Punta Cana

Destination Location

Punta Cana
Hotel reviews summary
5.0

Our guest rating from 5 reviews

Overview

If you’re a sand and surf lover, we know you’ll find paradise in Punta Cana. Wiggle your toes in soft, white sand and look out at an endless expanse of beach stretching for 60 km in La Altagracia province on the east coast of the Dominican Republic.

The area known as Punta Cana is actually a string of nine pristine beach areas running from Playa Uvero Alto – about an hour’s drive north of the Punta Cana airport – to Playa Juanillo in Cap Cana, half an hour to the south. Come marvel at the blue waters on this stretch of beaches where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean.

In Punta Cana, you can chill out on the beach or take part in a myriad of aquatic activities. Sport fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling, windsurfing and sailing are just some of the many options. Take a “flying boat” ride over the waves (it’s like a cross between hang gliding and hover crafting), party on a double-decker boat or dine by the sea. You’ll quickly discover why this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean.

Most of the more than 80 hotels boast beachfront locations and you’re sure to find a property to suit your individual tastes. Famous all-inclusive resorts include Excellence, Dreams, Bahia Principe, Iberostar, Paradisus and Hard Rock. Many offer day and night passes, allowing you to sample everything the property has to offer, including food and drinks.

If you like a challenge on the links, check out the dozen pro-level golf courses here. Punta Cana is considered the largest single destination for golf in the Caribbean and the odds are in your favour when it comes to the weather. It hardly ever rains here and when it does, it’s likely just after dusk. Tee up on a Jack Nicklaus course in Cap Cana or a Tom Fazio design in Los Corales and be awed by the beauty of the ocean vistas during your round.

Beyond beaches and golf, you’ll discover gleaming new shopping centres, dozens of independent restaurants, hopping nightlife, pampering spas and every kind of excursion you could imagine.

Punta Cana is a fantastic destination for:

  • beaches
  • romance
  • spa and wellness

Airport served by: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)

Destination basics

The weather in Punta Cana is pleasantly warm year-round. While there are only a few degrees difference in temperature from season to season, the humidity can play a key role. However, travellers here can count on extended periods of sunshine and blue skies just about anytime of the year.

During the slightly cooler season from November to April, temperatures in Punta Cana along the coast are constant around 29 C during the day and dropping to a comfortable 20 C at night. During this season, humidity is relatively low and so is precipitation.

In the hot season, which runs roughly from May to October, the average temperature rises to 31 C during the day and drops to about 22 C at night. However, due to the high level of humidity during this season, it often feels hotter. Quick rain showers and minor tropical storms bring some breaks from the heat.

Despite the small difference between the temperatures in summer and winter, the climate tends to vary from year to year due to the influence of the weather phenomena known as El Niño and La Niña.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Punta Cana

Before the 1980s, Punta Cana was mostly beach and scrub. Cattle and horse ranchers from Higüey, the capital of La Altagracia province, owned much of the land, including the beach areas. The tourism industry began in 1969, when a group of investors from the United States and the Dominican Republic acquired some land with a vision to develop the area as a travel destination.

Today, Punta Cana is a cosmopolitan blend of many nations, with a distinct Dominican flavour. Europeans, Canadians and Americans have invested millions in hotel and residential development and have brought pieces of their own cultures with them. Haitians who migrated to the area to build the resorts have also left their mark. Many of the colourful, expressive paintings sold in the artisanal markets are Haitian, or at least Haitian-influenced.

Look to your hotel lobby for works of Dominican art by top local artists and architects such as the impressive metal sculptures of Jose Ignacio Morales. Known as El Artistico, Morales has more than 30 years of experience in sculpture fabrication and decoration in the Dominican Republic.

You can view the artwork of leading Dominican artist Thimo Pimental, including his Huellas mural in honour of the original Igneri settlers of Cap Cana, at the Punta Cana Village Mall.

Cuisine here is a blend of Spanish, Taíno and African traditions. Rice, beans and plantains are staples in Dominican cooking. You’ll often find familiar ingredients prepared in new ways, including boiled green bananas commonly served as a side vegetable.

