A traveler’s paradise, Punta Cana’s tropical vibe is all over its white sand beaches and posh resorts. Located in the far east of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is the ideal beach getaway. The area, however, offers more than just sandy shores and the sparkling Caribbean waters.
From lush forests to limestone caves and zip lines, here’s a handy guide on the best places to visit in and around Punta Cana.
The Bavaro Beach area was initially intended as a home for resort workers and their families. However, as hotels started to rise along the east coast, north of Punta Cana through the years, Bavaro became a tourist area.
Located in La Altagracia province, Bavaro is now one of the most popular beaches and a top place to visit in Punta Cana.
The area is now lined with many hotels, including the oldest and most historic one called Barcelo. This small bustling community is ideal for those who want to enjoy a different side of Punta Cana, while still taking in the area’s chill, tropical vibe.
2. Reserva Ecologica Ojos Indigenas
Managed and run by the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation, the 1,500-acre Reserva Ecologica Ojos Indigenas (Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve) is one of the most beautiful places to see in Punta Cana. Consisting of subtropical lowland forests and 12 freshwater lakes, the area is dedicated to conservation and scientific study as well as leisure. According to historians, the area got its name from those lakes, which the early Indians referred to as eyes because of their shape. Within the area, visitors can use visit the iguana habitat, a sugarcane display, and a petting zoo.
3. Macao Beach
This public beach in Punta Cana is not only known as a surfing spot for locals but it’s also considered as one of the best beaches in Caribbean according to UNESCO and TripAdvisor for 2020.
Fine white sands and palm trees lined up on the shore make it the picture-perfect representation of what we know of the Caribbean. Macao beach is a bit far from Bavaro which makes it less crowded. It doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to do with this beach though. Visitors can enjoy surfing, ATVs, paddle boarding and horseback riding in the area.
3. Scape Park
Adventure lover or not, a Punta Cana vacation isn’t complete without a visit to Scape Park. With its limestone topography, lush jungle, scenic views and walks as well as historical attractions — Scape Park is a must in every Punta Cana itinerary.
Some of the must-see and experiences in Scape Park are the 800-meter Farallon Cliff that stretches along the coast, Hoyo Azul (the Blue Hole), a natural sinkhole with clear water tucked inside the Scape Park, and a zip line adventure over Cap Cana.
There are also replica homes of the ancient Taino Indians, which serves as an homage to the cultural heritage and traditions of Latin America and the Caribbean.
4. ChocoMuseo Punta Cana
Another happy surprise and a must-visit in Punta Cana is the ChocoMuseo. This is a museum, working factory, and shop in one that aims to educate people in the art and science of making chocolates. Other than the learning experience, visitors to ChocoMuseo can also try different kinds of chocolate products and attend a workshop about making chocolate.
5. Punta Espada Golf Course
Whether you’re into golf or simply appreciate the pristine surroundings of golf courses, you’ll enjoy a visit to the Punta Espada Golf Course. This Jack Nicklaus Signature course is recognized as one of the best in the world.
Set against the blue sea and sky, a walk along the fairways and greens of Punta Espada Golf Course makes for a relaxing morning walk, or a romantic stroll as the sun sets in the afternoon. A visit to Punta Espada Golf Course also makes for a refreshing change in scenery from the usual beaches of Punta Cana.
Places to visit near Punta Cana
6. Altos de Chavon
A surprising place that visitors will discover near Punta Cana is the Italian-style village located above the Chavon River valley. Aptly named Altos de Chavon, this village features a Roman amphitheater, an archaeological museum, a cultural center, and a prestigious design school. There are also plenty of artisan workshops and art galleries in the village, featuring works by its design students.
An ideal location for leisurely strolls, Altos de Chavon’s distinct architecture can’t be found in other parts of the Dominican Republic. From the village, one can also enjoy views of the river valley below.
7. Saona Island, Punta Cana
About one and half hour from Punta Cana is the stunning Saona Island. This paradise island is known for its unspoiled beaches and sparkling blue-green waters. A natural reserve protected by the government, Saona Island provides a peaceful respite from the crowded resorts on the mainland. This island paradise provides a scenic backdrop as you stroll along the pristine shores lined with palm trees, or take a dip in the waters. There are also plenty of colorful starfishes here that you’ll either see through the waters or washed ashore. Saona Island is also easily accessible by ferry or catamaran, either as a solo jaunt or part of a tour.
8. Cave expeditions at Los Haitises National Park
Los Haitises National Park is a haven for adventurers who would like to take a break from the beaches. Popular for its karst plateau, sinkholes, caverns and mangrove forest, it is also home to some Caribbean’s endemic species.
This area is known for its cave repelling expeditions, where visitors can explore rocks formed by the remains of corals and other organisms. At the Los Haitises National Park’s lush rain forests, one can enter a huge cave by repelling down 20 meters.
Aside from the thrill ride, cave explorers get to enjoy a closer look at stunning mineral formations, rock art, and petroglyphs of Hispanic culture in the inside walls, along a river that flows right through.
9. Isla Catalina
The stunning Isla Catalina should definitely be on your list of places to see in Punta Cana. Located around 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) off the coast, this tropical island used to be a haven for pirates back in the 15th century.
Today, the island is a favorite stop for cruise ships as well as a great place for getting a closer look at its rich marine biodiversity. A must-visit in the Dominican Republic, Isla Catalina is no longer as quiet as it was back in the 15th century, but it remains to be a little piece of paradise from day-trippers from Punta Cana.
He is an expert travel advisor and enthusiast. He has traveled extensively in the USA, Central American, South America and Europe. He has visited every Sandals Resort and is one of a select few Diamond Elite members of the Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club.
Dan graduated from Johnson & Wales University with an associate degree in Culinary Arts. Later he graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a focus on people and culture.