43 Uniquely Fun Things to Do in Punta Cana + Excursions & Local Hidden Gems

Punta Cana is a paradise in the Dominican Republic, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea. It’s best known for its endless stretch of white sandy beaches lined with towering palm trees and lavish resorts with affordable all-inclusive amenities. There are activities for everyone in Punta Cana, no matter how adventurous or relaxed you plan to be. But whatever you do, don’t forget to respect the island’s wildlife and natural beauty.

Table of Contents

I. Getting Around Punta Cana

  • Airport Transfer: You can pre-book this private airport transfer from Punta Cana airport, where they’ll have a sign with your name upon arrival. You can also try a private van transport.
  • Uber: Uber is relatively new in Punta Cana, so there are a lot of new drivers who are still learning how to use the GPS/app. To avoid headaches, be sure the driver you get has more than 4.95 stars and at least a couple hundred rides. Or use the “Uber Select” feature. It will cost you more, but you’ll get a more experienced driver.
  • Taxis: You can order a taxi from your hotel, just note that it will likely be about 5x the cost of an Uber.
  • Car Rental: This is hands down the best way to get around Punta Cana. You can rent a car from Discover Cars and hire one from Expedia.
  • Jose Manuel: We loved Jose Manuel so much, that we decided to hire him for the rest of our trip. This is his Whatsapp number: (849)403-4647. He gave us permission to share. He was very respectful to us as women travelers and always on time.

II. Which Area to Stay in Punta Cana

Punta Cana is huge. It can take you 90 minutes to drive from one end to the other! And you may have to drive a bit even within many of the “neighborhood” complexes and resorts. For instance, Cap Cana is the size of Manhattan! So choose the Punta Cana area wisely. Here are the regions I recommend depending on what you want:

  • Southern Area: Cap Cana or Punta Cana Club are enormous luxury gated communities with their own restaurants, beaches, resorts, condos, natural parks, and more. This southern Punta Cana area is perfect if you want closer access to La Romana, Cotubanamá National Park, Santo Domingo, Isla Saona, Scape Park, Ojos Indigenas, the airport, the Blue Mall, and El Nacional (the best supermarket in Punta Cana).
  • Middle Area: Los Corales is hands down the best place to stay in Punta Cana if you’re a solo traveler, want to meet people, and love walking around small businesses, restaurants, and beach bars. This region is also ideal for its central location as it’s less than 30-ish minutes away from all the Punta Cana highlights. Bavaro is also here as a second option if you prefer a resort stay.
  • Northern Punta Cana: Macao and Uvero Alto are the main spots in the north. They offer closer proximity to the city of Higuey and off-the-beaten-path natural wonders like Los Haitises National Park, Jalda Waterfall, Zumbador Waterfall, Miches, and Montana Redonda.

Scroll below for the best hotels in Punta Cana that I recommend!

III. 43 Best Things to Do in Punta Cana Excursions

1. Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve (Ojos Indígenas) ★

The Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve is a protected area within the privately-owned Punta Cana Resort & Club. I was worried it would be overcrowded and touristy but it ended up being a serene experience exploring the natural cenote-like pools. This reserve covers about 1,500 acres and is home to several important ecological systems, including mangroves, lagoons, and wetlands.

Indigenous Eyes is frequented by travelers of all types: independent travelers, families, and group tours. So if you don’t like the vibe at one pool, head to the next! I loved walking through the quiet, easy trails between each cenote pool.

Note: You cannot swim in ALL the pools, only a select few. But these few are so beautiful, that they are worth the relaxing half-day trip! You can book a guided tour here or go on your own!

2. Scape Park (Hoyo Azul & More) ★

You can get a full day of adventure by purchasing a pass to Hoyo Azul & Scape Park, boasting thrilling landscapes over a 247-acre natural park. Here, guests can swim in caves and caverns, zipline through the jungle, go on easy hiking trails, tour local wildlife by boat, and much more.

