Macao, Bavaro, Punta Cana
Fifteen years ago, folks in this provincial coastal strip of Altagracia opened their doors to a series of large European hotel chains, thus putting Macao-Punta Cana on the international tourists’ map. These beautiful beaches are the main attraction although, over the years, the area has diversified and is now a golf destination as well as an eco-tourism spot for those drawn by its parks and natural beauty.
Miles of uninterrupted sandy white beaches, that include Macao, Cortecito, Bávaro, Arena Gorda, Cabeza de Toro, Punta Cana and Ruanillo, offer visitors a swimmers’ paradise or a spot to relax in the shade of rows and rows of coconut palms. Apart from the exquisite beauty of these beaches, a variety of attractions lie within their reach. Among them is the National Park of the East which is an ecological reserve that contains the largest concentration of pre-Colombian cave paintings in the Antilles. Inhabited by a small community of fishermen, the island park is a lush forest surrounded by sandy beaches and dotted with marshes that host a huge diversity of insects, reptiles and birds, most of which are endemic here. Turtles and manatees are regulars in these waters to feed from the plentiful marine fauna.
Other attractions along this chain of islands include the Bavaro Laguna; international fishing and diving spots in Cabeza de Toro; caverns and underground rivers, indigenous cemeteries, mountains from which flow natural rivers and waterfalls.
The International Airport of Punta Cana offers easy access for flights from the US and Europe.
A 1971 UNESCO (United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization) certified this coastal area as having among the best beaches in the world.
One of the most attractive attributes in this area includes the recently-built hotels that are designed for all budgets and all tastes.
Higüey, the main city in the province of Altagracia, is home to the Higüey Basílica, or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Altagracia, designed by Nunoyer de Segonzacy and Pierre Nupré. Inaugurated January 21, 1971, the cathedral was built to replace the Ancient Sanctuary because the number of devotees had increased so much that it was unable to serve them all. When Christianity arrived here in 1492 with Christopher Columbus, it was from this island that the process of evangelization to the rest of the American continent had begun.
The church was built in honor of the Virgin Mary. Devotion of the Virgin Mary is one of the most important aspects of Dominican culture. Indeed, it forms part of the country’s culture, music, folklore, historical characteristics and national identity.
Source: Central Bank, Secretary of Tourism, Inter-American Development Bank