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Hoyo Azul
Photograph: Courtesy ViatorHoyo Azul

The 10 best things to do in Punta Cana

The Caribbean at its most, well, Caribbean? There are lots of great things to do in Punta Cana

Written by
Claire Dodd
&
Sarah Arnold
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Nowhere does the dream of a Caribbean paradise quite like Punta Cana. The easternmost spot of the Dominican Republic is one of the region’s most famous resort towns, fame that every grain of its white sand deserves. This is the Dominican Republic at its most touristic, with more an incredible range of hotels waiting to accommodate those seeking its 32km of beaches and the clearest waters going.

Of course, the abundance of resorts brings with it a strange sense of commercialism, not to mention fears of over-tourism, but there is more to Latin America’s most visited town than all that. What are the best things to do in Punta Cana? A chocolate museum, for a start, and who doesn’t love chocolate? Throw in the national parks, the range of adventure activities and the incredible biodiversity, and you’ve got yourself a little slice of paradise on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. 

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Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in Punta Cana

What is it? This natural theme park’s limestone topography and pristine jungle provide many stunning views and walks – and there are historical attractions too.

Why go? The Farallon Cliff extends 800 meters along the coast, while there’s also a hidden cenote, caves and a zipline. The aim of the park was also to embrace the cultural heritage and traditions of Latin America and the Caribbean – with replica homes of the ancient Taino Indians, who occupied the land before the Conquistadors arrived.

What is it? A key part of Scape Park, this sinkhole (cenote) is hidden at the base of a 75-meter cliff.

Why go? The turquoise waters draw the crowds in. Hoyo Azul (Blue Hole) is a natural phenomenon filled with crystal-clear water. It’s wise to visit early as it can be very popular, and don’t forget to bring a swimming suit so you can bathe in the waters.

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What is it? An ecological park and reserve spread over 1,500 acres of subtropical forest.

Why go? This area is privately owned but dedicated to conservation and scientific research. Visitors can enjoy the 12 freshwater lagoons, five of which are open for swimming. Guama Lagoon is 26 feet deep and many love to dive off the platform here – certainly one for the GoPro.

Macao Beach

4. Macao Beach

What is it? Punta Cana’s public beach, where you’ll see plenty of locals, especially on Sundays.

Why go? It’s a popular surfing spot and was recently listed by Unesco as one of the Caribbean’s best beaches, mostly down to the clear waters and lovely white sand that’s fringed by tall palm trees.

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Saona Island

What is it? An untouched island off the coast of Punta Cana.

Why go? If you want to escape the tourist crowds, Saona Island is the paradise you need. The island is a government-protected nature reserve and part of the East National Park. You’ll find wildlife throughout the island, from birds to a beach full of starfish. If you’re lucky you’ll see sea turtles laying their eggs during nesting season.

Bavaro Beach

What is it? A bleach-white sand beach offering a range of watersports.

Why go? The clear waters off Bavaro Beach make it ideal for snorkelling and many hotels on the strip include snorkelling equipment in your stay. For the more adventurous, there are also numerous dive spots. Try parasailing, windsurfing or simply enjoy a dip in the shallow natural pools sectioned off by reefs.

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What is it? A museum about all things chocolate.

Why go? Other than because it’s a chocolate museum? ChocoMuseo is free and you can visit the ‘bean to bar’ factory to learn about the process, starting from the cacao harvest, along with the history of chocolate-making. You’ll even have a chance to attend a chocolate-making workshop.

What is it? A vibrant nightclub with ten shows a night.

Why go? This club knows how to put on a show – throughout the night impersonators recreate shows from artists including Michael Jackson and Queen. There are also trapeze artists and professional singers and dancers on stage at all times. Also, the club has an open bar – just pay the entrance fee.

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What is it? A restaurant serving local seafood and shellfish dishes.

Why go? It’s worth a visit for the setting alone. Walk along Bavaro Beach to get here and enjoy the stunning sea views over lunch or a sunset dinner while you listen to the waves. Some of the best dishes include snapper, mahi-mahi and sea bass – smothered with delicious house sauce.

What is it? A charming beachside restaurant and guesthouse.

Why go? Casual, unpretentious, and right by the sea, the Capri Beach House has a laidback, non-chain feel to it. It’s tucked away in a little area the developers haven’t got to yet, where there are plenty of characterful independent cafés frequented by locals, plus gift shops and stalls selling art. Sit under the palms with a piña colada and order the very reasonably priced lobster.

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