When you’re ready to escape to a world of sugar-white beaches and lush, green jungle, make your way to Punta Cana. This beach town on the east coast of the Dominican Republic is a beacon of relaxation for vacationers. With year-round warm temperatures and an idyllic landscape, the city is a welcome respite from everyday cares.
Remember learning about that Christopher Columbus guy in elementary school? He landed in the Dominican Republic with his ships in 1492. Columbus and his men encountered the Taino, a native tribe that had lived on the island for centuries. While relations between the two cultures were initially friendly, eventually…well, let’s just say the Spanish took over the island. France seized power a few centuries later, only to lose out to Haiti. Finally, in 1844, the Dominican Republic won its independence, and the island rum has poured out in celebration of freedom ever since.
Given Punta Cana’s remote location, the landscape remained largely untouched throughout its tempestuous history. In the 1960s, a group of investors decided the scenic area would be a perfect retreat for vacationers, and the first hotel sprouted up in 1971. Today, there are tons of restaurants with ocean views, snorkeling tours off the coast, and zip lines through the jungles. Columbus may not have found mountains of gold in Punta Cana, but the city is now a glittering jewel in the Dominican Republic.
You might think that Punta Cana would suffer from an out of sight, out of mind mentality given its remote location in the Dominican Republic. However, the seclusion perfectly suits the island values of town. Where is Punta Cana? The beach city lies on the easternmost edge of the island, where it’s more than appropriate to rest in a hammock from morning to night. Travellers can still access all the technology and comforts of home, but indulge in a quieter, slower way of life thanks to its distance from larger areas.
Next time you see your house buried in snow, just remember that Punta Cana weather is warm year-round. Even if you don’t live in a cold place, it’s hard to beat tropical breezes every season. Plan your island adventure for some time between late spring and fall, during the sunniest period. Late winter and early spring tend to bring the majority of the annual 110 cm of rain. Overall, weather in Punta Cana is pleasant throughout the seasons, with temperatures that linger between 30 to 35 degrees Celsius. You can also expect humidity through all four seasons, so prepare your hair for a frizzy welcome to the island.
Fun Facts About Punta Cana
Punta Cana literally translates to “Tip of the White Cane Palms,” but it used to have a far boozier name. Before adopting its current moniker, it was called Punta Borrachon, which means “Drunken Point.”
If walking around the romantic city makes you think about wedding dresses, you’re not the only one. Famous wedding gown designer Oscar de la Renta once bought a home in the region. Singer Julio Iglesias and a few other celebrities have also purchased property in the area.
The Punta Cana Airport (PUJ) is the largest and only privately owned international airport in the Western world. The airport is managed by the Puntacana group that opened the airport specifically for island tourists.
There are 10 beaches in the area, so you really have your pick of spots stretch out on a towel in the warm sun for every moment of your much-earned holiday.
Punta Cana Transportation
Given its island status, the only way to enter Punta Cana is by air or sea. Once you arrive in the city, however, transportation is just a cab, car, or popped wheelie ride away. Here are the top transportation options in Punta Cana:
Most travellers arrive to the city through the Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ). Located only 25 km from the hotel strip, the location makes it easy to catch a flight to and a flight from Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ). If the smell of sunscreen seems strong, it’s because PUJ sees nearly 6 million visitors per year, making it the second-busiest airport in the Caribbean. Cheap flights to Punta Cana arrive every day, full of eager travellers ready to unwind in the sunshine. Why not be part of the crowd, too?
Taxis and Shuttles
PUJ’s close proximity to Punta Cana means it’s simple to get to the beachfront. Due to the amount of visitors each day, it’s easy to snag a taxi once you arrive. Shuttles are good alternatives, too. Several resorts offer complimentary or low-cost shuttle service from the airport to the lobby, though you may want to schedule your pick-up ahead of time to avoid a wait on the curb.
To get around Punta Cana and the surrounding areas, consider hopping into the ever popular “guaguas,” or minibuses. These operate much like cabs in that you can flag one down and it will take you to the most popular spots of the city. If you’d like to see more of the Dominican Republic as a whole, book a trip on one of the “expresos,” or long-distance buses. The wheels on these buses go round and round, without driving your bank account into the ground.
Many of the Punta Cana car rental options are name brands recognized the world over. Most of the attractions in and around town are fairly concentrated, but if you want to take day trips to neighbouring cities, rental cars in Punta Cana are certainly affordable. You may even want to call shotgun on the passenger seat so you can spy the wild jungles and high seas from the best view in the car.
