Punta Cana is known for its pristine beaches and resorts, main of them all-inclusive resorts on the coast. Beaches worth noting include Cabeza de Toro, and the Bávaro and El Cortecito beaches.
From north to south, other beaches include Uvero Alto, Macao, Arena Gorda, Bávaro, and Las Corales, all north of the cape; and Cabo Engaño, Punta Cana and Juanillo, which are south of the cape.
The Dominican Republic is predominantly a tri-creole culture: indigenous Taino, African from African slave ancestry, and Spanish. It also has a peppering of other cultural influences thrown in, which shows up in the Dominican cuisine.
The best way to sample authentic Dominican food is to step out of the hotel buffet line and explore more of the authentic culture, however on my most recent trip, I spent more time at luxury hotels and chic restaurants, so please consider this guide more of a culinary gallery of the dishes I sampled from upscale kitchens rather than from local eateries.
While I typically make sure to sample more of the local restaurants, this getaway was more focused on pampering, spa sampling, and beach life, so read this guide with that in mind.
Before I dive into the resort food however, here’s a little education on Dominican food and culture. Let’s start with one of their staples. You’d be hard pressed to miss a deliciously crispy flat bread made by the native Taino called Casabe which you can find at restaurants that serve traditional Dominican cuisine.
It is made out of the indigenous cassava (yucca) plant and I’m a huge fan of yucca.
This root veggie can be found in most markets anywhere in the country. Occasionally, they will serve meat on top of this flat bread or other toppings, all of which are spiced up with salt, spices, and fresh lime.
Like other Caribbean countries, lime is in and on everything. You shouldn’t be surprised given the vicinity to South America and it’s African influences to find a lot of rice, beans and fried chicken on the dinner table in many Dominican homes. YUM!!
In addition to rice, beans, bananas, pork, chicken, fish and seafood, you’ll find more Creole-infused dishes as well. One of the more popular fixtures is something they refer to as The Bandera, which is cooked beans and cooked meat (can be beef, pork or chicken) served in one dish and they will typically serve it with fried plantains and salad.
Sancocho is a delicious stew prepared with veggies, Moro is a variant of Bandera, except that you mix the rice and beans beforehand, after which it is cooked together and often accompanied by a meat stew.
Locrian is similar to paella, in that it is combined with seafood and vegetables whereas Mangu is simply a plate of boiled and mashed green plantains (we had these nearly every night when I lived in Africa).
They use it in the Dominican Republic to accompany other dishes.
Then there’s one of my favorites — Fried Plantains; they are so delish! Pica Pollo are pieces of breaded fried chicken which are usually served with Tostones (fried green banana slices).
While you’re imagining these scrumptious flavors, I’ll throw a twist your way by showing you my favorite dessert from the trip, prepared by a French and Dominican sous chef who used to work at a Michelin star restaurant.
Then, I’ll take you on a visual tour of a variety of dishes I tried while staying at some of the more luxe hotels and resorts along Punta Cana’s coast, two of which were all-inclusive properties. Only a couple of photos are from a “buffet” however and all other dishes and “bites” are from hotel, club and resort restaurants and cafes. Enjoy!!
Hard Rock Hotel’s EPIK Restaurant Bar
Called the Corazon Espinado, it is made with tequila, Don Julio, cointreau, a dash of OJ though he made mine with pineapple instead, and smoked sea salt. (I think the pineapple made the difference). The decadent saffron garnish is made with dehydrated orange peels.
One of their Pomegranate martinis:
EPIK @ Hard Rock Hotel
Since we were there as a group, we started with a choice of Alaskan King Crab cakes, a Coconut Seabass and Salmon Ceviche with passion fruit, mango, coconut milk and habanero or a Grilled watermelon and goat cheese salad, which they served with fresh mint, olive oil and house croutons.
These were followed by a choice of Pan Roasted Chilean sea bass with cauliflower puree, crispy capers and edamame, Braised Beef Short Ribs with truffle polenta, broccoli, roasted tomato and onion confit, a Roasted Chicken Breast with bourbon mustard sauce and roasted cumin carrots or a Mushroom Truffle Pasta made with poached eggs and parmesan.
Dessert included a choice of White chocolate Tiramisu (espresso, Khalua, and peanut praline), sorbet or a Triple Brulee, which I had. The combo of Brulee included Vanilla bean, chocolate and toffee.
Ciao Restaurant in the Hard Rock Hotel
Desserts at Punta Cana CHIC
Brunch at Tortuga Bay Resort
We started off with Bruschetta with tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil and then moved onto Fisherman’s Risotto or a Tenderloin “Rossini” Style, followed by Panna Cotta for dessert.
Desserts at the Mansion at Punta Cana CHIC Resort
Appetizers at the private Palmera Villa
Dinner by a former sous chef of a Michelin star restaurant at a Private Villa
Dessert Table in the Main Bar & Lounge at Punta Cana CHIC
Outside Brunch at the Beach Club at Minitas Beach
Pastries at the Buffet
Be sure to read my write-up on Punta Cana hotels and resorts and my top ten picks for the Punta Cana region (adventure, fun and water activities) for both romantic/couple getaways and if you have children in tow.
- More on Punta Cana here.
- More on Adventure in Punta Cana here.
- 3 Great Winter Caribbean Getaways from America
- And, Diving into DR Culture
Note: I was hosted by the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.