Punta Cana is not only about staying in resorts, but it is also about exploring the incredible nature and cultural heritage the Dominican Republic has to offer. There are plenty of day trips from Punta Cana which shows you the variety of the country, among them the most historic city in the entire Caribbean, stunning national parks with abundant flora and fauna, some of the most beautiful islands you can imagine and the highest waterfall of the Caribbean. All these things-to-do can be reached in 1 to 2.5 hours maximum and are therefore perfectly suited for a day trip from Punta Cana. While some of these activities can be booked as a guided excursion, I have also added some 1-day road-trip ideas, so that you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Do you need further ideas on what to do in Punta Cana? Check out the 26 best things to do in Punta Cana.
1) Montaña Redonda
Montaña Redonda is one of the coolest places in Punta Cana you can have a day trip to. It is a unique mountain with a spectacular 360-degree panorama surrounded by lush mountains and untouched nature. The special features of Montaña Redonda are its giant swings and the cozy hammocks, both being set up right at the edge of the mountain, which allows for fantastic photo opportunities you can’t get anywhere else. Montaña Redonda is also suitable for both types of travelers: those who’d like to be active during their vacation can take the short but steep hike up to the peak and others who prefer to stay relaxed can ride up with one of the safari trucks waiting at the bottom of the mountain. Once up there, you can have an ice-cold Presidente and enjoy the marvelous views on the surrounding coastline. You can also see Playa Esmeralda, which is the next point here on this list of day trip ideas from Punta Cana.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 40 miles and less than 1-hour driving
How to get Montaña Redonda:
Option A – rent a car (check rental car prices here*) and head to the bottom of Montaña Redonda where you either hike up or take one of the safari trucks
Option B – book a guided excursion here*
Further information: Montaña Redonda in Miches – the instagrammable mountain with spectacular views
2) Playa Esmeralda
In the same direction as Montaña Redonda, just 10 miles behind, you can find Playa Esmeralda, one of the most virgin beaches in the Dominican Republic. If you have ever dreamt of visiting a beach where you have 2 miles of beach all on your own, Playa Esmeralda is your place to go. Even it is only a bit more than an hour ago from the multi-billion-dollar tourism industry of Punta Cana, nobody is venturing out to visit this beach. And it’s not only the secludedness that makes Playa Esmeralda unique, it is also the picture-perfect setting with shallow water, swaying coconut palm trees and fine sand.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 50 miles and 1:15h driving
How to get to Playa Esmeralda: Take your car and head northwest towards Miches. In the municipality of La Mina, take a right turn when you see a sign mentioning Costa Esmeralda.
Further Information: the best beaches in Punta Cana
3) Salto de la Jalda
The Northwest of Punta Cana, where you can find Montaña Redonda and Playa Esmeralda, hosts many treasures. Another attraction in this area is Salto de la Jalda, which is the highest waterfall in the Caribbean.
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Same as Playa Esmeralda, Salto de la Jalda can often be found without any other tourists, it is totally off-the-beaten-track. To reach the waterfall, it requires a 3-hour hour hike (one-way) besides a 2-hour drive to the trailhead. Even this sounds a lot, it is still a wonderful day trip from Punta Cana if you are an adventurous traveler with some hiking experience. The reward of this long-trip will be a refreshing dip into the natural swimming pool, an impressive view on the highest waterfall of the Dominican Republic (and the Caribbean) as well as an unparalleled untouched scenery.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 65 miles and 2 hours driving
How to get to Salto de la Jalda:
Option A – for the hiking trip, take your rental car (check prices for rental cars from/to Punta Cana here*) or a taxi from Punta Cana northwest-ward on the well-maintained road to Miches. Continue in the direction of Sabana de la Mar until the town of Magua, where you turn left into the Magua River Valley. Continue until the trailhead or until the road gets too bad to start the hike. For the trailhead and GPS trail of the hike, check out my full article of Salto de la Jalda. Don’t head off with the proper experience of long hikes and open terrain! A guide is highly recommendable!