Due to Punta Cana’s remote location, mountain biking is a popular method for exploring the coastline. Just rent a bike at any of the local shops and make your way to the numerous trails through the thick jungle. Just remember to pack extra water and snacks, as most of the cities surrounding Punta Cana are well spread out.
Whether you’re travelling on a Punta Cana flight or hopping onto a mountain bike, the view is always nice when you’re making your way around the city.
Punta Cana Nightlife
You might think that Punta Cana is all about the relaxing life, but once the sun goes down, a whole other side opens up. With a mix of dance halls and casinos, Punta Cana nightlife lights up once the sun sets. Here are some of the best nightclubs in the city:
If you’ve ever walked into a club and thought to yourself, “There should be more caves in here,” Imagine has you covered. There are four different caves that appeal to any kind of night you’re looking for. The Main Cave is surrounded by stone walls, with cenote rocks melting from the ceiling, and notes of hip-hop and reggae ringing out long into the night. The Electro Cave is slightly smaller, with the rock walls seeming to vibrate with electro-house music. The Universe Cave is another unique option, as the large grotto is often used for concerts and large parties. If you’re looking for a cave all your own or for your amigos, the Private Cave is VIP and waiting for thee.
Featuring feathers, lights, Elvis impersonators, and burlesque shows, Coco Bongo offers a little bit for everyone. Part Las Vegas spectacle, part dance club, this hot spot is never short on energy. Coco Bongo also tends to include special souvenirs. Many shows offer props such as glow sticks and confetti, so you can light up the night and arrive back at your hotel covered in glitter and glow necklaces.
With two floors of pulsating lights and dance beats, Mangu is one of the hottest clubs in Punta Cana. The bottom floor often features local Dominican music, with partyers dancing with old friends and brand new ones. For more traditional house music, migrate upstairs where the top floor DJs spin your usual blend of popular electronic and remixed classics.
Depending on the night, you can enjoy everything from Latin, reggae, hip-hop, or house music at ORO Nightclub. The venue is often packed, making VIP bottle service an ideal solution to have somewhere to kick off your heels between DJ sets. And trust us; you’ll want to spread out your energy, as the club attracts some of the biggest local and international acts in the world night after night. Want to dance until you can’t dance no more? No worries. ORO Nightclub is located inside of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, so you’re not far from your room.
Pacha is one of the best off-the-beaten-path venues in Punta Cana. Big enough for a crowd, small enough to feel intimate, it’s an excellent choice for mid-week fun. Sweet drinks flow all night and the strobe lights don’t quit until long into the morning. One thing you’ll notice is that Pacha features more stools than tables, which helps ensure that you end up on the dance floor quickly instead of hanging back, watching the action. This is the place to be the life of the party.
Your Own Hotel
While most of the major nightlife hotspots are located downtown, don’t discount the fun at your own hotel. For instance, The Princes Hotel Punta Cana features an in-house arcade, Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe has over 150 casino games, and Dreams La Romana offers 24-hour room service for top-shelf wines and spirits straight to your room. Why dress up when you can have a good time in your PJs?
Nightlife in Punta Cana is not to be missed. Whether you love the dance clubs or the casino floors, there’s always something to do once the sun goes to bed.
Punta Cana Sports Scene
With warm weather year-round and lush tropical views, Punta Cana is the perfect place for leisure sports. Once you’re ready to dive into the activities, keep these top sports in mind:
Embrace the stereotype of the Punta Cana visitor who practically lives at the golf course. With nearly a dozen 18-hole greens splattered around the city, you truly have your pick of Punta Cana golf courses to choose from. One of the top fairways is the IBEROSTAR Golf Course, which is open to everyone from beginners to pros. Not only can you swing all day, there are also twilight tee times available. Luckily, there are hotels near the IBEROSTAR Golf Course so you’re never far from a cozy bed if you need a break after a late session on the green. Punta Espada Golf Club is another hot spot. The 18-hole course is a Jack Nicklaus design, with elegant slopes and fairways. Of course, the Cana Bay Golf Club is also a gem, and located at a prime spot near the shore. If you want to squeeze in some early tee times, you can always book a Cana Bay Golf Club hotel or a hotel near Sanctuary Cap Cana Golf Club so you’re on the links first thing in the morning.
The Punta Cana area is known for its warm waters and relatively calm waves, making it an ideal spot to snap on some goggles and go for a swim. Snorkelling in Punta Cana is a popular sport, and Cabeza de Toro Beach is one of the most popular beaches to spy the sea life. Due to the coral reefs and tropical fish, Punta Cana diving is also an ideal way to spend the afternoon under the waves. Hold your breath and jump right in.