Your admission ticket grants you full-day access to several attractions. For Dominicans with ID, there is a discount to make it more accessible to the local community.

Tour option: You could also take a full-day tour, that includes round-trip transport from your hotel in Punta Cana. Or you can arrive on your own by Uber/taxi.

You need at least a full day here to enjoy everything they offer. And no, you don’t need to be an adrenaline-seeker to enjoy this place.

3. Los Haitises National Park Day Trip

Los Haitises National Park has spectacular natural beauty and is perfect for adventure seekers who love kayaking, hiking, bird watching, and caving experiences. There are several mangrove forests along the coast and caves with carvings by our indigenous Taino ancestors, the principal inhabitants before the European invasions. You can visit as a day trip from Punta Cana. Here are some tour options:

4. Punta Cana Sailing Tour 

You can join this award-winning Punta Cana sailing and snorkeling tour, which is perfect for groups of 16 and under and are a destination activity for explorers traveling to the Dominican Republic. You get a chance to swim in the nature reserve, relax in beachside hammocks with complimentary drinks, and experience catamaran cruising at its finest.

5. Go to the Spas in Punta Cana ★

Picture this: hearing tropical beach waves and feeling the gentle warm breeze while getting a professional massage under a palm tree hut. That was my experience at the Flavio Acuna Spa in Los Corales. It’s about $90 + tip, but it was one of our best investments!

Although the owner is a bit intense, you can tell he cares a lot and has done a great job because the staff and service were excellent. Originally from Uruguay, he’s been in the country for 20 years and has become a leading figure in wellness.

This spa is great for solo travelers, friends, or couples seeking joint sessions. You can finish your wellness morning, by getting a smoothie or a healthy lunch at JOY Nutritional (on the same block as Flavio Acuna Spa).

Another more luxurious option we heard great things about was Six Senses Spa at Punta Cana Resort & Club, however, this one is WAY more expensive and offers higher-end amenities.

6. Taino Cave Swim + ATV Buggies (Macao)

This Taino Cave is located within a protected area and is home to various flora and fauna, including bats and other small animals. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour and explore the underground chambers and passages adorned with stalactites and stalagmites. This cave is a popular destination for tourists who combine their visit with an ATV tour.

You’ll be led by a local guide across several different Punta Cana landscapes, each tour taking about 4 hours. Be prepared to get muddy and wet while you explore cenotes and caves!

7. Cotubanamá National Park (National Park of the East) 

Cotubanamá National Park (Parque del Este) is by far one most visted parts of La Romana, just an hour west of Puna Cana. This national park is most famous for Isla Saona (also mentioend below) but it also offers zipline tours, natural pools, beaches, and fantastic caves (like the Jose Maria Cave with Taino hieroglyphic paintings). If you love hiking, Parque del Este is also home to Anamuya Mountain (listed below).

8. Hike Anamuya Mountain

If you plan to visit Cotubanamá National Park, consider booking a hiking tour up to Anamuya Mountain! Outback Adventures offers half-day guided trips through this majestic summit, where you can learn more about the island’s fauna and flora along the way. Bring your binoculars for birdwatching and spotting local wildlife. This opportunity is great for avoiding crowds and touristy spots. 

Don’t miss our guide to the best hiking trails in the Dominican Republic!

9. Catamaran Snorkeling Tours 

Snorkeling in the Caribbean is a fantastic experience, and there are several opportunities for you to go out on your own adventure if you want to rent equipment. If you’d instead book a guide, take this tour by Coral Nursery Snorkeling + Seafood, which treats guests to a catamaran tour while cruising to the perfect snorkeling location. Each guest receives the equipment, a seafood lunch, pick-up/drop-off service, and complimentary beverages. 

10. Visit Saona Island 

Saona Island is an ideal snorkeling spot with several secret places to explore. Booking this small-group Saona Island Tour will allow you to explore this secluded paradise with a full-day speedboat and snorkeling excursion, stopping at a starfish-filled swimming pool and white sand beach. You can also try this private Saona Island tour which takes you through the town of Mano Juan, the location of one of the biggest turtle conservations on the island!

