area to the south of the airport where the very first hotel was built. Most of today’s resorts are
actually in Cabeza de Toro, Bavaro, Cortecito, Arena Gorda, Macao and Uvero Alto. But nearly
all the hotels use the name Punta Cana in their branding even when they are not geographically
located in Punta Cana. Here follows Punta Cana’s history in a nutshell…
Back in 1969 a group of American investors bought 30 square miles of undeveloped land
bordering 5 miles of the east coast of the Dominican Republic in the province of La Altagracia.
The land was pretty much just impenetrable jungle and bush with no access roads and only a
handful of small, fishing villages dotted along the coast. But the beaches were some of the most
beautiful on the island with their white sand, coconut palms, crystal clear waters and protective
A few years later a Dominican entrepreneur Frank R. Rainieri joined them with his vision to
create a resort community that respects the natural habitat while offering visitors a world class
At the time the area was called Punta Borrachón (Drunken Point). Señor Rainieri wisely decided
to rename it Punta Cana. Together with Theodore W. Kheel, an influential American lawyer and
labour arbitrator, Dominican fashion designer Oscar de la Renta and international music artist
Julio Iglesias they formed the Tourist Development, Residential and Industrial Company
currently known as Groupo PUNTACANA
now occupied by PUNTACANA Resort & Club. The old hotel could accommodate 40 guests and
consisted of 10 rustic cabins, a clubhouse, a small employees residential area, a power plant and
a short, dirt airstrip for light aircraft.
In 1978 the French resort chain Club Med built a 350 room Club Med Punta Cana just north of
Punta Cana Club.
road was needed. The Colgate-Palmolive Company, which was required to repatriate its local
entities’ export earnings, became involved and the new highway was built making it possible to
reach Higuey in 30 minutes thus connecting Punta Cana to the rest of the island’s road network.….
In 1982, after 8 long years of negotiation with the Dominican government, Groupo
PUNTACANA’s primitive airstrip was permitted to be developed to accommodate full sized
commercial aircraft. In a joint venture with Club Med construction began and in 1984 Punta
Cana International Airport (PUJ) was inaugurated with the first international flight (a twin turbo
propeller aircraft) arriving from San Juan Puerto Rico. It was the world’s first privately owned
international airport. Without it Punta Cana wouldn’t be what it is today. In that inaugural year
the airport received 2,976 passengers, in 2009 it received just under 4 million.
Currently there are over 60 resorts in Punta Cana. These resorts, along with other tourism related
business, providd employment for the ever growing local population.
To counteract Punta Cana’s lack of public facilities provided by the Dominican government,
Groupo PUNTACANA took upon itself the responsibility of creating and maintaining the area’s
public infrastructure. Access roads, security, waterworks and treatment plants, electricity, waste
disposal, recycling, workers housing and schools were all established. Until recently Punta Cana
was the only place on the island without daily electricity blackouts.
By providing the infrastructure Groupo PUNTACANA have turned this once inhospitable jungle
coastline into a booming industry responsible for a quarter of the country’s gross domestic
product. Their sense of corporate responsibility is admirable – profits from the airport have been
invested in community projects. Interest free educational loans, medical facilities, revolving loan
funding for their worker’s housing and an ecological foundation to protect and preserve the land
and marine life are all part of their mission to promote sustainable development. Unfortunately,
not all tourism operations in the area practice such a high level of social and environmental
awareness and poverty is still apparent on your bus ride from the airport to your 5 star resort. But
Punta Cana has come a long way from it’s humble origins and sustainable development is a
constant, ongoing project. Idealistically one day in the future its effects will reach every part of
• In the meantime Punta Cana continues to grow with construction starting on the new
Coral highway linking Punta Cana to La Romana airport bringing the journey time down from 90 mins to under 45. The future for Punta Cana looks bright, with it being set to
remain one of the top vacation destinations in the Caribbean