Mastercard’s 2016 Destination Cities Index for has just been released (yes, it takes nine months), and a rather surprising destination has found itself topping the Latin American index. Muscling its way in above big names such as Buenos Aires and Cusco is a Caribbean resort town that many have never even heard of: Punta Cana.
Those of us familiar with the Caribbean might be smugly whispering, “I knew it,” right about now. Yet there are plenty now probably scratching their heads and wondering, “Where the hell is Punta Cana?”
Nestled on the eastern edge of the Dominican Republic, at the crossroads of the Atlantic and Caribbean, Punta Cana lies on a strip delightfully known as the Costa del Coco (Coconut Coast), an apt name that’s a pretty good indication of what’s in store.
Think crystal clear turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and mammoth all-inclusive resorts serving up as many poolside cocktails as the thirsty traveler can handle. Stressed-out vacationers is descended upon this tropical paradise in droves to unwind from their hectic careers by indulging in beach-side activities—snorkeling, fishing, scuba, or golf— or simply relaxing by the water.
Punta Cana is clearly more about rest and relaxation than adventure, an aspect much loved by the 3.4 million sun-loving vacationers coming here from the U.S., Europe, and Latin America in 2016. With some 24,000 hotel rooms throughout the stunning seaside region, sun worshipers adore Punta Cana as a destination to do little more than relax for a week or two and let the worries of modern life wither away into the Carribean sunset with an ice-cold glass of rum in hand.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Best of all, fierce competition keeps rates right down, so all-inclusive package deals are significantly cheaper than other nearby destinations. Upon arrival in Punta Cana, visitors rarely have to reach for their wallets, making vacations here even more carefree.
Some may wonder, “Didn’t an ungodly hurricane season pretty much level the Caribbean?” Fortunately, the lucky folks of the Dominican Republic missed the brunt of the storms and suffered relatively minor damage, so Punta Cana is very much open for business.
Second on Mastercard’s list is Lima, Peru, hardly a surprise considering its international airport serves as a major regional hub for tourists wishing to explore Machu Picchu and other incredible sights throughout the capital and beyond.
Mexico City, in third place, is another no-brainer considering this mega-metropolis of some 21 million residents is the largest in Latin America and also serves as an excellent starting point for discovering the highlights of the land.
Book your next vacation in Punta Cana with out partner, Hotels.com.
Interested in other Latin American destinations? Check out our photo essay of the best of South America.
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