Written By Eno Edet; Sponsored by Luxury Retreats
Overhear someone talking about the Dominican Republic, and you’ll likely catch stories of delicious food (don’t miss the Sancocho!), beautiful beaches, late night Merengue dancing and thrilling adventure sports. And rightfully so, as there is much for visitors to explore in this Caribbean nation.
For most, the destination of choice is Punta Cana, known for its soft sand and azure waters. Which is all great; however, to experience the best of Punta Cana you’ll need to add some activities beyond the resorts. To assist, check out this Punta Cana travel guide showcasing immersive cultural activities to add to your itinerary.
1. Partake In Cigar Pairing
In the Dominican Republic there is a certain way one enjoys a cigar. Cigar-rolling has long been a celebrated pastime in the island country’s history. Instead of smoking a cigar in a traditional way, enhance its taste by pairing it with a delicious beverage. Learn the art of cigar pairing at Don Queco Cigar & Rum Bar, as certain characteristics of each pair well together. Tip: the rule of thumb is to never let one side of the pairing dominate the other. Think light bodied with light bodied, medium bodied with medium bodied and so on.
2. Dance Merengue
In Argentina it’s tango. In Spain it’s flamenco. And in the Dominican Republic it’s merengue. Many beginners describe merengue as being pretty simple to pickup, being that its foundation is a basic marching step. And if you feel like you don’t know where to start, Catalonia Bavaro Hotel offers one-hour classes for their guests. Merengue is not just a genre of music, but a staple of the Dominican Republic community. Why not give it a try, and learn how to communicate with your hips.
3. Visit Indigenous Eyes
In every great land there is great folklore, with stories that have been passed down to entertain as well as explain how the land came to be. In Punta Cana one site shrouded in legend is a network of trails and crystalline lagoons known as the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park (or the “Parque Ojos Indigenas”). The name comes from the indigenous Taino Indians of the Dominican Republic, who thought the lagoons looked like eyes. Moreover, they believed their waters held healing and rejuvenating qualities. In a place as beautiful as Punta Cana, it’s not surprising a fountain of youth would be located here.
Not to sound like your high school French teacher, but the best way to learn any language is to visit that place. And a great way to improve that Spanish is to go to the Punta Cana. There, you would not learn the text-book way of speaking Spanish, but how to use the language as everyday locals do. Apps like Duolingo and Busuu can give you a base to work with, while free networks like CouchSurfing and Meetup make it easy to find language exchanges or events where you can interact with locals. You can also attend a language school like Enforex in Santo Domingo (about 2.5 hours from Punta Cana), which offers both one-off and longer term courses.
5. Savor The Cuisine
After a day of wind surfing and paddle boarding you’ll likely be starving. Luckily, Punta Cana offers the opportunity to savor delicious Dominican Republic eats. Make sure to try the Bandera, a meal of white rice, cooked beans and meat with fried plantains and a side salad. If you are in the mood for finger food, Pica Pollo features fried chicken served with a side of fried green banana slices called tostones. And you absolutely must try the Mangu, a dish of boiled mashed green plantains served with rice and beans.
Need to satisfy a sweet tooth? Opt for the arroz con dulce, or “sweet rice pudding.” This Dominican delight is made up of rice, milk, sugar and raisins. Yum!
For some recommended dining experiences, don’t miss traditional eats at Delicias de Bavaro Restaurant, a chocolate making class at ChocoMuseo and a Pirate Rum Factory and Taino Cave Tour from Punta Cana.
Do you have a cultural experience to add to this Punta Cana travel guide? Please share in the comments below!
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