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HomeTravel 2023Punta Cana's Best Excursions and Beaches

Punta Cana’s Best Excursions and Beaches

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If you’re planning a trip to Punta Cana, don’t just stick to the hotel beach! The Dominican Republic has so much more to offer.

Many choose to stay in the Dominican Republic by focusing on staying in an all-inclusive hotel. But seriously, you can explore so much more. Find some of Punta Cana’s most beautiful spots on your own or with a guide who’ll make it even better.

There are tons of fantastic activities and beaches to explore, that will definitely be worth your while.

Whether you want to rent a car and explore on your own or join an exciting group tour, I’ve got some great suggestions below.

Here is an overview:

Punta Cana’s most beautiful beaches

With some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, this tropical paradise is a must-see for anyone who loves sun, sand, and surf.

Make sure to choose a hotel at the beach, but make sure to also explore the other top beaches.

Discover the secluded Playa Esmeralda

Looking for a quiet and secluded beach in Punta Cana? Look no further than Playa Esmeralda!

This hidden gem, located just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Punta Cana’s tourist industry, is one of the most pristine beaches you’ll find anywhere in the Dominican Republic. With its crystal clear waters stretching nearly 4 kilometers without another soul in sight, it’s hard to believe that such beauty exists so close by.

In fact, this breathtaking stretch has been recognized as one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the DR!

But if you’re planning to visit soon – act fast! All-inclusive resorts will be built here in the coming years.

If renting a car isn’t your thing, don’t worry – there are always helicopter rides available at surprisingly affordable prices that include visits to Salto de la Jalda; the highest waterfall in all of Dominican territory.

How to get there: About an hour’s drive from Punta Cana.
Costs: Access to the beach is free, and a helicopter tour costs about $250.
Good to know: Just an hour from Punta Cana, a secluded and stunning beach.

Palms at the Playa Esmeralda in the Dominican Republic
Playa Esmeralda in the Dominican Republic.

Bavaro Beach – Punta Cana’s longest beach

Bavaro Beach is an absolute must for beach lovers in Punta Cana. It’s the longest and most popular stretch of sand around, with some sections being hailed as some of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic!

The sheer size of this 20 kilometer stretch will leave you in awe – it stretches from Cabeza de Toro at the Barceló Resort to Macau. You’ll find several different areas along Bavaro Beach such as Bibijagua, Jellyfish, Corales, Cortecito, Arena Blanca and Arena Gorda.

The width of Bavaro Beach makes it a sight to behold; especially near Melía Caribe Punta Cana or Secrets Royal Beach where the fine sand is simply breathtaking!

If strolling along the sandy shores sounds appealing, then grab your flip-flops, because here it is possible to walk up to 20 kilometers without leaving the soft grains behind.

As you walk further down towards Macau, take in the breathtaking views of turquoise waters lapping against towering palm trees!

For those staying at all-inclusive resorts located right on its shores, Bavaro Beach is just steps away from your room, making sunbathing sessions more convenient than ever!

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How to get there: Many of the hotels are located right on the beach at Bavaro.
Cost: Access to the beaches of Punta Cana is free of charge.
Good to know: A 20-kilometer-long beach is not something you are going to find everywhere in the Caribbean.

Bavaro Beach is Punta Cana's longest beach - Dominican Republic.
Bavaro Beach is Punta Cana’s longest beach – Dominican Republic.

Macao Beach

If you’re looking for a chill beach experience in Punta Cana, Macao is the place to go.

It’s a quick 20-minute drive from most all-inclusive resorts and offers something different from the typical touristy beaches. You won’t find huge hotels here (except for Dreams Macao Beach), but instead local food vendors selling freshly grilled fish right on the sand.

On weekends, things can get pretty lively as locals come out to enjoy this beautiful stretch of coastline – so expect some crowds and noise! But if you prefer peace and quiet during your beach time, weekdays are perfect for soaking up the pure tranquility of Macao Beach.

Beyond the laid-back atmosphere, however, lies a natural beauty that will take your breath away. The bay itself is stunningly picturesque; it makes for an impressive backdrop as you lounge around or catch waves, depending on the wind conditions – although be careful when swimming as there are strong currents!

