What makes a good vacation? Science has put together a formula of components that help you make the most of your vacation time. Plan to do new things and make plans to relax as well. What worked for your office buddy may not be what works for you. If you are an introvert, you would prefer to stay by the beach and sip on pina Coladas. But since it is your vacation, plan for new things and step out of that little zone of comfort. People who had all of these -anticipation, adventures, and pockets of relaxation- had reported high levels of post-vacation euphoria. There is also another super obvious but often overlooked tip, but I will let you in on it at the end of this supreme list of things to do in Punta Cana.
Punta Cana is home to azure waters, swaying palm fronds, and So many things to do. But how do we decide where to go and what to do in this little paradise located at the tip of the Dominican Republic? We decided to put our heads together and come up with a list of things to do that will make your planning fun, easy, hassle-free, and also cater to all permutations of personalities. This article is not only a list of things to do in Punta Cana but also a pointer on how to relax as well.
We will start slowly and take in the natural sights of Punta Cana. So let’s dive into this list for the love of all things green, blue, and brown.
Playa in Spanish means beaches. The beaches surrounding Punta Cana are gorgeous and offer the most stunning views. Here are a few of them cherry-picked for you, whether you want to relax in the water, sunbathe, or just party in the sands.
Playa Bavaro is the main beach that offers 22 miles of waters of clear blues and white sands. They are usually calm, and one can spend an entire day swimming in these waters that are safe and stretch for miles. While the beach is always dotted with tourists lounging around and taking a break, there is also a host of adventure activities available right on the shore. You will find many all-inclusive resorts right by the beach, giving you easy access at all times.
There are other beaches like the Playa Macao, which is the chosen beach by the locals and for activities like surfing. There is Playa Juanillo which is less populated but offers the prettiest views, which makes it the perfect fit to get a perfect tan. The Playa Blanca or the ‘white beach’ stays true to its name with blinding white sands and picturesque views. If you’re done with all that relaxing and just want to have some fun, then Playa Los Corales awaits you. Lined with beach bars and shacks, this beach is always bubbling. For pristine, untouched beaches, you might have to travel an hour or so, 60 miles, to the north of Punta Cana, where the Playa Esmeralda awaits. While it’s relatively new, it also boasts of the most spectacular views out of all the others and has recently made it to the list of things to do in Punta Cana.
What can I do here? RELAX, swim, sunbathe, sip on cocktails, boat trips, parasailing, jet-skiing, surfing, snorkeling, party it up, photography.
How much is it going to cost me? While relaxing doesn’t cost a thing, the adventure activities are available in packages that range from 40 USD to 200 USD. Your cocktails and food will also cost you extra.
Pro tip: Book your stay in any of the resorts lining the beach of your choice and save up on transportation costs. They will also give you all-inclusive rates that may include all the adventure and sightseeing activities, including trips to Saona island. Read on below.
2. National Parks
While the Dominican Republic may be a small country, it has preserved its natural heritage and created an opportunity for us, concrete jungle tourists, to marvel at.
Reserva Ecológica Ojos Indígenas or the indigenous eyes ecological reserve is a marvel to experience. This 1500 acre ecological park is home to 12 lagoons, of which five are swimmable, hiking trails through lush forests, a petting zoo, and sustainable practices exhibits. The lagoons are pristine, with trees forming green canopies as you appreciate the efforts for environmental conservation that is undertaken here.
The Los Haitises National park is filled with mangrove forests, beaches, and astounding flora and fauna, making this a day-long trip. Cave expeditions along the coastline in limestone caves are perfect to understand natural formations. You can take in the sights of this national park with guided tours in boats, hiking trails, zipline through the air, or kayak tours through the forest.
Saona Island and National Park of the East (East National Park) are one of the trips that are compulsory in the list of things to do in Punta Cana. This national park on an island brings the best of both worlds. There are beaches and rich biodiversity to feast your eyes on. The cave exploration gives us an insight into history that’s 500 years old with its cave art and petroglyphs. For more on Saona Island itself, read on till the end.
What can I do here? Be one with nature and discover enchanting wildlife
How much is it going to cost me? The entry to each of these parks ranges from 40 USD to 250 USD, including pictures and amenities.
