Resort destinations in the Caribbean are a dime a dozen. No one ever pauses and thinks twice about visiting an all-inclusive resort, and some never go farther than their shiny, air-conditioned lobbies. But then, there’s Punta Cana, where some of the best beaches in the Caribbean are in this easternmost part of the Dominican Republic.
With untouched tropical wilderness just beyond the edge of upscale restaurants, markets, and quiet beach towns, this is the place for outdoor adventures, seaside excursions to the nearby islands, and fully experiencing the best of Dominican Republic along with its dramatic coastline. Here are the best 6 things to do in Punta Cana:
1. Find the Best Beaches
Famous for its 32-km stretch of clean, powder white Blue Flag Certified beaches, beach hopping in Punta Cana is almost unavoidable. From quiet bohemian beaches to resort side refuge with shallow crystalline waters, you’ll find some of Dominican Republic’s best beaches along the east coast.
One of the longest beaches in Punta Cana, Bávaro Beach, runs 10-km long along endless blue shores, switching between luxury resorts, markets, restaurants, and gift shops to quiet spots for water sports activities and sunbathing.
Get away from the resorts of Bávaro Beach with a short drive to Macao Beach. Considered by UNESCO to be one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, this unassuming corner of Punta Cana is popular with surfers and off-road ATV tours. With nothing but white sand, blue sky, and curving palm trees, Macao Beach is never busy, and decidedly missing the dreaded resort vibe.
For slinking into Punta Cana’s iconic laidback ambience, Playa Juanillo offers total serenity away from tourist traffic. Once a sleepy fishing village, Juanillo grew in recent years to include a handful of resorts and fine-dining restaurants. However, much of the relaxed air, peace and tranquillity can still found on the beach.
A little farther north, Playa Blanca is exactly as its name suggests — whiter than white. A publicly accessible beach, Playa Blanca’s shallow shore and gentle waters are ideal for snorkelling, swimming, and kite-surfing.
2. Island Excursions to Isla Saona and Catalina
Just south of Punta Cana’s mainland, Isla Saona and Isla Catalina are both picturesque tropical islands rimmed by pearl-white sandy beaches and tall, leaning palm trees.
Filled with indigenous wildlife, marine species, and untouched coral reefs, the islands are popular with snorkelers, scuba divers, and those looking for day-trip options from Punta Cana.
Catamaran tours can take you to either island, where you can explore natural pools filled with starfish or lounge on pearl-white sandy beaches surrounded by towering palm trees. From water sports activities to trekking across sandbars to explore idyllic fishing villages, the islands offer a different side of Dominican Republic away from tourist traps and crowded attractions.
3. Take a Horseback Riding Tour
Experience Dominican Republic’s picturesque countryside while on horseback. From trotting along palm-draped soft sand beaches to scenic trips along riverside plantations, horseback riding eco tours can take you to both cultural and natural landmarks in Punta Cana.
Some tours take you to cocoa orchards, where you can see the chocolate making process firsthand. Others include the options of rolling cigars, zip-lining and visiting nearby towns for a more in-depth look into the island’s traditional way of life.
4. Golf at Seaside Courses
With emerald green fairways perched above jagged sea cliffs and thrashing waves, playing a round at Punta Cana’s many seaside golf courses can feel like teeing off at the edge of the world.
Most of the golf courses are in the Bávaro area. Some, like Punta Espada and Hard Rock Golf Club are designed by Jack Nicklaus and boast sublimely curated fairways with immaculately white sandy bunkers by the coast. Others, like Corales and Casa de Campo feature challenging courses, oceanside holes, and breath-taking vistas along towering cliffs that pose both exciting challenges and rewards for avid golfers.
5. Swim at Hoyo Azul
Although it’s easy to get lost in the all-inclusive comfort of Punta Cana’s many mega-resorts, much of Dominican Republic’s east coast is shrouded by tropical foliage and unspoiled nature.
Among the natural attractions in the region, Hoyo Azul, or the “Blue Hole,” sets itself apart as a one-of-a-kind phenomenon. At the foot of a 75-m tall limestone cliff, this natural sinkhole is filled with crystal-blue waters and reachable by a wooden walkway.
Local tours can take you through the surrounding wilderness, trekking across scenic hiking trails in the nearby forests, and ending the journey with a swim in the lagoon. Alternatively, you can zip-line above the jungle before taking a quick dip in the natural pool.
6. Explore Indigenous Eye Ecological Park
A short drive south of Punta Cana International Airport, the Indigenous Eye Ecological Park is a natural reserve consist of 45 acres of tropical forests, dotted by crystal-clear freshwater lagoons called “eyes.” Fed by underground river systems, the lagoons are surrounded by mangroves, indigenous tropical flora, fauna, and wildlife. Ideal for both guided walking tour and self-guided tours, the park can be fully explored on foot, and offer opportunities for quick dips and swim in some of its more massive lagoons.
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