OJ Travel Blog: After A Tough Year, Dominican Republic Is Open For Business
with Karen Dahdah

“This is the best time to travel to the Dominican,” says Cosette Garcia, Director at the Dominican Republic Tourist Board in Montreal, as she accompanied a press trip to the Punta Cana region.

L-R Cosette Garcia, Dominican Republic Tourist Board;
Ann Layton, Siren Communications and Rachel Vargas, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino PUJ.

This year’s negative press around deaths of American travellers in the country -- which the FBI deemed to be of natural causes – has taken a toll, and the destination has taken steps to restore confidence.

“We are prepared as a destination to accommodate these situations, introducing a national committee for tourism security involving officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Health to oversee these situations in future.” The D.R. has also taken extra measures to work together with embassies from around the world and hotels to connect directly to 911 dispatch to respond immediately when a negative incident occurs.

The DRTB’s objective is to be seen this winter, collectively campaigning with tour operators, media agencies and celebrity endorsements to regain awareness that the DR is a safe and welcoming place to visit.

“Hotels are up and running and we are still receiving tourists here every day,” says Garcia. “Canada is so important, statistically and economically as very loyal consumers.” The D.R. is seeing a steady increase in Canadian tourists, and the average stay is longer than a week. In fact, Garcia noted that approximately 35,000 Canadians spend up to six months in the Dominican at resort properties. 

Year over year, more resort properties are being added to the list of offerings in the D.R. A steady 5,000 rooms per year since 2016. Next year promises another 4,000 rooms and new resorts like the Dreams Macao Beach Resort, expected to open FEB2020.

Go Exploring

As the Dominican Republic tag line proclaims, Dominican Republic ‘Has It All.’ As I learned firsthand, you can fill your day with more than the beach and still feel relaxed and invigorated. A day trip to Scape Park Cap Cana offers a unique eco-experience for all ages and activity levels. You can relax in one of 3 natural cenotes of crystal clear fresh water, or if you need an adrenaline rush, take the hour long zip-line course throughout the 247-acre park and finish off with a cool plunge. 

Helmets On - Zipline Ready!; Megan Honan coming in for a landing.

Punta Cana is known for its pristine white sand beaches, but how many of us go offsite to take a surfing lesson and eat fresh-caught fish at a local beach? On this trip, we visited Macao Beach, an idyllic and laidback surfers paradise, and for locals, a place to picnic and build sandcastles with their families.

Just a 15-minute drive from the Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana, the Macao Surf Camp features a rustic beach hut with comfy beanbag chairs and picnic tables, serving up Presidente beer, snacks and BBQ’d fish caught that morning. Some members of our group took part in a surf lesson, including our fearless leader Garcia.

L-R Macao Surf Camp rustic beach bar; fresh fried fish lunch; Cosette Garcia taking surf lessons.

From Musical To Selfie-Worthy Accommodations

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana

Who doesn’t want to party like a Rockstar? During our stay at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, it was my mission to reserve a cool Fender guitar for my in-room lesson turned photoshoot on the pillow top bed. The ‘Sonic Red’ Telecaster HH guitar, in lieu of an Open Jaw hot pink version --  fit the bill perfectly, and the tune “Get The Party Started” by Pink was my inspiration.  

OJ’s Karen Dahdah rocks out on a fender guitar in her Hard Rock bedroom. 

Like a good rock star, the morning after called for a rejuvenating visit to the Rock Spa. I made my treatment selection, based on the advice of Sarah Smith, Regional Director of Business Development, AIC Hotel Group, who said the ‘Rhythm And Motion’ massage experience is a must. This unique experience allows you to select your musical playlist to not just accompany your massage treatment, but immerse yourself in the pulses of sound and vibrations. I walked out of there refreshed and with a spring in my step. 

There is something therapeutic about music, and there’s no shortage of tunes playing at HRH Punta Cana. It doesn’t matter if you are in the lobby, at the bowling alley or by the pool, the sounds of Eddie Money, Katrina and the Waves or Guns n’ Roses are in the air.

The Hard Rock doesn’t just offer an all-inclusive experience, it is ‘Limitless.’ For a 25% service fee, you can experience any combination of experiences at the Hard Rock, from spa treatments to golf. Definitely not enough time to experience it all for this reporter, so I plan to be back again soon! 

Chic by Royalton

No shortage of hot pink here! The Chic adult-only property by Royalton Luxury Resorts delivers a premium ‘social experience’ with photo-ops throughout the property. You can photograph yourself at the Chic step and repeat wall or a street art wall with wings. The crowd is between 22 and 55 and there are plenty of newlywed couples and groups of bachelorette/bachelor party-goers. There was something for everyone. 

Cosette Garcia, DR Tourist Board with Ann Layton, Siren Communications looking ‘chic’

Spreading my wings at the art wall

Trendy restaurants like Vespa Italian and Hunter Steak House served up international cuisine and the dress code is relaxed. Dress casual or dress to impress, for selfie-worthy photos! 

By the pool you can take in a yoga class in the morning, a raging foam party by day and a ‘silent disco’ at night. If you don’t know what a silent disco is, you’re not the only one. It’s when you dance to the rhythm playing in your headphones along with a few hundred of your closest friends. Not for everybody, but I can say I tried it once!

Karen Dahdah

Karen Dahdah Columnist

An avid traveller, adventure seeker and travel expert for over 15 years, Karen has toured over 35 countries around the world. She shares her first-hand knowledge of unique and off the beaten path destinations including hidden gems in Asia, adrenaline-rushing African safaris, and the fascinating culture of French Polynesia.


Sarah - November 17, 2019 @ 16:13
Looking like a rockstar, Karen!!!

Kim Keith - November 15, 2019 @ 18:35
Love this! Thanks for the great tips and info!

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