The Dominican Republic’s Punta Cana is famed for its beautiful white-sand beaches and gin-clear waters. And while a lot of activities centre on the coastline, there’s a wealth of cultural treasures and attractions to discover. Take a day away from the beach to visit Santo Domingo, the history-steeped capital, get involved in adrenaline-pumping activities at one of Punta Cana’s adventure parks, or explore the lagoons, caves and mangroves of the Los Haitises National Park. There are so many things to do in Punta Cana, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Top six things to do in Punta Cana
1. Kick back on Punta Cana’s beaches
Bavaro Beach is considered one of the top beaches in the world and is the most famous in Punta Cana. Bask in the sun, go swimming, enjoy some watersports or relax in the shade of the palm trees with a drink in hand. Macao Beach is another gem. It gets a lot of waves and can be quite windy, making it ideal for surfers. Meanwhile, Juanillo beach – with its calm and shallow waters – is perfect for families.
2. Visit Santo Domingo
A visit to the vibrant capital of the Dominican Republic is a popular daytrip from Punta Cana. Santo Domingo was the first European-built city in the Americas, so it’s no wonder that the historic old town – called the Colonial Zone – is an absolute must-see. Spanish Empire-era buildings, many of which house museums, restaurants and shops, line the streets of this UNESCO-protected zone. Go on a guided tour to see the first cathedral of the Americas, the Alcazar de Colon, the Altar of the Nation and much more. On top of the many historical landmarks, the Colonial Zone is also renowned for its thriving food scene and exciting nightlife.
3. Try your hand at some watersports
The crystal-clear waters flanking Punta Cana allow for a full range of watersports. Thanks to the often-perfect wind conditions, kitesurfing, windsurfing and surfing are all popular activities. But the best way to explore the glorious seascape is by taking a catamaran tour. With a diverse and rich marine life, many boat trips offer snorkelling stops. Swim alongside stingrays, nurse sharks and other tropical fish as you explore the longest coral reef in the Dominican Republic. And if you visit between mid-January and late March, you might be lucky enough to see some whales.
4. Head to Saona Island
Located just off the coast of Punta Cana, Saona Island makes for a perfect daytrip. Boasting untouched beaches, turquoise waters and swaying palm trees, Saona is paradise personified. The whole island is a nature reserve and lies within the Cotubanama National Park. Swim in one of the largest natural pools in the world, snorkel in waters full of marine life, try some of the local food at a restaurant or simply top up your tan on one of the island’s amazing beaches.
5. Explore Los Haitises National Park
Los Haitises National Park is a magnet for eco-adventurers. Dotted with islands, rolling hills, caves, dense forests and endless mangroves, an excursion to Los Haitises ticks all the boxes for nature lovers. You can reach the national park by land or water. Boat trips, guided walking tours, kayaking and coach trips are just some of the many ways to explore this beautiful part of the Dominican Republic. You’ll need to book your trip to the Los Haitises National Park well in advance, as the number of visitors allowed in is limited.
6. Get your adrenaline pumping with some adventure activities
Punta Cana is an adventure-seekers’ playground. Visit the vast Scape Park, a natural theme park, which includes pools, caves, ziplines and a beach club. It’s home to the impressive Hoyo Azul cenote – you can swim in the crystal-clear waters of this sinkhole. The Iguabonita Cave, with its network of tunnels and caverns, is another of the park’s highlights. Bavaro Adventure Park, also set in Punta Cana, offers an exciting day out with buggy tours, ziplines, horse-riding, zorbing and paintballing activities, to name but a few.