Dominican Republic 1-week itinerary from/to Punta Cana – beaches, culture and mountains

Are you flying to Punta Cana and would like to see more than just an all-inclusive resort, but don’t want to miss out on the fantastic beaches Punta Cana has to offer? Then this Dominican Republic 1-week itinerary is the perfect road-trip for you, as it combines a couple of days at the most amazing beaches in Punta Cana and leads you into the countryside afterwards. Here you can explore the majestic mountains of the country before heading to Santo Domingo, which is famous for its rich history and diverse culture, especially within the Colonial Zone, the UNESCO awarded historic center of Santo Domingo. Check out this 8-day itinerary from/to Punta Cana to see what other highlights of the Dominican Republic you can experience during this handcrafted road-trip from Punta Cana Travel Blog. 

 While this itinerary is designed as a road-trip and it’s recommendable to rent a car, it can also be done with private transfers or – if you add some additional time – by public transport. 

Interested in a shorter road-trip from/to Punta Cana? Check out this Dominican Republic 3-day itinerary to explore the beautiful peninsula of Samaná.

Please note that Google Maps is showing an incorrect way twice. On the way from Punta Cana to Jarabacoa you would not use the Carretterra Mella from San Pedro de Macorís, instead you continue on the main highway via Juan Dolio and Boca Chica. Furthermore, there is a direct connection between Jarabacoa and Constanza not recognized in Google Maps, so you don’t have to go back to La Vega.

Day 1: arrival in Punta Cana

 Today is the day of your arrival in Punta Cana – and the start for an amazing holiday in the Dominican Republic. If you are coming from the United States or Canada, you are most likely to arrive around noon or the early afternoon at Punta Cana International Airport. Flights from Europe usually land in the later afternoon or the evening. 

 Immigration and customs at the airport are straightforward, so you can head directly to your accommodation. I highly recommend booking a private transfer* or – if you are traveling alone and want to save some money – a shared shuttle* as this is the smoothest way to arrive at your hotel. Check out this article about all options for airport transportation from Punta Cana International Airport

 Once at your hotel, you might have a few remaining hours to have the first dip into the ocean or enjoy the last rays of sunlight. If you have booked an all-inclusive resort (check here to see how to find the right one), you can have your first drinks and dinner in your resort. If you are staying in a hotel without meals, I’d recommend to head to Los Corales for dinner and drinks as you can find a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere there.

Driving time: 10-35 minutes (book your private transfer here*)
Accommodation Recommendations:
BACKPACKER ($) – GAVA Hostel*
VALUE ($$) – Green Coast Beach Hotel*
MID-RANGE ($$$) – Bahia Principe Punta Cana*
SPLURGE ($$$$) – Secrets Cap Cana*
LUXURY ($$$$$) – Eden Roc Cap Cana*
Insider tip: prebook your airport transfer – it’s smoother and less hassle
Further information on Punta Cana Travel Blog: Airport transfers in Punta Cana

Day 2: relax, explore or go on an excursion in Punta Cana

 As mentioned in the introduction, this Punta Cana itinerary also includes some beach time, so today is your day to relax and enjoy the marvelous beaches of Bavaro and the entire Punta Cana area. You can either just sunbath at your hotel or go on a long walk, as some of the Punta Cana beaches are up to 15 miles long. 

For your Dominican Republic vacation

Travel resources

Punta Cana Airport Transfers: Info | Book It*
Santo Domingo Airport Transfers: Info | Book It*
All-Inclusive Resorts: Info | Book It*
Guesthouses & AirBnBs: Info | Book It*
Excursions: Info | Book It*
Rental Car: Info | Book It*
Road-Trips & Self-Drive Tours: Info | Plan It
Travel Insurance (incl. covid-19 coverage): Book it*

 If you’d like to go on an excursion, I can recommend you Los Haitises National Park, if you’d like to visit one of the most beautiful national parks in the Dominican Republic and see and abundant variety of flora and fauna. Alternatively, if you’d like to have some fun and a cruise to paradise, you should book one of the several Isla Saona excursions, one of the most beautiful places in the entire Dominican Republic.

 You can also explore the surrounding area of Bavaro, particularly if you are not staying in an all-inclusive resort. If you don’t like to spend a lot of money on that day, you can have a look at all the free things you can do in Punta Cana.

