Before you can relax under a canopy of palm fronds on the white sand of one of Punta Cana's legendary beaches, you'll need to decide what to pack for the Dominican Republic and what to leave at home. The tourist resorts in this popular coastal draw are stocked in case you forget any of the basic necessities, but you'll want to make sure you're bringing appropriate clothes for the Caribbean climate and the activities on your schedule.
Any visitor to the Caribbean knows that silks may look great flowing in the beach breeze, but will uncomfortably stick to your skin when saturated by the high humidity. High temperatures tend to stay in the mid-80s for most of the year, but how hot you really feel depends on the rainy season. From December through April -- when snowbirds flocking to the island from chilly parts of the world can drive up resort prices -- the weather tends to be drier; the rainy season arrives in May. Pack breathable cottons, light gauzy materials and wrinkle-resistant shirts and sundresses. Pack sheer makeup with added sun protection factor and moisturizing hair care products to battle frizz, as well as hair ties for days when the humidity wins.
Punta Cana doesn't have well-developed urban areas, but has excellently developed resorts. These all-inclusive facilities will have you splashing in the sea under the sun and enjoying a quiet dinner under the moon. For daytime wear, pack bathing suits, swim trunks and cover-ups to transition from beach to brunch, and cotton shorts with T-shirts for times when you don't need a wetsuit. Ask if your resort has laundry services to get more mileage out of the clothes you pack. For evenings out, pack dinner and dancing attire that takes into account the weather and the spirit of the island, such as flowing dresses for women and linen pants with wrinkle-free button-downs for men.
Be prepared if you want to explore points beyond the sun-drenched beach resorts, such as the National Park of the East just southeast of Punta Cana. In addition to endless sandy stretches of glorious beaches and the turtle sanctuary on Saona Island, the park has trails cutting through subtropical rainforest and dry forests where a guide can take you past towering succulents at El Bosque de Cactus and into the petroglyph-marked underground lair and lake at La Cueva de Chico. For this or highland expeditions west of Punta Cana, you'll want basic outdoor gear. Pack comfortable hiking shoes or sneakers, lightweight pants or walking shorts, insect repellent and a small backpack to stash bottled water, an inexpensive camera and other necessities for the trails.
Leave Valuables at Home
The U.S. State Department warns Americans traveling to the Dominican Republic of crime risks from pickpockets and muggers to taxi assaults and hotel room theft, and recommends that you pack only things that can be replaced. Leave valuables at home and pack a travel wallet, waist pack or purse that can transition through all of the day's activities to ensure that your credit cards are always with you. Pack clothing with pockets that can securely stash a cell phone, passport and other necessities that could easily be swiped in a purse- or backpack-snatching. Pack a money belt that can be worn under clothing if you intend to walk around with cash. Even though all-inclusive resorts may seem insulated from crime, the State Department reports that guests regularly report crimes here, including hotel safes laden with valuables disappearing from rooms.