Years ago when I flew around the world as a flight attendant, the Dominican Republic was one of mine favourite destinations. It all started when we landed at Punta Cana airport. As a passenger you get off the plane and within 5 minutes you walk into the half-open airport, complete with a gabled roof with reed while a cool breeze is blowing through it. The Dominican people are very nice and super relaxed and you are immediately in the holiday mood. Welcome to the Dominican Republic!
I’ve always said I want to come back, only then with my family. My dear friend Linda preceded me by travelling to the Dominican Republic for two weeks this summer together with her husband and three young children. In the end it turned out to be a holiday to remember and when you read her travelogue and see the pictures, I can understand that she got homesick when she came home from this tropical and beautiful island in the Caribbean.
“Initially we were supposed to go on a holiday to Sardinia at the beginning of the school holidays, but a week before leaving my husband broke his collarbone while mountain biking. So we had to change our plans and decide where to go in a couple of weeks. A more active holiday to Sardinia wouldn’t succeed under these circumstances.
Soon we decided that it should be the Dominican Republic. No punishment of course! This was a destination we had talked about many times before and we liked a super relaxed, luxurious and sun-drenched holiday.
Last-minute holiday Dominican Republic
Luckily there was so short, namely 4 weeks before departure, still room in the plane and place in the hotel which we had in mind for a while in case we would go to the Dominican. We still had enough time to collect our (repeat) vaccinations and with our still valid passports in the pocket, the countdown could start (again).
This time we flew from Düsseldorf which is perfect for us as we live at the German border and this is only a 1.5 hour drive. In advance we filled the i-pads of the kids with movies and series which they like. This was a smart choice as they don’t have Dutch spoken movies on the German planes. The children have not been bored for a moment during the 9 hour flight from Europe at all.
Flying to the Dominican Republic
We flew with Eurowings and to be the honest, the service on board is a lot less than, for example, TUIFly or KLM, with which we have already spent many intercontinental flights. But hey, who cares….in a few hours we’ll be on a paradise beach, we could have been worse off!
As soon as you get off the plane you will feel and hear that you are in the Caribbean. It is tropically warm all year around, which also can be seen at the airport which is built partly in the open air. In the background you hear cosy salsa/merengue music. Whoop whoop the holiday starts!
From the airport it is a 40 minute drive to Punta Cana. Punta Cana is known for its beautiful white beaches and deep blue sea. You’ll find the most exclusive resorts where you are spoiled in luxury.
Punta Cana, the most beautiful beach in the Dominican Republic
Punta Cana is located in the east of the Dominican Republic bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The advantage of Punta Cana beach is that there is a large reef in the sea which largely breaks the waves. This makes the sea quite quiet and therefore very passable for children.
When we arrive at our hotel Riu Palace Punta Cana we looked our eyes out, because it looks like a palace! Since we have chosen an all-inclusive hotel, a 5-star hotel was an advantage for us. Because all meals and drinks are included, you can expect them to be really good. In addition you may also expect that the cleaning and hygiene is good. And besides that we also want to give ourselves some luxury during the holidays.
5 star resort RIU Palace, Punta Cana
Through a tip from friends and good previous experiences with RIU we arrived at Riu Palace Punta Cana. The hotel has many facilities and is spacious but not too big to get lost in it. The hotel has a buffet restaurant and 5 a la carte restaurants, several bars including a coffee bar and beach bar, 3 swimming pools and animation for lovers.
In the evening there is always a nice family show and during a live band show most of the guests starts to dance on the rhythm of the music. Good to know is that the meals were fine, but not culinary high quality as we are used to at other RIU Hotels.
Time difference Dominican Republic
Our boys suffer from the time difference, namely 6 hours earlier than in Europe, and have to get into the new rhythm for the first few days. Fortunately all the ingredients for relaxing to the max are present, a tropical climate and the locals who are super cheerful, helpful and have a “no stress” mentality.
We are more from the sea than the swimming pools and therefore spend a lot of time on the beach. We swim for hours in the warm ocean. We build sand castles, play with the waves in the fire, read a book and drink a nice cocktail from time to time.
There are no parasols on the beaches because there are a lot of palm trees. This is not only a beautiful sight but also a pleasant shade. Despite the fact that there is service on the beach, the boys like to order their favorite cocktail “batido de coco no alcohol” at the beach bar by themselves.
The beach of Punta Cana
On the beaches, nice stuff is sold by the locals such as jewellery, cigars, hats or a fresh coconut. At the Riu beach there is only one party allowed to sell on the beach so we are not overwhelmed by intrusive sellers.
