Punta Cana is one of the best places to shop of any vacation spot you might visit. This is because the people are notoriously friendly, you can find some really great deals, it is easy to find one of a kind treasures and you'll find the best quality artisan skills in the entire Caribbean. Make sure you schedule in plenty of time on your itinerary for shopping, as some tourists end up regretting they didn't have more time for shopping, once they see what Punta Cana has to offer.
In Punta Cana, you will find everything from large modern malls and shiny clean supermarkets to small Mom and Pop independents with lots of local flavor. You will also find many street vendors selling their wares, from make shift set-ups and kiosks along the beaches. These are where you will find the best deals of course. Every region has excellent shopping opportunities.
Most shops are open from 9am to 7pm, but the smaller independent shops will close down a few hours in the middle of the day on an irregular schedule. In the more touristy areas, you will find some shops that stay open until 10pm.
To get the best shopping deal, you have to be willing to get out there and haggle. Haggling is part of an authentic Dominican shopping experience and Dominicans will expect you to haggle. The listed price or the price they quote you will be much higher than what they will actually take. If you simply stay at your resort and only buy souvenirs out of the hotel gift shop, you will miss out on haggling your way into a great deal with a Dominican street vendor. This can be quite fun, if I do say so myself.
You can usually get the price down to half of the original price and sometimes as low as 1/3 the price. However, when dealing directly with Dominican artists and artisans, you should also keep in mind that this may be their primary livelihood and they need to make a fair profit to sustain themselves. The concept of paying a fair price is part of the "fair trade" movement which many international tourists have embraced.
Of course it will be most convenient to exchange money at your hotel, but keep in mind that the exchange rates will probably be better if you find a Dominican bank or a "Casa de Cambio" in the community near your hotel. You'll find ATM machines at most of the community banks too. If you need to cash traveler's checks, this only can be done in a bank. Don't forget to take an ID with you.
Souvenir shops in your resort or right around your resort will carry mostly mass produced items. If you want to find a good selection of unique items personally crafted by local Dominicans, you'll need to shop further away from your resort.
Some tourists find that one of the funnest parts of their Punta Cana vacation is shopping the streets and "back alleys"! Shopping in these areas gives you a chance to directly interact with real Dominicans and thus have a richer more authentic experience, plus of course you can often get the most amazing deals there!
While you may find some of the best shopping deals in the Dominican Republic from street vendors and beach kiosks, you need to be extra cautious on certain items.
Fake amber is often sold by less than reputable vendors as the real thing.
Another problem that you may run into with street vendors are fake cigars. If you want to be sure you're getting the real thing, it would be best to buy these at one of the many reputable tobacco shops around the country or directly from a factory that hand crafts them.