Try mangu – a savory puree of mashed plantains made with butter and milk or mofongo - mashed fried green plantains made with meat and a bit of crushed garlic. Local herbs are often used when cooking but spicy dishes are not very common. Papaya, passion fruit, pineapple and the sweetest bananas you will ever taste are always in season and an absolute must to try when dining in the Dominican.

The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso. Most hotels, restaurants and businesses accept major credit cards. If you would prefer to have cash on hand, both Canadian and U.S. money can be exchanged for the peso during your stay at both banks and exchange booths (called casas de cambio). Most hotels and resorts also offer currency exchange services.

If you need to withdraw funds, you’ll find bank machines at many resorts and popular shopping areas. Please note that local ATMs only dispense funds in pesos and fees vary.

To avoid carrying a large amount of cash, a mix of payment options is recommended.

To visitors arriving into Punta Cana for the first time, it may seem that it is entirely composed of shockingly white beaches, verdant palm trees, and azure waters. However, if you spend a bit of time in this slice of paradise, you will find that this small community is bursting with life, from the artisan markets of Bavaro, to the surf shops of Macao.

Bavaro

Known for its high-end, all-inclusive resorts and stunning beaches, Bavaro is perhaps that most frequently visited area of Punta Cana. Located to the north of the Punta Cana airport, this neighborhood features many attractions to delight and entertain. The small community of El Cortecito can also be found in the Bavaro area. El Cortecito is a small fishing village that is mostly populated by locals. Here, visitors will find bustling markets, including an artisan market that is bursting with beautiful crafts and food stalls. Aside from the all-inclusive resorts, Bavaro is best known for its spectacular restaurants, like the ever-popular Jellyfish, and for the Dolphin Park, where families can swim with friendly and vivacious dolphins.

Macao

As Punta Cana’s newest resort hotspot, Macao is a little less developed and a little less touristy than Bavaro to the south. Home to Macao Surf Camp, Playa Macao is a stunning stretch of azure water that is a perfect spot to learn to surf. Hotels like the Hotel Rui Palace Macao offer all-inclusive options, while smaller, boutique hotels draw travelers looking for a more peaceful stay.

Playa Uvero Alto

Known for its exclusive luxury resorts, Playa Uvero Alto is Punta Cana’s northernmost neighborhood. Home to swanky spots like the oceanfront Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana, Playa Uvero Alto is where vacationing celebrities often flock to for some secluded suntanning.

Sports

Golfers may think they have found themselves in paradise upon arriving in Punta Cana. This area of the Dominican Republic boasts an astounding number of golf courses, each more beautiful than the next. Barcelo was the first golf course to be constructed in the area, and it continues to be a favorite among visiting golf enthusiasts. Other options include stunning Corales, which stretches along the sparkling ocean, and Iberostate Golf Course, which was designed by P.B. Dye and winds its way through the idyllic hills above Punta Cana’s stretch of resorts.


Outdoor Activities

Flanked by both the shining Atlantic Ocean and the cerulean Caribbean Sea, there is an endless variety of outdoor activities to indulge in while staying in Punta Cana. A 30-kilometer long reef teeming with underwater life lies just off of Punta Cana’s coast.


A variety of shops offer snorkel rentals, which you can use to explore the shallow waters just off of Catalonia Royal Beach, a local-favorite snorkeling spot. Resorts and private companies also offer snorkeling tours, which takes groups out to secure snorkel sites along the Cabeza de Toro area that are free of boat traffic. Keep your eyes peeled for trumpet fish and smooth trunkfish. Be mindful of the boat traffic that cruises past Punta Cana while out enjoying your underwater adventure.


For those who would like to drift a bit further into the deep, scuba diving is also available in Punta Cana. Scuba-enthusiasts can dive with green sea turtles and yellow stingrays in the warm waters of the Caribbean.


