The Dominican Republic offers several zipline tours for adventurous clients. // © 2016 Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
Feature image (above): Saona Island, a small isle just off the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, offers catamaran tours and opportunities for swimming. // © 2016 Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
The all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic, are so comprehensive that — for at least the first few days of a vacation — clients will probably want to stay put and enjoy all a property has to offer. If they’re the adventurous sort, they’ll then probably begin to itch for an off-resort experience that will give them a broader view of the destination. Luckily, Punta Cana has plenty of activities and sites to satisfy a wide range of interests. Some are only minutes away from Punta Cana, while others are a more substantial drive. Here are a few top excursions to recommend to clients.
Altos de Chavon
Altos de Chavon is something of a surprise for the Caribbean, since it’s a stone-by-stone replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village. Altos de Chavon is in the town of La Romana, which is a little over an hour’s drive from Punta Cana. The site’s main appeal is its scenic views of the Chavon River and cobblestone streets. Clients can browse shops and boutiques selling Dominican specialties such as cigars, rums, crafts and jewelry, and score a meal in one of Altos de Chavon’s restaurants.
Sightseeing highlights include St. Stanislaus Church, popular for weddings; a 5,000-seat amphitheater, which was inaugurated with a Frank Sinatra concert back in 1982; and Altos de Chavon Archaeological Museum, which has displays of indigenous artifacts.
This is a pleasant, low-key excursion that begins with a catamaran sail embarking from the coastal town of Bayahibe to nearby Saona Island, a tiny isle a short distance from the southern tip of the mainland. When I was on this the trip, we dropped anchor before we reached the island to enjoy what the guide referred to as “a natural swimming pool.” This was a large sandbar in the middle of the ocean where we could take a dip in waist-deep water. It was a unique feeling to be that far from any shore and relax as though we were at a resort pool. Most excursions allow several hours on Saona Island, where there’s a string of huts selling crafts and souvenirs, and a sprinkling of beach bars offering grilled fish and drinks. From hotel pickup to return, most Saona Island excursions are 10 hours or longer.
Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve
The 1,500-acre Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve is located in Punta Cana, making it an easy excursion for nature-loving clients. While the park has plenty of recreational activities for visitors, such as swimming in lagoons, touring the park via Segway and visiting an iguana habitat, there’s also a significant conservation effort going on at the reserve.
The Puntacana Ecological Foundation has joined forces with the Hispaniola Ornithological Society and the Peregrine Fund in an attempt to increase the population of the endangered Ridgway’s hawk, one of the rarest birds in the world, currently reduced to a worldwide population of 300. Their joint efforts have resulted in the reintroduction of eight hawks into the Indigenous Eyes reserve, with the hope that the hawks will begin to breed.
Punta Cana has several ziplines offering off-resort thrills, and most zipline tours are often combined with an assortment of activities, from ATV excursions to horseback riding. The Farallon Zip Line in Cap Cana has a unique aspect: The lines are attached to the side of a cliff, rather than to trees.
One of the best ziplines in Punta Cana is at 100% Aventura. Here, adrenaline junkies can go into overdrive, zipping between 16 platforms and 12 separate ziplines. The piece de resistance is Aventura’s 2,600-foot line that whisks riders over Anayuma River. The company bills it as the longest zipline in the Caribbean.
Bavaro Adventure Park also has an impressive zipline, plus many activities great for families vacationing with children, including a pirate ship, a bungee trampoline, an animatronic dinosaur park, paintball and Zorb, which allows a rider to roll down a hill inside a cushioned, polyurethane globe.