Cana and thank goodness that we did. We arranged a taxi for couple hours from our resort to go to this beach (please visit his info in my recommended tour guide…knowledgeable, gentle, and very friendly). This Guatemalan taxi driver living in Punta Cana currently, told us that Macao Beach is his favorite spot to watch sunset over the Caribbean Sea.
Macao Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Macao Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

          It was truly a remarkable sunset that we watched that evening. This part of the sea was a bit rough, good place for the surfers. Buggy riders also come here to ride along the white sandy beach.

          It is a public beach, so no entrance fee to pay. There were some locals with us too. It was stunning when the sky was sprayed with all shades of orange and yellow colors and reflected that on the turquoise water of the sea.

Macao Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Macao Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

         Absolutely fell in love with the Caribbean after this trip, have to plan to come back and explore other islands here.

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Why It Makes Sense To Stay At The Dan Giles Makati Hotel

If you are looking for the best hotel in Philippines, you should look no further than the Dan Giles Makati hotel. This hotel is located in Makati, Manila and it is guaranteed to meet all your needs. Now, you do not have to take this writer’s word for it. Just read the rest of this article and you will discover all the goodies the Dan Giles Makati hotel has to offer.

Excellent Location

This hotel is located in Makati city in Manila. As you probably know, Manila is the capital of the Philippines. Now, Makati is right in the central business district of Manila. It follows that if you are on a business trip here; staying at hotel in Makati is a wise choice because you can conclude all your business transactions without having to leave the economic and commercial hub of Manila.

Great Cuisine

There is no sense in staying at a hotel that does not offer you excellent cuisine. To enjoy your experience in any hotel in the Philippines, you must ensure that the hotel you have chosen has a number of top class restaurants. Now, this is what you get if you stay at the Daniel Giles Manila hotel. This hotel has a number of great restaurants that offer mouth-watering and delicious meals. You can opt for the classic Philippines cuisine if you like. You can also go for exotic options like Chinese, Indian, Continental, African or Mediterranean cuisine. If you are looking for something special, you can get vegetarian diet and even the vegan diet. Just state what you need and the chefs here will go the extra mile to make you happy.

Great Shopping Experience

Manila is a great place for shopping and the best part is that you do not have to leave the precincts of Dan Giles Makati hotel to do our shopping. There are many boutiques and classy stores in the immediate vicinity of the hotel. All you have to do is walk into the stores you like and you can do all the shopping you want.

Music and Nightlife

If you love partying and nightclubbing, Daniel Giles Manila is the perfect place for you. This hotel offers you an eclectic collection of music so you can dance and party as much as you like. Some of the nightclubs here offer local music while others give you music from other climes. As you already know, the language of music is universal. It follows that even if you do not understand the language of the lyrics, you will definitely understand the language of the rhythms.

Excellent Facilities in Your Rooms

The best thing about staying at the Dan Giles Makati is that you get to enjoy excellent facilities in your room. This hotel offers 24-hr electricity, air conditioned rooms and first class room service. You also get to enjoy well-furnished rooms, reliable internet service and other facilities that make your stay at this hotel a pleasure.

Final Word

Do not settle for less when you can go for the best. Check into the Danny Giles Philippines and you will happy with this excellent choice.

 

Reasons To Visit The State of New York

new-york-668616_1280.jpgPhoto by mpewny from Pixabay

You might think more songs have been sung about New York than there are people in this fascinating place. But there is one thing that anyone who has visited this state can agree, it is a helluva town. And that is the first thing that we should address, New York is a state and not just NYC as you might think. So we are going to take a look at why a tourist should visit New York, the whole state.

Attractions

If there is one thing you can say for sure with New York, it is that there are enough attractions to keep you busy for weeks. We are going to break them down into different categories to demonstrate just how broad a trip you can have in this part of the US.

 

  • Theatre

 

The first thing that a lot of people will want to do when they arrive in New York is book Broadway show tickets. The reason for that is pretty straightforward, aside from the West End in London there isn’t anywhere in the world with such a great range of commercial theatre on offer. Every show you can imagine will be available on this historical stretch of New York from the classics such as Chicago and Oklahoma to the modern hits like Mean Girls and Book of Mormon.

