Craft the Travel

This is not the Cancun I remember! It’s better. It’s the Riviera Maya.

The last time I was in Cancun, Mexico I was in my twenties. We did a typical ‘hotel zone’ stay off the strip, tanned on the beach and visited Mayan Ruins in Tulum. I remember getting off at a small airport and taking a small school-bus type van to our hotel. The guys on the van had a cooler full of iced down Corona and liberally distributed them during the ride. Long gone are those basic days for Mexico. It has clearly ‘grown-up’ in the world of tourism.

We flew on Sun Country.  I hadn’t used them since my 20’s but the tickets were a great price and I thought I would try them again. The flight going to Cancun was delayed twice, so they did rob us of having a real dinner at the resort our first night. We settled for room service after check-in. The airline did complimentary upgrade us to exit row seats and functioned on-time returning home. I want to note that with this airline if your flight is delayed – it does NOT mean you can check-in later than the 2-hr window from your original flight time. We did not know this and waited at home during the ‘delayed’ time. Come to find out we checked-in with 8 minutes to spare. Since charter, vacation airlines only fly a specific route/day/time they don’t keep a schedule like the majors (AA, United, Southwest) do. While this doesn’t mean all charters are late and all majors are on-time, I do think the fact that the majors have a schedule to keep helps them stay on time more often than not.  Just my two cents when choosing who to fly!

To my pleasant surprise, we stepped off our plane and into Cancun’s fully updated and modern airport. It was clean, air-conditioned, fast and efficient at handling the tourist. If you are ‘carry-on only’ you are through lickety-split. They have craftily created an area that you must pass through full of small lectern-type desks. It appears that these are here to help guide you or give information…..while they will happily give you info, it is not agenda-free. These are representatives of ‘Mexico Tourism’ and the Mexican-owned ‘time-share’ property Vidanta. They want you to buy/stay in Mexico-owned properties versus foreign-owned. They will entice you with all kinds of good freebies or discounts on tours/excursions for a mere 90 minutes of your time (try more like 5 hours). Just keep walking! If you have prearranged transfer or need a taxi, they will be waiting for you just outside the exit, so again KEEP MOVING.

We had pre-arranged, private transfer with Lomas Travel and they did a first class job at getting us to and from our resort. This was my first time to stay in an ‘Adult-Only’ property as I typically travel with my son. I was interested in staying here because of my desire to investigate the ‘Palafitas’ (which I will cover later), but the generous travel agent discounted rate on the suite helped seal the deal to take the trip. Oh, the demands of the travel business! 😉

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Craft the Travel

PUJ, La Romana, Saona Island ~ Dominican Republic

Like most destinations in the West Indies, the Dominican Republic delivers you crystal teal-blue water and fine white sand. We found areas of our resort’s beach, at the natural swimming pool and off of Saona Island to be seaweed free and pristine. The trade-off to reach this stunning destination is a 4hr 15m (direct) flight (from DFW to PUJ).

Once you are in the Dominican you can elect to stay in Punta Cana where the airport is on the East tip of the Island or make your way about 45m Southwest to the town of La Romana or even farther West into Santa Domingo. Wherever you land you are likely to find yourself in an all-inclusive resort. From what we observed in La Romana, there wasn’t much in the way of restaurants outside of our resort. While the food in our resort was certainly edible and plentiful, it was different and challenged all of us to expand our palettes.

I would venture to say 10-20% of the people staying at our resort were Americans and the rest were nationalities from all over the world.  I had forgotten how much the rest of the world still smokes cigarettes and are used to doing so at any time/place they wish.  😒 The people that worked at the resort, as well as locals we encountered off the property, were all very helpful, kind and friendly.

We enjoyed the family time we had on the ‘touristy’ tours we scheduled. We participated in a day trip to go zip-lining, a boating trip to Saona Island and an afternoon of parasailing. Sebastian has really grown up and enjoyed these ‘big boy’ activities.

Our resort did have a restaurant at the end of their pier, which from what we observed most of the other resorts down the beach did not. We had one lunch and our final dinner there which were our favorite meals.

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We practiced traveling only with backpacks for this trip and while we all agreed that a lesser amount of stuff was ideal; we prefer that weight be hauled around on wheels versus our backs. I will be on the hunt for the perfect tiny roller bags.

Recommended Resorts:  Dreams, La Romana; Dreams, Dominicus; Catalonia; Grand Palladium; Nickelodeon Resort.

Things to be aware of in the DR:

-American Dollars & DR Pesos are both widely accepted, but be sure to take some small bills for tipping as when paying with a card or ‘on the room’ you are not offered a ‘tipping line.’

-‘Tours’ are very touristy and typically fully booked. Be sure to book private excursions if you don’t want to be a part of the crowd.

-Carefully consider whether you want to book ‘public’ transfers (vs private) as this will lengthen the time it takes to get you to your resort. You may be in luck and be the first stop or you may not…..and be the last!

-Wear insect repellent. Even though you may not feel like it is very ‘buggy’, other more unfamiliar creatures are around that may bite.

-Arrive to this airport (PUJ) 3 hours before your departure time. It is not a modern, ‘online’ airport. They make you stand in three (long) lines to leave the country. One to check into your departing flight, one to go through security and one (again) through customs to exit the country. The airport is an open-air building, so dress comfortably for the warm weather.

Lastly, after a long day getting home, I was SO INCREDIBLY THANKFUL to have Global Entry. We scanned our passports at kiosks, printed a paper for each of us, showed them to the attending agent and breezed right out to our Uber (we only had carry-on luggage). BRILLANT!