To sum up my trip in one word. AMAZING. I just LOVED this place, the people, the culture, everything. This is definitely on my list of places to visit again and one of the first vacations I have taken in which I actually took a break. & let me tell you the men and women are some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen! They literally looked like Gods and Goddesses. I mean just gorgeous every time we turned around we saw someone who was more beautiful than the last person.
How'd I get there?
I booked my ticket to fly out of Miami, FL (MIA) to Punta Cana, Dominican Rep. via Groupon for $350. The deal was from Vacation Express so once the Groupon was purchased I had to call them with the code to book the flight.
To get to Miami we booked a car rental from Budget for about $50 in total using our insurance and a discount as a USAA member. This was a smooth transition because as along as you have a departing flight you can get a rental car at the airport with a debit card. The catch? YOU MUST have a credit card if you want to book a rental car to return home and you have NO departing flight. We did not find that out until AFTER we got back to Miami... lesson of the day. READ THE FINE PRINT. I honestly would have rather coughed up the extra bucks to take a flight out of Tampa, FL (TPA) or my local airport. In hindsight a rental was going to be an extra $140 going and coming back... which was about the same cost as flying out of TPA.
How was the flight?
Vacation Express uses SWIFT WQ... yeah I've never heard of the airline either.... the seats were small and cramped.... seating was also a monopoly game unless you paid for the bigger seating. Unlike other airlines it didn't matter how early you got there, you still couldn't pick your own seats. I would not recommend this airline to anyone who is seeking comfort and space.
& so it begins....
I'm only going to high light the important parts of the trip because if I were to write everything from the trolley rides, bars, etc. it would be a novel.
The airport in Punta Cana is a little different than United States airports... its very open so when the airplane lands you have to catch a bus to get to the airport. Once you get to the airport you have to pay a $10 tourist entrance fee prior to going to immigration (people tried to bypass this and had to turn around, they do not play about their $10). Afterwards, you can retrieve your luggage but than you must go through customs. I always thought it was the same thing... it's not. There are two separate forms and lines so make sure you have them completed.
Bavaro Bahia Principe - Ambar Green hotel
We caught a taxi to our hotel which was Bavaro Bahia Principe Ambar Green - All inclusive from the airport their the fare was $40 + TIPS. Let me say this outright EVERYONE wants a tip and I mean EVERYONE. I would recommend bringing a few single dollars so your not giving away $5 to every person you meet than running out of tip money like we did. Back to the hotel.... we booked our hotel for 5 days/ 4 nights via BookIT for $825. The perks of BookIT is that you can make installment plans to pay off your hotel for a $10 convenience fee. So we only paid $10 to book it and every two weeks we paid about $225 until it was paid off.
I LOVED THIS HOTEL. All-inclusive means free wifi, free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, free domestic drinks, free access to shows, clubs, pools, etc. It was definitely a money saver and the buffets always had something different, fresh, and local. The hotel is apart of a chain so there was literally 5 hotels on one property. As long as you had your wrist band you could go to the majority of the hotels throughout your stay. The rooms were beautiful, spacious, and very clean. The staff was warm, friendly, and proactive in making sure you were accommodated. We spent the first day at the hotel, going to the spa, enjoying the shows, talking to the people, and mingling.
Scape Park eco-tour and Hoyo Azul
We had a day of adventure going to Scape Park for an eco tour. As soon as you finish registering you get to interact with the wildlife. As you can see from the pictures below I got to hold a snake and play with the parrots. Afterwards, we took a hike in which plants, animals, etc. were explained and looked at. We walked on a bridge and through what felt like a jungle to get to the Hoyo Azul. This is basically a fresh blue spring that is hidden within a cave, the water was amazing and COLD. There was a deep part that was about 28 ft. where you could jump off a part of the cave into the water. This eco adventure was about $60 and we booked directly thru Scape Park's website to receive 10% off.
This was a club in a cave and without the purchase of the open bar cost $30 with transportation included... we booked directly via their website. This club had a few locals sprinkled throughout but was mostly tourist. We had to get drunk to start having a good time because at first the vibe was off..., or maybe we got there too early. Anyways... it was a decent time but felt like a club from the United States... only in a cave. If your looking to hang with the locals this isn't the spot for you.
Macao beach and off-road adventure
Dune buggy time! We booked a 4 hour tour of Macao beach, a cave, and the countryside via Viator for $135 total, i.e. $65 each. We took turns driving the same dune buggy rather than driving separate ones which saved us a few bucks. I loved this tour! It really gave me an appreciation for my life watching the living conditions of the locals. However, they had such free spirits and laughter it was contagious. To see people so happy in circumstances that here in the United States would be sub par really made me conscious of my blessings. It is here that I took pictures with an iguana and my cousin swam in a cave that was over 50 ft. deep (I was not about that life). Macao beach was breathtaking! The sand was so soft it felt like you were getting a massage and the water was crystal clear. Before we knew it the 4 hours were up and we had to return. I had so much fun I didn't even mind having to trash my newly purchased wig because of all the dirt and mud.