From priest to beekeeper in Punta Cana
In the Best Of Punta Cana Faces, we talk to local legends: The people of Punta Cana that make this place so special. In this edition, beekeeper Jonathan De Peña talks about the early days of Punta Cana, his career changes, his love of bees, and his favorite Punta Cana relaxation spot.
No supermarket in Punta Cana
“When I came to live in Punta Cana in 2008 there were no highways, not even a supermarket. We had to buy groceries in little colmados (mini markets) in Veron. We had to drive to La Romana every two weeks to find a big supermarket. The road was one lane and extremely bumpy. It was quite an adventure to go grocery shopping. ”
Punta Cana in those days was growing rapidly. Shops and resorts began to pop up everywhere. A lot has changed in Punta Cana since Jonathan De Peña, 33, came to the area. The area has greatly expanded and so has De Pena’s career path and life.
Love for nature and community
Jonathan was born in Santo Domingo. At the age of four he moved with his parents and his two brothers to Constanza, a village in the mountains, where his father harvested beans, cabbage, cilantro, cucumber, and flowers. “I learned to work hard from a very young age. I helped my father on his land. My love for nature and community comes from living in Constanza. People are friendly there and help each other. It is the kind of community where if you are looking for an address, someone will come with you to show you where it is. It was a tight knit community and we had two payphones in town that everyone used.”
Jonathan made career changes along the way. At the young age of 12 he decided to devote his life to become a priest. “I went to a seminar of a school to become a priest. I really liked the idea of the school. You had to work hard, but you also had amazing opportunities and they were very connected to nature, which I felt very connected to. It was a strict community and you shared and did everything together. I stayed in the seminary for 8 years, and even had a year in which I lived secluded as a monk. These experiences really gave me a unique perspective. After a while though I wanted to travel, meet new people, and live for myself. I decided to move out of the community.”
Jonathan recalls the days when he just arrived at Punta Cana. Decked out in a t-shirt and jeans, he leans forward to elaborate on that time. “I came to Punta Cana to teach at the Cap Cana Heritage School. I taught High School Spanish while I started my hobby of beekeeping and getting things in order to work on a Master’s Degree in Business with a focus on Finance. It was a busy time.”
Little Island Honey
Back in 2008, Jonatan recalls how he became interested in bees and beekeeping. “One of my brothers who saw beekeepers in San Cristobal said to me, ´Shouldn’t we do something like that? Let’s start a business. ´ I started watching YouTube videos and became intrigued and fell in love with bees. I wanted to know everything about them. I decided to rent a piece of land in San Cristobal and really try to keep bees. Every 15 days I drove 4 hours to check on them, but at this time it was still a hobby. I couldn’t find anyone with enough knowledge of bees to help me care for the bees in that location so I took the bees with me to Punta Cana. That was when beekeeping really became a part of my life.”
This passion and hobby didn’t become a business until he started with his MBA in 2012. “This is when I really sat down and thought about this becoming something real. After winning two National Business Model contests, I was able to acquire enough money to invest and start the honey business.”
Jonathan’s love for nature and community is evident in his honey business. He always focuses on a high quality, raw and organic product. No pesticides are used. He continues to maintain his own beehives, but to keep up with all of the honey production, he works with other beekeepers that work in the same way he does. His continual goal is to capture the pureness of the product for customers, farm to table. His first honey brand, Miel del Eden has recently been rebranded under the name Little Island Honey. The name Little Island Honey was born from his nickname for his baby daughter who he always calls “little, little”. The new brand continues to develop with new flavor infusions and looks to continue expanding its product line.
Years later Jonathan finds himself living and growing in Punta Cana with a wife, two children, and a honey business. “I love living in Punta Cana. The beaches, flowers, beautiful sunsets, and amazing people surround my family and bees. All of this love goes into the honey”.
Jonathan´s secret spot in Punta Cana? “My favorite spot is Api Beach in Cap Cana. The beach, pool, and area are a great place to enjoy family and friends. You can kick back, relax and have great food and drinks!”
If you want to experience “A little of the island life” you can purchase Little Island Honey at Breakers Coffee Shop in Cap Cana, Pharmacy and Cousie Boutique in Plaza Turquesa, Scape Park, Hard Rock Hotel, Royalton Punta Cana, Nacional and Bravo Supermarkets, and Punta Cana International Airport.
Best of Punta Cana´s favorite honey is the ginger infused honey! Stop by Punta Cana for a sweet treat!