Monkeyland is an enjoyable half-day excursion for vacationers in the Punta Cana area and is suitable for all ages. The attraction is operated by Runner Adventures with the help of 2 veterinarians from the Toronto Zoo.
Though the attraction listing gives the impression it is located in Punta Cana, it is misleading. It’s actually located on a gorgeous mountainside in Mao, Dominican Republic. So whether you choose to undertake the tour with Runner Adventures, with one of many other tour operators that offer Monkeyland, or with a private transfer (as we did with Diamond Transportation), prepare to head inland with a bus, van, or safari truck ride of approximately an hour or so long. The trip will take you past fields of sugar cane, through beautiful countryside, and will give you an up-close look at some rural villages along the way.
The property is split into 2 distinct areas – the first for thrill-seeking visitors that wish to zip line over the lush landscape, and the second for those that desire a hands-on encounter with squirrel monkeys. Both experiences are highly recommended.
When it comes to the monkeys, their care and safety are of utmost importance, so any guests with illnesses such as colds, flu, or bronchial issues are restricted from participating. Furthermore, trained guides instruct visitors to cleanse their shoes on an antibacterial mat before entering, and they caution against touching or petting the monkeys or moving too quickly.
Guests are also encouraged to remove earrings and long neck chains and to lock purses, backpacks, food, and drinks in the lockers provided. There is a refundable deposit of $10 (USD). The only thing permitted to be carried into the monkey-occupied area is your cell phone or camera for photography purposes.
Once inside, there is further instruction, as well as plenty of information about the animals as guests are led to the first of two areas that offer stunning mountain backdrops for photos. Small dishes of fresh fruit, vegetables, and sunflower seeds are then given to guests as 30+ squirrel monkeys excitedly emerge from the trees and tropical foliage to claim the food. Each weighing 2 pounds or less, they aren’t very heavy as they climb onto the guests, but they are extremely cute and amusing. The guide takes professional photos with the option to purchase after the experience, however, they encourage visitors to take their own photos as well.
All toll, the monkey encounter takes approximately 30 minutes or so, then guests are free to roam the small but beautiful botanical garden located just beyond the gates.
But the educational adventure isn’t over yet, because the tour continues up the mountain with a stop at an authentic, self-sufficient Dominican homestead.
It is here that visitors will learn about the trees and plants that grow and provide food on the island, including coffee, cocoa, pineapple, vanilla, cinnamon, honey, paprika, and more. The interesting process of roasting and grinding coffee and cocoa beans is demonstrated and there are plenty of tasting opportunities. In the end, guests have the chance to purchase some of the products made at the homestead, including roast coffee, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and honey. There is also an island-favourite beverage called Mamajuana, made with red wine, rum, and honey that soaks in a bottle with herbs and tree bark. Dominicans swear its a cure-all.
We highly recommend the tour to Monkeyland. It’s fun and educational with breathtaking surroundings. Though ticket prices vary among suppliers, they are reasonable, especially when compared to other tours in the region. The destination is ideal for animal lovers and adventurers, for families or couples, and provides the perfect backdrop for amazing photos and Instagram-worthy selfies. Even with an hour plus ride back to your resort, there’s still a good chunk of the afternoon left to head to the beach or pool.