Our honeymoon to Punta Cana began not a day too soon on September 17th. This day is not particularly significant to most people, but for us it marks the end of a very long summer. Steven is a corporate tax accountant and September 17th was the tax return filing deadline. Our wedding was on June 2nd, but his company demanded we postpone our honeymoon until the filing season was over. A sad start to our story to be sure, however, this turned into a blessing in disguise.
We were able to shop around to get the biggest bang for our buck and anyone who neglected to get us a present ended up contributing to our Traveler's Joy registry! On top of those that had already contributed, we were able to pay for the trip without having to dip into our own savings. We live in Atlanta and benefit from the large international airport here. We wanted something tropical, so searched through the numerous vacation and honeymoon packages available. When we were narrowing our choices, we decided that reducing travel time and increasing relaxing time as much as possible was very important to us. Accordingly, we then searched for direct flights from Atlanta to various destinations. When we found that we could make it to Punta Cana in 3.5 hours from Atlanta on a direct flight, we were sold! We got the hotel for five nights, the airfare, and the transportation to and from the resort for approximately $2000.
The search for a resort was a bit daunting at first. However, one of our friends had recently vacationed to Punta Cana and recommended the Riu Palace Bavaro. As we learned later, Bavaro is the name of the beach the resort was located on, and one of three beaches in Punta Cana. The resort was virtually brand new, construction being completed in December of 2011. It was fantastic, beautiful, well maintained, and everything we could have hoped for. Upon arrival we were upgraded to an ocean view room for free! The resort was all inclusive, so finding refreshing libations once we were settled was almost too easy. There were two pools and the beach front was beautiful. The palm trees provided just enough shade and the beach was slightly elevated from the shore as to provide amazing views. Steven still gets nostalgic about the delicious spreads of food and the Surf n' Turf in the steakhouse, La Tiana.
After such a stressful period at work, Steven wanted to make sure we did not over commit ourselves by signing up for too many excursions and trips. However, the most memorable and enjoyable part of the adventure was an all day safari outing named Bavaro Runners. We were transported around the countryside in a Jeep and shown how real-life away from the resorts is in the Dominican Republic. Not all of the sights were warm and fuzzy, but it left us with a real appreciation of how people live, love, and thrive away from the hectic society we have in the modernized world. The safari also gave us opportunity to see how sugar cane is processed, rum is made, cigars are rolled, cocoa is farm, chocolate is made, and coffee is cleaned. We rode horseback (Steven's first time ever) around the overgrown estate grounds of a jailed drug lord. The guide told us the story of how this individual built the biggest mansion on the island! It was impressive, though unfinished, and turned out to be the kingpin's ultimate demise as it attracted the attention of the local authorities. They got him for tax evasion!
On our trip we also met and instantly befriended a couple from New Jersey, Eleanor and John. It was John's 40th birthday and the couple's 20th anniversary. The four of us had dinners, went to shows, lounged at the pool, and became great friends. For John's birthday we went on a sunset cruise and snorkeling trip. After snorkeling the boat took us to a natural pool in bay, which had no waves and turned out to be a party cove with many, many boats enjoying the sunset. On the way back we saw a boat sink and a dolphin getting emergency medical attention. It was such an eventful and memorable activity that we never would have had without meeting John and Eleanor. They have visited us in Atlanta once already, and we plan on continuing the friendship for years to come.
We loved Punta Cana and the Riu Palace Bavaro. We have already recommended it to some of our other newlywed friends without hesitation. The only thing that would keep us from returning is our desire to see more of the beautiful Caribbean and other parts of Central America.