To celebrate our highly anticipated 2018 high school graduation, my best friend Eden and I embarked on a trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. After hours of paperwork, four declined passport photos, and countless midnight phone calls ensuring everything was planned and packed to the nines, the endless adventure commenced. With my rudimentary Spanish, we navigated through the airport and scored a ride to our hotel, the Barcelo Bavaro Palace.
As we walked through the grand entrance, Eden and I were greeted with drinks and a breathtaking beachfront view from the vast glass wall. I looked at Eden in disbelief, my mouth agape, “Cheers, Em!” she exclaimed before sipping her drink. For the next three days, we rose with the sun and relaxed on the white beaches, nestled under swaying palm trees until nighttime, which was spent wincing in our beds, coated in multiple layers of aloe vera.
On the fourth day, we discovered an excursion booth, which boasted half a dozen extraordinary activities, and within ten minutes, we signed up for a ziplining immersion and a complete water-based experience to fill our final two days on the island.
Once we applied two coats of sunscreen and frolicked in a cloud of bug spray, Eden and I boarded an open-air bus for a breathtaking tour through the colorful streets and lush rolling hills of Salvaleon de Higuey en route of the Canopy Adventure Zipline Tour. At the first platform, my guide asked if I was ready as I peered hundreds of feet down at the ground, to which I responded, passionately, absolutely not; he grinned and declared “that’s what makes it fun”. My guide’s motivational words inspired me to throw my hands and feet back as I whirred down the line, shouting with the harmonies of the native wildlife. My screams reflected the freedom that emanated from my body as I soared, inexplicable and unprecedented. By the end of the adventure, I was joking around in Spanish with all the guides and rode back feeling freer than ever before.
The next day was full of dancing, swimming, and even more fear-facing on the Seaquarium Underwater Walk Excursion. After doggy-paddling and numerous water inhalation and mini-hyperventilation episodes, I began to snorkel correctly and marveled at the shipwreck and iridescent fish that glimmered beneath me. Suddenly, a massive stingray, about the size of two king-sized beds, fluttered below, and instead of immediately retreating, I floated in place and watched it drift dreamily away. When we emerged from the water, Eden and I stole a kiss from Lover, an adorable sea lion, and prepared for Sea Trekking, where we donned astronaut-like helmets and strode across the ocean floor. The crewmembers tossed breadcrumbs at our helmets as we walked, causing dozens of fish to swarm us in a psychedelic haze of blues, golds, and greens. During the excursion, I grew so comfortable that I jumped thirty feet upward as though I was on the moon, and started salsa dancing with one of the crewmembers as we drifted back down to the sand. Once Eden and I dried off and reached the resort, we grabbed dinner and fell asleep in our buffet plates.
As Eden and I took our seats for the plane ride home, we sighed, exhausted yet beatific. “What’d you think?” Eden asked, I beamed and recounted all the life-changing memories I made, fears I overcame, and incredible people I bonded with, then rested my head on her shoulder and stated “Best. Trip. Ever.”
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.