11. Go on a Buggy Tour Ride

Book an off-road dune buggy adventure if you want to explore some of the best places in Punta Cana you can only access through scenic backcountry roads. Select this half-day buggy tour, which is perfect for friends and families and stops at a water cave and Macao Beach. You can also book this FULL day tour that combines ATV riding + snorkeling, and sailing. Whew! Whichever tour you decide on, please ride safely and responsibly to protect local wildlife and landscapes. 

12. Visit the Best Beaches in Punta Cana ★

Punta Cana has some of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic.

  • Macao Beach, which you can book a tour of, is a local favorite for its natural surroundings, miles of serene shoreline, and turquoise waters. I didn’t like the seafood there too much. So bring snacks or eat after.
  • Los Corales Beach is one of my FAVORITE Punta Cana spots covered in white sand and close to small business bars, restaurants, and spas.
  • Juanillo Beach in Cap Cana is my favorite beach in Punta Cana! It’s about $30 to enter.
  • Playa Blanca in Punta Cana Club, is also private and costs about $20 to enter. But you may be able to get that money back as a restaurant credit. Or, you can combine this visit with Ojos Indigenas reserve, which is well worth it!

13. Helicopter Flight Tour 

Explore the true wonder of Punta Cana from the air by taking a helicopter tour over the island! Helidosa Helicopter Excursions are the Dominican Republic’s most experienced helicopter company, offering tours over Bavaro and Arena Gorda beaches with panoramic views. Punta Cana Helicopters also offers a variety of tours and packages, including sightseeing flights, excursions, and proposal packages for couples.

14. Small Airplane Tour to Samana Day Trip ★

Traveling by airplane around the Dominican Republic is a terrific experience and a great way to sightsee while you travel. You can book this plane day tour to Samana offered by ReefJet Air. This includes horseback riding along El Limon Waterfall and Cayo Levantado and accommodate small groups of up to 8 people. Your ticket also covers all national park fees, beverages, and lunch. 

If you want to only book the Samana flight without the tours then the price goes from $300 to $160 round trip! Samana has one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Dominican Republic with unique opportunities to see spectacular natural wonders and pristine beaches.

You can also take a full-day tour to El Limon Waterfall and Bacardi Island to view some of the best Dominican waterfalls and caves by catamaran boat and horseback. 

15. Whale Watching in Samana

Another option after you fly into Samana for the day is to experience Humpback whales in their natural environment while in Punta Cana. You can book your own whale tour here. Or, do a road trip guided tour (no flight) by booking this sanctuary whale tour in Samana. You’ll first travel by bus through the beautiful countryside to the Bavarian town of Miches, have a private breakfast, and then hop on a speedboat to the ocean.

Mid-December to late March is the best time to visit the Dominican Republic to see these magnificent creatures. We recommend bringing binoculars, a camera, and some snacks. 

16. Horseback Riding

Combine your love for beaches and horses by taking this sunset horseback riding tour in Punta Cana. It lasts about 2 hours as you ride through the beach and countryside led by a local guide. You can also try this beach/mountain horseback tour for a daytime ride, which will take you through the region’s best rural and isolated beach locations. Wear long pants to protect your legs on your ride!

17. Los Corales Neighborhood & Beach ★

Los Corales neighborhood beach is a safe and walkable residential area perfect for travelers who want to venture away from the industrial feel of resort communities. Los Corales offers small businesses, restaurants, and local nightlife. The beach here is also terrific for roaming, shopping, or stopping for a bite to eat at bars/beachside restaurants.

Some ideas here include TOC, Soles Beach Restaurant, Flavio Acuna, or grabbing a drink at Flamingo Bar! Wacamole also used to be great but it didn’t have the same vibe last time I was there. Maybe it was just the season?

