I took a travel writing course during undergrad, and one of my first assignments was to consider the difference between vacation and travel. A vacation is a respite: sleeping in is the goal, activities are planned sparingly and are easily accessible, and conveniences are abundant. To travel is to adventure: sleep feels like a waste of precious time, each day is packed with activity, and the experience may be uncomfortable (or even hurt) at times, but the struggle is what makes it satisfying. When Micah and I began planning for our Spring Break trip, we had a clear objective in mind: we wanted a vacation.
Micah researched flights to multiple places in Florida, Mexico, and the Bahamas, but we eventually landed on Punta Cana which featured warm weather, turquoise waters, and the most reasonably priced accommodations.
We took a short flight to Charlotte and then lucked out with first class seats to Punta Cana. On our way to paradise we enjoyed warmed nuts, a Greek salad with chicken, and a slice of chocolate mousse cake.
The Punta Cana Airport is just as intriguing as it is busy, from the tiki thatched roof to the bustle of taxi drivers and excursion promoters shouting "Ella! Ella!" as we made our way outside. The balmy breeze thawed my limbs from the frigid plane as I removed my blazer.
We found a taxi company that seemed more legitimate from the other shady looking vans surrounding the airport, agreed to a $40 commute, and sped off to our resort. Our driver, a man around our age sporting a hot pink company button down, played us salsa and reggae music, dancing in his seat and singing along while he drove.
"Dominicans love their music," he called over the sound of drums, pumping his fist in the air to the beat.
Thirty minutes later we arrived to our resort, the Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana. All-inclusive, we had access to food and drink all hours of the day. The resort was huge, containing five different hotels on the grounds, and located directly on the beach.
On the first day we slathered ourselves with SPF 70 and stretched out on the sunny beach, only rising for the occasional swim or to fetch a snack from the buffet steps away from our chairs.
I will say that if you have fair skin, bring extra sunscreen and take some breaks in the shade. I burned that first day, and Micah and I used the entire bottle of sunscreen by the second day. When we stopped in the resort gift shop to buy more, we were greeted with a $32 price tag for Coppertone (!!!). We had no choice but to buy more, but next time we will take a backup bottle.
On the second day we ventured to a surf camp away from the resort. I will share more about this later--learning to surf was by far my favorite experience of the trip.
By the third day I was too burned to attempt time in the sun. We secured a tiki umbrella on the beach early that morning and lounged in the shade until evening.
If you are planning on traveling to the Dominican Republic, there are some things to keep in mind. There will be no cell service, and there will likely be no wifi in your room. Our resort provided wifi in the lobby area, which was a lovely large patio with a cappuccino machine. It was nice to have our coffee there each morning and catch up on communication from home, but I think if we had stayed much longer, I would have gotten tired of not having internet access in the room. And while this is probably obvious to most, we were surprised to find that all of the channels on television were in Spanish with no subtitles. We were truly forced to unplug, slow down, spend quality time with one another, and read.
Ultimately, this resort delivered what we were hoping for: easy access to the beach, food, and relaxation. I am not sure this is the type of trip I would want to take often (I really enjoy getting out and exploring), but I am glad to have had the all-inclusive experience.