How to get there: From most hotels in Punta Cana, it is easily accessible by taxi or car in about 20-30 minutes.
Costs: There is no charge for this Punta Cana beach.
Good to know: Macao Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Punta Cana.

Macao Beach in the Dominican Republic - Flickr churl
Macao Beach in the Dominican Republic

Cap Cana

If you’re looking for a luxurious beach getaway in Punta Cana, Cap Cana is the place to be!

This southern part of the city attracts many celebrities and high rollers with its posh villas and upscale resorts. And it’s not hard to see why – two stunning beaches await you: Playa Blanca and Playa Juanillo, both with some of the whitest sand in the world.

But that’s not all – thanks to its shallow waters, Cap Cana also boasts vibrant turquoise hues that are sure to take your breath away.

So if you are looking for an unforgettable vacation experience in a paradise-like setting, be sure to check out this amazing destination on your next trip!

How to get there: Cap Cana is best reached by renting a car.
Cost: The beaches of Punta Cana are free of charge. Though some of the beaches may require you to consume something at the local beach clubs in order to gain access to them. And it’s worth it.
Good to know: Cap Cana is the place to be if you’re interested in the lifestyle of the rich and famous and want to see pristine white beaches.

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Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic
Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic

Top excursions from Punta Cana

Explore the peninsula of Samaná

If you’re on your way to Los Haitises National Park (see below), why not make a pit stop on the stunning Samaná Peninsula? It’s one of the most beautiful regions of the Dominican Republic and well worth exploring.

While day trips from Punta Cana by bus + boat or plane are possible, we recommend that you plan for several days to fully immerse yourself in all that Samaná has to offer.

There are many sights to see on the peninsula such as Salto El Limón Waterfall, Bacardi Island Cayo Levantado and countless unspoiled beaches including Playa Cosón, Playa Lanza del Norte, Playa Las Canas, Playa Ermitano and Playa Rincon.

Renting a car is also an option with well developed roads making it only about 4 hours away from Punta Cana.

Accommodations are available in a variety of price ranges so there’s something for everyone!

Beach at Peninsula of Samaná in the Dominican Republic.
Beach at Peninsula of Samaná in the Dominican Republic.

Los Haitises National Park

If you’re looking for a must-see attraction in Punta Cana, look no further than Los Haitises National Park. While it may be a bit of a hike at 2.5 hours away, this national park is well worth the visit thanks to its stunning flora and fauna.

The best part? You can experience Los Haitises National Park as an exciting day trip or even as a comfortable overnight stay – there’s something for everyone! As someone who loves to travel, I highly recommend renting a car (~) and checking out the Eco-Lodge inside the park (rates and booking link below). This unique lodging option offers unparalleled views of natural pools formed by dammed rivers that lead to beautiful waterfalls.

Not only will you have access to breathtaking scenery during your stay, but also some delicious food – just remember, good things come to those who wait! So why not make your next vacation unforgettable by exploring all that Los Haitises has to offer?

How to get there: The start of the Los Haitises excursions is directly from the hotel in Punta Cana. If you want to explore the park on your own, it is best to rent a car and drive about 2 hours northwest on very good roads (except the last 10km).

Costs: Day trips from Punta Cana starting at 100 euros per person, car rental starting at 50 euros, overnight stay in the park starting at 70 euros.

It’s wicked because: The Los Haitises National Park is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in Punta Cana and the surrounding area with its islands, caves, flora and fauna.

Here is a karst formation and mangrove in the Samana Bay of the Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic. This region is part of an activity focused on biodiversity conservation and sustainable tourism.
Here is a karst formation and mangrove in the Samana Bay of the Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic. This region is part of an activity focused on biodiversity conservation and sustainable tourism.

Hoyo Azul

Hoyo Azul is a cave (cenote) that is an important part of Scape Park and is hidden at the foot of a 75 meter cliff.

Its turquoise waters attract many visitors. Hoyo Azul (Blue Hole) is a natural phenomenon filled with crystal clear water.