After a few days we find it time for an excursion. We love the sun, the sea and the beach, but we also enjoy, besides just the beach, seeing some of the island itself. Preferably we always rent a car so we can explore the surroundings at our own pace. However, we were strongly advised against renting a car so we booked an excursion through our tour operator.
Excursions Dominican Republic with children
1. Montana Redonda Mountains
In the morning we are picked up by bus at 07.00 hours to go to the Montana Redonda mountains. We take a safari truck to the top of the mountain which is quite an exciting and a nerve wrecking trip.
Once we arrived at the top, we were able to raise the adrenaline level a bit by swinging on a swing at the top of the mountain. Mothers dared to do it, but we didn’t let our 3 over enthusiastic boys swing, because I could already imagine that they would bounce off the mountain.
The view above is breathtakingly beautiful and from here you can really see how green the island is. After visiting the Montana del Ronda we go to a small harbour where our speedboat is ready to sail to Bacardi Island.
2. Bacardi Island
We had expected to find a white “bounty” beach, but unfortunately this was a big disappointment. The beach of Punta Cana was more beautiful. We were also overwhelmed by intrusive salesmen and we skipped the lunch that was waiting for us, because it didn’t look so fresh. Luckily after 2 hours we were picked up by the speedboat to continue our journey to Los Haitises National Park.
3. National Park Los Haitises
Arriving in the national park we first visit a cave that was once inhabited by Taino Indians. With a flashlight in our pocket and a guide with us, we get to see the remaining murals. Especially the boys thought this was an exciting and interesting experience.
We continue by boat through the beautiful mangroves and see the most extraordinary birds. In the mountainside we even spot a snake and not such a small one either. From the park it is about 2 hours by bus to the hotel.
Population Dominican Republic
In the larger towns it is a hustle and bustle with scooters, mopeds and motorcycles. On the other hand, in the farming villages the means of transport is most of the time horse or donkey. Furthermore, you see in the landscape many cocoa, pineapple, mango and coffee bean plantations.
Surprise in the hotel room
After our excursion once back in the hotel room it is completely decorated with pink balloons and there is a bottle of wine on our bed on behalf of the hotel, because it is my birthday! My men had secretly arranged a dinner on the beach. Such a surprise!
Only for us was a romantically set table on the beach surrounded by torches. With our feet in the sand we ate fresh lobster, and mum and dad drank good champagne.
Towards the end of our second and last week on the Dominican we would like to do an other excursion. After our disappointment with Bacardi island we first do some research online to find an island where we hopefully will get the feeling that we are staying on a bounty island. This will take us to the island of Isla Catalina.
4. Must see: Isla Catalina
In the morning we are picked up by bus and drive to the port on the Caribbean side of the island. One side of the island, including Punta Cana is located on the Atlantic Ocean and the other side at the Caribbean Sea.
In the harbour we get our goggles, snorkels and flippers and we take a catamaran first to a place near Isla Catalina. In the middle of the sea we go snorkelling. Luckily our boys have done this before so we didn’t have to practice first. On this spot there is a coral wall and we see the most coloured fish.
After an hour we sail on to the island. The Caribbean Sea is even bluer and brighter than the Atlantic Ocean. We are the first guests to enter the island via a small wooden jetty. And we are so excited and happy because it looks like paradise on earth 🙂
Isla Catalina has one side a green steep cliff and on the other side a mega quiet, white sandy beach. All the coloured butterflies that float around complete the dream picture. The sea is so calm that we can swim meters far into the sea and despite the depth we can still see the bottom through the clear water. Nothing crowded, nothing pushy sellers and no mass tourism.
While my men go snorkelling again at the mountainside, I let myself be massaged in an open hut on the beach. Totally loose and relaxed I walk back to our beach spot and at that moment the oldest one comes running towards me full of enthusiasm because they have spotted a sea turtle while snorkelling.
We sunbathe and swim a lot. At the end of the afternoon we unfortunately have to go back with Catamaran again. We could have had a few more days of fun here. On the catamaran we see the island getting smaller and smaller and we come to the conclusion that this was a day with a golden edge.
Why go on family holiday to the Dominican Republic?
Another 2 days of chilling on the beach and then it’s time to go back to the Netherlands. Are we going to come back to the Dominican Republic? Definitely someday, but in the coming years we will hopefully first discover other beautiful places in the world.
Our conclusion on the island? The Dominican Republic has something for everyone! We haven’t felt unsafe with our family for a moment. Whether you want to be spoiled by luxury in the resort, to be blown away by the beautiful nature or if you are looking for adventure in the numerous water sports ways, the Dominican Republic has it all to offer!”