The History of Punta Cana

Today Punta Cana is heralded as one the world's most famous beach destinations. But 40 years ago only a handful of people knew or visited the area that is now called Punta Cana.

Foreign Investments ...

Old airstrip Punta CanaIn the year 1969 a group of local and American investors identified the remote east coast of the Dominican Republic as an investment opportunity. They bought 30 square miles (77 km2) of undeveloped land, with around 5 miles of seafront along the east coast. The land was covered with dense forest and was hardly reachable by road. Only a handful fishing communities resided in this remote area. The beaches however were breathtaking, with pristine white sands, crystal clear waters and surrounded by rich coral reefs.

Punta Cana History

1969:Americans invest in land in Punta Cana
1971:First hotel is built in Punta Cana
1978:Club Med builds a big resort
1984:Commercial Airport Open in Punta Cana

The first hotel ...

old image of Punta Cana Club The stretch of land bought by the investors was known as Punta Borrachon, which translates to "Drunken Point". They soon realized the need to change this name to something which sounded better and was more easily remembered. And hence, Frank Rainieri, a well-known entrepreneur from Dominican Republic, decided to name it after the first hotel built in the area: The Punta Cana Club. The hotel opened in 1971 and consisted of 10 rustic cabins to accommodate 40 guests. The access to the hotel was by a dirt airstrip for small planes.

Julio Iglesias ..

It didn't take long before Punta Cana started to attract the attention of the rest of the world. More and more investors poured in, including the Dominican fashion designer Oscar de la Renta and the international music artist Julio Iglesias, ensuring the initiative got noticed locally and oversees; with this tourism in Punta Cana took off.

Club Med ...

First development Club Med

In the year 1978 the French resort chain Club Med built a 350 room hotel, called the Club Med Punta Cana. It was located in fairly isolated area along a beautiful beach. With more advancements happening, the FMCG giant Colgate started investing in Punta Cana. It was responsible for the first paved road connecting Punta Cana with the rest of the island.

Improvements of infrastructure..

The area is still somewhat remote, but during the years that followed fast improvement to the road network were made. In 2012 the new Coral highway has opened and it connects Punta Cana with the rest of the island. Instead of 6 hours, it now only takes 30 minutes for the trip to the town of Higuey.

The new airport...

In 1982, after years of negotiation and going back and forth, the Dominican government gave permission to the owners of the Punta Cana Resort to build a real airport, so that bigger planes could land.

By 1984 the first real airport was operational. During its first year of operation, the Punta Cana airport saw 2976 passengers arriving to the island. And 30 years and a lot of construction, later more then 2.4 million tourist arrive on this airport to enjoy a beach vacation in one of the luxury resorts along the coast. Currently there are over 60 resorts, stretched along a strip of 30 miles of beautiful beaches.

The economic backbone of the country...

These resorts, along with the different businesses which have flourished due to the onset of tourism, have become the backbone of the local economy. It is worthwhile to note that today approximately a quarter of the country's GDP is made in Punta Cana. The initial investors couldn't have dreamt that the area would become so important for the entire country.

© The images in this article are courtesy of Punta Cana Resort & Club.

The History of the Dominican Republic

YearHistorical Event
1492:Christopher Columbus lands on Hispaniola Island
1496:Santo Domingo becomes the capital of the first Spanish colony in Western hemisphere
1515:All gold gets mined out of the country and the Spanish settlers move towards Mexico.
1697:The Western part of the island (currently Haiti) comes under French control
1791:During the French rule, the slaves start revolting. In 1804 they succeed in declaring independence from France
1809:The Spaniards regain control over the Eastern part of the island
1844:Eastern part of the island is renamed Dominican Republic and consecutively declares its independence from Spain
1930:General Trujillo establishes dictatorship rule
1937:Army massacres approximately 20,000 Haitians living near the border
1961:Trujillo is assassinated, followed by the first democratic election for a new president
1966:Trujillo's protege remains in power for the next 5 re-elections.
1979:Two hurricanes leave 200 thousand people homeless

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