Punta Cana: What We Brought Back


It goes without saying, the most important thing we bring back from trips are, of course, memories.  We’re constantly snapping pictures so we can remember every little detail and just exactly how blue the water really was.

But we also like stuff too.  Those amazing things that we can’t get back home.  And for the Dominican Republic, this included quite a few of our favorite things: coffee, rum, and cigars.  If only I could have brought home some passion fruits and my little monkey friend!

I am addicted to coffee.  I might even be considered a coffee snob – I want the good stuff that doesn’t need to be turned into a frappe or 8 ounces of cream.  And in the Domican Republic the coffee is the national non-alcoholic beverage of choice and a major source of national pride.  The bold flavor is enough to wake you up instantly (and strip off your enamel with its intense sweetness).  The Arabica coffee produced in the Dominican Republic is supposed to be a superior variety and is grown and cultivated in several parts of the country.

The minute I sipped my piping hot Dominican coffee I was in heaven.  I would happily drink this robust coffee every morning black, or as the locals would say “solo”.  Of course, I tried “cafe con leche” also known as white coffee (with milk and brown sugar) too.  It’s no wonder every little shop has bags and bags of the precious stuff.  We brought home several bags of Santo Domingo cafe, which was what we enjoyed on our porch every morning at our resort.  We also got a little fancy and brought some of the flavored options home.  How could we say no to Dulce de Leche? 

Another thing we saw in abundance on shop shelves was honey.  With frequent and short rain showers in the tropical environment, honey takes on a unique complexity of flavors.  Another source of pride with the artisan honeys of the Caribbean is that their honey is raw and unheated, typically filtered only once before it makes its way into your hands.  If you like honey, this is a real treat.  I’m already wishing I had brought home a few more bottles.

Beer is unique in every country and we make a point to try every local variety.  While we have found most island varieties to be a little skunky for our tastes, we still like to see what other countries have to offer.  The most popular choices we found we Presidente, Bohemia, and Brahma.  Presidente and Presidente Light are Pilsners that are brewed at several breweries in the Dominican Republic.  It is commonly exported to other Caribbean islands and even the US.  Bohemia, along with Presidente, is also owned by Anheuser-Busch’s Brazilian unit while it is still locally brewed in the DR.  Brahma is a pale Brazilian lager that is heavily imported into the Caribbean. 

You can find single bottles at the Punta Cana airport to bring home to share with fellow beer lovers or just grab a few to bring home a taste of Dominica when you’re missing sipping these brews under the shade of a palm tree.

Rum.  Need we say more?  We love our booze and nothing goes down better in the summer months than a frozen rum concoction.  We sampled quite a few different brands and flavors while we were visiting the swim-up bar and made a point to try every fruity drink they had.  The Ron Barcelo dark rum was obviously something the locals were proud of, we were brought glasses only moments after getting situated in our room and even straight, this stuff is good.

You can’t go into s shop without seeing a Kalembu bottle.  really, you can’t.  They make the famous Mamajuana as well as flavored rums and all of which are pretty tasty. 

We probably would have brought more home if our bag wasn’t already pushing the weight limit.  Damn TSA regulations! 

It wouldn’t really be much a trip to Punta Cana without at least smelling the sweet cigar smoke swirling around in the tropical breeze.  I am not a cigar smoker but I do like to take a puff of Ken’s cigars.  I’ve tasted enough to know the good from the bad.  And man, these were some fresh cigars!  After trying Ken’s Dominican Arturo Fuente Opus X, which is nearly impossible to get here in the US, I decided I need to grab a few of my own.  Well, the honey and vanilla cigarillos are mine.  But hey! they still cont – and they are freakin’ good!

I’ll admit when our butler mentioned Mamajuana, I had too much fun just repeating the seductive sound of the word.  It seems as though every country has its own native drink and for the Dominican Republic, Mamajuana is it.  This drink has gained a mythical status and is believed to be able to cure “la gripe” (the common flu) while also being a natural aphrodisiac.  No joke, the bottles even read “liquid Viagra”.  While I’m not sure how the claims hold up, after tasting the sweet liquid I can see why it’s a local tradition.  Bottles of this stuff look like they are filled with sticks and leaves.  I found myself wondering if it was just some grand tourist trap.  You can buy a bottle of cured leaves and pour of the liquid (typically gin) and fill it with a light or dark rum and leave it to cure for a week before pouring a drink.  Or you can buy a bottle that has already been cured and flavored from the herbs and bark.  It tastes very similar to red wine and has a nice woody flavor.

From every trip, we bring home a bag of sand.  And although this can be a pain coming through customs (no! it’s not a bag of explosive materials!) we love to put a glass vial into our travel boxes and make Christmas ornaments out of them.  Shells are another favorite thing of ours to find and bring home.  There weren’t many shells to be found of Bavaro Beach but we did find a few.  I don’t normally buy jewelry but buttering us up for bargaining, we got necklaces and bracelets from shop owners.  Well played, guys, well played!   We always find a photo album on our trips, but this time we came home with a locally made album that holds only 24 photos made out of twigs and leaves.  Not sure that was worth it, but we can say it’s unique, right?

No trip to a country with foreign money would be complete without bothering some poor person for change in local currency.  Of course, we needed pesos!

The uncommon goods that we found in Punta Cana were too good to pass up and we actually found ourselves bringing home many more souvenirs than we typically do.   I came home wanting to wake up to a Dominican coffee every morning and wondering why my honey just doesn’t taste that good.


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