Sunday, January 29, 2012

Punta Cana Trip: Day Four

Hi!  If you are catching up, I've been recapping my trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Days One and Two
Day Three

Our final day at the resort began with another awesome breakfast.  I missed the breakfast I had eaten on our first day and did a repeat of that- veggie and cheese omelet, potatoes, and fresh fruit.  So good!

While again enjoying the beautiful view...

After breakfast we stopped in to the resort gift shop, where we met Yolanda, the resident iguana.

We didn't have long before our planned activity of the day- a Segway tour!  The resort actually has a lot of activities you can register to do, boat rides, kayaks, golf at the three courses, tennis, horseback riding... 
I kind of zeroed in the Segways though because I have done it before (at a park in Charlotte), but Greg hasn't and I thought he would like it.

We were picked up by a golf cart that took us over to the Segway area.

Love the bathroom signs...  stick figures holding their crotches.  Awesome.

We were treated to lemonade while we got instruction on how to use the Segways.  Then we got our helmets on and got going.

I actually don't have ANY pictures of us on the actual Segways because we weren't allowed to take pictures while on them, but our tour took us all over the resort and I have a bunch of pictures of places we stopped on the tour.

First we headed to the beach.

We then drove our Segways to back to the Ecological Reserve.  Again, Greg braved the water, while I hung back!

Shortly after this, Greg realized he'd got for a swim with his wallet in his pocket.  Ooops!

We hopped back on the Segways and finished cruising around the resort.  It was about a 2-3 hour tour.  Pretty cool!

After our tour, we decided to head back to the beach one last time and soak in the last day of sun and sand (translation, reading in the shade because we didn't want to burn!).

After a few hours outside we headed back to our room to shower and get ready for dinner.  We made a reservation at Playa Blanca, for our last night.

It's kind of a beachy, modern restaurant. 

I got the impression it's sort of the place to go to party during the day.  A DJ was wrapping up with many party people winding down when we arrived for dinner.  It was kind of amusing :)

I ordered a fruity frozen drink to start with.  I think it was called a Bama Mama, and it had banana and pinapple in it.  Quite delicious.

It was windier and colder than we'd anticipated near the beach that night, and I wished I'd brought a warmer wrap or cardigan.

I can't help but crave seafood near the beach, so I ordered grilled shrimp with spring vegetables and we got another side of plantains to share.

We had a little time to kill before our shuttle came to get us (you take a shuttle to get to this restaurant), so we decided to get dessert, since we were killing time.  We got a Dominican coconut specialty that the waiter recommended.  Greg and I agreed it was sort of like a deconstructed Samoa Girl Scout cookie.  Tasty!

After dinner we headed back and went to bed early, since our flight out of DR left at 8am Monday morning.

In conclusion, I had SUCH a great time. 
It was just what I needed after the year I have had to start 2012 off right and relaxed.

Overall, I think Punta Cana Resort is great.  I don't know how the other resorts in Punta Cana are, but this place has miles of uninhabited beach, phenomenal restaurants, friendly staff, a great pool, and many activities to choose from.

I would just warn anyone going there that the rooms were kind of average, nothing fancy (if that's your thing), and we did have to wait a while for the water to get warm sometimes (not a huge deal).  They do have suites and casitas which are upgraded from what we were in though, so those maybe nicer, and there's also Tortuga Bay, the sister resort, which is supposed to be more luxe. 

I would also recommend pre-arranging transportation to the resort from the airport, which we didn't, and stressed me out the first day upon arrival.  The airport in general is kind of a nightmare, just be prepared for that...

In the end, I enjoyed going with a resort that was NOT all inclusive.  Neither of us are big drinkers, we often filled up on our included breakfast and had snacks for lunch, and we loved the restaurants we had to choose from.  I think the quality, atmosphere, and hospitality were awesome, and I'm not sure you would get that attention to detail at an all inclusive resort.  You do need to be aware that planning meals is a little trickier though when it's not all inclusive.  We had to make reservations and the restaurants are only open at specific times.  It seems that most people down there eat later, because we were the first ones at the restaurants both nights we had reservations since we made them for 7pm- when most of them open there.

Since we are not big party animals, I guess I would also say that this might not be the best spot for you if that's what you are looking for.  I got the impression most people were that to relax like we were.  On that same note, it's not a couples only resort, there were some kids, but not a lot, and they didn't bother us at all.

There was a little bit of a language barrier.  Most people speak English and Spanish, but some of the English is not great, so you may occasionally experience a langage barrier.  I actually know a bit of Spanish, which sometimes came in handy (like when I was helping Greg pick out cold medicine at the grocery store).  We did have one instance where we ate a meal earlier than we'd planned because we wrongly thought the waiter was telling us when the restaurant closed, but was actually trying to communicate that they were open for dinner later.  It wasn't a huge deal.

Bring tons of singles for tips.  Most places take US dollars, but may give you change in DR money.  There was an exchange bank at the resort, but we just got by with US dollars.  You can also charge any of your meals or activities to your room number and settle up at the end. 

Email me (lifeinaholdingpattern at gmail dot com) if you have any other questions about the resort!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Punta Cana Trip: Day Three

If you missed my first recap, you can see it here.

Saturday started with another yummy buffet breakfast.  I believe I had an unpictured bowl of oatmeal with honey, nuts, and raisins, and some fresh fruit that day.  Yum! 

After breakfast, we decided to head down the beach.  Punta Cana Resort has a sister resort called Tortuga Bay, which is located right next to our resort and is walkable by path or by beach.  You're allowed to use some of their amenities, like their restaurants and pool.  There are also three golf courses between the resorts and we passed a couple holes on our left.