Prefer to be on top of the water instead? Sign up for a speed boat tour of the city. The waters are clear as you cut through the waves at wicked speeds. If you want to enjoy a more leisurely pace, Punta Cana fishing is always an option. Book a seat on a charter boat, where everything from poles and bait to lunch is provided during your time on the sea.
With the warm sun on your back and leather reins in your hands, you’ll soon know that horseback riding is a perfect sport in Punta Cana. Sign up for a beach tour, where you can ride a galloping horse along the shore. HorsePlay Punta Cana is one of the most recognizable tours in the city for this kind of excursion. Their ranch sprawls through plantations, rivers, and beaches, so you can see the area from unique vantage points. Luckily, there are also hotels close to HorsePlay Punta Cana Stables, so you can easily rest after a full day exploring the countryside.
To be honest, one of the best sports in Punta Cana is getting that golden tan. Remember to put on some sunscreen, of course, and once you’re lathered up, you’re perfectly free to sit out all day, enjoying the heat and waves with a cool drink by your side.
In Punta Cana, sports are rarely about competition. Instead, it’s all about trying new things at pace all your own.
Most Popular Parks Around Punta Cana
The beach tends to get the majority of the attention in Punta Cana, but don’t forget about those lush green spots. Here are some of the best Punta Cana parks to stop in for a visit:
If swimming with dolphins has been on your bucket list for the past few decades, now’s the time to cross that sucker off at Manati Park. The park was the first locale in the Dominican Republic that opened a dolphin swim area to the public, and is still one of the best. The park also allows you to have up close and personal experiences with parrots, snakes, sea lions, and iguanas if you’d like to make some scaly friends.
Catalina Island National Park
Located on the west side of the Dominican Republic, Catalina Island National Park is considered a perfect day trip away from the city. The waters are particularly clear, making it an excellent spot to do some snorkelling. The island itself is a great place to do a little hiking. Bring your most comfortable shoes and make your way around the isle’s shore and forest area.
Sirenis Aquagames Water Park
There’s always a moment when you’re sitting at the mouth of a water slide that’s filled with delightful tension, seconds away from bursting. The water rushes under you, your hands hold tight on the bar at the entrance, and finally—finally–the employee screams “Go!” Experience an afternoon full of water rides, slides, and lazy rivers when you visit Sirenis Aquagames Water Park. Regarded as one of the best water parks in Punta Cana, it’s the perfect place to hang out during hot days in the city.
Los Haitises National Park
When you’re ready to mix in forest adventures with a dash of history, make your way to Los Haitises National Park. The -park’s ecotour takes you into two caves that were once used by the Taíno Indians—the first inhabitants of the Dominican Republic. These caves are filled with Taíno sculptures and carvings, as well as some bats resting in their natural setting. While you’re here, you can also sign up to visit the waterfall tucked into the thick jungle, and swim into the cool river beds.
Scape Park mixes together natural ecology with adrenaline-inducing attractions sure to dirty your boots and jump your heart into your throat. Brace your nerves as you explore the dripping underground caves. Stretch your legs before climbing the towering El Farallon cliff that stands over 100 m high. Hold on to the rails as you dip down into the underground lagoon known as the Las Ondas cenote. It’s a scrappy kind of place.
Whether you want to experience the twisting tubes of the water parks or the thick jungle areas of the city, Punta Cana offers just the right amount of excitement no matter what kind of park you’re looking for during your holiday.
Most Popular Beaches in Punta Cana
After you set down your suitcase and change out of your travelling clothes, there’s only one place to go: the sea. With soft sand and tropical breezes worthy of a postcard, Punta Cana beaches are an essential part of any visit. Here are some of the most popular sandy spots in the city.
Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana is well known for its powder white shore and swaying coconut trees. Keep your eyes open as you walk around: Flying beach balls and deep sandcastle moats come part and parcel with this area. Claim a patch of sand as your own and stretch out in the glorious Mexican sunshine. This beach is unique in that it’s not just a popular strand during the day, it’s also a well-liked area for a night stroll. Get a tan in the afternoon and return for a walk after lobster dinner. Additionally, there are a ton of Bavaro Beach hotels nearby if you want to stay close to the waves by moonlight.
Commonly called by its nickname “Fat Sand Beach,” the Arena Gorda shoreline is often regarded as one of the most family-friendly beaches in Punta Cana. The sandy area is wider than most of the beaches in the city, providing plenty of room for volleyball, soccer, and Frisbee competitions. That said, there’s also enough space to enjoy a trashy beach read far from the public, too.