Pro tip: These visits to National Parks are also a wonderful opportunity to see many wildlife in their element. In addition to the activities, spend some time appreciating the natural habitat of endangered animals and birds.
3. Cenotes (Caves in water) and Natural Springs
Hoyo Azul (Blue Hole, can we get any more obvious?) is guaranteed to arrest you with its striking blue and its shaded swimming spots. Its beauty puts it at the top of the list of things to do in Punta Cana. With a depth of 40 meters, this cenote is located inside Scape Park (more below). No other cenote can compete with this one and is apt for some brilliant photos and leisurely swims. Surrounding the Hoyo Azula are orchid gardens and the general Scape park area.
Want a cenote, but don’t want to burn a hole in your pocket? Then Hoyo Claro, located smack in the middle of Punta Cana, is the perfect fit. It doesn’t boast of tourist amenities like Hoyo Azul but can still give you the same experience on an off-beaten path. Prepare to hike a little bit before coming to this hidden gem.
There are also natural springs in the Indigenous Ecological Reserve that let you swim and bask under the glory of nature. 5 out of 12 of them are swimmable and let you call off in the middle of your exploration of the Eco-reserve. These are shaded and make for great spots to relax and take in the forests surrounding the freshwater lagoons.
What can I do here? Swim to your heart’s content and let the blues fill your soul. Instagrammable photos to make your followers sigh in longing.
How much is it going to cost me? Hoyo Azula will put a dent in your pocket at 130 USD. But when bought along with all-inclusive access to Scape Park attractions, it seems worth it. Hoyo Claro, in comparison, is only at 3 USD. Scroll up to check out the Ecological reserve prices.
4. One with Wildlife
While many snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities let you take a close look at sea life, some activities let you get up and close with some beautiful animals.
Swimming with dolphins is an activity offered by many swim operators. You can swim with these intelligent animals and even play with them. These are available as ocean experiences or aquariums. The ocean experiences are costlier, but they also give you a hint of the unbound sea life. Dolphin Island, Dolphin Explorer, and Dolphin Discovery tours are just a few operators that undertake these activities.
Similar to this is swimming with stingrays and nurse sharks. Get to hold these live fish in your hands and feel one with nature. This is a fenced-off section offered as one of the things to do in Punta Cana Marinarium. We understand that not all tourists will be fine with domesticating these wild sea creatures, so feel free to skip this.
What can I do here? Swim with wildlife for a one-of-a-kind experience.
How much is it going to cost me? The marinarium offers these experiences at upwards of 100 USD, while other private swim operators offer them from 70 to 300 USD. Be careful to factor in extra prices for photographs and other add ons.
Pro tip: This is doable by people of all age groups, so we guarantee your kids are going to love it.
For the adventure seekers who are looking for their next adrenaline rush and for those looking for a safe adventure, the next mentioned set of activities might be the perfect fit. Some of them may have already been covered in our Nature section but have still been mentioned.
While swimming cannot be conclusively called adventurous, swimming in the oceans is always an experience that qualifies. The beauty about these things to do in Punta Cana is that each beach, cenote, and natural spring offer unique experiences. What may be a cave exploration in one may be a coral reef expedition in another. You can swim up to half a mile in the sea with sandbars like the Natural swimming pool at Saona island or swim with dolphins and stingrays in another. With a little exploration and going out of the way, Punta Cana can also offer you secluded swimming spots like the ones in Playa Esmeralda.
Something we haven’t covered is the sheer number of waterfalls that are present around Punta Cana. The Salto de la Jada is one of the closest and surprisingly less crowded options from Punta Cana. Since it involves quite a hike, it takes close to 4 and a half hours to get to this astounding 400 ft drop. But the good news is that there is also a moderately priced helicopter option that can get you to the location within the hour from Punta Cana. There are a couple of other waterfalls around this area for your exploration.
The Los Haitises National Park also houses three impressive waterfalls -Salto de Yanigua, Salto de Martha, and Saltó El Zumbador. They do take around two and a half hours from Punta Cana and have unique features that make all of them worthy of the effort. Guided tours are highly recommended as they are located deep in the lush beauty of the national park. While these are all-natural waterfalls, there are a few partly artificial ones like the waterfall at the Paraíso Caño Hondo, a lodge located in the Los Haitises National park. There is a small artificial waterfall present at Scape Park as well.