Option B – book a helicopter excursion to Salto de la Jalda here*
Further information: a full article about Salto de la Jalda, the highest waterfall in the Caribbean
4) Cascada Blanca
If Salto de la Jalda sounds too complicated for you, don’t worry, there are plenty of other waterfalls you can reach from Punta Cana. One of them is Cascada Blanca, another impressive waterfall hidden in the lush vegetation of the Dominican Republic, but with much easier access if you go with a guide.
Depending on your shape, the trail has a medium difficulty and can be completed in less than one hour per way. You can refresh yourself in two natural swimming pools as there is a second waterfall on the way. Once you are back in the quiet mountain village of Pedro Sanchez, you can head for a delicious local homecooked lunch.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 65 miles and a bit less than 2 hours driving
How to get to Cascada Blanca: Take your rental car (check prices for rental cars from/to Punta Cana here*) or a taxi from Punta Cana northwest-ward on the well-maintained road to Miches. Continue left in the direction of El Seibo until you reach Pedro Sanchez. Here you should meet your pre-arranged guide.
Further information: All waterfalls in Punta Cana reachable in under 3 hours
5) Casa de Campo and Altos de Chavón
You see that the Northwest of Punta Cana has plenty of natural attractions to offer. If you prefer it a bit more relaxed with less action, you should head to the area west and southwest of Punta Cana, where you can find easier day trips which are also very suitable for families, small children and the elderly.
The most famous thing-to-do in this area of the Dominican Republic is Casa de Campo, which not only features hundreds of luxury villas and a high-end resort but is also home to Altos de Chavón, a re-creation of a Mediterranean style European village with views on the scenic Chavón River. Here you can stroll along the cobblestone alleyways, take stunning photos and enjoy a café or lunch in a relaxed atmosphere. Once you have paid the entrance fee (25 USD) for Casa de Campo which is mandatory to visit Altos de Chavón, you can also check out the marina and the beach of Casa de Campo. Keep your eyes open when you tour around, you might be able to see a few celebrities, as Casa de Campo is a popular holiday destination for many VIPs such as Robert Redford, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Robert Stack, Vin Diesel and Jennifer Lopez.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 55 miles and 1-hour driving
How to get to Casa de Campo:
Option A – Take a very easy drive along the highway leading from Punta Cana towards La Romana and follow the signs to Casa de Campo
Option B – Book your excursion to Altos de Chavon from Punta Cana here*
6) Cueva de las Maravillas
Once you are in Casa de Campo, you can also head the additional 20 minutes west and visit “La Cueva de las Maravillas”, the Cave of the Wonders. The main attractions of this large and illuminated cave system are its paintings and engravings on the walls, which are over 500 years old and date back to the Taínos, the native inhabitants of the Dominican Republic. As the caves are directly on the highway and the walk is guided and well-marked, this is an easy visit suitable for everyone. The entrance fee is around 400 DOP (approx. 7 USD) and you can also see a small iguana zoo.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 70 miles and 1:15h driving
How to get to La Cueva de las Maravillas: Take the highway from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo, the caves are approximately half-way between both destinations
7) Barcelo Rum Factory
Close to the town of San Pedro de Macorís, which is easily accessible for a day trip from Punta Cana, you can find one of the biggest rum distilleries in the Dominican Republic: Barceló. The visitor center is located amidst endless sugar cane plantations, where a lot can be learned about the distilling process, the history and the different brands of Barceló.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 85 miles and 1:45h driving
How to get to the Barcelo Rum Factory: Follow the highway from Punta Cana until San Pedro de Macorís. When reaching the junction to Carreterra Mella, leave the highway and head towards Quisqueya.
