Culture - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Like the flowers and sounds of merengue and bachata, so is the culture of the Dominican Republic, colorful, with a rhythmic soul that pulsates through the entire coastline of Punta Cana, enamoring and captivating the hearts of every visitor.  The heart and soul of the Dominican Republic are the Dominican people.  As soon as you arrive at the Punta Cana Airport, you’ll feel your hips wanting to move to the sounds of merengue and bachata played by friendly locals that show up every day to give travelers a warm Dominican welcome.

Punta Cana is to the Dominican Republic what Disney World is to the state of Florida… a world of its own within the country of Dominican Republic, a Caribbean Wonderland.   Just a few decades ago, Punta Cana was a jungle of palm trees dancing and growing freely across the pristine coastline of bewitching beaches.  Punta Cana was carefully planned to respect the ecological value of the land, turning it into a Caribbean Wonderland with an international culture perfectly blended with the best aspects of the Dominican culture. 

Today, Punta Cana is the most popular and beloved beach and golf resort destination in the Caribbean, each property incorporates Dominican culture in unique ways giving visitors the perfect balance of a resort and cultural experience with bilingual staff that goes out of their way to give guests an unforgettable time.  Beyond the resort property, visitors can enjoy tours and cultural day trips to elevate the travel experience.

We invite you to stay on this page a little longer and allow us to introduce you to cultural experiences you’ll love and enjoy during your visit to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Hospitality… at the core of Punta Cana Culture

Punta Cana is perhaps the greatest and most successful branding story in tourism history, where hospitality is at the core of its values.  Tourism is the main source of employment for Dominicans in Punta Cana and nearby regions.  Many service workers at the resorts have long commutes in buses for pay that other countries consider very low, yet you’ll see staff working with a genuine smile, a desire to serve, and going out of their way to satisfy the needs of the guests.  Dominicans are some of the happiest people you’ll ever meet.  If you wish to reward exceptional service, feel free to give them a tip, they will appreciate it very much and will remember you for the entire stay. 

 

Food Culture in the Dominican Republic

Food in Punta Cana is very much like… the sounds of merengue, a sultry rhythmic blend of flavors with a mix of ingredients, seasonings, and cooking methods from the rich cultural mix of Tainos (Aborigines), the Spanish and Africans.

Punta Cana offers a world-class dining experience.   Resorts offer international menus to satisfy a wide variety of palates and the pickiest eaters.  Many all-inclusive hotels offer buffets that include traditional Dominican food, the scents and colors will invite you to try it, the flavors will bring you back for more.  Trying local food is a wonderful way to connect with a country, understand its people.  When you return home, you may find yourself looking for key ingredients to make plates that remind you of your wonderful vacation.

The following are some of the most popular and beloved foods in the Dominican Republic.


Main Dishes

  • Casabe – This delicious crispy flatbread is a staple in Dominican cuisine that is rooted in Taino culture made from yucca.  In many restaurants, you will be served casabe as a side instead of bread.  Some casabe is made plain, some are seasoned with garlic, it may also be served with sprinkled salt and olive oil.   Dominicans eat it at different times of the day, for breakfast with eggs or simply with coffee or hot chocolate, it is also eaten with soups.  Instead of crackers, casabe may also be eaten as a snack with cheese or dips.
  • Sancocho, shall we say Sancocho!!!! – Such a comforting food, it is the one food that tastes like mama, like grandma, like love… the soup that carries stories, and memories of generations.  Other Caribbean Islands and Latin American countries have their own version of Sancocho, but those that have tasted the Dominican Sancocho simply can’t argue that it is the best.   Sancocho is typically made with platanos (plantains), viandas (roots vegetables), and a mix of meats.  The Sancocho broth is well seasoned with a base of garlic, onions, green peppers, and other seasonings.  Each home and cook gives Sancocho its own touch, each boasting their soup is better.   One thing is for sure… no one in the Dominican Republic turns down a bowl of Sancocho.  This hearty soup/stew is cooked slowly, the simplest recipe is made with just chicken and beef, made into a thick and tasty meaty bowl of Dominican love.
  • Arroz, Habichuelas y Carne / Seafood – This is a staple meal at the Dominican family table, a blend of cultures in one plate.  Sides such as plantains, casabe, and potatoes may also be served.
  • Pescado Frito (Fried Fish) – There is an abundance of fresh fish in Punta Cana.  You’ll find fresh fish cooked on beachside kiosks and restaurants.  Fish is typically fried seasoned with salt, pepper, and battered in flour, some vendors grill the fish and it is just a delicious.
  • Chimichurri (Chimi) – A burger made with beef or pork, topped with cabbage, and Thousand Island dressing on a bread bum.  Locals love it, most visitors do too.

Desserts

  • Dulce de Coco – One of the favorite Dominican deserts, there are two versions and they’re both delicious.  Our favorite place to enjoy it is at Playa Blanca Restaurant ordered from a lounge chair at the beach.  The sultry tropical flavor of coconut in a smooth creamy mix of milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.  So simple yet so divine, with your toes sunk in the sand, the salty breeze, and turquoise colors of the water, it is simply a sublime food cultural experience.
  • Flan – typically found in most menus and a popular dessert in many Latin countries.  Flan is a firm but smooth custard cooked in caramel.  The most traditional flavors are Flan de Leche (Vanilla), Flan de Queso (Cream Cheese), Flan de Coco (Coconut).
  • Tres Leches – Think Tiramisu but made with a luscious mix of three types of milk over a fluffy vanilla / yellow cake.  You’ll find different twists of Tres Leches, the most popular is adding a layer of pineapple jam and topped with Italian meringue.
  • Pudin de Pan (Rice Pudding) – Dominicans add a delicious combination of spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg.
  • Habichuelas con Dulce – If you vacation in Punta Cana over Easter week,  you may find Habichuelas con Dulce on the menu.   A creamy dessert made with beans.  Moms and grandmas make a giant pot for the family to feast after dinner and share with friends and neighbors.

Drinks

  • Rum –  The most original and oldest distillery in the Dominican Republic is Bermudez, founded in 1852.  Rum is a key ingredient in a variety of delicious tropical cocktails.
  • Morir Soñando (To die dreaming) –  Perhaps it was named that way for its refreshing qualities on a hot summer day.  You can find this drink in most resorts or variations of fruit juices.  If you don’t see it ask the staff and they’ll be happy to make it for you.  Morir Soñando is a mix of evaporated milk, orange juice, sugar, vanilla, and ice.  Kids love it. 
  • Mamajuana – an original and the most traditional drink in the Dominican Republic.  This drink is strong, made with rum, red wine, honey, a mix of herbs, and a specific type of tree bark.

Music & Dance Culture

Punta Cana is a happy place, Dominican music keeps locals and visitors alike moving to the happy vibes of the rhythmic sounds of merengue and bachata.  If you ask a Dominican, they’ll tell you that Merengue runs through their veins.  Many resorts offer free dancing lessons poolside, at the beach, and have many live music events where you can practice with friendly local staff.  We encourage you to take the lessons, when you return home, play merengue or bachata music, and keep practicing.  There are plenty of videos online so you can perfect your dance skills for your next visit to Punta Cana.  Learning to dance is a wonderful way to take Punta Cana with you and reminisce of good times.

The following are two videos by one of the greatest artists in the Dominican Republic known worldwide, Juan Luis Guerra.  The first is a merengue song featuring footage from Puerto Plata.  The second video is one of the most beloved Bachata songs “Bachata Rosa“.

By the way, one of the best restaurants outside the resort properties in Punta Cana is Bachata Rosa owned by Juan Luis Guerra.  Great food and of course great music.