el cortecito and los corales
One of the most frequent questions we get asked is “where’s Punta Cana’s city center?” or “where’s Punta Cana’s downtown?” To answer that question it’s important to understand that the area we know today as Punta Cana was jungle and beach, until the 1970’s, when Puntacana Resort & Club built the destination’s first hotel and the world’s first privately owned international airport. Many resorts have been built since Punta Cana’s humble beginnings but the local community has developed only in the last 15 years or so. In other words, the local neighborhoods outside the destination’s many resorts are incredibly new.
Unlike other Dominican tourist destinations like Santo Domingo or Puerto Plata, where the local city was in existence for generations before hotels and tourism were introduced, Punta Cana’s local city is – in many senses – still being developed. This is evident these days as any trip to Punta Cana will have you passing by construction site after construction site; there is a local real estate boom in Punta Cana that began percolating some 5 years ago but has hit a full boil since the pandemic.
So where’s downtown Punta Cana?
So back to our original question – where’s downtown Punta Cana? To answer this question, let’s first define what a “downtown” is. To me, “downtown” would be a local neighborhood where goods and services are in a central location – where life is walk-able. If you share my definition of “downtown” then there are only two neighborhoods on the entire East coast of the Dominican Republic (what we know as Punta Cana) that fit this description: El Cortecito and Los Corales. El Cortecito was one of the several original fishing villages in existence before the resorts arrived. The neighborhood has since grown and has been split into El Cortecito and Los Corales but you wouldn’t be wrong calling the entire sector by it’s original El Cortecito name.
It’s all about the beach…
Both El Cortecito and Los Corales offer a walk-able beach life that no other community offers in Punta Cana. Bars, restaurants, shops, banks, and – above all – the beach are within a short 10-15 minute walk. You may hear an argument that Punta Cana Village or even the aptly name commercial center “Downtown Punta Cana” also fit our definition of a walk-able city center but there’s one major difference. The Beach! Punta Cana Village and Downtown Punta Cana may offer bars, restaurants, and shops but there’s no beach. El Cortecito and Los Corales are Punta Cana’s only local beach communities.
The beach is an important factor because it’s the most sought after amenity by far. Properties in Cortecito and Los Corales do carry a premium but that’s entirely due to their proximity to the beach. Planning on renting your condo short term? Potential renters have many questions but these two are the most frequent:
- Can I walk to the Beach
- Do I need to rent a Car?
You’ll win many of those potential short term renters when your answer to #1 is Yes and to #2 is No!
Private or public?
The purpose of this article is not to downplay some other sought after communities in Punta Cana, namely, Puntacana Resort & Club, Cap Cana, Cana Bay or even the newly developing Vista Cana. All these communities offer private beaches (Vista Cana’s is an artificial beach) and a plethora of amenities like private beach clubs, marinas, athletic facilities, etc. These private communities have their market, as well, but they’re just that – private. El Cortecito and Los Corales are public neighborhoods that offer public beach access and, in my opinion, a more genuine experience when visiting the Dominican Republic.
Purchasing a condo and or renting a condo in El Cortecito or Los Corales will offer a more sincere visit to Punta Cana. The neighborhoods have grown but continue to be extremely intimate; the type of place where you get fruit from the fruit stand guy (his name is Alberto by the way), fish from the fishermen on the beach and then stop at a beach bar, overlooking the Caribbean sea, where no one – and I mean no one – will rush you from your seat whether you order half the bar or just a bottle of water.