Punta Cana is the top holiday destination in the entire Caribbean and these are the 10 best things to do in Punta Cana recommended by someone living there for 5 years.
Millions of tourists visit the popular beach area in the east of the Dominican Republic every year.
10 Best Things To Do In Punta Cana
What to do while on vacation in Punta Cana?
There are tons of excursions you can do, but which one is the best? And where to go if you’d like to have a real adventure?
As I have been living in the country for more than 5 years, I am happy to give you some exclusive information on the best things you can do while on vacation in Punta Cana.
This refers particularly if you want to do a little bit more than just staying in your all-inclusive resort, with the aim to experience a piece of the authentic Dominican Republic.
If you are an adventurous traveler and are planning to do a road trip through the entire country, you can jump directly to points 7-10. 😉
There are things to do in Punta Cana that don’t require an excursion or any transport.
Just take some time, start and experience what Punta Cana and respectively the Dominican Republic is famous for.
Take a stroll at the beach
There is a reason why half of the world is heading to Punta Cana when they are looking for some beach time. It’s the beach! And yes, the beaches in Punta Cana are special.
While they are probably not the most beautiful stretches in the world (but they are gorgeous), the beaches in Punta Cana are some of the longest you can imagine and taking a stroll on the beach is simply one of the best things to do in Punta Cana.
The whole area of Punta Cana is almost one never-ending beach. For example, if your hotel is in Cabeza de Toro, Bavaro or Arena Gorda, you have a continuous beach of 15 miles and if you stay in Uvero Alto, the beach has a length of at least 6 miles.
Considering this, you can do a full-day hike along the beaches of Punta Cana and not just a stroll – there is plenty of fine sand waiting for you.
How to get there: you can start your beach walk (or hike 😉 ) from any all-inclusive resort (except for those in Macao and Cap Cana)
Learn to dance
Why is learning to dance one of the important things to do in Punta Cana?
Because to understand the Dominican culture, you have to know the local music and the corresponding dancing.
The Dominican Republic is one of the most music-addicted nations I have seen in my whole travel life. Wherever you are in the country, loud music will probably blast from one of the corners, even in the smallest village in the countryside.
They have the music in their DNA. My girlfriend is Dominican and she can be tired, annoyed, sleeping or eating … but if there is some music around, you can be sure that she is shaking her hips and moving her body.
That’s why, to understand a little bit of the Dominican culture, you have to learn how to dance.
It doesn’t matter if you learn it in your all-inclusive resort (the entertainment staff usually can dance pretty well), in a local bar (just be sure to pick the right bar and watch your belongings) or with some Latin friends – all options are possible.
Just listen to the typical music (Salsa, Bachata and Merengue are the three main genres in the Dominican Republic) and let yourself guide by your native dance instructor.
You will soon feel Dominican!
How to get there: you can start in your all-inclusive resort and when feeling confident, head out to the bars of the area.
Guided excursions in Punta Cana
When talking about things to do in Punta Cana, there is no way to ignore the typical guided (group) excursion.
There are just too many of them. However, it is worth noting that a lot of excursions are not specifically linked to Punta Cana, so I am not going to mention them here.
Why do I have to fly several hours to the Caribbean just to go zip lining / buggy-riding / visit a theme park / do a Segway tour, which I can do (nearly) everywhere in the world?
That’s the reason why I am just mentioning my personal recommendations here with some unique experiences you can only enjoy while being in the Dominican Republic.
Thanks to its picture-perfect beaches and the pleasant catamaran excursion, Isla Saona is the most popular attraction in the entire Dominican Republic and one of the best things to do in Punta Cana.
On a daily basis, thousands of tourists are visiting the protected island along the south coast of the Dominican Republic. This sounds touristy, and indeed it is in some ways.
However, the island is so beautiful that it’s really worth it. And if you pick the right tour depending on your preferences (there are booze cruises, premium tours, smaller group tours and VIP options), you will certainly enjoy Isla Saona.
The beaches are marvellous, the water has a turquoise colour which just seems too good to be true and the pictures you can take during this excursion are amazing.