Accommodation Recommendations:
BACKPACKER ($) – GAVA Hostel*
VALUE ($$) – Green Coast Beach Hotel*
MID-RANGE ($$$) – Bahia Principe Punta Cana*
SPLURGE ($$$$) – Secrets Cap Cana*
LUXURY ($$$$$) – Eden Roc Cap Cana*
Insider tip: if you want to keep it relaxed but explore a hidden gem of Punta Cana, you can visit Hoyo Claro.
Further information on Punta Cana Travel Blog:
Best beaches in Punta Cana
Free things-to-do in Punta Cana

Day 3: exploring the hidden gems of Punta Cana

 Today is the first road-trip day within your Punta Cana itinerary, as you should use this day to venture out and exploring the surrounding area of Bavaro & Co. That’s why I would recommend to pick-up your car (check prices for rental cars from/to Punta Cana here*) in the morning to start some first explorations – and to get used to the road conditions in the Dominican Republic. If you don’t want to rent a car, you also can hire a taxi / private driver.

Get your free e-book now – “15 amazing things-to-do for free in Punta Cana”!





Free Punta Cana E-Book about 15 amazing things-to-do for free in Punta Cana

 One of the best road-trips from Punta Cana is to go to Montaña Redonda and Playa Esmeralda. These two hidden gems can be perfectly combined into a Punta Cana day trip. It is approximately one-hour driving to reach Montaña Redonda from Bavaro. The road is in a very good condition (no potholes, newly built, hardly any traffic), so it is a perfect opportunity to get the first experiences when driving your rental car in the Dominican Republic.

 Montaña Redonda is a hemispherical mountain amidst a flat part close to the coastline between Miches and Punta Cana. The plain surrounding allows spectacular views from the top, including a panorama of fantastic beaches such as Playa Esmeralda and Playa El Limon. What sets Montaña Redonda apart is the opportunity to take unique photos, thanks to the giant swings and relaxing hammocks set on the mountain as they let you glide far over the edge of the mountain. You can either hike up or take a safari truck to the top. Check out my full article about Montaña Redonda to get all the details.

 After having a quick and easy lunch on the mountain top of Montaña Redonda, you head down again and continue your journey to Playa Esmeralda, less than a 30-minute drive away. It is one of the most pristine beaches in the entire Dominican Republic and it is hard to believe that such a hidden gem is only less than 1.5 hours away from Punta Cana. If you have ever dreamt of having a 2-mile beach all for yourself, this is your place to go.

 From Playa Esmeralda, you head back to Bavaro and enjoy your last night in Punta Cana.

Total distance: 100 miles / 165 kilometers
Driving time: approx. 3 hours in total
Accommodation Recommendations:
BACKPACKER ($) – GAVA Hostel*
VALUE ($$) – Green Coast Beach Hotel*
MID-RANGE ($$$) – Bahia Principe Punta Cana*
SPLURGE ($$$$) – Secrets Cap Cana*
LUXURY ($$$$$) – Eden Roc Cap Cana*
Insider tip: when you book your car (check prices for rental cars from/to Punta Cana here*), make sure to book it from Bavaro, so that you don’t have to go back to Punta Cana Airport (of course this depends a bit of what accommodation you are going to book)
Further information on Punta Cana Travel Blog:
Shall I rent a car in Punta Cana?
Best day trips from Punta Cana
Explore Montaña Redonda

Day 4: heading west to the mountains of the Dominican Republic

 Assuming that you already have your car, you can start early today and enjoy the full variety the Dominican Republic has to offer. 

 First, you head west on an easy drive to Santo Domingo. The highway is well maintained and does have two lanes in each direction. On the way, I recommend stopping at Cueva de las Maravillas, the “Cave of 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.

 Once passing Santo Domingo – which is amazingly easy as the 4-lane bypass is completed since 2020 – you continue on the highway until you reach the central mountain area of the Dominican Republic, the Cordillera Central. Jarabacoa is one of the main towns here and the best choice to spend the night. You should arrive in the early afternoon, which gives you time to explore the surrounding area. My recommendation is a short but steep hike (approx. 2x 30 minutes) on a well-marked hiking trail to Salto Jimenoa I, a gorgeous waterfall with a natural swimming pool. During this hike, you can get a first glimpse of the stunning beauty the Central mountain area has to offer.

