Dominican Republic and Punta Cana timeline1492—The arrival of Columbus. European explorer Christopher Columbus visits and discovers a thriving paradise filled with native Taino people and an abundance of gold and timber. He names the island "Hispaniola" and it becomes the center of Spanish activities in the Caribbean.
1515—The gold rush ends. With gold running out, Spanish newcomers largely abandon the island they call "Santo Domingo" in favor of the riches of newly conquered Mexico.
1600s and 1700s—Pirates and French. By the mid 1600s Tortuga Island is the Caribbean's center for pirate activity against the Spanish. Over the next century, France controls first the western end of Hispaniola, and then all of the island, with an economy based on African slaves.
1797—Revolution and independence. Toussaint L'Ouverture leads a slave revolt and the western end of the island becomes an independent nation, Haiti. The eastern end remains under French control until 1809, when it is returned to Spain. In 1822, Haitian leaders expel the Spanish and take control.
1844—The Dominican Republic. Local resistance against Haitian government leads to independence for The Dominican Republic. Despite decades of dictatorships and outside influence, the government eventually moves toward the open democracy of today.
1969—A vision for paradise. A group of American investors acquire 48 square kilometers of coconut jungle on the remote eastern shore of the Dominican Republic. The parcel includes 10 kilometers of waterfront and exotic white sand beaches, but no access roads. The original investors are later joined by a group of local investors, headed by Dominican entrepreneur Frank R. Rainieri.
1971—Punta Cana's first hotel. Rainieri and American Theodore W. Kheel form the company later known as Grupo PUNTACANA and begin to develop the property for tourism. The original hotel, the Punta Cana Club, features 10 two-room villas, a clubhouse, a residential area for employees, a power plant and a basic airstrip for small aircraft. With a maximum capacity of 40 guests, this hotel demonstrates the great potential of the region.
1978—Club Med and the first access road. Club Mediterrané of Paris begins construction of a 350-room hotel. At the same time, the first access road connects Punta Cana with the country's road network. Even so, guests need to travel 4 hours by car from the nearest airport capable of landing jet aircraft in Santo Domingo. Due to the isolated location, Grupo PUNTACANA continues to undertake the responsibility of building and maintaining the area's basic infrastructure such as waterworks, electricity, waste management, access roads, security, schools and clinics.
1984—PUNTA CANA International Airport. After eight years of planning and construction, Grupo PUNTACANA opens the first privately owned international airport in the western hemisphere. The first year, we receive just under three thousand passengers. At this time, Barceló Hotel & Resorts of Spain open their first resort in the Bavaro area north of Punta Cana.
1994—The Ecological Foundation. To maintain the health of the coastal ecosystem, Grupo PUNTACANA launches The Ecological Foundation. Its laboratory, the Center for Sustainability and Biodiversity of PUNTACANA, brings together minds from prestigious universities like Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, and the University of Miami to develop and implement new ecological programs.
1997—The stewardship of Grupo PUNTACANA continues. The ownership group now includes Theodore Kheel, Frank Rainieri, Julio Iglesias and Oscar de la Renta. Meanwhile, the greater region (including Bavaro, Cabeza de Toro, Cortecito, Arena Gorda, Macao and Uvero Alto) is generally known by "Punta Cana," borrowing the name from our original PUNTACANA Resort & Club.
2009—Careful expansion. With a yearly passenger volume of 3.9 million passengers, PUNTA CANA International Airport has grown to be the Dominican Republic's leading airport. And with eco-sensitive planning that includes our "zero waste" program, state-of-the-art noise abatement, and the Dominican Republic's largest privately-owned nature reserve, PUNTACANA Resort & Club continues to offer the low-density, private luxury experience that makes it a leading world-class vacation destination.