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Punta Cana for the Broke College Student

So you’re strung out from midterms and craving some sunshine. But… you’re broke. Fortunately, there’s plenty of ways you can enjoy some time in the tropics with friends without having to pile on the debt (because who needs that extra stress right now?) Chances are, if you’re traveling to the DR with a group, you’ll be staying at an all-inclusive resort. These locations can definitely be worth the cash if you know how to navigate them. Here are some tried-and-true insider tips to help you get the most bang for your buck on a group spring break trip to Punta Cana.

3 Things You Have To Do

  1.  Sunrise on Bávaro Beach: The early wake-up call is worth it. Check online to make sure you know exactly when to get up. Then, grab a towel, sit back on the beach, and enjoy. It’ll be one of the only times you’ll have the beach and the resort all to yourself.Image-1
  2.  Coco Bongo: The cover for this club is steep (around $60), but includes an open bar. Walk inside, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a full-scale performance that continues all night, with sets that range from the Beatles, to Chicago, to Batman vs. Superman. It’s quirky, it’s over-the-top, and it’s something you must see
  3.  Chat with a local: Okay, so you’re there for spring break. Don’t let this isolate you from getting to know people. The locals are amazingly friendly, and a good conversation can go a long way. One cab driver told us about his son, who was just born prematurely. He showed us pictures, and gushed about how excited he was. “He was born yesterday, but I’ve been working all day, and I’m going to keep working, so I can pay for his medical bills,” he said with a grin. How’s that for an amazing story?

 

Hotels to stay at: Most resorts in Punta Cana are all-inclusive. Here’s a look at what you’ll expect from different types of resorts…

  1.  Occidental Caribe: One of the most affordable options, but with the least frills. During the spring break season, this resort is filled with college students. The food is bearable, the service is slow, but the atmosphere is tons of fun.
  2.  Majestic Colonial: This resort is a step up (and steps away) from Occidental Caribe. Here, you’ll find smaller groups of college kids; families are more common. The food and the buffets are great, and the rooms all come equipped with a Jacuzzi.
  3.  Hard Rock: More expensive than others, the Hard Rock is worth the money if you’re looking for a nicer stay. With expansive rooms, great food, and an upscale casino, this resort might end up saving you money because you’ll never want to go anywhere else!
  4.  Dreams Resort: If Majestic is a step up from Occidental, Dreams is another few steps up from that. As it’s more family-oriented, it’s probably not the place for a group of college students, but if you’re looking for something more relaxing with a few friends, this is your place.

 

What to order at an all-inclusive resort:

Food: Most all-inclusive resorts have two types of dining options: on-site restaurants and a buffet. Restaurants usually require a reservation, which fill up quick. Learn the rules on how to make a reservation before getting to the resort, and make them in advance. The food at the restaurants is generally better than the buffet, but since you will have waiter service, a tip is expected. If you’d rather not dish out the extra cash, the buffets have plenty of options to suit your belly. Be mindful about what you choose: it’s best to avoid fresh veggies, which are often washed with tap water.

Drink: It’s a fact of life: all-inclusive resorts are notorious for watering down their drinks. In addition, you might notice that your go-to order is made a little differently each time—this is because these resorts often use whatever types of alcohol they have on hand. Here’s some of the most reliable drinks to order:

  1.    Classic: Rum and Coke. Rum is ubiquitous in the Caribbean. It’s almost as plentiful as water. Also, this drink is so simple that it almost can’t be messed up.
  2.    Fruity: Rum and pineapple juice. If you’re not a soda person, and not really a rum person, try this. The fruity, sweet flavor of the pineapple juice goes great with the rum. Added bonus: a slice of pineapple with the drink!
  3.    Daring: Long Island iced tea. I know, I know. This strong drink has bad connotations. But, if you’re traveling with a large group, chances are the bar is almost always going to be crowded. Getting one of these to sip on slowly will give you more time to relax in your chair rather than having to get up to wait at the bar—again. Make sure to ask for a lime for extra flavor (sometimes they won’t put it on the drink).

 

IMG_1989Exciting adventures that don’t break the bank: If you want to see what else the DR has to offer, these exciting adventures will give you the most bang for your buck. The tour companies differ depending on where you stay, so do some research beforehand.

  1.  Snorkeling cruise: This trip is the perfect mix of relaxation and fun. Starting out with a leisurely sail through the cyan-blue water, the boat will take you to a coral reef, where you’ll snorkel with colorful fish. After, the boat bar opens, and the party starts. You’ll cruise to a “natural pool,” where the refreshing ocean is only waist-deep. Sit back and relax, take a diDSC01388p with your drink in hand, or shoot down the attached waterslide!
  2.  Zip lining: Starting out with an exciting, bumpy, and hilly jungle bus ride, this trip caters to the thrill-seeker. You’ll zip line over the very picturesque rainforest of the DR, from tree to tree. Times and prices range, but an hour in the canopy is standard.
  3.  Horseback riding: This tour begins with a breezy ride in an open-top bus through the neighborhoods, farmland, and small town centers of the DR. When you get to the beach, your horses will be waiting. Enjoy the cool breeze and the serene beach setting as you traipse through the sand. No horseback riding experience? No problem. This adventure is open to beginners!

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Q&A with Pepé:

Pepé is the captain of a snorkeling boat. His smile is as refreshing as the clear blue water, and never leaves his face. Although he speaks little English, which limited our conversation, his friendly and relaxed demeanor was enough to prove that island life is just…better.

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Q: How long have you been doing this?

A: I’ve been at this job for about 8 years. I’ve always loved boats. Living near the water, it’s great to be able to go out every day.

Q: Seems like the life. So you like your job?

A: Being out here, in the sunshine, every day, and everybody is so happy. It’s amazing. I have the best job.

Q: What is your favorite part about living here?

A: The weather, and the people! I feel so lucky to live here.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on the island?

A: My favorite thing… ah, I don’t know. I love dancing! [chuckles]

Q: Have you ever been to the US?

A: Yes, yes. A few times… I don’t like it there much. Too cold!

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