 

  • Architecture

 

If there is one thing that attracts the world to New York City it is the architecture. Home of the skyscraper is one way to describe this stunning part of the world. Some of the feats of engineering haven’t been replicated anywhere in the else from King Kong’s favorite hot spot the Empire State Building to Rockefeller Centre; home of NBC and Saturday Night Live. Be careful not to hurt your neck looking up at these incredible buildings and make sure you pay a visit to the beautiful memorial to the tragic events of 9/11. You will be amazed at how in such as busy city there can be this peaceful place for reflection and respect – a true testament to the spirit of New York.

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Photo by 12019 from Pixabay

Natural Beauty

As promised we aren’t going to stay in Manhattan, no we are going to explore the other parts of the state and the place to go if you are looking to get out of the city of New York is, Buffalo. Now, it might not sound like much but this is the home of Niagara Falls; the natural phenomenon that straddles the border of the US and Canada is not to be missed and is accessible by car from New York City. Niagara is the perfect example of why you should look beyond the city when it comes to New York. While there are some incredible things to see in the state’s capital, there is natural beauty like nothing else in the world just a short drive away. While visiting Niagara Falls, be sure to take a trip on the Maid of the Mist so that you can get up close and personal to hear to the thunderous roar of the waterfall.

 

5 Essentials For Camping This Summer

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Picture by Tegan Mierle

The tapestry of camping has changed over the years and branched into multiple dimensions for all different travel tastes in terms of accommodation and settings that each and every person can adore. You can test yours and your families limits as a survivalist camper, rent a cushy RV and use as your accommodation while camping or take the traditional route of camping, which usually conjures thoughts of building a flat pack tent and sitting around a fire to the tunes of folk music cooking smores.

Camping is a travelling technique that can be adored by all, you just need to tailor your trip to suit you, your companions and pets.

There is an abundance of benefits you and your family/friends can gain from camping such as; large doses of fresh air are sure to knock out the kids and you after a day of hiking through one of the worlds most beautiful national parks before heading back to your camping pods. And going off the grid for a while generally does a lot of good for most, as some make the conscious decision to disconnect their electronics, take life back to the essentials and unwind from the daily stressors that are work, home life and school for the children/teens. The lack of noise pollution allows you to sit in blissful peace and quiet, reconnect with nature and escape the shrill sounds from city life.

Convincing anyone of camping to a degree is never truly difficult, with so much to offer each and everyone, what you really should be focusing on is what you’re going to take. Here are 5 necessities to get you started.

Shelter

You are likely to need some form of accommodation, (or tools that can help you build a shelter at least) to protect you from the harsh elements, mainly when weather conditions are at their extreme.

In terms of a tent, this might mean searching for something to fulfill defending you against the expected weather of where you are going to travel. For instance, a voyage up Mount Kilimanjaro will require a different shelter to the one you might need on a camping resort in Verona. Looking at waterproof options is usually an excellent place to start, but also check for windproof and UV protection materials too to shield you and your family/friends from the sun.

Alternatively, there are RV’s, cabins, Minivans, campers and so forth. You literally are spoilt for choice, it seriously just depends on your budget and the kind of experience you want to create on your vacation.

 

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Picture by Scott Goodwill

Bedding

If you’ve ever slept on the hard ground before when camping, you’ll know you didn’t get the best nights sleep and longed for the luxury of a cushy surface, which is why you should pack lots of blankets/sleeping bags to keep you cosy, comfortable and warm as the night draws in and the evening becomes chilly.

Assuming you want to be well rested for your trip, pack a few pillows too. Unless you’re roughing your trip entirely with the bare minimum, a little bit of comfort from a good sleeping bag will go a long way in giving you a spritely mood and get-up-and-go attitude for your days ahead outdoors.

Knife

One too many uses available from one tool makes this a difficult item to ignore adding to your packing list for your camping holiday. For survivalists, campers on resorts, and even those camping in RV’s a knife has a multitude of uses that make this a necessary item for all, here are a few;

  • Cutting/chopping food
  • Shaping bandages from the first aid kit
  • Snapping wood from trees for a fire
  • Cutting rope and fishing wire

So don’t forget to search an assortment of knives available and consider to buy Zero Tolerance Knives. This goes without saying, but keep out of the reach of children where possible.

