Best Things To Do in Punta Cana
Punta Cana's beaches aren't quite white; instead they're better described as a pure golden color, which goes well with the DR's Amber Coast associations. But this region has also become closely tied with the links – those vacationers not working on their tans can often be found perfecting their golf swings at the Punta Espada or La Cana golf courses. Meanwhile, those traveling with kids will want to plan a visit to Manati Park or Dolphin Discovery for an up-close view at some of the creatures that call this tropical paradise home. And when you're not lazing on the beach with a good book, cool off in the clear blue water with a boat tour.
Updated May 23, 2018
- #1View all Photos#1 in Punta CanaGolf, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDGolf, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The green fees to play at Punta Espada are hefty, but hear us out before you write it off: This par-72 course is a Jack Nicklaus signature course and the site of top tournaments like the PGA Champions Tour. It's one of the most gorgeous courses in Punta Cana, with winding pathways and a top-notch view. In fact, the sprawling course is most often described by visitors as "golf heaven" – likely because of its mix of the vibrant colors (from sage greens to the aquamarine surf) and various amenities.
Your day rate includes the use of a cart and a caddy (mandatory), driving range practice and water around the course. There's also a restaurant with a patio on-site. As you drive the course, keep an eye out for the million-dollar mansions and the private beach club.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Punta CanaSightseeing, Swimming/Pools, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Swimming/Pools, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
One of the best ways to view Punta Cana is to get off the resort and take a boat tour. Various operators offer different experiences, from private catamarans to group snorkeling trips. One of the most well reviewed tour operators is Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures, which has a fleet of catamarans for private and semi-private tours that take visitors to snorkeling reefs, deserted beaches and lagoons. Along with transportation to and from area hotels, Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures also offers guests drinks and lunch. The company's four-hour tour starts at $99 per person for a semi-private tour; private tours for groups of up to seven people cost $650.
Similar to Hispaniola, Happy Fish Catamarans also offers private or semi-private tours, which start at $79 for a four-hour tour that includes drinks, snacks and snorkeling. For dive trips, recent travelers suggest booking a tour with Ultra Marine Divers, which includes pick-up and drop-off service from hotels to the nearby Catalina and Saona islands for scuba diving excursions. Recent visitors praised the scuba dive instructors, saying they were both knowledgeable and friendly.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Punta CanaBeaches, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
No trip to Punta Cana would be complete without some time spent on its gorgeous beaches. Playa Bavaro is one of the most popular shorelines in Punta Cana, with its white, powdery sands, swaying palm trees, blue waters and bevy of amenities, including water sports rentals, dining options and nearby accommodations. Visitors will find this beautiful (but busy) beach stretched in between El Cortecito and Cabeza de Toro, but keep in mind that the public access point is a road just south of the Melia Caribe Tropical resort. Boats bound for the Dolphin Island water park embark from Bavaro Beach as well.
El Cortecito is another popular beach, and it's also convenient as it abuts the Bavaro-Punta Cana downtown district of restaurants, grocery stores, gift shops and more. Travelers will find this small beach directly north of Playa Bavaro. Arena Gorda is the next beach, north of El Cortecito, and its wide sands and shallow waters make it a favored spot among families with young kids in tow. Others say it's a wonderful place for a long walk. Keep in mind that much of the beach is backed by large resorts, but there is a public access point along the Ocean Blue & Sand service entrance.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Punta CanaGolf, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDGolf, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
La Cana Golf Course boasts paspalum grass (a grass seed that can be hydrated with sea water), four holes directly along the seafront (and an additional 10 with ocean views), and plenty of prestige. Golf lovers appreciate that it's not as crowded or expensive as Punta Espada, plus they say this P.B. Dye-designed course is more scenic than the Lakes Barceló Golf Course.
Previous guests also say La Cana's prices are somewhat reasonable, considering its breathtaking scenery. Some however recommend bringing your own clubs since La Cana's are well worn.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Punta CanaNatural Wonders, Sightseeing, Swimming/Pools, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Sightseeing, Swimming/Pools, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Hoyo Azul Lagoon, also known as the "Blue Hole," is a cenote (or a natural swimming hole usually found in limestone caves) located at the foot of a cliff. The cenote sits within Scape Park, a natural theme park located within the resort and real estate development of Cap Cana. Tours of the swimming hole are offered through the theme park and include transportation to and from any Punta Cana or Bavaro hotels, a brief hike and swim in the turquoise waters. Alternatively, visitors can take a zip line tour of the cenote on the Farallon Zip Line course, which includes 16 platforms and eight lines that travel above cliffs, trees and finally into the cenote itself.
Recent visitors said that a dip into Hoyo Azul's waters are chilly, yet exhilarating. There's even a platform travelers can use for jumping into the cenote, which reviewers recommend. Others advised watching out for the bees, as there are massive beehives located inside the cave.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Punta CanaGolf, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDGolf, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Redesigned and remodeled by architect P.B. Dye in 2010, this par-72 course is one of the most popular spots to tee off in Punta Cana. Recent golfers said the only real downside to Barceló Bávaro's 18 holes is that they aren't situated near the ocean. Travelers say compared to the other golf courses located in Punta Cana, though, a round at "The Lakes" is quite a deal, adding that the course is in great condition. Some also recommend bringing extra balls since water is a major feature of the course.
The greenway is located on the grounds of the Barceló Bávaro Palace hotel, but open to outside guests as well. Day rates include equipment rental and hotel access, and hotel guests can make their reservations up to 90 days in advance. As with other courses, tee times here vary for hotel guests and non-hotel guests. For hotel guests, costs range from $50 to $75, depending on the season; for those not staying at the hotel, the cost is between $75 and $155, dependent on season and time of day. Visit Barceló Bávaro's website for more information.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Punta CanaSightseeing, Swimming/Pools, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Swimming/Pools, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
For around $100 you'll get a chance to learn about dolphins and even take a 40-minute swim with them. But is it worth it? Some say no. "Swimming" with the dolphins was a stretch – most just got to pet them and take a picture alongside them (which is an additional cost). Some travelers were chagrined by the treatment of the animals and the cost of the pictures.
But other travelers are quick to note that Dolphin Island seems more humane than the Manati Park, and if you're looking for a day excursion away from the resort (the park is situated at Bávaro Beach) this might be a better fit for you.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Punta CanaZoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you're trying to decide between Manatí Park and Dolphin Discovery Punta Cana (another popular interactive animal excursion), visitors generally agree: visit Manatí if you like birds and reptiles, but make the journey to Dolphin Discovery if you're into marine life. In addition to animal shows, Manatí Park also features Taíno dance performance shows.
Recent vacationers with kids in tow say that Manati Park offers fun for the whole family, commending the guides and the shows. However, recent visitors did share a few warnings for future travelers. The park provides a free shuttle, transporting visitors from hotels in Bávaro, Punta Cana and Uvero Alto to the attraction, but it operates on a set time schedule, meaning you can't leave at your leisure. This was a frustration for some visitors who wanted to leave before the shuttle departed. Several past visitors also griped about the cost for photos and food. Though you can bring your own camera, several areas of the park do not allow pictures – though you can have your picture taken by a staff member and purchase photos at the end of your visit.
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