Things to do in Punta Cana

Must-see Punta Cana sights

Punta Cana looks out towards the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean from its eastern tip on the Dominican Republic. This is a region best-known for its stretch of fabulous beaches, wildlife paradise and high-quality markets, as well as a string of plush resorts that make up the ‘Coconut Coast’.

  1. Bask on the beach
  2. Hit the markets
  3. Let loose with watersports
  4. Explore Parque Nacional del Este
  5. Party like there’s no tomorrow
  6. Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve
  7. Go slalom-surfing at the Aqua Park

And it’s the go-to spot for water activities - try your hand at kayaking and windsurfing, snorkeling and zip-lining - or simply head out on a boat trip, whether it’s to party, dive with sharks or simply bob along on the aquamarine coast.

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1. Bask on the beach

With white-capped waves that match the colour of the sand, one of the best things to do in Punta Cana is heading to the beach. Well, there’s not just the beach - there’s Playa Macao, Playa Bavaro and Playa Juanillo, among many more - but with most only resort-accessible only, it’s worth doing your research on Punta cana holidays to find the best one for you.Macao Beach sits on the northern end of the coast, where you can go for a dip in the sky-blue sea and swim back towards the palm tree-lined public beach. Further along, towards the island’s eastern tip, is the livelier Playa Bavaro, where a little further out to sea operators organise trips to swim with sting-rays, sharks and tropical fish. Then, at the southern end of Punta Cana - just past the airport and close to the Ecological Reserve - is Playa Juanillo. Now, this is one to aim for if you want to be treated like royalty - it may be a pricey resort-only beach, but you sure get bang for your buck, with tranquil peace and quiet in the most decadent settings.

Best for: Working on your tan.

While you’re there: Dine at one of the French or Mediterranean-style restaurants.

2. Hit the markets

Hit the shops in Punta Cana and you won’t be disappointed with what you find. It’s well worth setting aside a good chunk of time to dedicate to shopping here - not that you probably needed persuading, anyway. While there are large shopping centres, it’s nicer to weave your way through the street stalls along the beaches - just be prepared to haggle a little. Local artists sell their work here, all produced with immaculate quality: faceless ceramic or clay dolls, woodcarvings and amber jewellery are just some of the items you can find here. Produce-wise, opt for great-quality rum, fancy cigars and colourful fruits - all in all, a visit to the markets is simply a great way to get chatting to the locals, too.

Best for: Befriending the locals.

While you’re there: Snack on passion fruits and mangos, and buy a bag of coffee beans to take back home.

3. Let loose with watersports

It goes without saying that watersports should be towards the top of your list of things to do in Punta Cana. What with its island-tip setting and spread of beaches, you won’t be bored here with surfing, diving and snorkelling. There’s loads of operators eager to arrange whatever type of water-excursion you’re after, with a particular swell along Playa Bavaro. If you want to focus on more of the water and less of the sports side, there are plenty of boat trips you can take - to neighbouring islands, to swim with dolphins or simply head off on a party cruise - whatever floats your boat. And it goes without saying that whatever you choose, it will be an unforgettable experience with scenic views.

Best for: Trying a new hobby.

While you’re there: Resorts usually have their own watersports activities to try out, or you can ask them for their top recommendations.

4. Explore Parque Nacional del Este

The Este National Park, the small ‘foot’ on the eastern end of the island, is 50km southwest of Punta Cana and includes the small Saona Island. Wondering what to do in Punta Cana that immerses you in all things bright and beautiful? Well, you won’t be disappointed here. This biodiverse hotspot contains over 570 species of plants, 163 species of birds and endangered species such as loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles - make sure you act responsibly and keep your distance. There are even more beaches that scream ‘wow’, with amazing coral reefs and bright-green mangroves; it’s one of the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic, let alone Punta Cana.

Best for: A worthwhile day trip.

While you’re there: Other wildlife include manatees, hutia (like squirrels) and snakes - watch out.

5. Party like there’s no tomorrow

Nowhere parties in the Dominican Republic like Punta Cana. While most of the resorts put on evening entertainment to rival Las Vegas and provide passes for non-guests, it’s not impossible to head out to create your own party, either. But be prepared for a late start - the night doesn’t get going much before midnight, once everyone finishes their dinner - and head to where the locals swell. The bars, discotheques and clubs cover different genres of music each and every night, from bachata and reggae to rock and salsa. And with late starts come late finishes (or early, depending on which way you look at it), with some bars not closing until five in the morning.

Best for: Seeing Punta Cana come to life after sunset.

While you’re there: Research the best bars before you go - the resorts will probably try to persuade you to stay in their complex!

6. Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve

The Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve may be another paradise for wildlife, but there’s more of a focus on conservation and ecological projects here. And they want to share all this with you - there are loads of different guided tours you can take: ecological excursions, Ridgway Hawk and Iguane conservations and coral restorations. One guided tour takes you along a trail through semi-dry tropical forest, where you’ll see over 500 species of plants, and discover the 12 freshwater “eyes” (lagoons). This environmental conservation organisation also gives you the chance to go swimming in the Yauya River, go snorkelling or head out on a banana boat ride. Conservation made fun? Sign us up.

Best for: Learning about conservation and restoration works in Punta Cana.

While you’re there: If there’s something in particular you want to find out more about, you can arrange a custom tour.

7. Go slalom-surfing at the Aqua Park

Wanna fling yourself through the air and crash in style? Head to the Punta Cana Aqua Park , a fast-paced waterpark where everything is set to fast. As well as headache-inducing water slides, awesome inflatable obstacle courses and a huge ringed pool, they crank things up a notch with even more hardcore activities. Think slalom-surfing over the waves, wakeboarding over ramps and donut-riding at fast speed. It’s a great shout if you’ve had enough of lazing around on the beach and want to head a little further inland - and there’s an on-site restaurant if you do need a break, anyway.

Best for: Living life in the fast lane (of the slide).

While you’re there: There are a couple of shopping centres nearby, and a clutch of family-friendly restaurants.

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