Hola! Sadly, I’m back from Punta Cana. I’m pretty sure I could have stayed there for a few more weeks and not been mad about it.
As I’m sure you may know by now, Michael has the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows him to purchase one Southwest airfare ticket and I, as his companion, get to fly for free(!), so basically we split the cost of one airfare ticket. I won’t go into a long explanation of how you can get the companion pass here, but if you’d like to read more, just search “Companion Pass” in the sidebar under the SEARCH tab on the homepage, and all of my posts on it should pop up!
Did you know that Southwest has routes to the Caribbean and Mexico?! When we scored the coveted companion pass, we made a list of all of the places that Southwest flies and then narrowed that list down to the places we wanted to visit. Punta Cana was at the top of the list!
How To Get There
As I mentioned, we flew Southwest from BWI airport in Baltimore (a quick Amtrak train ride from D.C.), connected in Atlanta, and then flew onto Punta Cana. There are actually direct flights from BWI to Punta Cana, but those flights were sold out at the time we booked. From chatting with folks that we met on the beach, Atlanta seemed to be a pretty popular place to fly out of to get to Punta Cana. The flight from Atlanta is about 3 hours, so easy!
A couple of notes about flying into Punta Cana … the Dominican Republic is obviously its own country and not a U.S. territory, therefore, you need your passport! True story – I almost forgot mine. It’s such an easy trip that it doesn’t feel like you’re going out of the country, but you are so be sure to pack your passport!
Also, SUPER IMPORTANT, upon arrival at the airport, prior to going through customs, each person MUST pay $10 in cash to enter the country! I picked up this tip from Katie’s Punta Cana post. It’s imperative and something that is likely to catch a lot of people off guard!
Otherwise, the customs and immigration process is pretty standard.
I would highly recommend setting up transportation from the airport through your hotel or resort. It’s a bit chaotic when you arrive, and I’m not sure I would have known which taxi/transportation service to take if I had not set something up with my hotel prior to arrival. Our hotel was about a ten minute drive from the airport, and we paid $20, which I think is pretty typical.
One other thing to keep in mind, when leaving the country, if you’re flying Southwest, be prepared for a bit of a sh*t show of disorganization. I love Southwest 99% of the time. Their customer service is usually top notch. If you’re a frequent Southwest flyer, you know the drill on boarding by your assigned boarding number. However, at the Punta Cana airport this process is sheer madness. When we boarded, no one seemed to be in charge and none of the passengers seemed to have ever flown on a Southwest flight. Just be prepared to put on your best namaste face and remember how relaxed you were just hours before while laying on the beach. 😉
Where We Stayed
Over the past year or so, Michael and I have been pretty loyal to Starwood and Marriott properties, especially Michael during his work travels. This allowed us to accumulate a ton of Starwood Preferred Guest/Marriott points this past year (check out this post for why I love SPG points!). We found availability at the Westin Puntacana Resort & Club for a mere 10,000 SPG points per night and jumped on that redemption. We used points to book our stay. If paying cash, the rooms run around $190/night.
The Westin is not an all-inclusive resort. The pro of not staying at an all-inclusive was that our property was so incredibly quiet and relaxing. It’s low season in Punta Cana right now, and according to the employees at the property, it’s pretty quiet from September through November. This was exactly what I wanted, peace and quiet, so it was perfect for our stay! Really the only downside to opting for a non-all-inclusive was that the food on site is pretty pricey for what it is. The drinks were pretty standard though, $6 frozen cocktails, $5 beers, and $6 glasses of wine.
To escape the pricey food at the resort, the Westin offers a free shuttle to the Punta Cana Village where there are tons of restaurant options that are much more reasonably priced.
Our room at the Westin was amazing. It, along with most of the rooms at the resort, had an ocean view. The Westin property itself was beyond gorgeous. The pool was so pretty, sleek, and clean. There are two restaurants on site (one is on the beach!) along with three separate bars (one in the open air lobby, one by the pool, and one by the beach).
Check out Michael’s vlog of our time in Punta Cana to see more of the hotel!
What to Do & Where to Eat
To be completely honest, we mostly just beach bummed it for the short time we were in PC. The beaches are gorgeous and the weather was perfect. We did go on a run one morning to the Punta Cana Village where most of the restaurants are located to grab coffee and breakfast. Holy humidity, that was one hot run! But it was a nice way to start the day, especially when I knew I’d be planting myself in a beach chair for the rest of the day.
The Westin has a concierge service that we could have utilized to book snorkeling, scuba diving, or other excursions, but we were happy to be beach bums.
I highly recommend utilizing the shuttle service (I’m sure other resorts have a similar service) to make your way to the Village for as many meals as possible. Every restaurant that we ate at was really good and the price points were super reasonable.
On the morning of our run we enjoyed iced coffees and breakfast at Brot Bagel Shop. They have a nice patio and the staff was super friendly. We had dinner one night at Taqueria el Burrito (great margaritas!) and the other at Mama Luisa (the shrimp linguine was amazing!).
I highly recommend checking out Punta Cana if you’ve never been, especially if you’re located in the Southeast or on the East Coast as it’s a super easy trip! I’d also recommend staying at the Westin as we had a great experience there. If you have any questions at all, feel free to comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Michael captured our time in Punta Cana on video! Check it out here (he gives a good review of the property if you’re looking for a place to stay on your trip to PC)!