While I was in the Dominican Republic (Isla Saona, Playa Macao, and Santo Domingo will all have separate posts coming up) for 9 days I spent $819.31 (including lodging, tourist taxes at the airport, and bank fees, but not including air). I saved a lot of money because I didn’t sleep or eat at the all inclusive resorts. If you want to read about how to visit DR on a budget, read on!
When people talk about DR most people think of Punta Cana. What many people don’t realize is that the best beaches and most nightlife are actually in Bavaro. So, I actually stayed in Bavaro!
My top tips to save money are: 1) stay in a hostel for as many days as you can; 2) Cook at least one and preferably two meals a day; 3) Buy your own alcohol and mixers in duty free and make your own drinks. We bought two loaves of bread for the 9 days we were there, one container or jelly (passion fruit!), one container of peanut butter, and a dozen eggs. Most days we made our own breakfasts of eggs and toast and we ate PBJ for lunch. Because we stayed in a hostel there was already salt and cooking oil and pans to cook with. Food and drinks are not cheap in DR!
Here are my Punta Cana on a budget highlights:
Bavaro Hostel– It is only a three minute walk to the gorgeous Playa Bavaro, five minute walk to great restaurants and supermarkets, and a ten minute mototaxi ride to great dance clubs. The location and price can’t be beat for the area. I do wish it had been a little cleaner (I saw a rat twice while I was there over the course of five nights). The staff was great at giving directions, advice, and finding solutions to problems (like getting someone to chase out the rat!). The common room was great with movies and free wifi easily accessible. I would stay there again.
Hurucan– This was the most expensive place we ate at, but it was also right on the beach so it was a great first meal! The mixed seafood platter was delicious, but left both of us hungry for more. Sadly at a price of 1100 pesos, we were already at the end of our budget so we didn’t get anything else…other than our passion fruit mojitos (280 pesos each).
Citrus– This place is very close to our hostel so we happily walked there in about five minutes. We had three waiters to ourselves when we first arrived and they gave us excellent service (it might have had something to do with the fact that the men seem to love us here). I had the seafood pasta for 460 pesos and my friend had the lobster risotto for 490pesos. We both shared a Pacific Roll (310 pesos) which is the best sushi I have had since July! Our Dasani water was 40 pesos each. We left full and very satisfied.
Delia’s Café and Bakery – I got a doughnut and my friend got a ham and cheese croissant from Dalia’s one morning. I had a fluffy doughnut stuffed with vanilla cream (60 pesos). The texture was great, but I wanted the cream to be a little sweeter. We wanted to return for breakfast on Friday, but at 8:30 it was still closed (despite its posted hours on the door) so we assume it was closed for Good Friday.
Oesterreicherhaus (aka “the German Restaurant” to us)- We had the special of the day on Tuesday which was schnitzel and potatoes. The potatoes were perfectly salted and flavorful, but the schnitzel was a little greasy for my taste. I appreciated the three different kinds of mustard that I was able to dip them all in. Great deal for 400 pesos plus 40 for water.
Danny’s Sports Bar & Grill– I had a delicious Hawaiian Pizza for 300 pesos and a natural passion fruit/pineapple juice for 80 pesos. My friend got the Danny’s Special Hamburger & fries for 400 pesos. Both of us were very happy with the food, service and the fact that it is just down the street from our hostel. They have a daily happy hour and special of the day. Tip: You can go up to the third floor to take great sunset photos and meet the chef who makes your pizza.
French Bakery– Right next to Danny’s is a great French bakery that was always full of people. They make the perfect coffee, the most buttery and flaky croissants I have ever had, and amazing desserts. We went there twice and each time I ended up spending about 350 pesos because I just couldn’t restrain myself. I even took a cream filled croissant drizzled with chocolate on top for the bus ride to Santo Domingo, it was perfect!
Drink Point – To get there from the hostel you take a mototaxi (called a motoconcho) up the road for about five minutes (it costs 100 pesos each way per person). There was no cover for us, but the drinks were about 200 pesos each (we had decent rum and cokes). We made friends with the bouncers and they brought us a table and chairs to use. They also brought me a guy to dance with because they kept scaring off all of the guys who were trying to dance with us! I was really happy to dance Dominican Bachata, but it was challenging because it was danced more “en lugar” as compared to Bachata I have done in Portland, Ojeda, and Shanghai.
Playa Bavaro– This beach had soft, light-colored sand. While it seemed like some resorts raked and cleaned the beach in front of their resort, not all of them did. Sometimes I would see black garbage bags waiting to be picked up on the beach. The water was nice and warm, but there was a lot of plant debris in the water. The sounds of the party boats, parasailing boats, and loud children made this my least favorite beach that we visited in DR, BUT it was still a beautiful location that I would definitely return to in the future!