Land lovers who prefer to only get their toes wet have a number of beaches to choose from on which to catch some rays and take in the scenery. Playa Bavaro is one of the most popular places to enjoy the area’s powder-white beaches, while Playa Juanillo boasts a wide expanse of beach edged by emerald palm trees and turquoise waters. Hikers and bird watchers can also make their way to the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve, where trails winding through subtropical forests are waiting to be explored. Be sure to bring your bathing suit, as the park contains several stunning lagoons, five of which visitors are welcome to swim in.


Cinema

Movie-lovers can catch the latest films at Caribbean Cinemas Bavaro, located in the San Juan Shopping Center. Browse the shops before your movie begins. Be sure to check with the front desk of the resort you are staying at, because many resorts put on outdoor movies and entertainment throughout the week.

Museums/Historic Sites

If you enjoy learning about the history of the area you are visiting, the Altos de Chavón Regional Museum of Archaeology is a must-see while staying in Punta Cana. One of the area’s only museums, The Altos de Chavón houses an extensive collection of indigenous objects that date from the pre-agricultural era to modern day cultural items. Visitors to the museum can learn about the cultures that have called this area home for centuries, long before the Spanish conquistadors arrived.  


Nightlife

After a day spent lounging on the beach, Punta Cana’s nightclubs offer an exciting way to spend your evening. World-famous DJs fly into this tropical paradise to play their most popular beats while visitors and locals alike tear it up on the dance floor. Some of Punta Cana’s most popular spots for dancing include Imagine Nightclub, Drink Point, and Mangu Disco, all of which are sure to delight with their jaw-dropping light displays and heart-pounding beats.

In Punta Cana, there is an endless selection of beachside dining options to choose from. Whether you desire to revel in delicacies from the sea, or would like to sample some international fare, Punta Cana’s restaurant scene has much to offer. Most resorts and hotels feature at least one on-site restaurant, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get out and explore local dining options as well.


Bavaro

The Punta Cana restaurant scene may perhaps be best known for its seafood selection. Restaurants lining the white, sandy seascape of Playa Bavaro specialize in gifts from the sea prepared in a variety of ways. Dine at La Yoya, an elegant restaurant housed in a recreated fishing boat, where guests are served delicate seafood dishes prepared with Mediterranean flare. For a more lively atmosphere, head to Jellyfish or Don Queco Cigar & Rum Bar, both longtime favorites of visitors and locals alike.


Macao

Visitors to Playa Macao will find several spots to dine on fresh seafood while sitting at tables perched on the beach’s velvety sand. Restaurant El Fogon de mi Abuela and Restaurante Playa Macao Paola Pamela Y Victor both offer freshly caught seafood alongside local dishes. Local fare consists of hearty meat dishes paired with starches like potatoes, flavorful red beans, and delectable plantains. Dominican dishes feature Taino Indian, African and Spanish characteristics that create a unique fusion of spices. One of the most celebrated local dishes is casabe, a delicious flatbread made from the yucca plant that has been prepared by Taino families for centuries.


Playa Uvero Alto

Most of Uvero Alto’s restaurants can be found at the ultra luxurious resorts and boutique hotels that line the pristine waters of Playa Uvera Alto. For a more laidback atmosphere, head to the tropical El Navegante Seafood & Grill, where you can sample delectable dishes with your feet in the sand.

Punta Cana 

Country: Dominican Republic

City By the Numbers  

Population: 44,000

Elevation: 89.5 feet / 27.31 meters

Average Annual Precipitation:

Average Winter Temperature: 25°C / 77°F

Average Summer Temperature: 28°C / 82°F

Average Temperature by Month

January: 29°C / 84℉

February: 29°C / 84℉

March: 30°C / 86℉

April: 31°C / 87.8℉

May: 31°C / 87.8℉

June: 32°C / 89.6℉

July: 32°C / 89.6℉

August: 32°C / 89.6℉

September: 32°C / 89.6℉

October: 32°C / 89.6℉

November: 30°C / 86℉

December: 29°C / 84℉

Best Time to Visit


Visitors would like to avoid peak season crowds while still enjoying long, warm days should visit between March and May.


Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 and 120 volts, AC

Time Zone: GMT-4

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 809

Currency: The Dominican Peso


Did You Know?

Before resorts and hotels began to be built, the area that today is known as Punta Cana was actually called Drunkerd’s Point. The group of investors who first set their eyes on Punta Cana’s white beaches thought it might be best to “rebrand” the area and remove “drunkerd” from its name.


Orientation

Punta Cana is located along both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic. It is 123 miles (198 kilometers) from Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capital.

Travel throughout the Dominican Republic and you’ll see many mountain ranges and the region’s lush rainforests and valleys. The mountain range to the east is named the Cordillera Oriental and it’s one of the less rugged mountains in the Dominican Republic. By the time you get to Punta Cana, the ground is pretty much flat, which is great for ranching and perfect for sunning on the city’s many beaches.

The beaches are Punta Cana’s most renowned feature, with over 60 km of beach stretching along the eastern coast. Here, the Atlantic meets the Caribbean in a spectacular display of blue hues – including azure, robin’s egg blue and navy.

Punta Cana to the south and Bávaro to the north used to be two distinctly different towns and regions. Today, the entire area is commonly referred to as Punta Cana and flows together in a sprawling patchwork of resorts, beaches, shopping centres and restaurants. The all-inclusive resorts are like mini-cities with their multiple restaurants, pools, bars, youth centres, discos, casinos and a host of on-site sports activities.

Farther north are the windswept beaches of Uvero Alto and Macao, the wetlands and Taíno caves with their pre-Columbian drawings. Around these areas, you still see cattle and horses grazing on scrubland. At the far south is Cap Cana, the latest area to be developed. The 30,000-acre master-planned residential and resort community has a spectacular world-class marina, long stretches of white sand beaches, golf courses and nature reserves teeming with birds and diverse plants.

While Punta Cana may have only risen to fame for its resorts in the last half-century, this gorgeous area of the Dominican Republic has been home to Tiano Indians for many hundreds of years. The Tiano people came into contact with the Spanish conquistadors with the coming of Columbus, who claimed this emerald isle for Spain. Many battles for what is now the Dominican Republic ensued as a result of this proclamation, and the years between 1492 and the 1800s saw their fair share of bloodshed. At the turn of the 19th Century, the population of the Dominican Republic sought freedom from Spain, but was instead conquered by the Haitians, who ruled the whole island -- known as Hispaniola -- for nearly two decades. The next century saw the Dominican Republic again fall under Spanish rule, until the country gained its much longed for independence in the 1920s.


During the 1970s, resorts began popping up along the 100 kilometers of Punta Cana’s azure coasts, bringing with them a tourism industry that continues to flourish. Some of the area’s earliest, and most dazzling, visitors included Oscar de la Renta and the gifted Julio Iglesias. The area now supports a population of roughly 50,000, which boasts a mixture of European, African and Tiano influences that make for a vibrant community. While walking through the many colorful stalls of a marketplace in Punta Cana, one may hear both Spanish and English spoken, while pesos are exchanged for local products like amber and bone.


Today, vacationers and locals alike flock to the area’s stunning beaches for a day of lounging on soft, white sand underneath swaying palm trees and a blue sky.

Private taxis can be hired at the airport and at most major hotels. Roundtrip transfers to and from the airport can also be purchased in advance by contacting WestJet Vacations at least three days prior to your departure. Sightseeing buses also run frequently. Check with your Hola Tours representative or your hotel concierge for further details.

If you’re looking to visit a resort other than your own during your stay, you’ll need to purchase a day pass in advance. Taxis are the best method of transportation to get you between resorts. Need help finding a cab? Just ask your concierge or bellman. Just be sure to confirm the rate with your driver prior to departing since taxi fares are calculated on a flat rate in Punta Cana.

Tours are another great way to get around and experience some of Punta Cana’s top attractions. Transportation from your hotel (or a nearby meeting point) is usually included. Ask a WestJet Vacations representative or consult our website for more details.

