Aerial view of beach

The Expert Guide to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (+ Checklist)

Caribbean
The Dominican Republic is arguably the most popular destination in the Caribbean. Overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, is Bavaro and Punta Cana. Famed for its turquoise water, white beaches, and luxury resorts, Punta Cana is the default vacation destination for travelers around the world. Planning a trip to paradise? Read our guide below to get started.

All-Inclusive Resorts

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino 8A

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Each resort has their own definition of all-inclusive. In general, it means you pay one fee for your trip, including drinks, food, accommodation, even tips and taxes. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to call Punta Cana the mecca of all-inclusive resorts.

Visitors have access to over 500,000 hotel rooms, an enormous amount relative to the size of the region. And there’s something for everyone: beach resorts, golf resorts, luxury resorts and spa resorts to name a few—all providing a seemingly infinite number of activities.

Here’s a short list to get you started:

  1. Occidental Punta Cana *****
  2. Catalonia Punta Cana *****
  3. Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & Spa *****
  4. Palladium Palace Resort Spa & Casino *****
  5. Iberostar Punta Cana *****

Book your 5-star all-inclusive resort with JustFly.

Warnings and Dangers

Danger sign on coast of Malta

Punta Cana (and the Dominican Republic in general) is safe. Most tourists stay within the confines of their resorts, where the biggest threat is being late for breakfast or a bad tan. But outside of the resort grounds there are a few dangers to be aware of. Check out the list below.

1. Water

The water in Punta Cana is unfiltered. Don’t drink water or consume ice (blended drinks) that don’t come from a sealed bottle or package. Be mindful of swallowing shower and pool water too.

Some people will tell you the water has passed through a filtration system; avoid it anyway, unless you prefer spending your vacation in the bathroom instead of the beach.

TRAVEL TIP: Always pack a water bottle, no matter where you go, especially in hot countries.

2. Food

Food is one of the best parts of travel, but some travelers are more affected by certain types of cuisine than others. If you typically have a sensitive stomach, eat in small doses. Be logical. If something smells, looks or tastes wrong, don’t eat it or ask for another.

Freshly cooked proteins (meats, fish, eggs) are the best option in hot places like Punta Cana. Pack travel size stomach relief medicine too.

3. Prostitution

Known as the world’s oldest profession, prostitution is alive and well in Punta Cana. Men are often approached at parties, on beaches or near resort grounds. It’s great for your ego, and it’s not illegal, but it can be dangerous.

Many prostitutes target wealthy looking foreigners in hopes of going back to their rooms and robbing them, or worse, setting them up to be robbed by far less attractive, much more violent men.

4. The Sex Trade

It’s not just something you see in movies and TV shows. Women and children are at a higher risk of being victims of sexual abuse or trafficking. Always travel in groups, preferably during daylight hours. Let a few people know where you’ll be as well.

5. Theft

Despite the luxurious resorts, the Dominican Republic has its fair share of economic troubles. Unfortunately, petty theft and muggings are a reality there. Always keep an eye on your valuables. Don’t flaunt jewelry and cash. Avoid drinking too much and traveling at night. Never leave your belongings where others may have access.

6. Drugs

Travelers tend to let loose when on vacation. That said, you should know the consequences of your actions beforehand. Unlike Canada, marijuana and all other narcotics are illegal in Punta Cana and can lead to serious prison time. Unless you want your trip to end behind bars or standing trial, proceed with caution.

7. Insects

Tropical climates are natural breeding grounds for insects. Ideally, you’ll want to make sure you’ve been vaccinated for any potential illnesses. If you’re booking a last-minute trip, make sure you pack a good bug repellent. It may be the difference between enjoying your trip and spending in a hospital.

Weather and Activities

Two people parasailing in Punta Cana Dominican Republic

Weather

If you’re chasing the sun, Punta Cana is the perfect place. The average high is about 30 degrees, while the average low is about 23 degrees Celsius. The main tourist beach area has nearly 40 miles of white sandy beach and warm, light blue, shallow water—all developed for their holiday pleasure.