Cabeza de Toro
Considered one of the best beaches for snorkelling in Punta Cana, Cabeza de Toro is often peppered with people rocking goggles and fins. Luckily, you can often rent snorkel equipment at your hotel, if you’d like to try out the sport during your holiday. Hold your breath, fall back into the waves, and discover a whole other side of the city.
Considered a hidden gem amongst locals, Isla Saona is an ideal island retreat. The beaches have been largely unspoiled by tourist attractions, which gives the shoreline a real sense of purity. Bring along your beach towel and stretch out, or snap on some fins to see the coral on a snorkelling excursion in the afternoon.
Just outside the hustle bustle of Punta Cana is a fishing town known as Bayahibe. The idyllic shore grants you plenty of photographic opportunities as well as a glimpse into life away from the tall resorts of the hotel zone. While you can certainly park your towel anywhere and call it a day, this is a good walking beach. The sandy strip is lined with palm trees on one side and bobbing fishing boats on the other, and provides awesome views around every bend.
Bright sands and bowing palming trees are the best welcome to any vacation. Squeeze on some sunscreen and see what everyone’s talking about.
Where to Shop in Punta Cana
Give your wallet a workout when you explore the top shopping spots in Punta Cana. Whether you want to load up on souvenirs for the nieces and nephews back home or want some sparkling accessories just for you, here are some of the best shopping areas in the city.
Located close to the Punta Cana International Airport, Puntacana Village is one of those all-inclusive strip malls where you can find last-minute vacation wares and post-flight meals. The Galerias section includes clothing shops, restaurants, a beauty salon, and even a supermarket if you want to pick up groceries for your vacation. If there’s something you need to get your trip started, the Puntacana Village has what you’re looking for.
Palma Real Shopping Village
Often regarded as the best shopping plaza in the city, Palma Real Shopping Village has more upscale stores and fare than other spots in town. The fountains and archways provide the perfect accents of luxury as you hunt down ideal outfits for your trip. Once you get hungry, eat at one of the many eateries dotting the walkways. Look cute, feel fine, and dine with fellow vacationers.
Let’s be honest: Sometimes packing is done in a flurry between printing out plane tickets and finding that one wayward flip-flop. This is why a place such as Plaza Bavaro comes in handy—it’s the Punta Cana shopping mall to find all those odds and ends you forgot to bring. Whether you need some beach clothes, sunglasses, or hair products, you can find them here. Word to the wise: You’ll need to bring your haggling skills. Many items are priced to bargain over, which is fully expected. Many locals shop here too, so you’ll be in good company as you negotiate the best deals.
Follow the bright colours to the small bazaar known as Bi2H20 (which is pronounced as “bibijagua”). Stretched along the sand of Bavaro Beach, this is considered the largest beach craft mall in the city. Walk from stall to stall, where you can buy everything from handcrafted jewelry to beach clothes and souvenirs.
Punta Cana shopping isn’t much about razzle dazzle. This is a town where you can find just what you need, a few extras you didn’t know you wanted, and be on your way back to the beach in no time.
Restaurants in Punta Cana
Punta Cana food upholds two key principles: Keep it simple and keep it flavourful. Most dishes contain a generous amount of pork and chicken, along with starchy plantains and red beans. The heartier the food, the better. When you have a big day of hiking and exploring ahead of you, it’s important to have a full belly. Here are some of the best dishes to try in the city.
La Bandera Dominicana
One of the most popular dishes in Punta Cana—and the Dominican Republic as a whole—is La Bandera Dominicana (which translates to “the Dominican flag”). It’s made of white rice, red beans, and stewed chicken. Most restaurants in Punta Cana offer a variety of this dish, though sometimes the rice is mixed with vegetables or the red beans are switched out with black or white beans. No matter the combination, it’s always a local favourite.
When it comes to side dishes, it’s all about the tostones—also called fried plantains. These softer-than-potato-chip snacks often accompany a main course such as La Bandera Dominicana. Yuca encebollada is sometimes offered as an alternative to tostones. This dish is made of boiled, fried, or mashed yucca root to provide a nice starchy flavour, along with sliced red onion for a hint of acidity.
If it’s breakfast time in Punta Cana, there’s a good chance that Mangu is on the menu. This hearty dish’s main component is boiled, mashed plantains crowned with sautéed onions. But don’t worry; it’s not just a plate of mash. Mangu is often served with eggs and meat as sidekicks.
