Getaway to the Punta Cana delivers heaven for golfers and island enthusiasts.
Charlotte’s hosting of the PGA Championship at the Quail Hollow Club in August is generating a new level of golf fever here leaving many seeking the ultimate golf holiday.
A look south to the Dominican Republic’s Puntacana Resort & Club, reveals a shimmering resort community where salt-air, azure seas and balmy trade winds envelope 45 holes of the best ocean-side in the Caribbean. Just a three-hour nonstop flight from Charlotte, Punta Cana is an all-season destination where the weather is mild, the beaches stretch for miles and culinary discoveries are revealed with wonder like long-buried treasure.
The lush 26-square-mile eco-minded reserve includes several accommodation options including the Tortuga Bay Hotel, a baker’s dozen collection of beachfront villas with interiors designed by Oscar de la Renta and the Westin Punta Cana, a family-friendly upscale property situated directly on Playa Blanca Beach.
Be as active as you like with kite-surfing, paddle boarding, beachside yoga, or tennis on the resort’s clay, grass or hard surface courts. Or do nothing at all, a good beach novel and a tropical smoothie while lounging on a poolside chaise are formidable foils for shaking off the hustle of the Queen City.
Golf takes center stage at Puntacana Resort & Club with no star shining brighter than the Tom Fazio-deigned Corales Course. With six oceanfront holes, Corales is a visual stunner and plays host to the PGA’s Web.com tour’s Puntacana Corales Classic, the only PGA stop in the Caribbean.
PGA tour player and Charlotte resident Seamus Power played in the Corales Classic last year notching a top-ten finish that helped propel him to receiving his tour card.
“Corales is a spectacularly beautiful golf course,” said Power. “It’s going to be breezy but it gives golfers of all skill levels a chance to score well. The fairways are generous, the greens are in fantastic condition and the finishing ocean holes are among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.”
Nearby La Cana Golf Course showcases legendary course architect P.B. Dye’s mastery with 27 holes Golf Magazine rated as the number one course in the Caribbean. “The combination we have in La Cana with 27 holes offer the best of ocean and inland course designs testing scratch and weekend golfers alike,” La Cana head pro George Riley, says. “The ball sits up nicely on the paspalum turf always delivering a good lie. People have high expectations when they come to Punta Cana and we make sure we deliver.”
Both courses make use of paspalum, the environmentally-friendly special turf receptive to salt-water irrigation able to thrive in tropical conditions.
Golfers aren’t the only ones finding paradise at Punta Cana. Waxhaw resident Jessica Weill grew up in the Dominican Republic and returns home often.
“Punta Cana is a wonderful resort destination and an area of the island that has been carefully developed over the years,” said Weill, founder of Weill Fitness, an area nonprofit providing fitness programing for special needs children. “An absolute must visit while in Punta Cana is an excursion out to Saona, a small offshore island only accessible by boat or catamaran. The water surrounding Saona is crystal clear and there are natural pools with starfish off extended sandbars, extra-long stretches of white sand beach and a very relaxing vibe.”
Half and full day excursions to Saona including lunch, drinks and snorkel gear are available through several tour operators in Punta Cana.
Scuba enthusiasts find an extra-special cultural experience with their dives when visiting the Igneri Underwater Museum. This unique underwater exhibition features 22 sustainable sculptures created by Dominican artist, Thimo Pimentel. Early settlers of what was once known as “La Espanola” are depicted in these historically accurate underwater artworks.
Six Senses Spa places top priority on pampering and indulgence for their guests. Signature treatments include Asian therapies such as Thai and Foot Acupressure, couple’s massage, and special treatments for golfers.
Sound and sustainable tourism are values-in-practice demonstrated by Grupo PUNTACANA, the resort’s developer. In 1988, they created the not-for-profit PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation, donating more than 1500 acres to create an ecological park, reserve and research facility.
Visitors discover many of the environmental initiatives underway including programs protecting the population of the indigenous Ridgway Hawk, coral reef preservation and expansion, sustainable aquaculture farming of tilapia, and a fascinating island beekeeping project where protected hives yield not only forest honey but the rare royal jelly as well.
Dominican cuisine is carefully curated with the freshest tropical produce, just caught seafood and locally-raised proteins prepared with colorful island flair.
Shrimp sautéed in coconut sauce with pigeon peas rice is a fine example of a traditional Dominica dish elevated at La Yola, a marina-side open-air restaurant under a giant thatched palapa. Perfectly cooked sweet pink shrimp bathe in a slightly spicy, slightly briny thickened coconut broth on a bed of sticky rice.
Service here is attentive, yet measured with knowledgeable staff to guide you through the Dominican offerings. Enjoy a cold Presidente, the fine Dominican lager pairs well with the hearty fare here.
Save a visit to Bamboo for your last night in Punta Cana. Their Mediterranean-Dominican-fusion creations are inspired and the harbor-side setting is cozy and intimate. Diners are delighted with a playful amuse buche then tempted with the likes of Mango Gazpacho with Salmon Tataki & Pineapple Froth, Mushroom Risotto with Parmesan Foam or Caribbean Lobster.
Be forewarned, visiting Punta Cana is not without one significant downside. The return flight home always comes faster than you wish.