Punta Cana is home to some of the most adventurous zip lines that take you over green tropical forests and warm waters. Each zipline offering is different in that you get ocean views, water splashes, and even hiking across suspension bridges from towering heights. They have been certified and are all highly demanded by tourists.
The Anamuya ziplines are famous for being one of the things to do in Punta Cana as they are situated in the Anamuya mountains, 45 minutes from the center. The Bavaro Runners zipline is the longest zipline at 2500 feet, and the views are of lush vegetation. It is a very well-organized space and great for experimentation as well.
Adventure parks like Bavaro and Scape park all have zip lines included in the cost of their entry tickets. These ziplines also give you a chance to splash into pools and are said to be very family-friendly. This is perfect for beginners as everything is harnessed and automated, so you don’t have to do anything on your own.
What can I do here? Zipline through forests and ocean views. Chill in natural pools and also take part in the adventure park offerings.
How much is it going to cost me? The Scape Park is the costliest as only its all-access pass can get you to the ziplines. The rest of the zipline adventures can start anywhere from 90 USD to 240 USD because mostly, they will be in combination with other activities like buggies and horseback riding.
7. Scuba diving
The waters of Punta Cana are beautiful, and so is the sea life inside of it. Scuba diving starts from 40 USD and can go to 500 USD if you can charter a private yacht. Most dive operators operate from Bavaro beach or the Marina.
The most tempting bits are at El Astron, where a shipwreck and undersea passages are available for your diving exploration. Underwater caves like the Cueva Taina Macao are resplendent in their displays of stalactites and stalagmites. There are also ecological foundation dives in aquariums like El Acuario, where unique and sheltered members of aquatic life can be seen.
Other water activities like surfing and sailing also have huge draws as some of the staple things to do in Punta Cana. The Playa Blanca is a haven for kite surfers. Macao beach is also famous for surf-ready waters. Chartering a yacht or a catamaran gives you an entire day of sailing in the blue waters where you can dive or snorkel to your heart’s content. While these are expensive, you can make the most of them by combining experiences like a party boat or cruises with other groups.
Sailing through experiences is all good unless you have to hike through them. Hiking in Punta Cana can range from simple walks to grueling hikes, but the scenery will never fail to disappoint. There are a huge number of informal hiking trails available; the default is hiking to picturesque waterfalls, sightseeing in national parks, and walking to remote beaches. This is also a cheap option to take up as you can do many of these on your own.
The Montana Redonda is a unique hiking destination as this mountain hike has giant swings and hammocks at the end of it. Located in the countryside with locals, this hiking destination is reachable by car as well. It is not run over by tourists yet because of its challenging topography.
How much is it going to cost me? A guided hike can cost around 60 USD. The Redonda mountain hike is one of the most excellent things to do in Punta Cana, as even with a safari trip, it can finish within 20 USD.
9. Adventure Parks
This list cannot be complete without talking about adventure parks that condense all the above and then some in one place. Adventure parks in Punta Cana are holistic experiences as you have access to activities that go through the land, air, and water.
The Bavaro adventure park is located in the heart of the Punta Cana beach scene and offers all the defaults like ziplining, paintball, bungee jumping, biking, and some others. They also boast of an animatronic Jurassic park where kids are bound to have fun.
The Scape adventure park is the truest adventure park with a natural green setting in the background for the Hoyo Azul and envious ziplines. The adventure park offers all the tropes such as hiking, swimming, ziplining, buggy driving, horseback riding, and even cave expeditions. Thai amalgamation makes it one of the best things to do in Punta Cana.
The Manati Theme park is home to indigenous flora and fauna as well as offering animal entertainment shows. They also have cultural exhibits that may not be adventurous but talk of adventures of the past. The seaquarium and Marinarium offer sea adventures like seafloor walks, swimming with sea life, and shipwrecks.
How much is this going to cost me? These adventure parks offer packages from 40 USD to 240 USD. Expenditures on food, photos, and privacy often become the extra costs. Make use of these adventure parks to occupy an entire day.
10. Dining & Nightlife in Punta Cana
Make each meal matter in your stay at Punta Cana. Dining in Punta Cana can be equal to immersing in the culture and having a great night out.
