This is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea. Where the sun rises right out of the water and stays warm and friendly all day long. And where the charming sounds of merengue music fill the nights. Welcome to Punta Cana on the southeast corner of the Dominican Republic — D.R. to the friendly locals. There’s so much to explore in this little piece of paradise, so let’s get moving.
This little corner of the country offers 35 miles of white sand beaches to enjoy. Each one is distinctive in what it offers in the way of scenery and activities. After all, isn’t that one reason you chose Punta Cana, for the surfing, diving, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, kite surfing or parasailing? There’s really no end to the fun water sports waiting for you.
The Punta Cana area is really divided in two. Using the airport as the center, to the north sit the towns of Båvaro and the Playas Båvaro and Macao. Most of the all-inclusives are located here, with all the amenities they provide. But you should really venture out and discover a nearby beach in the beach communities of Cortecito and Los Corales. Local transportation (guaguas) make roving up and down the main drag easy.
Playa Macao could be the most beautiful beach in the Dominican Republic. See if you agree with UNESCO; they declared it one of the best beaches in the entire Caribbean. Beat the crowds and head over in the morning (good surfing), so you can enjoy one of the fresh seafood restaurants right on the beach for lunch.
For divers, the calm, reef-protected waters of Playa Båvaro bring a glorious hue to your view. The main dive shops in the area are located here, as well as access to every other water sport you can think of.
South of the airport is Punta Cana proper with Playa Juanillo and some of the most breathtaking views on the island. The area isn’t developed as much, so only the tall coconut trees might interrupt your view. But whatever beach you choose, don’t just sit around and soak up the sun when you can walk around and discover nearby hills, thrills and trails.
Here’s a natural theme park unlike anything else you’ve seen in the States. Or anywhere. Covering one million square meters (close to 250 acres), this is a green escape worth some time away from your hotel. There are marked trails and gardens, but the highlight is discovering your own cenote, a fancy name for a sinkhole, offering perhaps the most restful swimming experience of your life. Most people trek to Hoya Azul and its 275-ft limestone cliff. But a more unique experience awaits at the Cenote Indigena Las Ondas, deep inside a Taino cave, the ancient tribe that first used it. You’ll get a dose of island history with your swim.
The Scape offers mountain bikes, horses and caving, too. Not to mention the longest zip line in the area, floating between mountain cliffs with the forest underneath. It’s truly an “escape” from the ordinary. For the best prices, you can arrange your day-long adventure at scapepark.com.
Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve
Owned by a local ecological foundation, this 1,500-acre subtropical forest offers an easy shaded trail that takes you to 12 semi-hidden freshwater lagoons. The most popular is Ojos Indigenous (Indigenous Eyes). Walking there will bring you past the kind of flora you don’t usually find in your backyard. And don’t just admire the lagoon. A few steps up a trail from the main deck brings you to a jumping platform. Go ahead, you deserve the full Punta Cana experience!
A Day Trip with Cocotours
Granted, you want to get everything you can from your all-inclusive resort. But you are on an island — in another country — in the Caribbean! You could easily squeeze in a little side trip. Especially, when you can count on the knowledge and convenience of a company like Cocotours (cocotours.com).
To the north are the quiet, undiscovered beaches near the coastal town of MIches. Undulating mountains give you great views of the crystalline sand beaches around this fishing village. To the south sits Boca de Yuma and Parque National del Este, where Ponce de Leon once roamed. A little further is Bayahibe and La Romana, villages once loved by pirates and home to ancient dry cave explorations and sugarcane plantations. Columbus lowered anchor here a few years ago, so should you. And to the west of Punta Cana is Higuey, with its huge basilica, visited by Pope John Paul II in 1992, which will give you a small taste of a typical busy urban area in the Dominican Republic.
Check out the Cocotours’ website for more ideas on how you can get more out of your visit to Punta Cana. They’re locally owned and very reliable. By the way, you’ll probably need pesos when get outside the resort areas.
Båvaro Adventure Park
Okay, if you still have some adrenaline left, this is the place. There’s a zip line, of course, but if you’d rather take on the mountain landscape on a mountain bike or Segway, you’ll find those too. And if you’ve never tried “zorbing,” this could be your only opportunity to experience rolling downhill inside a giant ball. The park is fairly close to the hotel area, but miles away from anything you’ve ever done.