Pros: Great rental, Great Owner and Great place for a vacation.
Cons: None per se - Good if you can speak Spanish; No habla No problem. Staying off a resort means you are in charge of what you choose to do and where you go and how you get there...all doable.
We contacted the owner for this penthouse via flipkey.com, we liked what it had to offer and also one of the few apartments which accepted flipkey payments. Since we were new to this we felt comfortable knowing that this was being guaranteed by flipkey. The manager Cyntia was very prompt with her replies, when we had questions and she had answers. We booked it thru flipkey (they charge a fee and throw in a warranty).
When we arrived, we found that the place was much more centrally located than we knew...and the pictures don't do it justice. Its on the third floor (penthouse - so included 4th floor) each floor has a decent sized bedroom with huge closets and private full baths, a balcony which joins the living room on the lower floor, and a sitting room on the top floor (that's two balconies with awesome sea breeze 24/7) , the sitting area on the top floor also opens to a large balcony looking over an empty lot and lots of coconut trees (my favorite view at dawn and dusk and under the full moon). The living room has a small dining area and a well equipped kitchen, which has access to a good sized laundry room.
Now the icing on this cake was the owner manager Cyntia who spent over an hour answering questions from all of us. (One of our friends had so many questions). She told us where to go (no like really, where to eat, shop etc,) and see...etcetera.
She lent us 2 local mobiles one of which had $10 worth of minutes already, and another for which we could do the same. This was so good because we could split up and keep in touch...we had long range walkie talkies but we had so much crosstalk we could barely use them (+ we never used radios before).
Now if you, he/she who reads this note, has never been to DR before, and don't speak a smear of Spanish, (ordering a cerveza does not count) do not despair! (We were apprehensive too) folks here go out of their way...wayyy out of their way to make sure you got the help you need.
Sure it helps to haggle or bargain when you try to buy stuff on the street or get a taxi...(supermarkets and buses and bars and restaurants excluded) but if you need help you will get it.
Right around the corner where we were staying there was a florist, Florista Sisay. Our aforementioned friend walks in and interviews the poor owner for close to an hour. The owner Mr.notsureifIrememberitRight, originally from Spain, spoke perfect english and was so nice! He patiently explained everything, drew a map, with places we should go what we might like, nice watering holes etc etc and recommended a Thai restaurant as well.
Talk about walking the talk, later that afternoon we made it to the said Thai place, "Balikana", and who do we see? Yes, he was there with the mrs., enjoying their awesome fare. I daresay, that was the best Thai I have had in a long time.
The next day, we were looking for a local place to eat, and asked a cab driver for directions...he promptly left his cab, walked us over a couple blocks, ordered (translated) our food with all our questions and sides and whatnot...waited till we got and tried our food...which was great, and then left. We were not even his customers!!!
We had similar experiences when we tried to go to punta cana village (which is not an authentic village like we assumed -its a high end shopping center) we had to switch 3 buses all assisted by the folks in the buses, a couple of the fare collectors ran over to the other buses and made.sure they knew where to let us off. Another called over an off duty bus line employee who waited till we got on another bus.
Sure we were just a bunch of guys (mini college buddy reunion), who could hop on and off buses, maybe not the right mode of travel for families, but I wanted to emphasize the attitude and nature of people we met. I rest my case on that end.
The next thing to know is if you like beer, you will be happy with the local favorite - Presidente (just buy lots of it from Super Pola - yes the mega supermarket) you can pay anywhere from $1 us to $5 us based on.where you buy it...or you can get a six pack for approx $5 - its a pilsner and comes in regular (ask for "normaal") or Light.
Local rum is as cheap as US$7/8 for about a gallon or more. But you will probably need a lot of coke to go with it. Did not try it.
Mamajuana - local drink made with some herbs (looked liked bark and twigs to me) with rum and wine and something else and you can add rum and wine when its done and you let it sit for sometime (not sure how long) but its supposed to get the flavors from the bark/twigs. Buy in a big store and not on local by roads because you may not know what bark/twigs were added and if they were cleaned properly etc.
Get lots of bottled water too - the weather mid March was 80ish, but was nice with a little humidity. Lots of ocean breeze...
This general area though called Punta Cana is actually all Bavaro which is a different town - just FYI - look it upon Google Maps.
You can get local taxis (most are Toyota vans) to get around, some auto rickshaws (covered scooters with a little seat in the back for 2 or 3) and moto taxis (small motorcycles) which can give you a ride for a few pesos...(not recommended if you start asking for helmets and want to see insurance papers). Bus rides are 30 pesos per person no matter where you go.
Exchange rate and Currency:
When we visited it was about 42/43 pesos for $1 US. Best rates are given in an ATM. Max 10,000 per day. But most places (almost all) take US$ but may be a little off with the exchange rates.
Checkout more on google/tripadvisor for activities to do in this area. There are several more for those seeking lots of activities. We just chilled out.
Hope this helps. Enjoy your vacation.
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