Bandera, a rice, meat, and beans dish, is the signature of Dominican cuisine. The beaches of Punta Cana are filled with beach bars and shacks where you can experience some great street food. The seafood dishes are a gem as well, with the variety that is caught every day. There are many high-end restaurants like the one in Chic Resort in Uvero Alto that cater to fusion cuisines. The low-end restaurants like the Playa Blanca are great for their ambiance and environment, as well as their true-to-sea food creations.
The nightlife in Punta Cana is characterized by the unique premises of its clubs. Some may be in an underground cave which lends to unique acoustics like the Imagine Punta Cana night club while some may be in resort boats. Wherever it is you can start off with some sunset cocktails and jive to open-air concerts right on the beach. Acrobat Troupes at clubs like Coco Bongo Punta Cana Show are also quite common. This club is also very famous for its dedicated performance to The Mask films that feature a scene from this club. All of these options open the doors to nights of colors, music, and some wild dancing fueled by signature drinks from the Caribbean. Bavaro beach’s nightlife is infamous for the plethora of options it offers tourists. If you are looking for a quiet night out but want to take in the energy, visit the Marina to witness yacht parties. Though the food may not count as one of the things to do in Punta Cana its significance cannot be denied.
11. First world Experiences
Stays in Punta Cana are a world apart because some of the resorts feature all-in-one services. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, you could play golf, dabble in a casino or even spend the day at the spa without stepping out of your resort.
Golf takes on a special hue here as almost all the golf courses are situated on the coast. There are almost 30 such courses, all designed by pro golfing architects. The southern coast has Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog, and the Eastern coast has Cap Cana’s Punta Espada, both considered to be the nest in the entire Caribbean. All the courses boast luxurious local cuisine and tropical fruit plates that color your experience with contentment.
The Hard rock casino and the Avalon boast best-in-class experiences. But almost all resorts have their own versions as well. Filled with poker tables, blackjack, roulette, and slot machines, make a night out that is filled with a little bit of luck, delicious food, and some fine rum.
Spas and salons are dime a dozen in Punta Cana, with the resort spas being on the higher end. Indulge in therapeutic massage sessions and self-love. The six senses spa located at the Punta Cana Resort and Club is designed to give you a tranquil experience while you relax in the turquoise of the waters and think of all the things to do in Punta Cana.
12. Shopping in Punta Cana
There are some staples in Punta Cana that are representative of Dominican culture. Indulge in them to take some really beautiful souvenirs back home. Add shopping to your schedule of things to do in Punta Cana.
Taino Shop in Uvero Alto is located in a remote part of Punta Cana. The shops are not just for souvenirs but also informative sessions where you are told the significance of the piece before you make a purchase. This OG place sells all things precious to Dominicans, like jewelry, sculptures, paintings, gems, and stones.
Larimar, a white and blue precious stone, is indigenous to DR and cannot be found anywhere else. If you find yourself getting it cheaper than gold, know that you are being conned.
Dominican Rum is considered one of the best in the world. Since sugarcane forms the basis of this drink, you will also come across many sugarcane plantations. Take home a bottle of Methsuela, Brugal, and Barcelo to wow your friends with a traditional Cuban Libre.
The Dominican Cigar has an identity for itself. There is a lot of effort that goes into selecting the type of tobacco leaf, the craftsmanship that goes into rolling the cigars. Each cigar brand has its own unique recipes that give each different odors. Tour some cigar factories to get an insight into this traditional process.
The amber sold in the Dominican Republic, too, is quite unique and unlike its Baltic companion. It is quite cheap, but its demand is slowly rising. With diverse fossils included, the Dominican amber has lesser bubbles.
The local shops, beach flea markets, and supermarkets in Punta Cana also sell a lot of different souvenirs, often cheap and yet instilled with a rich heritage. They have hand-painted faceless dolls, masks, carvings, and paintings that will make a beautiful addition to your home.
Coffee from the Dominican Republic is known for the lack of a bitter aftertaste. This puts in a class of coffees that are considered the best. For coffee connoisseurs, this is a must-buy. Cacao or cocoa beans are also a huge export of this country. Your favorite recipe of hot chocolate with a dash of cinnamon has Dominican origins.
Pro Tip: Put a visit to the local factories of these souvenirs in your list of things to do in Punta Cana, and you may find yourself going home with some free samples.
