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Second homes: Punta Cana gets a tide of better access, options

By Larry Olmsted, Special for USA TODAY
At a time when so much real estate news is bad, tourism officials in the Dominican Republic are having good things to talk about.
This summer, then-tourism minister Felix Jimenez announced a billion-dollar government infrastructure investment that includes a new cruise ship marina and road upgrades for his island nation. Then, last month, his successor, Francisco Javier Garc’a, announced that private investors have begun an additional $9 billion in developments.

The announcements included especially good news for visitors headed to the hot spot of Punta Cana, a peninsula on the easternmost coast of the Dominican Republic that has long been the home of all-inclusive resorts and, more recently, several large residential developments.

An international airport already serves the area, but the new infrastructure investment will add high-speed ferry service between Punta Cana and Saman‡, another popular tourism peninsula on the northeast coast. It also will build a new highway that will reduce travel time to the capital of Santo Domingo from four hours to about an hour and a half. Both projects are scheduled for completion before 2012.

Punta Cana's main attraction is more than 20 miles of powdery white beaches. About 30 beach resorts, casinos and second-home options occupy this stretch. Several of the larger residential developments, including Roco Ki and the Punta Cana Resort & Club, offer complimentary mini-vacations for prospective buyers.

Housing prices in the upscale developments generally begin in the $400,000-$600,000 range and go upward into the millions. For buyers willing to look outside those developments and forgo resort-style amenities, prices can be much lower. Three-bedroom houses start at $250,000. One-bedroom condos begin at under $120,000, and many one- and two-bedroom condos are in the $150,000-$200,000 range.

Affordability, however, is not the Dominican Republic's sole appeal. For second-home buyers, the nation also offers a stable democratic government, ease of doing business in a region otherwise infamous for red tape, easy air access, a vibrant community of other foreign home buyers and a top-notch portfolio of golf courses with layouts by the likes of Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Nick Faldo.

A look at three Punta Cana neighborhoods: