The Best Excursions in Punta Cana

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An array of all-inclusive hotels, some of the nicest stretches of sand in the Caribbean, and practically perfect weather make Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic a popular getaway. While many tourists are content to relax at their mega-resort's swim-up bar and lounge on the beach, there are several tours worth leaving the hotel for. Read on for our picks of the best excursions in Punta Cana.

1. Sailing and Snorkeling Catamaran Tour

Majestic Colonial Punta Cana
Majestic Colonial Punta Cana

Punta Cana’s fine white-sand beaches are breathtaking, but you’ll want to head offshore for this excursion — a sailing and snorkeling catamaran tour. Sail the stunning blue Caribbean waters with a dozen or so other travelers, stopping at the Cabeza De Toro Natural Reserve for snorkeling. Snorkeling equipment is generally included and swimmers will likely spot tropical fish and sea urchins. Happy Fish Catamarans offers sailings that pass natural beaches without hotels for a look at the D.R.’s unspoiled beauty. You’ll also stop to enjoy drinks at a floating bar. The three-and-a-half-hour excursion with free round-trip hotel transport is a great value.

2. Monkeyland and Plantation Safari Tour

Monkeyland and Plantation Safari Tour/Viator
Monkeyland and Plantation Safari Tour/Viator

You may think you need to go to Costa Rica for some quality time with monkeys in a jungle setting, but the Dominican Republic actually has a lush interior landscape with adorable squirrel monkeys. Visitors who book the Monkeyland and Plantation Tour take a safari-style truck through coffee and cacao plantations to sample local fruit and learn about organic farming methods. The adventure caps off with a guided tour of a five-acre squirrel monkey habitat in a botanical garden setting. The mountain vistas act as a backdrop to monkeys eating from fruit bowls and climbing around. Round-trip transportation from Punta Cana hotels is included in this five-hour excursion.

3. Santo Domingo City Tour

Hotel Conde de Penalba

While the Dominican Republic’s beaches are beautiful, there’s plenty to do beyond swimming and sunbathing on the sand. The country’s largest city and capital is Santo Domingo, a UNESCO World Heritage site located a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Punta Cana. Several day tours of the city are available, providing guides that take customers to beautiful historic structures like the Columbus Alcazar museum, The National Palace government building, and the 1540-built Cathedral of Santa María la Menor. A traditional lunch accompanied by a dance performance is included, and keepsakes can be purchased at souvenir shops. One tour even goes to Los Tres Ojos, a breathtaking limestone cave housing three lakes.

4. Day Trip to Fun Fun Cave

Fun Fun Cave Tour/Viator
Fun Fun Cave Tour/Viator

Composed of a series of tunnels and passages, Fun Fun Cave is reportedly the largest cave in the Caribbean. The all-day tour offered starts with breakfast and a 30-minute horseback ride through Los Haitises National Park, followed by a hike through the rainforest area of the park. Once halfway up the mountain, participants will rappel 65 feet (20 meters) down to the cave. Swimming, exploring stalagmites and stalactites, and observing dramatic rock formations are all part of the cave tour. The tour will end with a horseback ride back to the starting point for a traditional Dominican lunch of rice, beans, roasted pork chops, stewed goat or chicken, green salad, and steamed vegetables. The cave is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Punta Cana and transport is included.

5. Scape Park and Hoyo Azul Tour

Scape Park and Hoyo Azul/Viator
Scape Park and Hoyo Azul/Viator

A suitable excursion for the whole family, this tour combines zip-lining through the rainforest with a dip in a pretty lagoon. An adventure park located a 30-minute drive from Punta Cana, Scape Park has it all: 12 zip lines stretching 1,500 feet (457 meters) — the last of which ends in a pool — suspension bridges, scenic trails, and the turquoise water-filled Hoyo Azul lagoon. One tour includes admission to the park’s many offerings, a guide, a lunch of typical Dominican fare, and hotel transportation.

Our Punta Cana Hotel Pick: Majestic Colonial Punta Cana

The Majestic Colonial Punta Cana is one of three upscale all-inclusive sister properties on a beautiful stretch of Bavaro Beach. The property closed completely for two months in 2017 to thoroughly renovate the lobby and restaurants. It now operates almost as two resorts: the family-friendly side and the adult-only Colonial Club side. The 658 suites are attractive with marble floors, jetted tubs, and some ocean views. Upgrades to swim-up suites are available.

What to Bring: Sunscreen

Don’t let a bad burn ruin any excursion in Punta Cana. Be sure to lather up in your favorite!

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