13. Architecture and History
Punta Cana has gone through an impressive history. From the Taino Indians in 1000 AD to explorer Christopher Columbus, the Dominican Republic has changed hands and seen many reformations for its now exhausted gold mines. The influence of these invaders and explorers has lent the Caribbean nation an identity that is safeguarded zealously.
Near Punta Cana, there is a village called Altos de Chavan, which resembles a European village. This is because of its Italian architect Roberto Copa. The village has many structures that are built-in in Mediterranean styles like a cathedral, amphitheater, and art relics. The Chavon River, which runs in the village, also offers boat tours.
In less than an hour, you will come to the Basilica Catedral Nuestra Señora De La Altagracia, the Virgin of Altagracia Cathedral, which is a highly revered religious site worldwide. It has a deep historical connection with its painting of the Virgin Mary, who is the patron saint of the Dominicans. The painting, which is 400 years old, and the beautiful arches and bells adorn the cathedral.
Two hours away, we have the capital city of Santo Domingo, the first colonial city of America. With this title alone, the city offers full-day tours to discover the magic of its chaos. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site, go back in time to see where it all started. The old-world charm of this city absolutely makes it one of the things to do in Punta Cana.
What can I do here? Go on a myriad of tours, road or air, and discover the history of the continent.
How much is it going to cost me? Most of the architectural tours range anywhere from 40 USD to 100 USD. The travel from Punta Cana is the only factor here.
We created this section to mainly talk about the Choco Museum Punta Cana as one of the best things to do in Punta Cana. This is your one-stop destination to know about the country’s pride – chocolate, coffee, and rum. There is less museum and more shops but it is still worth it to see how chocolate and coffee is made right from the plant to the packaging. With some yummy chocolate to taste, why would we miss this?
Museo Arqueológico Regional Altos De Chavón located in Altos de Chavon contains a great plethora of indigenous Taino and pre- columbian artifacts and cultural exhibits. With over 3000 pieces, this is a piece of history you will respect. The onsite museum of the Altagracia cathedral also displays a range of gold jewelry and paintings from centuries ago. The devotion to the Virgin Mary is exemplified in accounts dating back to the 14th century.
15. Cultural Experiences
The cultural life of Punta Cana is marked in its carnivals, local shops, and merengue dance beats. The best part? Some experiences are absolutely free.
The carnival of Punta Cana or Carnaval de Punta Cana is an exuberant street festival with folklore being depicted by talented artists from all Caribbean countries with character costumes. These times are characterized by the display of local dance forms like merengue and reggae. There is also a live concert. You can participate in the carnival yourself with the street vendors selling masks, wigs, and other costumes. This extraordinary experience is some of the best things to do in Punta Cana.
Pro tip: Leave your valuables behind and come prepared to sashay into Dominican Republic culture with no worries.
To immerse yourself in Dominican culture, the best place would be to start with a local fruit juice. They are refreshing, different, and one for the books. Visit local bars and supermarkets to pick up cool dance moves and souvenirs. You can visit the Museo Cayuco in Miches, a community art and culture museum to engage with local artist Cayuco. Visit a Colmado and get to play Dominos with the locals.
Pro tip: Do a little bit of these each day, and you won’t feel like you missed out on the local culture while you find touristy things to do in Punta Cana.
16. Day Trips
Some other day trip staples like the Playa Esmeralda, Mount Redonda, Al Chavo, Higuey, Los Harises National Park, Salto de Jada, and Santo Domingo have already been mentioned.
Saona Island is the most often taken catamaran trip from Bavaro beach. This island is part of the National park of the East, creating a perfect protected hideaway. The island is steeped in rich culture and carefully guarded heritage. The beaches of this island are home to indigenous starfish species and make for great snorkeling experiences. Deep-sea cave divers will feel at home here with a plethora of limestone caves filled with art of the indigenous people who found a safe haven in Isla Saona centuries ago. There is also a fishing village Mano Juan that plays host to nesting turtles and tranquil tourists. With its ‘deserted island’ look, it was also the site of the infamous movie Blue Lagoon and the Pirates of the Caribbean featuring the swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow.
What can I do here? Snorkelling, swimming in the natural sandbar, cave exploration, and The Beautiful National Park’s inhabitants.