It is advisable to arrive early as it can be very popular. And don’t forget to bring a bathing suit to swim in the water, as the water temperature remains constant throughout the year. This makes it a perfect place for swimming.

The cave is surrounded by lush vegetation and offers a breathtaking panorama. There is also a platform from which you can enjoy a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

The water at Hoyo Azul is so clear that you can see all the way to the bottom – a snorkeler’s paradise!

Scape Park also offers other activities such as zip lining and horseback riding. But if you’re looking for a quiet oasis, be sure to visit Hoyo Azul. A few hours here will help you unwind from the stress of everyday life and recharge your batteries.

So pack your swimsuit and get ready for an unforgettable day in the turquoise waters of Hoyo Azul!

Hoyo Azul in the Dominican Republic.
Hoyo Azul in the Dominican Republic.

Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park & Reserve

Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park & Reserve is an ecopark and reserve of 1,500 hectares of subtropical forest. The area is privately owned but dedicated to conservation and scientific research.

Visitors can enjoy the 12 freshwater lagoons, five of which are open for swimming.
The Guama Lagoon is up to 26 feet deep and many like to dive from the platform – certainly something for your camera.

The park staff is committed to protecting and preserving the natural environment. They have implemented a sustainable management program that ensures the forest remains healthy and its biodiversity is preserved. Visitors can join guided tours or hike on their own.

In addition to the lagoons, the park is home to a variety of wildlife, including monkeys, iguanas, and various bird species such as toucans and parrots. It’s a paradise for nature photographers!

If you’re interested in culture, be sure to take a trip to the indigenous village. The locals are happy to show you their traditional way of life as well as their handicrafts such as weaving or carving.

All in all, Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park & Reserve offers a perfect opportunity to relax in beautiful nature and learn about the local ecology and culture – definitely worth a visit!

Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve in the Dominican Republic.
Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve in the Dominican Republic.

Explore UNESCO World Heritage Santo Domingo

If you’re more into cultural experiences than nature, Punta Cana is for you!

Just a 2.5-hour drive from most all-inclusive resorts, Santo Domingo is the capital city with an unbeatable colonial district that will take you back in time and fill your heart with Dominican charm. You won’t want to miss out on exploring this living open-air museum of historically valuable buildings, colorful facades, small cafes and shops galore; it’s truly unique!

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And if people-watching is your thing, look no further, because there’s no better place to do it than here.

Now let me tell you how best to explore Santo Domingo: booking an organized tour may be the easiest, but it leaves little room to delve into the details – instead, hop on a bus or rent a car (if the traffic isn’t too much of a hassle) and take two days off at one of the charming historic hotels located right in the Zona Colonial itself.

Trust us when we say that a little extra time will make all the difference between seeing things and really experiencing them!

Getting there: Santo Domingo is about 2.5 to 3 hours away from Punta Cana – the best way to travel is by public bus or on a guided tour.
Cost: The cost of a tour guide from Punta Cana is approximately 90 euros per person. If you decide to organize it yourself, expect to pay about US$10 per person each way for the bus and US$30-40 per person in a double room in a small but nice colonial hotel.
Good to know: Santo Domingo is the heart of the Dominican Republic, a melting pot of cultures and a great place to learn about the country.

Palace in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
Palace in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Exploring Punta Cana’s waterfalls

Although Punta Cana itself doesn’t have any natural waterfalls, don’t worry – the nearby mountains are just a quick 45-minute drive away and offer plenty of exploration opportunities.

You’ll be happy to know that there are about ten different waterfall locations within three hours’ reach from Punta Cana! One such location is Salto de la Jalda, which boasts both being the highest Dominican Republic waterfall as well as one of its longest hikes.

But if you’re not up for traveling quite so far out, no problem at all! Cascada Blanca or La Copa can easily be reached on foot in only an hour or two. And even better yet? If hiking isn’t your thing altogether then consider checking out spots like Salto Socoa or Salto Alto de Bayaguana where parking lots sit conveniently close to their respective falls.