Given its close location to the ocean, seafood is the star of several dinner menus. Try upscale restaurant La Palapa by Eden Roc for their grilled octopus with romesco sauce, roasted potatoes, and a handful of fried parsley. Or, if you want something more traditional, Punta Cana restaurants such as Mediterraneo focus on locally caught fish to pair with sides of quinoa and tostones. Whether it’s octopus, fish, or lobster, you can count on it being fresh.
Coconut De Cream
Like Mama said, always leave room for dessert. In Punta Cana, dessert often incorporates tropical flavors such as coconut. After dinner, look for dulce de coco on the menu–made with coconut flakes, whole milk, vanilla, condensed milk, and a cinnamon stick for an extra bit of flavour. Citrus cakes are also popular options. Order a few lemon cakes with lime frosting or ricotta cheesecake made with guava. Nothing beats the tropical heat like something sweet.
Whether you’re looking for main dishes, companion flavours, or sweet endings, you haven’t lived until you’ve had Punta Cana food. Get those spoons and forks poised for greatness.
Where to Stay in Punta Cana
Given that the Dominican Republic is such a traveller-friendly location, it’s no surprise there are so many excellent Punta Cana resorts and hotels to stay in. Here are some of the best places to call home during your holiday.
Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana
Most hotels have a survival of the spendiest mentality when it comes to hotel rooms with balconies. This is not the case at Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana. Here, all rooms are fitted with private balconies overlooking everything from the hotel garden and pool to the ocean. Aside from prime views, there’s something else you can count on: drinks. Five bars and lounges dot the property, plus expect 24/7 room service and a complimentary mini bar in each room. Make a luxury stay a reality at Dreams.
Majestic Elegance Punta Cana
You deserve a 5-star vacation to make all your friends and family back home jealous. Make it count at Majestic Elegance Punta Cana. “Elegant and sophisticated” are the standards they hold themselves to, and it shows. As one of Punta Cana’s top all-inclusive resorts, the hotel prides itself on their offered services. Feel like a VIP when you receive a cocktail upon arrival, then settle in and enjoy 24/7 room service, a wine tasting room, two Jacuzzis, two gyms, six restaurants, 11 bars, and one theatre with nightly live entertainment. It’s first class all the way.
Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana
If you come in close and promise not to tell, we’ll let you in on a covert tip: Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana is a gem of the city, and it’s waiting for you to check in. The luxury hotel includes a curvy lagoon pool as well as pristine palm trees and ocean views. The resort is also home to a casino, on-site theatre, upscale gym, and private beach with chaise lounge chairs perfect for an afternoon stretching out with a frosty beverage in hand (psst: drinks are unlimited).
Paradisus Punta Cana Resort
When you want to stay in paradise, why not go for the hotel with the perfect name? The Paradisus Punta Cana Resort offers a treasure trove of luxury in the jungle. In fact, this Punta Cana hotel has the largest ecological garden in the city. As you walk to the lobby, you pass classic-style columns rising from lush greenery, graceful statues standing guard, and marble flooring reflecting opulent light. It gets better once you get your room key. The resort includes a personal butler for each guest (with the Royal Service experience), plus five outdoor pools, full-service spa, and easy access to the Cocotal Golf and Country Club. This particular resort in Punta Cana happens to be popular with groups, as it has 12 meeting rooms, one with a 700-person capacity. Work and play never felt better.
Now Larimar Punta Cana
You’re ready to vacation and you’re ready to vacation now. That’s why you need to get to Now Larimar Punta Cana, an excellent resort for your family. Head to the beach for some sandcastle play time and splash in the pool with your floaties. If mom and dad need some time just for themselves, you can count on the Explorer’s Club for kids 3-12. This completely supervised site allows kids to play video games, jump on an ocean trampoline, and scale an inflatable iceberg. This gives you a little time to enjoy unlimited spirts or a tee time at any of the three nearby golf courses.
Grand Palladium Colonial Resort & Spa
Give your vacation a grand beginning when you walk into the Grand Palladium Colonial Resort and Spa for check-in. The 5-star luxury resort was constructed in the Spanish colonial style, with splashes of modern elegance like the red draped curtains lining the hallways and glittering pools. Additionally, there are nine restaurants on site, with 25 bars and nine pools. Everything you could possibly want, it’s here.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana
Don’t get stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes down to the wire. Booking a night at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Punta Cana is always the right decision. The resort includes what’s regarded as the best casino in the city, where travellers play poker, roulette, craps, and baccarat long into the night. The Hard Rock is also known for its club scene, with ORO Nightclub. The two-level space features a light show and an infinity edge bar. Reminder to keep your eyes peeled–you might just see a celebrity in your midst.
