From Higüey, a paved road winds 40km east to the tropical playlands of PUNTA CANA and BÁVARO. At one time, Punta Cana and Bávaro were two distinct areas lying at either end of a long curve of coconut-tree-lined beach. However, an extraordinary spate of construction over the past 25 years has blurred the boundaries between them. Nowadays, “Punta Cana” is more of a marketing brand than a specific location, incorporated liberally into the title of most of the hotels in the region, even those 40km north of the regional airport. There are actually very few services in what might be termed Punta Cana proper; most of the action occurs round the plazas in Bávaro, and the dusty urban area surrounding the busy traffic intersection, to the west, known as Friusa. It’s here you’ll find the bus station and most banks, shops, restaurants and bars as well as the hospital and police station.
Go elsewhere if you want to explore the country, as the individual resorts here tend to be cities unto themselves, encompassing vast swathes of beachside territory, expansive tropical gardens and several separate hotels. And, given the size of the Punta Cana area, development is far from complete. New hotels continue to go up along the coast, malls are erected inland and to the south the vast Cap Cana project is well under way.
Despite its growth, Punta Cana has not yet reached the tipping point, where the pace and size of construction begin to impinge on the holiday experience. With such an abundance of coast to play on, it has been possible to make sure that no hotel intrudes too greatly on any other. And you can still find, with enough fortitude, glorious stretches of relatively uninterrupted sand, particularly in the north at El Macao and Uvero Alto. At points where resorts have cropped up, you’ll find the requisite concentration of umbrellas, watersports outfitters and beach bars, with occasional souvenir shacks set up in between. Aside from the glass-bottom-boat operators trying to drum up business here and there, though, there’s relatively little hassle – and the all-inclusives here are the nicest on the island. Budget travellers will have to head to the village of Cortecito – scarcely more than a cul-de-sac of tourist amenities on a tiny stretch of beach squeezed between the large resorts – for the cheapest (but still fairly pricey) accommodation, or to one of the business hotels in Bávaro, which would inevitably be away from the glorious beach.