Located on the Dominican Republic’s Northwest Coast, about an hour west of Montecristi, is the awe-inspiring Punta Rucia.

Depending on the way you look at it, Punta Rucia’s lack of development can be a positive or a negative. Positive, because this small beach town remains one of the great escapes of the island; negative because basic services are non-existent. When arriving in Punta Rucia, come prepared: there are no gas stations, no ATM’s or banks, no cell phone service, no paved roads and accommodation mainly ranges from very basic to basic.

What is available is the type of beach, that at first glance, can only bring a smile to your face. Few shorelines in the country project such stunning colors as those of Punta Rucia. On a sunny day, the waters of Punta Rucia project a pattern of blues and greens that extend far from the coast, offering magical views that include a backdrop of mountains to the west. This is the quintessential Caribbean beach.

The beach itself is normally empty, although you will see bus loads of tourists arriving in the early morning and departing around midday. These tourists are shipped in from the all-inclusive resorts of Puerto Plata for one of the most unique excursions in the Dominican Republic.

Cayo Arena is a mini island situated on a coral reef off the coast of Punta Rucia. The excursion itself (from Punta Rucia to the island and back) normally takes about 3-4 hours. Visitors are transported by small motor boats to the island; once there, you can simply relax on the beach or enjoy fresh fruit, sandwiches and drinks provided by the tour company. The main activity is snorkeling along the island’s reef. All the equipment is provided and your guide will most likely lead the way as you swim past the colorful tropical fish that call the reef home.

The boat route back to Punta Rucia goes directly through the mangrove forests of the Parque Nacional Monte Cristi; a 55-square kilometer park that stretches from Punta Rucia to the border of Haiti. Your guide will shuttle through small canals within the forest not much wider than the boat itself, allowing you to closely appreciate this immensely important natural habitat. Upon arrival at Punta Rucia, visitors are treated to an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch to close the excursion.

Remember that tourists who pay for the excursion from their resort in Puerto Plata will be charged a higher rate than independent travelers who find their own way to Punta Rucia. This is mainly due to the transport costs from Puerto Plata to Punta Rucia (about 2 hours).

What to know

  • Make sure you have enough cash on you when visiting Punta Rucia as there are no banks or ATM’s.
  • Bring plenty of bug repellent and sun block.

What to do

Cayo Arena is the big draw to Punta Rucia. Paradise Island Tours (809.841.7605) is a reputable operation with many years experience organizing trips to Cayo Arena. Make sure to book the day before or early in the morning.

Where to stay

Hotel Cayo Arena
Small, very basic hotel with spacious rooms; each with a balcony. Rooms have large water barrels so guests have water during power outages.

Hotel La Tortuga
Small, clean hotel just outside of town on the road towards Playa Ensenata. Probably Punta Rucia’s best option.

Where to eat

Restaurant Damaris
Quaint family run seafood restaurant along Punta Rucia’s main drag. Limited menu offering the day’s catch.

How to get there

Expect about a seven hour drive from Punta Cana to visit Punta Rucia (3 1/2 hours Punta Cana – Santo Domingo, 3 1/2 hours Santo Domingo – Punta Rucia). Take the highway from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo. You will enter Santo Domingo at 27 de Febrero Avenue. Take 27 de Febrero Avenue to its end at the Plaza de la Bandera. Take the circle to the right traveling north on Luperon Avenue. From Luperon Avenue, follow signs for Autopista Duarte north towards Santiago. This is the major north-south highway that will take you directly to the northern city if Santiago.

As you are about to enter Santiago, follow the signs bearing you to the right for Puerto Plata. Follow the Puerto Plata highway and you will see signs to either bear to the right for Puerto Plata or keep straight for Navarrete. Keep straight towards Navarrete. The turn off for Punta Rucia is in the town of Villa Elisa. You turn right and there is a short section of “paved” roadway and the rest is a rocky adventure. It’s about 14km from the main highway to arrive at the beach of Punta Rucia.