How to get there: The best way is by rental car to the different starting points of the walks, which take between 1 and 3 hours.
Costs: Normally none
Good to know: Waterfalls are quintessential tropical vegetation and you usually have them all to yourself.

The El Limon waterfall in the Dominican Republic - Flickr Dustan Sept.
The El Limon waterfall in the Dominican Republic – Flickr Dustan Sept.

Half day excursion to the Boca de Yuma area

If you’re looking for a more laid-back and off-the-beaten-path Punta Cana experience, Boca de Yuma is the perfect getaway.

This charming fishing village is just an hour’s drive from Punta Cana, but feels worlds away with its sleepy atmosphere. The real gem here are the small restaurants perched high on the cliffs, where you can enjoy some of the freshest fish in the region while taking in breathtaking views of the ocean – all in a rustic and authentic setting, as organized tourism has yet to take hold here!

You can also hop aboard a wooden boat to explore secluded beaches or hike through lush forests to find crystal-clear lagoons; locals are happy to act as your guides for a small tip.

How to get there: The best way is by rental car, about an hour from Punta Cana.
Costs: Car rental about €50 per day, fish lunch in Boca de Yuma about €10.
Good to know: Tourism in Punta Cana is very commercialized, but in Boca de Yuma time seems to stand still, which is its special charm.

Peppers at Boca de Yuma in the Dominican Republic.
Peppers at Boca de Yuma in the Dominican Republic.

Ziplining in Punta Cana

Why not stick to ziplining in Punta Cana for now?

There are so many exciting canopy adventures to explore on the eastern side of the Dominican Republic. There are around five different zipline experiences in Punta Cana alone!

While the breathtaking zipline at Scape Park Cap Cana may be one of the most impressive options, it’s certainly not your only choice. For families looking for a more kid-friendly option, Bavaro Adventure Park offers an exhilarating suspension bridge and fun-filled experience. Meanwhile, those looking for lush greenery will love exploring Bavaro Runners’ tropical vegetation-focused adventure.

By booking one of these excursions, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to discover the different facets that make up this beautiful country – but no matter which one you choose, rest assured that they all promise action-packed excitement throughout your time here!

How to get there: All Punta Cana zipline tours include hotel transfers.
Costs: Starting at 50 euros per person
Good to know: It is a unique experience to see Punta Cana from the air.

Zip Line in the Dominican Republic
Zip Line in the Dominican Republic

Catamaran excursion in Punta Cana

Looking for a boat tour that showcases the breathtaking beauty of Isla Saona and Isla Catalina? Look no further than Punta Cana!

While these excursions can be lengthy, taking up to 10 hours including bus transfers to Bayahibe or La Romana, there’s an alternative. Instead, book a catamaran excursion from Punta Cana.

Although there are no major attractions in the area (aside from the underwhelming natural pool), cruising the Caribbean waters is an experience you won’t soon forget.

For those who are looking for something a little more upscale, we recommend opting for higher quality tours, as some of the cheaper options tend to be party and booze cruises. So consider wisely, if you want to save money here or not.

How to get there: Tours usually depart directly from hotels in Punta Cana.
Costs: Starting at 50 euros per person.
Good to know: Experience the Caribbean without having to go to Saona or Catinaccio.

Catamaran to Saona Island Dominican Republic - Flickr Channone Arif
Catamaran to Saona Island Dominican Republic – Flickr Channone Arif

Diving in Punta Cana

If you’d like to explore the depths of Punta Cana’s oceans, but want to take in all the stunning sights underwater, don’t worry!

You can easily book a dive with one of the many reputable schools. Scuba diving is definitely one of the top things to do when visiting this beautiful destination in the Dominican Republic.

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While it may not be as famous for diving as other spots around the globe, there are still some amazing wrecks and reefs that will keep divers entertained for 2-3 days straight. And if you’re looking for a little more variety than what Punta Cana has to offer, don’t forget about Bayahibe – another fantastic area to check out!

How to get there: There are numerous dive schools along the Punta Cana beach resorts.
Costs: Diving in Punta Cana usually costs between 35 and 50 euros.
Good to know: Diving enthusiasts should not miss the opportunity to get the Dominican Republic in their diving book.