Arrival

During your flight to Punta Cana, you will be provided with a Tourist Card and a Customs Card. Please keep these documents in a safe place, as it will cost US$10 to obtain another.

From touch-down in Punta Cana it’s not hard to see that you’ve arrived in a tropical paradise. The Punta Cana International Airport features open-air arrival terminals with palm frond covered roofs, in true Dominican style. Not to mention, as you walk down the stairs of the aircraft, you’ll quickly feel the warm Caribbean air on your face.

Once off the aircraft, your photo will be taken with traditionally-dressed Dominican women as a souvenir that you can purchase upon departure. You’ll then proceed through immigration where you will present your Tourist Card and passport to an official. After immigration, you’ll pick up your bags from baggage claim and proceed through customs.

If you have pre-booked your airport transfers with WestJet Vacations, look for a Hola Tours representative outside. This representative will guide you to a vehicle that will take you to your resort.

Departure

Smiling WestJetters will be ready to assist you at the check-in counters located in the departures area of the Punta Cana International Airport. Airport facilities include a variety of shops and stores, snack bars, restaurants, bars, duty-free shopping and ATMs for your convenience.

Vaccinations

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, typhoid and tetanus are commonly recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Visit your local health clinic prior to departure if you have any questions.

Electricity in the Dominican Republic is 110 volts, and can fit most (two-pronged) North American plugs. However, some hotels may operate using Swiss outlets - which are round pins instead of flat pins. If you are bringing an electrical appliance, it is recommended that you verify prior to departure if a converter and/or adaptor is required.

Punta Cana is known for its stunning, endless beaches, upscale hotels and amazing golf courses. Sure, every sun destination has beaches, but not quite like the ones here in Punta Cana.

There are nine separate beach areas where the resorts are located, each with a charm all its own. While resorts line the coastal strip, beach access is available from outside roads and restaurants. The beaches are public, so there are no restrictions on walking from one hotel beach to another.

The Bávaro area is the most developed section of the east coast’s resort strip. It’s dotted with gift shops, hotels and restaurants right on the beach. Dine at Jellyfish, Huracán Café or El Pulpo Cojo and you’ll feel like you’re in heaven.

Bávaro includes Los Corales, the main departure point for many of the water excursions and beach activities. You can easily book a speedboat ride here, go parasailing, windsurfing or experience the unique thrill of a “flying boat” ride. This can best be described as a two-person raft mounted with a large hang gliding sail on top, and propelled by a motorized fan at the rear. As the boat gains speed, the sail lifts the boat into the air for minutes at a time – you have to see it to believe it!

Playa Uvero Alto is the furthest beach area and has fewer crowds. With its golden sands and high waves, you’ll feel like Robinson Crusoe on your own private beach here. Playa Macao is also in the more-remote northern side and is a favourite among locals for its picture-perfect setting. If you’ve always had a desire to surf, the Macao Surf Camp offers lessons for all ages on weekends, weather permitting.

The Punta Cana shore is regarded as one of the world’s top five billfish fishing areas, with more than seven months of open season every year. Famous marlin fishing tournaments have been held in Punta Cana and Cap Cana for decades. For a chance to reel in a big one, check the Cap Cana Marina for tournament schedules.

Abundant marine life in Punta Cana also offers snorkellers and divers a kaleidoscope of colourful sea creatures to observe. Water temperatures of 27 C and visibility of 18 to 20 metres near shore keep the experience relaxed and comfortable. There are 12 different dive sites in total and a shallow, but rewarding, reef site known as the Aquarium that is great for beginners.

Punta Cana is a golfer’s delight as well – home to some of the top golf courses in the Caribbean. With swaying palm trees, lush tropical foliage, ocean- and bluff-side holes, you may find it hard to keep your eye on the ball.

Some of the great courses here include the Faldo Legacy by Nick Faldo, signature Nick Price course Punta Blanca and Cana Bay by Jack Nicklaus.

During your flight to Punta Cana, you will be provided with a Tourist Card and a Customs Card.

The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso.

Private taxis can be hired at the airport and at most major hotels.

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*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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