18. Ziplining 

Punta Cana is home to some of the longest ziplines in the Caribbean, traversing through the lush and lavish jungle just like the local wildlife. This zipline adventure experience offers 18 platforms and a 12-line course to allow you to travel with a partner. This Monkeyland and zipline adventure is another popular experience perfect for families, though it can be a little more pricey and is likely to sell out quickly. 

19. Get a Private Photoshoot Experience 

Document your trip to Punta Cana by booking a professional photoshoot on some of the most beautiful beaches in the region. Take a sunset photo shoot, which is super popular to catch once-in-a-lifetime views across the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Some photographers offer these private photoshoots with transportation to select the most beautiful sites for your shoot. 

20. Montana Redona + Costa Esmeralda Beach (Half Day Trip)

Montana Redona (Round Mountain) is one of the most desired natural attractions in Punta Cana, where it’s impossible not to fall in love with nature. This Round Mountain Beach Lemon tour will take you through lagoon El Limon and up 1,000 feet to catch breathtaking views before descending to Playa Esmeralda– a gorgeous, unspoiled beach. This other Round Mountain + Esmeralda Beach tour provides hot meals while you swing and hammock over paradise. 

21. Punta Cana Lagoon

Punta Cana Lagoon is an oasis in the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve with a natural freshwater pool for taking a swim. We recommend booking a half-day Punta Cana lagoon tour that offers a catamaran cruise and snorkeling experience. This is one of the best excursions in Punta Cana, fitting for families and travelers of all ages. Bring swimming gear, a towel, bug spray, and your camera! 

22. Visit Higuey City

Higuey City is the capital city of the eastern La Altagracia Province and one of the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic. It’s full of culture and unforgettable sites that deepen your understanding of the region and its rich history. Book a half-day excursion to tour the city by air-conditioned transport and visit the most popular attractions, including La Basilica, a cocoa/coffee/sugar cane plantation, and other historical spots. 

23. Day Trip to Santo Domingo (Tours or Solo) ★

Santo Domingo: the capital and largest, most exciting city on the island! I love this city so much that I gave it its own things to do in Santo Domingo guide here. But real quick, for a day trip, the top highlight is Santo Domingo’s La Zona Colonial with its many restaurants, art spaces, shops, and museums.

La Zona Colonial is where local artists, LGBTQ community, and millennials/gen-z meet to hang out or host events. Unlike most “historic zones” around the world, ours is not just for tourists. And it’s well worth a day exploring. It’s also the safest and most walkable part of Santo Domingo. If you don’t want to travel independently, then consider booking this full-day tour or this half-day guided tour

24. Butterfly House + Garden 

One of the most wondrous sites to visit on an excursion in Punta Cana is the Butterfly House & Garden at Rancho Baiguate. Photographers will enjoy the challenge of catching these tropical beauties in all shapes, colors, and designs. It’s super important to be respectful of the environment these creatures live in while you attempt to capture their beauty. 

25. Catalina Island Day Trip

Catalina Island (Isle Catalina) is a tropical paradise 1.5 miles off the mainland at the southeast corner near La Romona and La Altagracia. It’s a secluded destination for cruises and excursions with excellent bookable snorkeling tours, including a catamaran sail down the Chavon River. Two of the best snorkeling spots are “The Wall” (30-ft deep with color fish) and “The Aquarium” (4 meters deep)– or you can free jump by boat! 

26. Punta Cana Deep-Sea Fishing 

Fishing enthusiasts will love deep-sea fishing in the colorful tropical waters surrounding Punta Cana. Santa Elena Fishing offers high-quality fishing boats welcoming all ages to catch Atlantic Ocean species like Blue and White Marlin, Wahoo, Sailfish, and more. Big Marlin Charters is another favorite that books deep-sea fishing, inshore fishing, reef spearfishing, and party boat-reef snorkeling. 

27. Salto El Zumbador Waterfall Day Trip

Salto El Zumbador features two picturesque falls: El Zumbador Chiquito and El Zumbador Grande. You can access the falls at the gate of Los Haitises National Park, but there is a 1.2-mile hike, so be prepared. Bring your camera to capture the falls and your swim gear to take a dip surrounded by tropical vegetation. While you’re there, check out the Yanigua and Fun-Fun waterfalls nearby!

