Punta Cana is the most popular destination in the Dominican Republic and with good reason. The region offers the ideal vacation. In addition to beautiful weather, picturesque beaches, and top-notch resorts, visitors will find adventure tours, attractions, watersports, pristine golf courses, and nightclubs. With so much to choose from, here are Go GlobeHopper’s Top 10 picks for things to see and do.
**To watch our YouTube channel video version of this article, click HERE.
1) Dune Buggy Adventure
Prepare for backcountry excitement with time spent behind the wheel of a dune buggy. This side trip activity is extremely popular in the region with several tour operators offering slightly different versions of the adventure.
The adrenaline-pumping experience will have you zooming through the countryside while crisscrossing farmland, paved roads, plantations, and beaches.
2) Saona Island
A half-day side trip to Saona Island is a favourite excursion among visitors, with several tour operators offering transportation by speedboat or by catamaran.
This tropical paradise lies southeast of the Dominican Republic and is known for its coral reefs, mangroves, and palm-fringed beaches. Shallow pools around the island are home to huge starfish, which visitors can experience during a swim. Once on the island, a turtle sanctuary and colourful shacks can be found in the fishing village of Mano Juan or spend the day swimming and sunbathing.
This attraction offers an enjoyable half-day side trip and is suitable for all ages. Guided tours allow visitors to interact with dozens of friendly squirrel monkeys on 5 acres of gorgeous tropical mountainside.
Safety precautions are in place for the monkeys and the visitors, as they eat directly from the fruit bowls in your hands. Botanical gardens and zip lining are also available on the Monkeyland property.
4) Cultural Adventures
Cultural explorations are plentiful in Punta Cana and can be combined with other adventures. For example, some excursions to Monkeyland include a trip to a local homestead high on the mountain (shown in photo), while other tours stop by countryside plantations that produce coffee, cacao, coconuts, and fruit.
These tours allow visitors to experience the life of Dominican locals while enjoying beautiful vistas, local wildlife, and learning about the production of coffee and cacao. Tasting sessions are usually included and some tours incorporate lunch or a swim.
5) Santo Domingo
A trip to the capital city of Santo Domingo makes for an interesting and memorable excursion. Guided tours include Zona Colonial (shown in photo), which is the historic region of the city and was declared a world heritage site. Tourists will find a high concentration of landmarks that tell the story of Santo Domingo’s past. Many of the buildings date back to the 1500s, including a cathedral that was among the first built in the New World. Visitors will also find many museums, shops, and cafes.
Parque Natural Los Tres Ojos, meaning Three Eyes Natural Park, is located just on the outskirts of the city and is included with most tours. This lush tropical landscape contains 3 underground lagoons inside beautiful limestone caverns, all containing crystal clear, turquoise water, turtles, and fish.
6) Horseback Riding
Punta Cana offers several different horseback adventures depending on the type of experience you want and the tour provider you choose. Some ventures include a trail ride along backcountry trails and through lush forests while other rides take place along the beach. There are also sunset rides available.
Many tour operators offer to combine horseback riding with a secondary excursion — for example, by adding a zip line experience, an eco-tour, a visit to a coffee or cacao plantation, and sometimes lunch.
7) Parque Ecologico Ojos Indigenas
Visitors can wander through this 1,500-acre nature reserve and experience lush plant life with 12 freshwater lagoons for swimming. A network of hiking trails allows tourists to explore the tropical landscape and witness indigenous wildlife including iguanas and hundreds of species of birds.
Also on the property is a petting zoo, a sugarcane exhibition, and a fruit tree garden.
8) Whale Watching in Samana
This is a seasonal excursion running from December to March when humpback whales make their winter journey from the North Atlantic to Samana Bay to give birth to their calves. Many cruise operators include a marine mammal specialist on board to answer questions.
Along the cruise route, travelers can enjoy spectacular views of the lush mountains that surround Samana Bay and will witness the turquoise waters and beautiful white sand beaches of Cayo Levantado Island (also referred to as Bacardi Island).
9) Punta Cana Resort and Club
For serious golfers and even casual players, do not miss Punta Cana Resort and Club where you will find two stunningly beautiful golf courses – Corales designed by Tom Fazio and La Cana designed by Pete Dye.
Set on a tropical landscape, these courses feature sprawling oceanfront holes with inspirational views of coral cliffs and the sapphire Caribbean Sea. The remainder of the landscaped courses meanders around small lakes, quarries, and lush greenery. There’s no doubt this upscale PGA facility is the best in the Dominican.
10) Coco Bongo
Many people enjoy dancing the night away. For Dominicans, it is a passion. To that end, the Merengue and Bachata were invented on the island.
If you love to dance, be sure to visit the nightclub of Coco Bongo, located in downtown Punta Cana. This beloved hot spot features live performances and a lively party environment almost every night.