Off The Beaten Path in The Dominican Republic: Punta Rucia
I was born in the Dominican Republic and had the luck of having adventurous parents. Ever since I was a kid, mom and dad took me and my brothers on trips all over the island.
Before there was GPS and the internet ruled the world, it was all about exploring remote locations and hoping for the best. Getting to some places was about how far you were willing to go. And getting directions often meant asking unreliable strangers along the way.
For years now, whenever I come visit, my parents take it as an opportunity to revisit the places they like, places they haven’t been to for a long time or explore new locations. With new highways connecting Santo Domingo with the rest of the country and the help of maps.me we’re able to travel in the Dominican Republic a lot easier.
Off the beaten path in the Dominican Republic
So here we are, Joris and I, staying at my parents house, planning where we want to go and what to visit. There are so many places to choose from but this is what we decided:
A 4 day trip, from Friday to Monday. First to Punta Rucia and then Montecristi which is the neighboring city. We would have to travel all the way to the border with Haiti. A true off the beaten path destination in the Dominican Republic.
We left from Santo Domingo together with my parents at around 10:00 am but it's better to leave earlier to avoid most of the horrible city traffic. It was a long drive. With my dad driving, it took us about 4 and a half hours. Luckily, since a few years ago, there are a few new highways connecting all parts of the Dominican Republic which makes it much easier to travel to Punta Rucia and other cities and towns.
Unfortunately though, Villa Elisa, the last road connecting to our final destination is still unfinished and we had to go over a longer route passing the towns of Estero Hondo and Villa Isabela. The real off the beaten path experience starts here...
Punta Rucia is a small but growing coastal town between Puerto Plata and Montecristi. The whole beach in front of it is actually white sand and turquoise sea. The main attraction though, is that it’s only a 10 minute boat ride away from a teeny tiny island called Cayo Arena.
After arriving in the town in the afternoon, we went to our hotel first. We chose to stay in Cayo Arena Beach Eco-Hotel, a little 4 room hotel at the end of a narrow dirt road. It was so nice. Clean, cozy rooms with a roof fan and a nice bathroom. All the rooms facing a cute private beach. The only downside was that it was in an area with a lot of sand flies and we all left with those typical itchy, annoying, red spots. Still, we enjoyed a relaxed time there, and we planned our trip for Cayo Arena.
That late afternoon, we booked a boat ride for 3,500 DOP for the 4 of us that would take us to the island and then back through a mangrove forest. After that, we went to one of the local restaurants and had a delicious meal of fried fish, tostones, rice, beans and salad, yum!
Me and mom spent the evening outside on the hotel’s terrace playing a game of Scrabble and sipping wine while Joris kept us company and dad went early to bed.
Snorkeling at Cayo Arena
The next day in the morning, we had a quick breakfast and we headed to the beach at 8:00 am to search for the guy we made the boat reservation with. Unfortunately, he wasn’t ready to meet us and we had to wait for half an hour for another guy to get his boat ready.
This guy and his kid helper raced us to the island where we spent around one and a half hour in complete bliss with only a few other couples there, we basically had the whole island to ourselves.
Cayo Arena literally translates to 'sand key', which doesn’t sound very impressive but really it’s a little white sand paradise surrounded by the most beautiful, turquoise water. It also happens to be an incredible place for snorkeling. There are masks, snorkels and fins available for free.
We spent almost all our time in the water snorkeling, exploring the reefs and watching the different species of fishes swim right below us. A little bit further in, it gets so deep you can’t see the bottom anymore. I found it a little bit scary but there’s enough space around to stay at the shallower parts.
It was about 9:30 to 10:00 am when we started noticing more people coming in. And oh boy, it got busy with locals quick. We got out of the water and before we knew it there were dozens of people arriving and more on the way. I think it’s needless to say that if you want to have a relaxed time in Cayo Arena, you have to get there as early as you can. It’s off the beaten path for tourists but as for the Dominicans themselves, they all know and love this beautiful place. For us, it was time to leave.
On our way back, we were taken through the mangrove forests along the coast. A really pretty and interesting view if we would have more time to enjoy it. All in all, our driver was very skilled and I suppose if you like racing, you could find the ride quite fun... I didn’t.
Luckily, we were safely dropped by the side of the pier and it was time to go back to the hotel and get ready to check out. We only stayed for a night but we wished we had more time to explore more of the beaches near Punta Rucia. We ended the afternoon with a high, when we stopped at an Italian hotel/restaurant that sells really tasty, juicy, thin crust Italian style pizza right at the beach!
Tummies full and we were ready for the next adventure in the province of Montecristi where we explored more islands, more nature and meet more people. Read all about that in my next post!
Punta Rucia is a great off the beaten path destination in the Dominican Republic. Make sure to check it out if you don't want to spend all your time in one of the resorts in Punta Cana.
How to get to Punta Rucia & Cayo Arena
Punta Rucia is pretty far from Punta Cana and the capital Santo Domingo. You can rent a car and drive yourself if you feel brave or just book with a tour company. The drive with a car from Santo Domingo is around 4 hours…
Rent a boat for snorkeling at Cayo Arena
It’s easy to find someone because if you see a boat at the beach, they surely will take you to Cayo Arena. We had a private boat for four people for 3,500 DOP. They took us to Cayo Arena where we stayed for almost an hour and a half and after that they took us through the mangroves. All in all it was well worth the money and snorkels are free to use! I’m sure you can go cheaper if you don’t mind going with a group.