28. Scuba Diving Experience + Lesson 

Explore the reefs under the Punta Canta waters up close and personal in a scuba diving adventure. This experience offers scuba diving lessons by a PADI Dive Instructor, and lets divers start off slow in the coral reef before moving to deeper waters. All scuba equipment is provided.

Note: Unless you are trained, scuba diving is an activity you’ll want to take lessons in before trying. 

29. Ponce de Leon Colonial House-Museum 

This museum is set in San Rafael de Yuma, 40 minutes from Punta Cana. It’s the former home of 16th-century Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. Visitors can tour the stone museum and verdant yard, looking at the stunning landscape, perfect for a picnic. There are various preserved artifacts and household items to peruse and period furniture for history buffs. 

30. Swim with Dolphins 

Swimming with dolphins is a unique experience you must try at least once. This dolphin explorer experience provides swim interactions in Punta Cana, where you can learn about these fantastic creatures. You’ll get to watch a show before getting a chance to take a swim and get a kiss! This experience is about 1 hour long and doesn’t include food and drinks. 

31. Altos de Chavon in La Romana

Altos de Chavon is a tourist attraction in La Romona recreated to look like a 16th-century Mediterranean-style village. It’s one of the busiest spots in the city and has a cultural center, amphitheater, and archeological museum to enjoy. You could spend all day here exploring, with additional dining and shopping opportunities onsite. 

32. Golfing in Punta Cana

Golfing is one of the best things to do in the Dominican Republic if you desire a relaxing activity with great views. Punta Espada Golf Course is considered among the world’s finest courses, featuring eight holes right along the sea! La Cana Golf Course is another magnificent green by the ocean, with a high level of difficulty and voted “number one course in the Caribbean” by Golf Magazine. 

33. Party Boat 

Grab a group of friends and book a party boat cruise to move your celebration to the ocean. This is one of the best excursions in Punta Cana and allows you to see the sunset from the sea while enjoying tropical cocktails, music, and room to dance. If you want to be social with other boats, there’s a nearby sandbar to dock at. You can also snorkel and swim with tropical fish.

34. Bavaro Adventure Park 

This attraction has a little bit of everything regarding staying active in Punta Cana. Bavaro Adventure Park has 44 hectares of land and 5.5 km of trails onsite to offer guests. You can book several tours, including dune buggies, Polaris, and horseback riding adventures. They also have a zipline course and a waterfall pool. 

35. Coco Bongo Nightclub ★

Visit Coco Bongo, which is one of the most well-known nightclubs in Latin America! They have a ton of special events, live shows, and non-stop action. I’ve never been but I continue to hear great things about this nightclub due to its spectacles. You can book round-trip transportation to and from your hotel! This is an adults-only club and can get very crowded, with confetti and lights.

36. Jeep Safari

Jeep Safaris are a fun way to explore Punta Cana away from the touristy areas. This 4×4 Open To Jeep Tour takes you through secluded beaches and jungle terrain and includes a peaceful picnic lunch, horseback riding, and zipline experience! You even get professional photos sent to you after your trip.

Note: You can book an unshared jeep (with two people), but you’ll have to pay for three spots. 

37. Hike Salto la Jalda Waterfall 

If you’re an avid hiker, this is a must-do in Punta Cana! Visit Salto la Jalda, the highest waterfall in the Caribbean, which cascades 1,246 feet down. The hike is a 7.8-mile out-and-back trail that takes about 3.5 hours, with moderate difficulty due to river crossings and muddy/boggy areas. Bring your bug spray to help battle LOTS of mosquitoes. If you’d like a guided tour, you could consider booking a private hiking tour that offers a full day hike through Salto La Jalda.