How much is it going to cost me? – There is a range of tour operators that offer you packages starting from as low as 50 USD to private tours that may cost upwards of 400 USD. Helicopter tours are also available.
Pro tip: Do not miss this diamond of the Caribbean and make it a must-see in your list of things to do in Punta Cana. You can enhance your experience with private tours that may be on the costlier end but will give you access to all the experiences Saona Island has to offer in the time that you have with the people you love.
Isla Catalina is the lesser-known neighbor of Saona island but features better snorkeling and catamaran experiences. If you don’t want a very high-profile island trip, you can visit Catalina for less populated experiences. The island is also known as a stopping point for the variety of Caribbean cruises in the Atlantic.
The Salto el Limon waterfall located in the Samana peninsula is one of the most beautiful drops in the Dominican Republic. It is locateted about 5 hours from Punta Cana by land. There are boat, hike, horseback, and safari elements within these 5 hours and make it quite an adventurous destination. If you want to cut the travel time opt for an air excursion and take in the scenic views of Punta Cana from the air.
17. All-inclusive Options
While each of these experiences is swoon-worthy, their individual costs might send your budget spiraling. To limit your expenses, one of the things to do in Punta Cana is to book all-inclusive packages offered by 90% of the resorts and hotels in Punta Cana. The prices can range from 60 USD per person per night in low-end resorts to 200 USD in high-end resorts. Most of these are suitable for families, and there are some options like Secrets Royal Beach, which is adults only. There is something for everyone, whether you are looking for a bachelorette party or a couple’s getaway. But make sure your stay options include meals, room quality, and tourist options like Saona island, ecological reserve, Los Haitises national park, or similar.
For fun lovers, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino offers the entire experience with a bit of rock ‘n roll. With 1800 rooms, golf courses, restaurants, a nightclub, and a grand award-winning Casino, Hard Rock is a difficult one to pass.
For tranquil lovers and writers with a block, we recommend the Zoetry Agua Punta Cana for its laidback location and beach vibes. They offer great dining areas, horseback riding, yoga, and luxe liquor in their all-inclusive option.
Pro tip: Create a hybrid itinerary with a few nights with an all-inclusive option and some nights on your own. This way, you get the best of both worlds.
18. DIY Trips
You don’t have to depend on all-inclusive resorts or organized excursions to have your Punta Cana trip go your way. Book any of the Airbnbs situated in and around Punta Cana and make your experiences one of a kind. Most of the Airbnb hosts are very friendly and are armed with so much insider information that the regular tourists and guides miss out on. Even with all the day trips, adventure parks, and water activities, look for those you can build a la carte and not through packages. Rent a car if you want to take some of the day trips like Al Chavon and Higuey villages. Dine on street food and treat yourself to special seafood cuisines. Armed with our list of things to do in Punta Cana, you’ll make this DIY trip one remember.
How much is it going to cost me? Airbnb can cost anywhere from 40 USD to 400 USD a night, depending on the type of accommodation and location you choose.
A planned vacation, seaside golf, swimming in caves – all good, but how do you take away a part of this vacation for eternity? A professional photoshoot is our answer. Punta Cana is filled with glorious spots and private beaches that can form the perfect setting for photo sessions that will forever have a place on your mantle and ironic Christmas Cards. So if you’re a couple or a family or just a bunch of friends who want to capture your perfect moment this Punta Cana vacation, book any of the photographers available right in Punta Cana. These can range anywhere from 200 USD to 1400 USD for sessions spanning from 2 hr to 4 hrs in a day.
Discover all the things to do in Punta Cana
Blessed with pure white sand beaches and crystal blue waters, Punta Cana offers a list of unforgettable activities unmatched by any other place in the Caribbean. Many parts of your vacation will be filled with boat rides, zipline rides, horses, buggies, jeep safaris, or maybe even a helicopter ride. Plan ahead to make sure you have an efficient combination that lets you make the most of your days and gives you the time to relax for yourself. The final tip that makes your vacation worthy is the peak-end theory. Always end your holiday near the peak of your vacation so that the high points stay longer with you. With Punta Cana, there are many high points you can choose to end your stay with. But whatever it is, we hope you find your peak amongst our multiple things to do in Punta Cana as you sip your Pina Coladas.
Are you ready to experience the best of the Dominican Republic?