Things to Do in Punta Cana

by  Kristine Hansen | Feb 20, 2020

Punta Cana — the resort area of the Dominican Republic — is a popular destination whether you crave adventure or a pampering stay at an all-inclusive resort. Fans of eco-tourism find plenty to do in the water, such as snorkeling, kayaking, or scuba diving.

In recent years, several resorts have opened in Punta Cana, offering newer options for your stay that fold in opportunities to enjoy spacious spas, top-notch dining, and water sports. With white-sand beaches, easy (read: direct) flights from the U.S. (including Southwest Airlines), and a history of welcoming travelers, the destination continues to grow in popularity.

Snorkeling

Punta Cana’s snorkeling pales in comparison to other Caribbean destinations like Belize, Turks and Caicos, and Mexico’s Riviera Maya, but there are definite spots. You will need to book a cruise excursion to open waters off the coast (as opposed to snorkeling by the shore). Snorkel among stingrays and (gentle) sharks through Marinarium Excursions. Catalina Island (accessible via La Romana and/or a 50-minute drive from Punta Cana) is another popular spot, as is Bayahibe, near Del Este National Park.

Cap Cana

Cap Cana / Iren_Key/iStock

Cap Cana is the new luxe area of Punta Cana. Here, you'll find an array of shopping, high-end resorts, and golf courses, including Punta Espada Golf Club. You’ll also find Juanillo Beach here, where many enjoy kitesurfing. Cap Cana itself is a destination that spans a whopping 6,200 acres. This includes Marina Cap Cana, a waterfront shopping development that's home 12 restaurants. The complex also offers sport fishing excursions. Cap Cana is about a 10-minute drive south of Punta Cana International Airport.

Scape Park

Hear the word “park” and you might imagine either a theme park or a natural park. Scape Park, located in Cap Cana, is a little bit of both. Here, you'll find ancient caves, a cenote, farm animals, and ziplining. You can also take a nature walk to learn more about how the island’s earliest residents lived.

Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve

This 1,500-acre park, which is owned and operated by the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation, is home to several nature trails and 12 freshwater lagoons (five are for swimming) within a tropical-forest setting. You can even learn about the sugarcane industry via an educational exhibit. Animal lovers can learn about — and interact with — iguanas and other creatures. 

Altos de Chavón

Altos de Chavon / emzet70/istock

This replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village is about 50-minutes by car from Punta Cana and is perfect for art and architecture enthusiasts. Also de Chavón was designed by Dominican architect Jose Antonio Caro and Italian designer Roberto Coppa. Here, you can browse working artist studios. An offshoot of New York City’s Parsons School of Design can also be found here (Altos de Chavón School of Design). Other features include a 5,000-seat amphitheater (which frequently hosting touring musicians) and an archeological museum.

Basilica Catedral Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia

Just 40 minutes inland from Punta Cana’s beautiful beaches is a gorgeous cathedral, which honors the Virgin of La Altagracia. Here, you'll also find a framed portrait of the Virgin Mary that dates back to the 16th century.

Do I Need a Passport to Visit Punta Cana?

As Punta Cana is within the Dominican Republic. U.S. citizens are required to show a valid, non-expired passport when visiting the country. You’ll need a U.S. passport ($145 for first-time applicants or a $110 renewal). Read more about passport fees and applications on the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Beach in Punta Cana / Gerold Grotelueschen/iStock

How Safe Is Punta Cana?

Most travelers to Punta Cana rarely leave the resort — mostly because the region lacks a lively town center (like Playa del Carmen in Mexico’s Riviera Maya or San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Belize) to visit for shopping or dining. However, steps are being taken to change this. In 2017, a complex called Downtown Punta Cana opened in Bávaro (within the Punta Cana region) and features a shopping mall, restaurants, night clubs, and entertainment.

Best Resorts in Punta Cana

Punta Cana offers an array of splurge-worthy resorts. Each hug the white-sand shoreline and take full advantage of water views, whether it’s relaxing in your room or enjoying dinner in a restaurant. Properties here are built around pools, spas, kids and teen clubs, and other activities to easily fill a vacation. Some are adults-only while others welcome families. Bàvaro (which is north of Punta Cana International Airport) and Cap Cana are two major hubs for resorts in Punta Cana.

Excellence Punta Cana / Courtesy of the property

In fact, resorts outnumber small inns or B&Bs (as well as Airbnbs), so this is your easiest option when booking a stay. Two all-inclusive resorts from the Excellence brand — Excellence Punta Cana and Excellence El Carmen (the newer of the two) —  offers luxury accommodations and amenities catering to adults. Here, expect to find high style, sleek interiors, and fine dining (there are 16 bars and 10 restaurants at Excellence El Carmen alone), among other activities, events, and amenities; in fact, you may never want to leave.

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