38. Chocolate & Coffee Tasting Farm Tour 

This ATV takes you on a sweet adventure to taste the best chocolate and coffee in Punta Cana. This tour will provide 4×4’s for a half-day trip to a local organic farm to taste test chocolate and coffee products, continuing to Taino Ecological Park and Macao Beach to end with a dip in the cenote of a freshwater cave. Wear something that you don’t mind getting wet and muddy! 

39. Go Shopping at Blue Mall ★

This impressively designed mall offers local, international, affordable, and higher-end shopping. It is conveniently located near the Punta Cana airport and just across the street from the best supermarket in the country: El Nacional.

Here, you can also find the incredible restaurant SBG Punta Cana which offers lunch and dinner options (until midnight). This restaurant is a MUST!!!! <– that’s four exclamation points.

IV. Best Hotels to Stay in Punta Cana

  • Hyatt Zilara $$$$: This all-inclusive resort is one of the best resorts in the Dominican Republic, offering spacious rooms with ocean views, private balconies, and a fantastic spa. There’s a world-class fitness center and a wonderful spa that looks like a cave!
  • Villa Rental $$$$$: Stay in this 6-bedroom rental in Villa Palma, which is 14 miles from Punta Cana. It is located in a gated community and has access to amenities at Coctoal Golf & Country Club facilities. The favorite guest amenities are the modern rooms, attentive staff, and private pool and jacuzzi.  
  • Sanctuary Cap Cana Resort: Book this adult-only, all-inclusive resort for magnificent views of the ocean, four pools, and luxury suites. This is perfect for travelers (and couples) desiring direct beach access, 24/concierge service, and onsite restaurants. 
  • Los Corales Villa & Spa: This 5-star hotel is just off Arena Gorda Beach and has amazing spa services, cozy rooms, and stunning views. There is a private beach area, but you must pay to access it. I loved the massages at their spa: Flavio Acuna. 

V. Where to Eat in Punta Cana

  • SBG Punta Cana: ★ Hands down, my favorite restaurant in Punta Cana. Gorgeous interior that spans across two rooms, a bus, and a hallway with Dominican tributes and art. The food here is phenomenal, too. Don’t miss the Nutella fondant dessert!
  • Jelly Fish: Relaxing atmosphere with fine dining just 20 minutes from the Punta Cana airport. You can enjoy beachfront views with upscale entrees with a mix of Caribbean, European and American dishes. Don’t miss the red snapper + risotto plate and the Maine-style lobster here.
  • La Yola (Cap Cana): This award-winning restaurant is in the Puntacana Resort & Club, serving a variety of Caribbean, Latin, and Seafood cuisine with ocean views. Favorite dishes include pumpkin risotto, tuna tartare, and fantastic salads. It was closed when we went but we heard excellent things!
  • La Palapa (by Eden Roc): This oceanside restaurant is located in the Eden Roc Beach Club, perfect for a romantic dinner. The sunsets are beautiful here, and they serve Mediterranean, Caribbean, and International food. Get the coconut milk red snapper dish! It’s also just a two-minute walk from Blue Grill, which offers Asian-inspired seafood plates like sushi and sashimi. Both have live music sometimes.
  • TOC: This place had the crunchiest tostones I’ve ever had in my life! With some gorgeous beach views in Los Corales. I didn’t eat much here, but the views were worth me adding it to the list!

VI. Departing Punta Cana

Looking to travel? You can book several buses and transfers outside of Punta Cana to explore other parts of the island: 

VII. Other Dominican Republic Blog Posts

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3 thoughts on “43 Uniquely Fun Things to Do in Punta Cana + Excursions & Local Hidden Gems

  1. Hieu Tran says:

    Hi Gerry, we will spend a night in Saola Island. As information we got, there is only 1 boat a day from Bayahibe to Saola Island (at 9:00am) and vice versus (at 2:30pm). However, we really want to come back to Bayahibe earlier (around 12:00pm). Just wonder if any way we can come back to Bayahibe earlier instead of wating for boat at 2:30pm. Thanks

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