Furthermore, there are several beaches on the island of Saona, so it doesn’t feel too crowded. The feeling when cruising on the catamaran with some music and rum is just exactly what you expect from the Caribbean.
Believe me, I hate touristy areas and stupid entertainment and initially didn’t want to visit Isla Saona, but the natural beauty was just mind-blowing.
How to get there: you can prebook Saona excursions on the internet or book it directly in your hotel. It’s a full-day excursion, incl. bus ride, catamaran cruise and speed boat ride.
If you want to learn more about Dominican culture, I can highly recommend one of the several explorer or countryside tours.
They usually take you through the rural areas, where you can visit typical villages (usually semi-artificial), see some agriculture of the Dominican Republic or try the most important products of the country.
Especially the last point is interesting, as cigars, rum, fruits, cacao and chocolate are crucial goods for both, the local people and the Dominican economy.
Furthermore, it gives you the chance to learn more about these products (How to roast coffee beans? Where does the sugar cane grow? How are cigars getting rolled?) and sample them in a natural environment, far away from your resort.
How to get there: tours are offered in all resorts. Just book them there or go through one of the excursion operators on the internet.
Montaña Redonda is one of the natural highlights around Punta Cana as it’s a small mountain with some unique elements.
First of all, it gives you a marvellous view of the entire coastline between Punta Cana and Miches with lots of pristine beaches, abundant vegetation and lush tropical hills.
Furthermore, Montaña Redonda features unique swings on the edge of the mountain which allows for some unique photos as if you were flying.
Brooms and hammocks count for further photo opportunities which makes a visit to Montaña Redonda worthwhile and diversified.
How to get there: you can either book an excursion or rent a car. Montaña Redonda is around one-hour driving away from Punta Cana. Once there, you can either hike up the steep path (approx. 30-45 minutes) or take one of the safari trucks.
Whale watching in Punta Cana
Whale watching is possible in many parts of the world, but there are just very few areas in the entire Atlantic where the whales go each year to breed and give birth to their babies because the water temperature and the environment are very favourable for them.
They always migrate to the bay of Samaná, which is north of Punta Cana and reachable by bus and boat. Whale-watching excursions are running every year from January to March and are quite impressive, as you can see the massive humpback whales remarkably close and it’s one of the best activities in Punta Cana to do.
Those mammals get as big as 52 feet and weigh as much as 30 tons. During whale-watching season (January – March), sightings are usually guaranteed as they jump and play in the water very frequently.
Therefore this is one of the best animal encounters you can have while on vacation in Punta Cana – and it’s in a very natural way as well, as opposed to some kind of dolphin or stingray encounters you can book with some tour operators.
Whale watching is one of the best things to do in Punta Cana.
How to get there: you can book this excursion with any tour operator, beforehand on the internet or during your stay in your resort.
Adventures & Road Trips in Punta Cana & Beyond
Are you an adventurous traveler who doesn’t like organized excursions at all?
You don’t mind renting a car in Punta Cana (you can search for rental cars there with that link), negotiating with locals, and heading to the spots difficult to reach?
Then this is your section about the things to do in Punta Cana because opposed to what many people think, there are still some treasures and off-the-beaten-track experiences you can enjoy while on vacation in Punta Cana.
You are coming to Punta Cana because of the beaches, right?
Why not explore one of the most pristine beaches in the entire Dominican Republic – Playa Esmeralda.
It is hard to believe that a 2-mile untouched and deserted beach can be found just 50 miles away from the billion-dollar industry in Punta Cana with around 3-4 million tourists every year.
But it’s true!
If you get here by taxi or in your car, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches without any other tourists. If you feel adventurous, you can also explore the neighbouring bays and beaches which are as beautiful and unspoiled as Playa Esmeralda itself.
Playa Esmeralda can also be combined with Montaña Redonda, which is in the same area.
How to get there: it’s a 1-1.5-hour drive from the Punta Cana area. You can rent a car or take a taxi.
Salto de la Jalda
Do you love long hikes and spectacular waterfalls? Then Salto de la Jalda is the place where you should head when exploring the east of the Dominican Republic.
It’s not just a random waterfall, it is the highest waterfall in the entire Caribbean. It’s hard to believe that this natural beauty is within driving distance of Punta Cana and no one visits it.
