The eastern and southeastern side of the DR is its most tourist-heavy. With crowds and chairs dotting the stretches, you’ll find continuous fine white sand beaches with giant coconut trees–a scene easily associated with the DR.

The slew of all-inclusive resorts to fit various budgets is what draws the majority to Punta Cana and Bavaro, lined up along nearly 30 miles of white sand. While Europeans have long visited Punta Cana, Americans are now the dominant crowd taking advantage of affordable packages.

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The Bávaro area, starting north of the Punta Cana Airport, is where independent travelers and backpackers for easier access to local restaurants, cheaper activities and nightlife. These beach towns of Los Corales and Cortecito have a handful of all inclusives, as well as small hotels and even a hostel.

In Punta Cana proper, south of the airport, is the exclusive stretch of upscale resorts and where even public transportation buses don't pass. You’ll be gated in, except for the guided excursions you take.

Dominicans will tell you, "this isn't the Dominican Republic, it's Punta Cana." It’s true – this is fantasy vacation land, and the prices in the area reflect this, as well as the lack of community feeling otherwise felt in other parts of the DR.

Head farther south of Punta Cana and find the real gems in this region: Bayahibe and its offshore islands of Saona and Catalina. These three alone make it worth the trip southeast.

They are also close to the Parque Nacional del Este, and offer easy access to hiking, birding, diving, snorkeling, and cave exploration amid Taíno pictographs.

A short ride away in La Romana, the sports heads will find their bliss at the baseball stadium, or golfing at Casa de Campo’s award-winning Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore.

Last but not least, a day trip to Santo Domingo is an easy two-hour day trip from Punta Cana on the Coral Highway, via bus or rental car.

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The Experience, Where to Stay, and Blog sections will have more excerpts on this region.