Punta Cana in the far east of the Dominican Republic is one of the most popular holiday resorts on the beautiful Caribbean island thanks to its dream beaches and its own international airport. Most holidaymakers are drawn either to the long, lively Bávaro Beach north of the airport or to the quieter Cap Cana in the south, which is characterised by luxurious resorts. The beautiful beaches like Macao beach could easily tempt you to spend your entire holiday in a deckchair, but that would be a shame. After all, there are sights and natural attractions around Punta Cana that you should not miss. Take a rental car for a few days or join organised excursions and really get to know the Dominican Republic!
What to do in Punta Cana
One thing first: Punta Cana is not a place name. The term encompasses several beachfront holiday resorts that have grown up around the two towns of Verón and Bávaro on the eastern tip (Punta in Spanish) of the Dominican Republic. Both offer visitors rather few attractions. If you are looking for sights in Punta Cana, you will have to travel a little further by car or on organised tours. Here is our top five:
Scape Park and Hoyo Azul
The number one attraction and thing to do in Punta Cana is Scape Park, an extensive park area with the Hoyo Azul (“blue hole”) as the star attraction: a beautiful blue lagoon in the heart of a walk-in cave system where you can jump in to cool off in the natural pool. Another cave hides another swimming opportunity in an underground lake reminiscent of Mexican cenotes. Around these natural attractions, other entertainment options for tourists have sprung up, including an animal park and a great zipline. You can’t miss this one, because at the top end you have a beautiful view over the region and at the bottom end you go swimming.
Bávaro Adventure Park
Adventure activities for the whole family is offered by the Bávaro Adventure Park with a wealth of different activities such as ziplining, buggy tours and horseback rides, as well as a climbing park and a large swimming pool to cool off in. A tip: you can save money with combined tickets!
ScubaDoo Underwater Experience
Sometimes you’re a little annoyed that you don’t have a diving licence to explore the magnificent underwater world of the tropics? Then ScubaDoo might be the right thing for you: You get a kind of helmet with a diving mask and a hose that supplies you with air, almost like scuba diving. Then you go down to a depth of five metres into the sea, where you move around on an underwater scooter and are soon surrounded by colourful fish. Afterwards, you can take a ride on a glass-bottom boat, where you can watch the colourful hustle and bustle underwater again at your leisure.
If you want to see sights that nature has created in Punta Cana, you can book a boat trip to Saona Island in Cotubanamá National Park. This beautiful island has only one permanent settlement, the fishing village of Mano Juan, and is otherwise completely covered by jungle. However, the idyllic palm beaches will hardly give you that Robinson Crusoe feeling, as numerous motorboats and catamarans swarm out daily to bring tourists from Punta Cana or the cruise port in La Romana to the island. Tip: Take fins and a snorkel with you and dive down before the hustle and bustle to quietly observe the colourful sea creatures off the coast in turquoise waters.
The capital of La Altagracia province is the closest major city to Punta Cana and well worth a day trip. Here you can experience the Dominican Republic from its authentic side. Admire the extraordinary architecture of the Basilica de La Altagracia and the much older church of San Dionisio before learning about the history and culture of the region in the air-conditioned La Altagracia Museum. If you still have time and energy, continue to San Rafael de Yuma. Here you can visit the home of the Spanish navigator Juan Ponce de Léon, who set out from here to found the first European settlement in Puerto Rico, and get an idea of life on the island in the 16th century.
Other things to do around Punta Cana
If you don’t mind a longer journey, you can visit sights outside Punta Cana such as Los Haitises National Park south of the Samana Peninsula. This 1,600-square-kilometre region with extensive mangrove forests, caves and coral islands offers a faint glimpse of what the Caribbean islands looked like before Europeans arrived. No wonder filming for the blockbuster Jurassic Park took place here! You can take a motorboat through the national park or explore the blue waters yourself by kayak and on foot along hiking trails.
The drive to the Dominican capital Santo Domingo is comparably far. It boasts that it is the oldest city in the New World built by Europeans. In the historic old town with its charming alleys, the cathedral and the Alcázar de Colón, you will definitely feel transported back a few centuries.
What you should bear in mind when visiting Punta Cana’s attractions
A holiday in the Caribbean is best in the winter months: The perfect time to travel is December to March. Since the resorts are usually full, the sights in Punta Cana are correspondingly busy. Then it makes sense to book organised tours at the hotel: You won’t have to worry about parking and will often be able to pass others through the group entrance with the group tickets you already have.
Find out more about the best destinations in December.
But even in less busy months, a group tour can be the more comfortable and uncomplicated option, for example, when a large motorboat is waiting for your group on boat trips to Saona Island or through the mangroves of Los Haitises and you don’t have to take care of transport yourself.
One last tip: A few words of Spanish will be enormously helpful! Make sure to learn some basic words when travelling to Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic.
Out and about in Punta Cana: Things to do for every taste
Whether family-friendly facilities like the Bávaro Adventure Park, the Juanillo beach, the quiet beauty of the national parks or culture and history in the cities: You’ll find things to do around Punta Cana that will enhance your holiday. So get out of your deck chair and experience the real life of the Dominican Republic!