Punta Cana hotels are designed for luxury. Prepare to check in and get transported to a place where coconuts always have straws, beaches always have lounge chairs, and happiness is always on the itinerary.
Punta Cana Organized Tours & Trips
If you don’t plan on doing anything but dipping your legs in and out of the pool all afternoon, you’re already experiencing Punta Cana in a glorious way. However, if you want to break up your tanning sessions, there are a number of top tours to sign up for. Whether you want to reel in a big fish or zip along a line above the jungle, you’re never short of Punta Cana tour options. Here are some of the best:
Zip-Line Canopy Tour
Part of Punta Cana’s appeal is that it’s just a few kilometers away from thick, untampered jungle. Steel your nerves and buckle in when you arrive at any of the best zip-lining canopy tours in the city. Hold on to your harness as you crisscross above trees and mountain valleys. Many of the longest cables uncoil to 7500 m—longer than the CN Tower in Toronto and the Bow in Calgary. Just remember to keep your mouth closed so you don’t swallow any buzzy bugs as you zip along.
Deep-Sea Fishing Tour
Take out your fishing rod and get ready to cast into the deep sea. Chartering a private or group fishing expedition is a big-time favourite activity on Punta Cana trips. Choose options such as a full day, half day, or just a couple of hours to scour the ocean for a big prize. Many deep-sea fishing tours include rum-based drinks and a variety of fishing rods for easier domination of the big whoppers out there.
Snorkel and Cruise Tour
Clear waters and warm temperatures make snorkelling a perfect activity during a trip to Punta Cana. Banish any images you might have of rickety ships bobbing their way down the coast. Many of these snorkelling boats are top-notch vessels that often offer complimentary drinks and snacks. Once you’re ready to fall into the water, the tour will provide you with snorkel equipment and expert tips for seeing the most amount of sea life in and around the Bavaro Reef.
Horseback Riding Tour
Wrap your hands around the reins and get ready to explore the Punta Cana shoreline atop a four-legged beast. Sign up for a horseback riding tour, during which you can wind through jungle vines and charge through ocean waves. Many of these excursions take you deep into the island vegetation—to sights most travellers won’t get to see on their regular day-to-day adventures.
Give your beach chair a break by going on a tour through the jungle greens and ocean blues. Adventure is waiting, one tour in Punta Cana at a time.
What to See in Punta Cana
Open those peepers; there’s a lot to see in Punta Cana. Whether you want to view the world with fins on your feet or sunglasses shading your eyes, here are some of the best Punta Cana attractions.
Obsessed with chocolate? Come on now, you can be honest. Honour your affection for the confection with a trip to ChocoMuseo (the Chocolate Museum). While at the museum, you can learn about the cacao plant and how it is turned into the sugary treat. A visit to ChocoMuseo includes a tour of the chocolate factory, an optional chocolate-making workshop, and tastings of the island’s artisanal ice cream. There’s also a generously stocked gift shop, where you can buy a number of sweet souvenirs. Why settle for a cheesy T-shirt when you can bring home a few Punta Cana chocolate bars?
Altos de Chavon
For something truly unique in the Dominican Republic jungle, make a stop at Altos de Chavon. This neighbourhood is a recreation of a 16th-century Mediterranean village, complete with handmade ironwork, stone paths, and archways. The site is considered one of the top things to see in Punta Cana, as it’s a popular spot for photography. The village presents a jarring but beautiful juxtaposition between the old world and new, Latin America and the Mediterranean.
Give your cameras a workout when you visit the fishing town of Bayahibe. The bobbing boats and palm tree-lined avenues make for postcard-worthy scenes. There are also a ton of quaint restaurants in the area, if you want to Instagram all of your favourite dishes. While you’re eating out on the sea deck, remember that there’s plenty to see under the waves, too. Scuba diving is a quintessential sport in town.
If you’re going to brag about the shores in Punta Cana, it might just be Macao Beach you end up talking about. UNESCO often ranks it as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean for its soft sand and abundant palm trees. Needless to say, it’s one of the prettiest places to view a sunset within the city. Of course, if you want to see the sights from a unique vantage point, sign up for any of the surf schools. It’s hard to beat the view of the city from a longboard.