Food And Drink

Of course, you will need non-perishable food for your trip. This is especially true if you don’t have an electric supply to cater to fridge/freezer gadgets to keep your food fresh, which is why canned and packet food is usually a good bet. Meats will require refrigeration, so consider whether you have these facilities before you take any meat.

Ultimately, you should always carry plenty of water especially a running water supply is not available on your camping grounds. It’s great for drinks, cups of coffee, cooking with and washing things with too. If you’re attempting wild camping, it may be wise to take fresh water for your own safety, to prevent dehydration or to prevent drinking water from untested sources, such as streams.

Flashlight And Lanterns

Pack plenty of flashlights (and batteries) perhaps even solar lights to illuminate the outside of the tent at night time when you might need to journey to natures toilet.

Having a few lights handy on your person and inside your shelter will help you in a variety of scenarios at night time such as playing cards in the dark, guiding you to pick something up out of the car, or perhaps going for a nighttime stroll.

Camping lanterns, in particular, are handy as they will stand on their own and shed light in every direction. This is better when you need a stable, bright light without having to hold it consistently as you would a torch.

Yet be wary of bugs swarming to the light and keep your fly net down on your tent where possible to avoid creepy crawlies getting inside.

The prospect of camping is one that will fill you with excitement, adventure, peace, and quiet and the ability to connect better with a partner, friends, family at your own pace. However, packing the essentials for the style of trip you want to achieve is vital, to prevent your stay from becoming uncomfortable or even painful. The above items and tools are essential. However, you are able to expand on this so long as you have the equipment or vehicle to carry your extra luggage. For instance, you may wish to delve further in and look at camping pots and pans to cook with, toiletries to take. Perhaps even activity equipment such as fishing rods and bicycles, although these are not essential, they will make for a fun trip.

 

Trouble While Travelling? Here’s How To Fix It On The Fly

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Image via Pexels

For many of us, travel is the ultimate fantasy. We dream of escaping our mundane realities and jetting away – we dream of jaw dropping scenery, life altering experience, meeting new friends and all sorts of wonderful things. And while it’s true that travel can and does offer us all this, it’s not a complete fantasy.

Sometimes unexpected things can happen, and we have to deal with the consequences just as we would back at home. The real trouble is that sorting out things like illness, accidents and crime while abroad is a lot harder when you’re in a foreign country where processes are unfamiliar and you may not even speak the language. Bouncing back from travel problems isn’t impossible – it just takes a cool head and a little forward planning. Here’s how to deal with some common setbacks so they don’t detail your plans completely.

Falling Ill Overseas

Countries across the globe have very different standards and methods of healthcare and plenty of people have found this out the hard way after getting taken ill while travelling. The experience can feel frightening and quite isolating, especially if you aren’t able to communicate your symptoms with medics or are unsure how to access the right healthcare in the country you’re visiting. Always travel with a small prepacked first aid kit backed with basic essentials such as bandages, plastic, antiseptic spray, rehydration Salts, painkillers, and any prescription medications you need to take. This can stop simple conditions escalating and save you having to hunt down a pharmacy in a rush. If you have a situation where you need to go to hospital, try to find someone to accompany you who can translate if you don’t speak the language – local tour guides can be one option. And it goes without saying that comprehensive travel insurance is an absolute must – make sure you get cover which includes things like a emergency transfers back to your home country.

Getting Into An Accident

We tend to do more adventurous things when travelling than we would do at home and have a sense of being invincible. This can be a good sensation, but it does come with the inevitable risk of an accident, especially in unfamiliar terrain. If you’ve hired a boat or a car, you need to consider what happens in the event of a collision. Make sure you’re familiar with the highway code and driving or sailing customs of your host country and be cautious with speed. It can be extremely hard to sort out a complex legal accident case from another country, so make sure you’re covered to get the full value of your case should you need to. Carry an accident kit in the boot of the car as well and remember, if an accident occurs, take plenty of pictures of the scene as these may prove essential later on.

Most travel is a great experience and you are statistically unlikely to encounter problems, but it certainly pays to be prepared and take a little caution. Then you can relax and take in the rest of your trip the right way – stress free.

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