Total distance: 225 miles / 365 kilometers
Driving time: approx. 5 hours in total
Accommodation Recommendations:
BACKPACKER ($) – Jarabacoa Mountain Hostel* (dorms)
VALUE ($$) – Jarabacoa Mountain Hostel* (boutique rooms)
MID-RANGE ($$$) – Rancho Baiguate*
SPLURGE ($$$$) – Vista del Balcón*
LUXURY ($$$$$) – Japanese Villa*
Insider tip: after passing Santo Domingo and the last toll station close to Pedro Brand, stop on the side of the highway and buy a hot and grilled sweet potato from the various roadside vendors – a delicious treat!
Further information on Punta Cana Travel Blog: Best day trips from Punta Cana (incl. Cueva de las Maravillas)

Day 5: from Jarabacoa to Constanza

 Day 5 of your 8-day Dominican Republic itinerary is waiting for you – and it is an action-filled one. Jarabacoa is home to various outdoor activities, with rafting and paragliding being the most famous ones. Both can be done for a fraction of the price of other countries. Both activities are around 50-60 USD each in the Dominican Republic.

 If you need an adrenaline boost, I would probably go with the rafting, as this is a fun-filled activity along the wild river of the Rio Yaque del Norte. The classification of this river depends on the water level but be prepared on a class II to IV rafting experience in Jarabacoa.

 Alternatively, paragliding is a unique and interesting option, even though I found it a bit short when I did it. However, the feeling of flying was amazing.

 After this exciting morning, check out the lunch options in Jarabacoa. There are plenty of good local options in the town center. Alternatively, if you’d like something exquisite, you can visit the restaurant Aroma de la Montaña for some amazing views over the entire valley.

 In the afternoon, you continue your road-trip and head towards Constanza. The winding road from Jarabacoa is slow, but in a good shape and offers marvelous and multiple views of the Cordillera Central. 

 With an altitude of approx. 1.200 meters (3,800 feet), Constanza is the highest city in the Dominican Republic and will welcome you with a milder climate and some chilly mountain breezes. However, don’t worry too much, temperatures during the day are still above 20 degrees Celsius / 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The city has a mere 50.000 inhabitants hence the nature is predominant here. Constanza is also interesting because a lot of the countries’ fruits and vegetables are coming from here, especially those which need a bit of a colder climate.

 As you should reach Constanza in the afternoon, there is time for the last activity in your Dominican Republic itinerary for this day. There are a statue and a viewpoint atop the city with impressive views over the city as well as the surrounding mountains, from which many reach more than 2000 meters / 6000 feet. The place is called Monumento Divino Niño and can be reached by car.

Total distance: 28 miles / 45 kilometers
Driving time: approx. 1:15 hours in total (+ short way up and down to Monumento Divino Niño)
Accommodation Recommendations:
BACKPACKER ($) – Hostal La Fuente*
VALUE ($$) – Rancho Constanza*
MID-RANGE ($$$) – Hotel Alto Cerro*
SPLURGE ($$$$) – Rancho Guaraguao*
LUXURY ($$$$$) – n/a
Insider tip: in Constanza, have a beer or drink (and a meal if you want) at La Esquina Bar, one of the most unique bars in the Dominican Republic. It feels like you are in the European Alps.

Day 6: from Constanza to Santo Domingo

 Another part of the mountains is waiting for you: Ebano Verde Scientific Reserve. It is a protected nature reserve home to over 600 species of flora and fauna, including over 100 bird species (making it perfect for birdwatching in the Dominican Republic), giant tree frogs, lizards and over 80 species of orchids. It is also one of the most humid areas in the Dominican Republic and the source of many rivers. You can either explore Ebano Verde through the small waterfalls of El Arroyazo or hike one of the several trails. A guide is very recommendable and can be obtained through Ecoturismo Constanza*.

 From Ebano Verde, where you still can feel the chilly temperatures, you head down to the Cibao Valley, where the thermometer soon hits the 30 degrees Celsius (86 degree Fahrenheit) again. From here it’s just a 1-hour ride until you reach Santo Domingo where you will encounter the third big part of this Dominican Republic itinerary: after beaches in Punta Cana and mountains in the Jarabacoa/Constanza area, it’s now time for culture and history.