8) Boca de Yuma
One of the closest day trips from Punta Cana is Boca de Yuma. It is that close that it’s also possible as a half-day trip from Bavaro & Co. Boca de Yuma is a little and very quiet fishing village, which is famous for its various local restaurants atop a cliff with a marvelous view on the ocean and the surrounding coast. It is the best and most authentic place to eat fresh fish in the entire eastern part of the Dominican Republic. International tourism is almost non-existent here, but the restaurants feature a welcoming and rural charm.
If you want to have a walk before or after your meal of fish, you can head towards the little park of the village with views of the river Yuma, visit a natural swimming pool separated from the ocean just by some rocks (“El Zumbador”) or explore the underground lagoon around a 1 mile away from Yuma for a refreshing swim.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 50 miles and 1h driving
How to get to the Boca de Yuma: Drive along the Punta Cana highway until the Higuey turn-off and follow the road south until you reach Boca de Yuma
Another half-day trip from Punta Cana which can be extended to a full-day as well is Higuey, the capital of the province La Altagracia – the same province Punta Cana is part of. Higuey is a bustling city with the typical attributes of every major Dominican town: loud, chaotic and cheap. If you are looking for something specific, you can get it here for a discounted price, but have to deal with congested streets, omnipresent vendors and different influences on all sensory organs. As a reward, you can visit an authentic Dominican market, very cheap local restaurants or the famous Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, one of the most important religious buildings in the entire Dominican Republic and thanks to its gigantic arch also an impressive landmark.
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Higuey is also the perfect place if you would like to try the public transport in Punta Cana, as nearly all resorts and accommodation in Bavaro, Cabeza de Toro, Arena Gorda, Macao and Uvero Alto are connected with direct services to Higuey. You can read here on how the public transport system in Punta Cana is working.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 25 miles and less than 1-hour driving
How to get to Higuey:
Option A – by car (check prices for rental cars in Punta Cana here*), just follow the signs or the map to Higuey. Depending on where your resort is, you can reach Higuey either via the highway or via Otrabanda.
Option B – head to Higuey by public transport. Check out this article to see how to get to Higuey.
Option C – book a guided half-day excursion to Higuey*
10) Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo is a very popular day trip from Punta Cana, even in my opinion it’s a bit too far, hence I prefer it as a 2-day road-trip (check out unique places to stay in Santo Domingo here) in combination with some other points of interest mentioned in this article. However, if you decide to go to Santo Domingo for a day, you will see one of the most historic sites of the entire Caribbean – and one of the most beautiful as well. The Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo is the heart of the city, the historic center and at the same time also protected as a UNESCO world cultural heritage. Strolling through the ancient streets feels like being in an open-air museum, as you can see colonial buildings, colorful facades and centuries-old landmarks such as the oldest church of the Americas, the house of Columbus’ son or the fortresses back from the 16th century. You can also enjoy the several cafés, historic patios and creative art shops, which all make up for an exciting and memorable day.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 125 miles and 2.5 hours driving
How to get to Santo Domingo:
Option A – book your full-day excursion from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo here*
Option B – take the first bus in the morning from Bavaro to Santo Domingo (7 am, be at the bus station at least 30 minutes before). In the afternoon, take the last bus from Santo Domingo back to Punta Cana (4 pm, be at the bus station at least 30 minutes before). See more information about the busses running between Punta Cana and Santo Domingo in this section.
Option C (not recommended due to the traffic in Santo Domingo) – with your rental car, head along the main highway from Santo Domingo to Punta Cana and look for the car parks right in the Colonial Zone at Calle José Reyes or Calle Arzobispo Meriño.
– 10 reasons why you should visit the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo
– How to get from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo?