Prepare to be one of the first people to see the Bavaro Lagoon on a day trip from Punta Cana. For years, this ecological park was closed off from the general public. Today, the clear lagoon is open for kayakers, fishermen, and nature lovers. Come see what the chatter is all about before this site turns into the busiest Punta Cana tourist attraction.
Charge up your camera, plot out your day, and get ready to see some of the best sights in the city.
Things to do in Punta Cana
It’s not a surrender if the most exercise you get on your vacation is bringing that sweet coconut drink up to your lips and back down again. However, there are plenty of other things to do in Punta Cana to mix it up. If you need help deciding what to try first, here are some of the top activities in the city.
Sign up for a Jungle Safari
One of Punta Cana’s best features is its sense of solitude in the thick jungle. The remote nature of the landscape gives this island town an air of allure. Cut through the thick vines of mystery when you go on a jungle safari. Sign up for an outing with a professional, who will take you into the countryside and point out various iguanas and other critters living in the jungle. Riding around on a dune buggy exploration tour or exploring Punta Cana on a quad/ATV is a fast-paced way to see the vegetation and adds extra thrill to your afternoon.
Reel in the Big One
If you’re trying to figure out what to do in Punta Cana, just look out to the ocean and sign up for a fishing trip. You can book a group outing with your family or grab yourself a private charter. Many of these deep sea fishing excursions come in half-day or full-day packages, so you have plenty of time to reel in Moby Dick from the deep.
Swing into Glory
One of the best aspects of golf is telling a good glory story again and again. When you finally get your first hole-in-one, make sure it’s in Punta Cana. There are roughly a dozen greens in the city, and many of them were designed by some of the biggest names in the business. Put “victory” at the top of your things to do in Punta Cana list.
Feast and Feast Some More
No trip to Punta Cana is complete without a massive feast. Sure, you can eat your standard North American fare at your hotel, but authentic flavors are found at the street carts just outside. Get your hands on some tostones, which are fried plantains with the same starchy flavours of potatoes chips, but with a softer texture. You’ll also want to save room for La Bandera Dominicana (“the Dominican flag”), a popular dish made of white rice, red beans, and stewed chicken. And of course, what’s life without something sweet? Slurp up some dulce de coco, a custard-like drink made of coconut flakes, whole milk, vanilla, condensed milk, and cinnamon.
No matter what you choose to do on your Dominican Republic excursion, make it count. This is a city with a ton to do and see, and it’s waiting for you to explore.
Annual Events & Festivals in Punta Cana
It’s always a party in the Dominican Republic, but there are some weeks and weekends that offer a bit more bang for your buck. Here are some of the best annual Punta Cana festivals you won’t want to miss.
Punta Cana Carnival
Without question, the biggest festival of the year is the Punta Cana Carnival. Line up on the sidewalks to see a spectacle of colours, sounds, and oh-so-many beads. Occurring in late winter each year, the carnival brings out about a dozen troupes, with musicians playing salsa and bachata. Many past years have included the crowning of a King and Queen, which is an honour bestowed on esteemed Dominicans. Get in the spirit with elaborate and colourful costumes, and march with the revelers.
Long Night at the Museum
Once a season, the museums of Punta Cana stay open until midnight and offer free admission to all who enter. This is the perfect time to check out spots such as the House Museum of Ponce de Leon, a small palace built by explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1505. The plantation-style home includes various medieval architecture and centuries-old artifacts. The ChocoMuseo (chocolate museum) and Aromas Museum (which showcases the delicious history of rum, coffee, and chocolate) are also favourites.
Punta Cana Food and Wine Festival
If you love food like Anthony Bourdain and wine like Tyrion Lannister, you’re ready for the best Punta Cana event of the year: the Punta Cana Food and Wine Festival. The event grows each year, and is a collaboration between hotels and local chefs. Dine on some of best international fusion dishes, with tons of food tastings, plus free-flowing wine and cocktails. Wear that discerning foodie label with pride during this festival.
National Craft Fair
Are you a DIY fiend? Then you’ll love the gifts found at National Craft Fair. Occurring each December, the National Craft Fair brings together a variety of the best crafters in the area. Take your pick of trinkets ranging from art to jewelry to furniture. Anyone can buy a Punta Cana T-shirt for a souvenir, but if you peruse the Craft Fair, you can bring home something truly unique and special.
When it comes to Punta Cana events, you have your pick of options. Whether you want to drink the nectar of the gods or dance alongside a parade, there’s always something cool happening in steamy Punta Cana.