 As you will arrive in Santo Domingo in the afternoon, there is still time for the first explorations. As your hotel should definitely be located in the Zona Colonial (as are all my hotel recommendations below), you can explore a few of the historic streets without too much of an itinerary. Wander around and see what hidden gems you can find in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo.

TRAVEL COACHING

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Do you need help planning a customized vacation in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic? Is it difficult for you to decide what and where to book? Would you like to take advantage of someone with years of experience in the tourism industry (knowing all the travel hacks 😉 ) and living right in the place where you would like to spend your holiday?
That’s what my personal travel coaching is for. I will design your tailor-made itinerary, tell you how to save money on your trip and send you the best insider tips and recommendations. All the information I send you are crafted with love and passion – and are coming with a money-back guarantee. Let me know how I can help you (check my packages here) and send me a request here!

The author Chris in the Dominican Republic

 At night, I’ll recommend dining out in of the several restaurants with outdoor patios and having a drink in one of the creative bars. (see day 7 of this road-trip itinerary for more details)

Total distance: 90 miles / 145 kilometers
Driving time: approx. 3 hours in total
Accommodation Recommendations:
BACKPACKER ($) – Island Life Backpackers*
VALUE ($$) – Casa Naemie*
MID-RANGE ($$$) – Hotel Villa Colonial*
SPLURGE ($$$$) – Billini Hotel*
LUXURY ($$$$$) – Casas de XVI*
Insider tip: when leaving Constanza, stop at one of the several roadside vendors and buy some fresh Dominican strawberries.
Further information on Punta Cana Travel Blog: 10 reasons why you should visit the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo

Day 7: explore the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo

 Today is your day to explore Santo Domingo. In the morning, you should discover some of the historic treasures of the Colonial Zone (Zona Colonial). Some of the highlights include:

  • Alcázar de Colón (or “Casa Colón” or the “House of Columbus”), the first castle residence in the Americas, which nowadays features one of the most popular museums in Santo Domingo
  • Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, the most important religious building in Santo Domingo and the First Cathedral of the Americas
  • Calle Las Damas, a historic cobblestone road and the oldest street of the Americas
  • Fortaleza Ozama with views on the Ozama River, the oldest fortress in America
  • Plaza de España, with magnificent views on the surrounding colonial buildings and the Alcázar de Colón

 All these things-to-see in Santo Domingo are walkable from all the accommodation recommendations I have provided, so it is easy to walk around. Alternatively, you can book a trike tour*, which is a fun way to move around as it is done with Segway-style vehicles.

 For the afternoon, there is no need to leave the Colonial Zone as there are plenty of secrets to explore

With its ancient cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings and creative art scene, it feels like an open-air museum when you walk around. If you need further information on what to see in this unique part of Caribbean history, check out my comprehensive guide about the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo.

 If you want to see another part of Santo Domingo, you can take a taxi or an Uber and head to Los Tres Ojos National Park – a national park amidst the city. It consists of three lagoons fed by underground water and can be explored walking. It is surrounded entirely by the concrete jungle of Santo Domingo which makes it so special and unique.

 For your last night in the Dominican Republic, you should enjoy the nightlife of the Zona Colonial and celebrate the amazing memories you made during the past 7 days of this Dominican Republic road-trip itinerary from Punta Cana. 

 If you want to splurge a bit, start by dining out at Plaza España, the most iconic setting in the entire city with romantic views at night of the house of Columbus’ son. For some cheaper options, you can dine at Conde de Penalba at Plaza Colón.

 For a drink, I can highly recommend La Alpargateria which is a beautiful patio with good cocktails. Alternatively, try out Mercado Colón or Navarricos. 

 If you would like to go dancing, there is no way to miss Parada 77, the most popular dance bar in the entire area. Entrance is free and you will see hundreds of Dominicans dancing to their favorite music, Salsa, Bachata and Merengue. In general, Dominicans love the Zona Colonial, so it is by far more local than you expect. It will give you an authentic glimpse of the local nightlife.