Soon we reached the beach and walked the rest of the way there with our toes in the sand.

Probably my favorite thing about our resort is that it has so much beach and lot of it is empty.  Paradise.

Ridiculously beautiful...

Eventually we got to the Tortuga Bay clubhouse and pool.  Our plan was to hang out at the pool and have lunch at the clubhouse grill.

Our plan was derailed when we realized the pool was closed as the staff set up for what looked like the wedding of the century...

They were setting up several stages, tables, and a slew of wedding reception decor.

Oh well, obviously it was still worth the gorgeous beach walk over. 
We still looked around the clubhouse for a little while before heading back.

Next stop was one of the beach restaurants, called La Choza.

We split a burger, greek salad, and some fried plantains (which I'm addicted to).

The rest of our afternoon was pretty lazy.  We went to the beach and laid there for a while. 
I made a lot of progress on my book- The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest.

Then we went to the pool and laid there for a while...

I might have gotten a little bit sunburned...

We had a low-key dinner back at the non-fancy pool restaurant and split veggie pizza, a salad, and some ravioli, before calling it a night.  Just another day in paradise...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Punta Cana Trip: Days One and Two

Hi!  I didn't mean to not blog for so long.  I have much to report!  Last week was pretty busy and before I knew it I was on a plane to the Dominican Republic!  A couple months ago Greg got his vacation for 2012.  Pilots bid for their vacation each year, much like they bid for their monthly schedules- they rank their choices and it goes by seniority.  He actually hoped to get his vacation as soon as possible because he hadn't had a vacation in a while, so when he got his two weeks off in January, he was fine with it.  We decided to go ahead and look at vacation options and Greg suggested DR because it's one of the places he flies to and he knew the resort the crew stays at there was nice.  I was all for it as I really wanted to go somewhere international.  We booked a package through American Airlines (not my husband's airline, I know), that was a great deal, less than $1500 for the two of us for airfare, hotel, and breakfast at the Punta Cana Hotel and Resort for a 4 night stay.

On Thursday we flew from Charlotte to Miami, waited a few hours, then flew the rest of the way to Punta Cana, which is actually an hour a head of Eastern Standard time, making it about 3pm DR time when we landed.  To be honest, I was kind of overwhelmed when we arrived.  As much as I've craved international travel, customs was chaos.  It took a while to get through, and once we did, we realized there was no hotel shuttle to take us to our resort.  Normally when Greg flies there a shuttle picks up the crew, so he assumed it was the case all the time, but it wasn't.  If you stay at Punta Cana, prearrange a shuttle or you end up taking a taxi like we did.  It wasn't a huge deal, but it was a little sketchy being bombarded with random taxi drivers pressuring you to let them drive you.

Anyway, the stress of our chaotic airport arrival was relieved upon check in when we were each handed a complimentary fruity drink.  Calmed me right down.


We headed to our room to regroup.  It was nothing fancy, but clean, decent accomodations.  The room had an iron and hairdryer, which was what I was most concerned with.  Yes, I'm a freak- I need an iron when I'm on a tropical vacation.  I'm totally normal.

Punta Cana Resort is not all inclusive like a lot of resorts are.  We actually didn't mind this, maybe even preferred it in the end, but it took a little figuring out in the beginning.  There are about eight restaurants and you can eat at which ever ones you want, but you are supposed to make a reservation at some of the fancier ones.  The first night we opted for one of the casual ones you don't need a reservation for- a pizza place near the pool.

I kept the fruity drinks flowing...

We split a simple cheese pizza, nothing fancy.  It was fine.

There were random cats around the resort, and this one we nicknamed "pizza cat".

After we (and pizza cat) enjoyed our pizza and drinks, we walked around to check out the resort.

Pretty wonderful scenery.

Being the old fogeys we are, we crashed pretty early. 

Friday morning I was excited to see the breakfast buffet included with our stay.  I had heard from Greg that it was pretty awesome.  The buffet included rows of pastries, deli meats, cheeses, breads, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, tons of tropical fruit, an egg/omelet station, and a fruit juice/smoothie bar.  I went with the veggie and cheese omelet, some potatoes, yogurt, and fruit.

I told my waiter to surprise me with something from the juice bar and I got this smoothie, which I shared with Greg.

Dining at the resort was awesome, because all the restaurants are open air and had incredible views.

After breakfast our plan was to take the hotel shuttle to a shopping center nearby and get some groceries to nibble on while staying at the hotel. 

The little village shopping center had a couple stores and restaurants and a grocery store.  We bought bottled water, juices, bananas, pita chips, and hummus. 

Back at the hotel we assembled a light lunch with our groceries on our balcony.

Then it was time to explore! 

We headed down the beach.

Our resort had a cool ecological reserve with nature trails through the forest with many fresh water pools.

The pools were awesome, so clear and pristine.

There were tilapia and turtles hanging out in the pools.

Ok, I'll admit, I wimped out on going in.  The water was cold, and though the fish and turtles were neat, I wasn't too keen on swimming with them.  But Greg got in!

I hung out with the duck on the dock...

We hiked around for a while longer, before heading back to the room to get ready for dinner.

We had a reservation at La Yola for Friday night, a restaurant overlooking the marina.

The restaurant was gorgeous.

I went with shrimp and lobster risotto with grilled vegetables.

So good!  The risotto had HUGE chunks of lobster in it.  They were not stingy!
Greg had a steak and mashed potatoes that were also delicious.

We loved La Yola, it was the end to a great first complete day in Punta Cana.

Phew!  More to come on the rest of the trip!

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