– 27 best Airbnbs in Santo Domingo (hand-picked and recommended)
– 23 exciting things-to-do in Santo Domingo (and 5 NOT to do)
11) Los Haitises National Park
Los Haitises National Park is another famous attraction and it is no less impressive than Santo Domingo. While it is also quite far and I have described some options for a 2-day itinerary here in this article, it is a perfect opportunity to see some of the Dominican Republic’s most beautiful nature and wildlife. Usually, you can explore the park by boat and see frigate birds, mangroves and caves with ancient rock paintings. If you decide for a customized version to Los Haitises, you can also visit the impressive waterfall eco-lodge in the national park and even stay there for a night, which might be one of the most exciting overnight accommodations you have ever had. Read more about it in my separate article of Los Haitises National Park.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 80 miles and 2.5 hours driving
How to get to Los Haitises National Park:
Option A – book your full-day excursion from Punta Cana to Los Haitises National Park here*
Option B – take your rental car and head towards Sabana de la Mar, a newly built road from Punta Cana. Continue a dirt road for around half an hour until you reach the little national park accommodation Paraíso Caño Hondo*. You can book your national park tour by boat there.
Further information: Los Haitises National Park – a wonderful excursion or road-trip from Punta Cana
12) Isla Saona
The last two entries in my post about the most recommendable day trips from Punta Cana are two of the most beautiful islands you can find in the Dominican Republic. The first one is Isla Saona, one of the most visited islands in the entire Caribbean, but also one of the most beautiful ones. Even thousands of tourists are coming here every day, you have to visit Isla Saona on your own to see the beauty of the island. Picture-perfect beaches, swaying palm trees, catamarans anchoring in ultra-turquoise water and a Caribbean charm which is hard to resist are some of the key points of Saona Island. Furthermore, the tour by boat lives up its dream of cruising with a catamaran through the open ocean while sipping on a drink and admire the surrounding scenery. Isla Saona is a must-see during your vacation and one of the best day trips in Punta Cana, even it can only be visited as a group tour (or on a pricey private excursion).
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 50 miles and 1:15h driving
How to get to Isla Saona: the easiest is to simply book a full-day group excursion from/to Punta Cana* (or a private tour (check prices here*) if that fits your budget)
Further information: Excursion to Isla Saona – everything you need to know for your hassle-free Isla Saona tour
13) Isla Catalina
The second option for an island day trip from Punta Cana is Isla Catalina, which is the little neighbor of Isla Saona. It is much less frequented than Isla Saona and offers a better catamaran experience (because both ways are by catamaran and not just one way as for Isla Saona) and better snorkeling conditions. Even though the scenery might not be as spectacular as for Isla Saona, you still can have a perfect day when heading towards Isla Catalina. Fun on the catamaran, relaxing on the beach, some nice photo opportunities and food and drinks as much as you want are some of the key characteristics of this tour. You can read my comprehensive guide about Isla Catalina here.
Distance from Bavaro/Punta Cana: 55 miles and 1:15h driving
How to get to Isla Catalina: the easiest is to simply book a full-day group excursion from/to Punta Cana* (or a private tour (check prices here*) if that fits your budget)
Further information: Isla Catalina – less-frequented island excursion to paradise
Those are the best day-trips from Punta Cana! Which one is your favorite? Do you have further ideas? Have you visited some of those places and have recommendations? Let me know in the comments, I am happy to hear about your experiences.
Are you interested in more than just day-trips from Punta Cana? In this case, check out these two amazing multi-day itineraries, which give you a perfect overview of what the Dominican Republic has to offer:
– 1-week itinerary from/to Punta Cana with beaches, mountains and culture
– 3-day itinerary from/to Punta Cana or Santo Domingo to Samaná
If you are looking for more activities and excursions, you can also continue reading this list of the best things-to-do in Punta Cana.
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CHRISAuthor, Travel Coach & Punta Cana based digital nomad
Hey, I am Chris, a born and raised German, travel-addictive and Caribbean Soul. Since 2011 I have been living in the Caribbean, among them 5 years in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is my home-base here in the country and I’d love to tell you more about how to experience Punta Cana off-the-beaten-track and give you all the advice you want to know for your vacation in Punta Cana.