Punta Cana Trips
It doesn’t matter if you’re in Punta Cana for a weekend, a week, or just a day. There’s a ton to enjoy in this idyllic island city. Here are some of the top things to add to your itinerary.
Day Trip to Punta Cana
When you’re ready to experience a Punta Cana day trip, just remember J-B-N: jungle, beach, night club.
Morning – Spend your morning embracing the thick island vegetation. One of the best places to view the ancient jungle is by zip line. Sign up for a tour that sends you flying above the canopy. Many of the best zip line companies in the city have cables that zigzag across deep mountain valleys and arching trees. You simply can’t beat the view.
Afternoon – Grab your towel and sunscreen and enjoy the golden rays from the sandy shore. Bavaro Beach is the most popular strip. Here, you can do everything from tan in peace to get into a rowdy round of volleyball with new friends.
Night – End your day in Punta Cana with a visit to a lively nightclub. If you love wacky venues, you’re going to love Imagine. The multi-level club involves a cave aesthetic, with rock walls that seem to vibrate with the swaying beats.
Weekend Trip to Punta Cana
If you have the good fortune of indulging in a Punta Cana weekend trip, you’re lucky enough. Here are some of the top things to do during a weekend in paradise.
Friday – Get into the spirit of the island by popping into a Punta Cana night club. The venues vary, but the rowdy nature of them is universal. Coco Bongo is one of the top favourites, and features everything from Elvis impersonators and burlesque dancers to confetti that rains down on revelers. Mangu Disco Bar is another hot spot, with two floors of thumping music and pulsating lights.
Saturday -Use this day to test out any of the popular water parks around the city. Make a pilgrimage to the ever hopping Sirenis Aquagames Water Park. The water slides are notoriously twisty, and the lazy rivers provide just enough respite before you race up to the mouth of the next thrilling slide.
Sunday – Spend your last day visiting the more remote parts of the island town. Sign up for a horseback riding tour that takes you through the windy vines of the jungle and crashing through the ocean waves. A snorkel voyage is another option, where you can see exotic creatures along the Bavaro Reef.
Week trip to Punta Cana
Spending a whole week in Punta Cana gives you the perfect amount of time to get on a relaxed island schedule. Here’s a simple itinerary for spending a week in the tropical paradise.
Monday – Get into the swing of your vacation with a visit to any of the esteemed golf courses. Test out one of the most popular spots in the city: IBEROSTAR Golf Course. This hot spot isn’t just open during the dawn and afternoon, there are also twilight hours to get your swing up to par.
Tuesday – Sleep in and embrace the easy island spirit of Punta Cana on any of the beaches. Arena Gorda is one of the more popular stretches of shore. The large, sandy patch is nicknamed the “Fat Sand Beach” because it’s wider than most of the beaches in the city and is home to spontaneous volleyball games and Frisbee contests.
Wednesday – There are few things more gratifying in life than speeding down a towering water slide. Head to the city’s favourite water venue, Sirenis Aquagames Water Park, on Wednesday when it’s less crowded. Speed through the lines and hold your breath as you slip down the tubes and wade in the lazy rivers between slide thrills.
Thursday – While it’s easy to understand the beauty of the Punta Cana region from up top, don’t forget to see the world from under the sea, too. Snorkelling and scuba diving are enormously popular in the region. Slip on some fins, snap on some goggles, and pop under the waves close to Bavaro Reef to see the colourful sea life.
Friday – Spend your Friday night getting acquainted with the glitter and beats of the Punta Cana night club scene. For the most flash, head to Coco Bongo. Most nights include Las Vegas-like perks, such as free glow sticks and confetti that rains down from the rafters. ORO Nightclub, Mangu Disco Bar, and Imagine are also popular options for letting loose.
Saturday – After waking up late from an evening of dancing, it’s time to feast throughout the long day’s journey into night. Dominican Republic cuisine is known for being salty, rich, and delicious. Try out one the island favourites: La Bandera Dominicana. The dish is a heap of white rice, red beans, and stewed chicken. For sweets, you can’t do better than some dulce de coco, a custard-like dessert made of coconut flakes, vanilla, condensed milk, whole milk, and a pinch of cinnamon.
Sunday – Spend your last day in Punta Cana enjoying the gentle sea and good weather aboard a fishing boat. Deep sea fishing is one of the top activities offered to visitors, and you can often sign up for a half-day or full-day expedition. Lean back, enjoy the warm sun, and reel in the big one before you leave paradise.
With great food, pretty beaches, and good island vibes, it’s always nirvana when you visit Punta Cana.