Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Over 20% of tourists traveling to the Caribbean select the Dominican Republic as their destination. Over half of them vacation in Punta Cana. Come enjoy exceptional weather, ocean coastline and resort hospitality. Then leave with a smile and lasting memory of a great time.

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1 Introduction to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Welcome to Punta Cana. Yes, there is a downtown. It is only a couple blocks wide since opening in 2017. The surrounding area is technically called Bávaro. Yet most places along the 30 miles of eastern coastline refer to their location as Punta Cana. This is the marketing moniker for a mega-vacation destination. The nearby airport welcomes 3.6 million people a year. The main attractions are sun, surf and sand together with food, beverages and entertainment. This travel guide, plus the others for the Dominican Republic, identify some great places to see during your trip … assuming you ever leave your resort.

Downtown Punta Cana, Carretera Barcelo, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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2 Entertainment Options in Downtown Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Downtown Punta Cana offers some exciting nightlife options. Among the best is Coco Bongo. The dazzling shows, pounding music, crowded dancing and bottomless cocktails are all non-stop. Less commercial yet equally exciting alternatives are Imagine Nightclub (inside a cave), Mangu Disco (inside Occidental Grand Hotel) and Sins4Two (inside a mansion). Looking for family entertainment instead? Nearby are Dolphin Discovery, Dolphin Island Park, Manatí Park and Bávaro Adventure Park.

Coco Bongo, Centro Commercial Downtown, Carretera Barcelo, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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3 Shopping in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

There are two shopping malls near Downtown Punta Cana. This giant marlin marks the entrance to the San Juan Shopping Center. Retailers offer practical merchandise at a reasonable value. A few blocks north along Barceló Avenue is Palma Real Shopping Village. These stores carry higher-end brands with corresponding prices. You will not find anything at either mall that you can’t buy at home, except perhaps for Dominican souvenirs. Yet these are great options for finding what you forgot to pack or if you need a respite from the beach.

San Juan Shopping Center Bávaro, Avenida Barceló, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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4 Resorts in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The epicenter of your vacation in Punta Cana will be your resort. There are over 50 to select from with more being added each year. Most are all-inclusive. This means your food, beverages, amenities and entertainment are bundled into your daily rate. Prices vary significantly from budget hotels to ultra-luxury accommodations such as the five-star Barceló Bávaro Grand Resort. All Punta Cana resorts offer restaurants, bars, swimming pools and beach chairs. The upscale properties have more of everything plus add a casino and golf course. The resorts tend to cater to different demographics. Some are adult-only, others welcome families and occasionally these groups are segregated into different sections on the property. Regardless of your choice, book your reservation early. With an occupancy rate of 83% – even higher during the winter months – the best choice of rooms and rates goes to the early birds.

Barceló Bávaro Grand Resort, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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5 Bávaro Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Okay, it is time to convert your winter daydreams into tropical reality. Punta Cana has eight beaches. You have just arrived at Playa Bávaro. This is the best beach in La Altagracia Province and among the finest on the island. Endless white sand. Gentle waves rolling over a coral reef. Transparent balmy water. Coconut palms waving in the breeze. Sure, there is occasional seaweed. But the hotels are constantly grooming Bávaro Beach. No wonder this area is highly developed with resorts, shops, restaurants, water activities plus two water parks. They will not deter your joy during your long stroll. How long? From end-to-end, Bávaro Beach stretches for over six miles. For a public access, follow Calle Chicago ending at Meliá Caribe Tropical.

Playa Bávaro, Calle Chicago, Punta Cana 23301, Dominican Republic
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6 Bird Watching in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

There are several wetlands off the coast between Downtown Punta Cana and the airport. The largest is Laguna Bávaro. This reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Among the species are pelicans, herons, osprey, teal and the majestic great white egret. Efforts were made to develop this reserve for tourism. Hiking trails were created and kayaks were purchased for winding through the mangroves. Unfortunately, the wildlife refuge is under resourced and poorly maintained. Yet you can still enjoy its beauty by driving along Carretera Cabeza de Toro. This road less traveled is worthy of your binoculars. Other streets to consider are Avenida Barceló and Avenida Alemania.

Avenida Alemania, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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7 Resorts at Cabeza de Toro in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The next shoreline to get your swimsuit wet is Cabeza de Toro. This beach starts at the south end of Playa Bávaro, forms the oceanside boundary of Laguna Bávaro and then fronts a handful of vacation properties before becoming a public beach. Most resort guests have a busy day: suntan on the front, flip and repeat. Those seeking a complex itinerary go for an occasional swim or romantic stroll.

Catalonia Royal Bávaro, Cabeza de Toro, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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8 Gift Shops at Cabeza de Toro in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

There are few amenities at the public beach of Cabeza de Toro. Yet there is a cluster of retailers named Plaza Gift Shop. Beneath the thatched roofs are predominately beach and vacation attire and souvenirs plus offerings by local artisans. Nothing fancy. Nothing expensive. Worth a look while getting out of the sun.