When visiting Salto de la Jalda, be prepared to walk at least 10 miles on that day. This is probably the reason, why hardly anyone visits it, but the hike is mostly on flat terrain, so it is doable as long as you have some previous hiking experience.
The reward for the strenuous hike will be a pristine and untouched waterfall, which you can enjoy all on your own – including a dip in the natural swimming pool.
Take snacks and drinks with you, as there are no options to buy anything on the way. A guide is also very recommendable.
How to get there: the trailhead is in Magua between Miches and Sabana de la Mar, approx. a 2-hour drive from Punta Cana. Once on the trail, it’s at least a 5-mile hike per way to reach Sato de la Jalda. A guide is highly recommended.
Los Haitises National Park
While you can do Los Haitises National Park as a guided excursion, I highly recommend going there on your own – and staying one night in the park, especially as it features one of the most amazing eco-lodges in the Dominican Republic, called Paraíso Caño Hondo.
The sole accommodation in the park features various waterfalls and natural swimming pools right on the property and therefore offers a unique experience.
Furthermore, the national park is also interesting to explore, which can be done best with one of the boat tours leading through the park.
You will get an impression of the abundant flora and fauna, the never-ending mangrove system and historic Taino paintings in the ancient caves of Los Haitises.
While you might see other tours during your day in the park, a night in the eco-lodge is a not-to-miss off-the-beaten-track experience, especially if you go outside of the weekends (Dominicans love this place as well!).
How to get there: from Punta Cana, it’s a 2.5-hour drive to the park and the eco-lodge. You can go there in your rental car or by taxi.
Explore the country with a road-trip
If your travel bug is itching when reading about things to do in Punta Cana and if you particularly prefer the options described in the adventure section of this article, then you should consider a multi-day road trip through the Dominican Republic.
While Punta Cana has some amazing things to do, it is just the tip of the iceberg in a country full of surprises, treasures, unbelievable experiences and natural diversity.
The Dominican Republic offers so many adventures, natural sights and cultural singularities that it’s a true pleasure to explore the country.
And while you can get a brief glimpse of the country with the activities described above, you will only understand the true Dominican Republic if you venture out to explore the secrets the country has to offer.
While a road trip through the Dominican Republic sounds adventurous, it is feasible and not too difficult to organize.
Just rent a car with the company of your choice (pay attention that you have all insurances included) and you are ready to go. Prebooked accommodations are recommended for your peace of mind, but are not 100% necessary if you travel outside of the high season.
If you start your road trip in Punta Cana, Santo Domingo will be your first stop, where you can explore the amazing Colonial Zone with all its historic treasures.
From there, you can either head west, northwest or north, depending on your available time. Samaná is a beautiful region with dozens of pristine beaches and endless coconut palm groves and the North Coast offers activities and adventures for everyone.
The Southwest is a region completely unspoiled with many natural highlights and if you love hiking, waterfalls and chocolate plantations, consider visiting the central mountain area.
These examples are just a few of the things to do while road-tripping the Dominican Republic …
How to get there: rent a car, plan your itinerary and start your road trip! 😊
I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.
About The Author
If you’d like to know more about Chris and his second home country, the Dominican Republic, check out his website Punta Cana Travel Blog.
After traveling through all parts of the world, he is living in this beautiful and underrated country since 2015 – mostly in Santo Domingo and exploring the best things to do in Punta Cana.
Chris knows all the pristine beaches and secluded waterfalls you can explore in Punta Cana and the entire country and loves it if visitors leave their all-inclusive resort to discover the beauty, diversity, Caribbean smiles and Latin vibes the Dominican Republic has to offer.
On his blog, you can find all the useful information and personal recommendations for a unique holiday in Punta Cana & beyond. Chris also offers travel coaching and can set up a personalized itinerary for your vacation in the Dominican Republic.
For further information on Punta Cana check out my Punta Cana Travel Blog for 6 of the 10 things mentioned here where there are more detailed articles.
Things To Do In Punta Cana
Those are the best things to do in Punta Cana as recommended by someone living there. Just go and visit!
For another great place to visit around that part of the world check out things to do in Belize.
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