Diving in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Diving in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Whale and dolphin watching in the Dominican Republic

If you’re looking for an exciting adventure in Punta Cana, whale and dolphin watching in Samaná is a must!

These tours have become incredibly popular and always draw crowds. It’s no wonder – from January to March every year, humpback whales come to the Bay of Samaná to give birth and feed their young. Thousands of visitors flock here each year as it is one of the greatest attractions the Dominican Republic has to offer.

And what makes this experience even more special is that these magnificent creatures comply with naturalist regulations while enchanting tourists!

Did you know that the Bay of Samana can be reached from the mainland as well as from Punta Cana? If you head to Miches (just over an hour away), you can embark on one of the most exciting experiences in Punta Cana – whale watching!

The good news is that it’s almost certain that you’ll see them.

How to get there: Punta Cana Whale Watching always picks you up at your hotel.
Cost: The cost of the whale watching excursion is between 120 and 160 euros.
Good to know: A Caribbean excursion with an almost 100% guarantee that you will see huge humpback whales – where else can you find that?

Whale watching in the Dominican Republic.
Whale watching in the Dominican Republic.

Saona Island

Saona Island is an unspoiled island off the coast of Punta Cana.

Why should you go there? If you want to get away from the tourist crowds, you will find paradise on Saona Island. The island is a federally protected nature reserve and part of the East National Park. Wildlife is everywhere on the island, from birds to a beach full of starfish. During the nesting season, sea turtles can be seen laying their eggs. The beaches on Saona Island are breathtakingly beautiful and provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxing day by the sea. The crystal clear waters are perfect for snorkeling with colorful fish and coral reefs. The island is also a popular destination for scuba divers who can observe a variety of marine life.

Another reason to visit Saona Island is its authentic Caribbean flair. There are no large hotel complexes or restaurants here – instead you will find small beach bars and grill stands serving fresh fish and tropical cocktails.

To get to the island, you can join a boat tour or rent a private boat. Some tours include a stop at a fishing village on the coast of Bayahibe to get a taste of life away from the tourist crowds.

So if you are looking for peace and relaxation in the middle of untouched nature and want to experience the real Caribbean feeling, you should definitely take a trip to the paradise island of Saona!

Palm over the water at a beach at Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.
Beach at Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

Punta Cana Buggy Tour

Buggy tours are a must in Punta Cana. It’s very popular with American visitors. The Dune Buggy Tours are especially popular and provide a lot of fun for those staying in all-inclusive hotels.

But if you are looking for more excitement and adventure, choose a Buggy Tour, which show you a bit more from the region. These tours not only offer mindless racing, but also give you a chance to experience the real Dominican Republic, which can be hard to find in the midst of touristy areas like Punta Cana.

The different Buggy Tours are truly a one of a kind activity, as they take visitors through secluded beaches, stunning riversides and authentic villages that showcase local life up close. The tours usually also include several stops along the way! If Land & People’s offerings seem dull or uninspiring – check out our recommended buggy adventures!

How to get there: The tours always include picking up from your accommodation or from the resort.
Cost: Standard buggy tours in Punta Cana start at 35 euros, some buggy tours are more expensive due to smaller groups, real VW engines and personalized attention.
Good to know: Choose a buggy tour that take you to places you can’t go as a normal tourist.

Buggy Tour in the Dominican Republic.
Buggy Tour in the Dominican Republic.

Conclusion

Punta Cana is a paradise for beach lovers and adventure seekers alike. With its stunning coastline, there’s no shortage of beaches to suit every taste.

But that’s not all – the region also offers an abundance of activities to suit every interest. From snorkeling and scuba diving in crystal clear waters to zip lining through lush forests or exploring on ATV excursions, Punta Cana has it all!

Whether you’re looking for excitement or relaxation, this tropical destination truly has something for everyone. So why wait? Come soak up the Caribbean sun and experience all that Punta Cana has to offer!

  • Travel Dudes

    I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You’re in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.



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