Plaza Gift Shop Cabeza de Toro, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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9 Public Beach at Cabeza de Toro in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The public beach at Cabeza de Toro is delightful if you want to experience an undeveloped coastline epitomizing the Caribbean. The turquoise water is shallow, warm and calm … perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The sand is not groomed but a brilliant white and wide. The rows of palm trees are not cluttered with rows of beach chairs and loungers. And you will enjoy wildlife instead of a wild social life. Cabeza de Toro is the essence of peaceful tranquility.

Playa Cabeza de Toro, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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10 Macao Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

If you want to relish the finest public beach in Punta Cana, set your GPS headed north to Playa Macao. There are no resorts here … yet. Very few amenities except for a couple laidback restaurants, a surfing school plus vendors selling their crafts. The rest of this seashore is undeveloped. Nothing but flawless sand under a canopy of palm trees. UNESCO considers Macao Beach to be among the best in the Caribbean. No wonder it is popular among tourists and Dominicans.

Playa Macao, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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11 Picturesque Promontory at Macao Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The secret is out about the pristine coastline at Macao Beach. So in high season – especially on weekends – it can get crowded. Yet most swimsuit-clad vacationers concentrate near the entrance. The further you walk in either direction, the more you can be alone in paradise. Especially picturesque is this headland at the east end of the crescent-shaped cove. Some locals call this Playa Escondida meaning “hidden beach.” Shhh … don’t tell anybody about your tropical haven.

Playa Escondida, Playa Macao, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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12 Dune Buggies at Macao Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

If you get bored with perfection at Macao Beach, then strap yourself in for excitement with Adventure Boogies. Be prepared to get down and dirty while driving a dune buggy on a backroad excursion with interesting stops along the way. Afterwards, wash off during a swim in the Atlantic Ocean. Better yet, rent a surfboard or take a surfing lesson.

Playa Macao, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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13 Weather in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Of course you want to escape the cold and snow at home during the winter. You are looking for a destination where the weather would make Goldilocks exclaim, “This is just right!” Live your fairytale by vacationing in Punta Cana. From November through March, the average high is in the low 80s° Fahrenheit. At night, it drops by about ten degrees. And the water temperature is always in the upper 70s°. Oh, you also want a tan? How about 250 hours of sunshine a month. In short, Punta Cana has the quintessential Caribbean weather.

Playa Macao, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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14 Pool Bar in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Every major Punta Cana resort has several pools. Each is equipped with a bar within steps of your lounger. Better yet when the free adult beverages are served poolside. Some early risers confuse the pool bar with the breakfast buffet. Others mistakenly believe this is a form of pool aerobics. By noon, they become the hub for socializing in the sun. Those wishing to pace themselves take frequent naps. Rookies learn the consequences of getting sunburn from the thighs up. Everyone has fun while their skin and liver shrivel.

Breathless Punta Cana Resort, Carr Uvero Alto, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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15 Pool Foam Party in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Are there too many kids at the family pool? Is another pool too sedate, still another reserved for resort VIPs and still another always featuring pool exercises for out-of-shape old people? Keep looking until you find the hotel pool designed for you. How about joining a foam pool party? This is perfect if you love rocking music, scantily-clad dancers, floating beach balls and soaking with 50 gyrating anatomies at different stages of intoxication. Hop in! The water is crazy.

Breathless Punta Cana Resort, Carr Uvero Alto, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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16 Beach Band and Bar in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Some vacationers say to heck with any pool. They came to feel the sand between their toes. Smell the ocean air. Hear the rustle of palms overhead while the surf lulls them to sleep in a lounger. Ideally, a server should keep their glass full. And occasional beachside entertainment would be nice. Most Punta Cana resorts fill this wish list. They also provide beach games plus rentals for snorkeling, sailing, kayaking and other watersports. Now don’t you also wish this was a two week vacation?

Excellence El Carmen, Carr Uvero Alto, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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17 Uvero Alto Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The last stop of your sand and surf tour in Punta Cana is the furthest north: Uvero Alto Beach. In the center are a handful of high-end resorts. You need to be a hotel guest or purchase a day pass to enjoy their services. Flanking these properties are a few thatched roofs housing local artisans and beach masseurs. On either extreme … pure untouched Dominican beauty. If you want to savor the island coastline like nature intended, then hold a friend’s hand as you stroll into the sunset together.

Uvero Alto Beach, Punta Cana 23000, Dominican Republic
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18 Basilica Cathedral in Higüey near Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Salvaleón de Higüey is the eighth largest city in the Dominican Republic. It is located inland on the country’s east side. The name Higüey stems from the tribe of Taíno people who lived here before the Spanish brutally conquered them at the start of the 16th century. Today, most of the residents are employed in agriculture or tourism. Since 1970, the city’s architectural highlight is the Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of Altagracia. The Catholic church enshrines an image considered to be a Marian invocation. The Virgin of Altagracia painting shows the crowned Mary praying over her newborn. After the religious art arrived from Spain in 1502 and was gifted to a young girl, it became associated with several miracles. Since then, Our Lady of Altagracia has been revered as the spiritual protector of the Dominican Republic.

Our Lady Of La Altagracia's Basilica, Av. Juan XXII, Higuey 23000, Dominican Republic
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