Accommodation Recommendations:
BACKPACKER ($) – Island Life Backpackers*
VALUE ($$) – Casa Naemie*
MID-RANGE ($$$) – Hotel Villa Colonial*
SPLURGE ($$$$) – Billini Hotel*
LUXURY ($$$$$) – Casas de XVI*
Insider tip: I have lived in the Colonial Zone for 4 years and can give you every little detail you need. A lot of insider tips are already mentioned in the text, but if you are looking for more, just drop me an email.
Further information on Punta Cana Travel Blog: 10 reasons why you should visit the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo

Day 8: from Santo Domingo to Punta Cana

 Unfortunately, this is the last day of your itinerary from/to Punta Cana, your road-trip in the Dominican Republic is coming to an end. However, it’s not time to say goodbye before one last stop. While the way to Punta Cana is easy, you should stop approximately half-way at the rum distillery of Barceló, one of the most popular rum brands in the country. The visitor center is located amidst endless sugar cane plantations, while a lot can be learned about the distilling process, the history and the different brands. Make sure to buy a few bottles to take them home, you will hardly find them cheaper anywhere else (or maybe at a similar price in a local supermarket). 

 Depending on the departure time of your flight, make sure to arrive around 3 hours before at the airport of Punta Cana, where you can drop your car and check-in for your flight. This 1-week Punta Cana itinerary gave you an overview of the beauty of the Dominican Republic, but you have just seen about 10% on what the country has to offer, so make sure to come back and check out one of the other itineraries, as there is a lot more to explore.

Total distance: 120 miles / 190 kilometers
Driving time: approx. 2.5 hours in total
Insider tip: When buying rum, get a Barceló Dark and a Barceló Onyx, those are two of the most delicious ones.

What if I don’t want to rent a car for this Dominican Republic itinerary?

 Don’t worry, this Dominican Republic itinerary is also possible without driving a car. In this case, you have three options:

 Taxi: this is the most expensive option, but of course the easiest. Just grab a cab, negotiate a rate for the daily itinerary and head off. However, taxi prices are not cheap in the Dominican Republic. I would not recommend this option.

 Private driver: this is the most recommendable option if you don’t want to drive on your own. You can book a car as described above, but instead of driving on your own, you hire a private driver. In this case, you pay gas and tolls as for every other road-trip plus the expenses (daily fee, accommodation, food) of the driver. I can help you with arranging it if you need a reliable private driver in Punta Cana and beyond. Contact me here!

 Public transport: this 1-week Punta Cana itinerary is possible to arrange with public transport, even you should count in a few more days for it. In this case, I would suggest 1 additional night in Jarabacoa, 1 in Constanza and maybe 1 at the end in Punta Cana, depending on when your return flight is leaving. If you decide on doing this itinerary by public transport, you will go by bus, minivan, maxivan and mototaxis – all means of public transportation the Dominican Republic has to offer. Please pack light to make moving around easier!

What if you want to change this Punta Cana itinerary?

 If you would like to change the activities, add more days or have a different route, no problem. First, this is just an idea factoring in many of the experiences I made in the last years, so everything is customizable. Feel free to change it according to your preferences.

 If you’d like to have a tailor-made itinerary like the one above but with different conditions, you can also send me a travel coaching request. I am happy to either change the itinerary above or create a completely new one, depending on what exactly you are looking for. As I have traveled the entire country various times and I am living in the Dominican Republic since 2015, I am happy to share all the knowledge I have.

How can I book this itinerary?

 As I am just a travel blog and not a tour operator, you can’t book this itinerary directly through me. However, there are three options you can consider:

  • If you’d like to book this Dominican Republic 8-day itinerary exactly as proposed (or similar), you can use the booking links I have included in the text above. I receive a small commission for those bookings, which is helping me maintaining this website.
  • If you’d like to book this itinerary and need professional assistance or if you would like to change this travel plan according to your preferences, you can contact me via my travel coaching.
  • If you’d like to get everything organized by a professional tour operator, I am happy to put you in contact with a company, specialized on tailor-made trips through the entire Dominican Republic.

 Do you have any questions about this itinerary which leads you from Punta Cana through the mountains and to Santo Domingo? Could you imagine heading out on such an adventurous road-trip? Let me know in the comments what you think and I am happy to reply to your thoughts.

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The face behind Punta Cana Travel Blog: Chris

CHRIS

Author, 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.

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