Activities

The average Punta Cana resort has more than enough activity options to keep travelers satisfied. But luxury resorts go above and beyond. It’s worth mentioning that most activities can be reserved online ahead of time. Activities can also be booked up on arrival or shortly before you begin.

Sports Activities

Golf fans swarm to Punta Cana in droves to take advantage its golf courses. There are 5 major golf courses in the Coconut Coast area. Travelers frequently buy golf packages, and many are given discounts based on their accommodation. Beach volleyball is also a big hit.

Naturally, water sports are a huge part of any island getaway. If it can be done on the water, Punta Cana has it: scuba diving (see caverns, wreckage, marine life), deep sea fishing, kite-surfing, snorkeling (often with free pool lessons for beginners), catamaran rides, surfing, fly-boarding, parasailing and more. Being on or beneath the water gives travelers a whole new perspective, literally and figuratively. You can even swim with dolphins.

If you’re more of a nature lover, opt for activities like zip-lining, hiking, or drive a dune buggy to get your adrenaline pumping. Learn to ride a horse or go mountain biking. The options are almost never-ending.

Cultural Activities

Although Punta Cana has enough beaches, nice weather and water to keep us all satisfied, it has much more to offer. Experience the real Dominican Republic on one of many culture tours.

Some of the popular tours are: distillery tours, first settler tours, cigar-rolling experiences and history tours (World Heritage Sites, architecture, impressive monuments) to name a few. Other cultural activities include a variety of dancing classes and Spanish language lessons.

Parties

DJ playing at crowded party

Hotels and resorts keep the nightlife going in Punta Cana. It’s not uncommon to see travelers partying their nights away or catching live shows at hotel night clubs, lounges and bars. Casinos also attract sizable crowds. Many hotel and casino venues are exclusive to their guests, but some are open to the public. Off resort party packages are also available for anyone looking for a change of scenery.

If you’re looking the best parties, check out these nightclubs:

  1. ORO Nightclub
  2. Imagine Punta Cana
  3. Legacy Disco Club
  4. El Kan Drink House
  5. Kviar Show Disco & Casino Punta Cana

Bonus: Packing List

Camera laptop and open suitcase with clothes

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Packing isn’t just a way of getting your things into your luggage. It’s a science, and an art form. If done well, it can make your trip more organized, efficient and enjoyable. Pack light colors. Bring a raincoat/poncho or umbrella in case of tropical rain. Here’s a packing list.

Underwear

  1. Boxers – briefs – panties
  2. Bras
  3. Undershirts
  4. Socks: Pack more than you need. IE: bring 9 pairs if you’re traveling for 6 days

Tops

  1. Breathable fabric (cotton, linen, rayon)
  2. Short and long sleeve shirts
  3. At least 1 dress shirt

Bottoms

  1. Bring less bottoms than tops
  2. Shorts
  3. Yoga pants
  4. 1 pair of slacks – 1 pair dress pants    
  5. Skirts
  6. A dress or two

Beachwear

  1. Swim trunks – bathing suit (minimum 2 per week)
  2. A beach towel
  3. Sunglasses

Headwear

  1. Hat – scarf – sarong

Toiletries

  1. Sunblock – sunscreen
  2. Body lotion
  3. Lip balm
  4. Toothbrush
  5. Toothpaste
  6. Medication
  7. Shampoo – conditioner – combs – brushes

Footwear

  1. Sandals – flip-flops – tennis shoes – a pair of dressier shoes (loafers, boat shoes, heels)

Tech

  1. Camera
  2. Chargers
  3. Universal adapter
  4. Laptop – tablet – smartphone – eReader
  5. Portable Wi-Fi dock

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic is the definition of fun in the sun. Packed with tourists, it’s a great destination for meeting new people. Try a new activity. Party with travelers and locals alike. Rest. Relax. And appreciate the wonder of the Caribbean.

Keep reading our blog for more of our travel guides!