Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana – which holiday destination should you choose?

You can’t decide if you shall book your vacation to Punta Cana or Puerto Plata? It might indeed be a difficult decision as both are the top holiday destinations in the Dominican Republic. While Punta Cana is famous for its endless sandy beaches and elegant all-inclusive resorts, Puerto Plata can score with a more low-key atmosphere and incomparable natural attractions. As I have been to both holiday destinations several times (and am living in one of them 😉 ) I have made a comprehensive comparison between both and tell you at the end which is the better place to go: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

Table Of Contents
  1. Flight Connections
  2. Transfer time from the airport to the hotel
  3. Hotel Quality and Selection 
  4. Prices
  5. The beaches in Punta Cana and Puerto Plata
  6. Excursions and guided tours
  7. Sports and Adventures
  8. Where can you get the best food?
  9. Road trips and rental cars
  10. Weather: where can you expect the better Caribbean climate?
  11. Authenticity: where can you explore the real Dominican Republic?
  12. Summary: should you visit Punta Cana or Puerto Plata?
  13. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you want to know how to get from Punta Cana to Puerto Plata, you can check out this post.

Completely UPDATED: December 2023

Flight Connections

Flights to Punta Cana

 Punta Cana is one of the biggest hubs in the Caribbean and features connections to over 20 countries. As of December 2023, the United States has direct flights to Punta Cana (seasonal or year-round) from more than twenty cities, among them
– year-round flights to Punta Cana from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Miami, New York–JFK, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Juan, Tampa and Washington
– seasonal flights to Punta Cana from Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, St. Louis and San Juan

Canada is also well represented when it comes to airlift to Punta Cana. For 2024, Punta Cana connects close to 20 Canadian cities with direct services, among them
– year-round flights to Punta Cana from Montréal, Québec City and Toronto
– seasonal flights to Punta Cana from Bagotville, Calgary, Edmonton, Fredericton, Gander, Halifax, Hamilton (ON), Kitchener/Waterloo, London (ON), Moncton, Ottawa, Regina, St. John’s, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Winnipeg

When it comes to countries, Punta Cana International Airport offers non-stop services to 21 countries. Besides the US and Canada, those countries are Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Haiti, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, UK, US and Venezuela. Compared to the beginning of 2022, there won’t be any flights from Russia, Finland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania and Ukraine anymore in 2024.

 If you can’t find the right flight to Punta Cana, you can also fly to La Romana (with limited connections to the United States and Italy) and Santo Domingo. The last one mentioned is the capital of the Dominican Republic, around 2 hours away from Punta Cana and does have several connections to Latin America, Europe, the Caribbean and North America, totaling up to around 20 different countries as well.

Editor’s Choice: the best experiences 2024

Most unique experience in a small group: Authentic rum tasting* (rating 4.78/5)
Best Rated Punta Cana excursion: Isla Saona Premium in small groups* (rating 4.95/5)
Most booked through Punta Cana Travel Blog: Small-Group Snorkeling* (rating 4.91/5)
Best off-the-beaten-track excursion: Montana Redonda & Costa Esmeralda* (rating 4.79/5)
Best excursion for family fun: Jungle Buggies + Zipline Combo* (rating 4.91/5)
New and trending for 2024: Evening Buggy Tour with Water Cave and Dancing*

Not the right tour for you?
Check out the 45 best Punta Cana excursions here at Punta Cana Travel Blog!

Flights to Puerto Plata

 Compared to Punta Cana, Puerto Platas’ flight connections are considerably less. Sometimes it might be a struggle to reach Puerto Plata via the international Gregorio Luperón Airport. Although Puerto Plata has recovered from some years with hardly any flight connections, it still only features direct flights to 6 countries worldwide for 2024, which are 4 less than 2 years ago. Among those countries are the United States, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Poland and Turks & Caicos.

Playa Esmeralda seen from above, during the flight from Punta Cana in direction to the Samaná peninsula

Still, there are a few connections to the US and Canada, even though the frequencies are remarkably lower than to Punta Cana or Santo Domingo as a lot of the destinations are only served once or twice weekly.

For 2024, the US can count with
– non-stop flights to Puerto Plata from Miami, New York, Newark and San Juan
– seasonal flights to Puerto Plata from Boston and Charlotte

Interestingly enough, Canada has more cconnections to Puerto Plata than the US – 10 cities enjoy direct flights to Puerto Plata among them
– non-stop flights to Puerto Plata from Toronto and Montreal
– seasonal flights to Puerto Plata from Halifax, Hamilton, Moncton, Ottawa, Québec City, Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg

However, similar to Punta Cana, Puerto Plata does have an alternative airport that is around an hour away – Cibao International Airport close to the second biggest city in the Dominican Republic, Santiago de los Caballeros. Santiago counts with excellent connections to New York with usually more than 10 non-stop services daily (!) (+ services to Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Miami), but it lacks flights to other countries as it is just connected with Turks & Caicos, Panama and Colombia otherwise. 

In case you want to visit Puerto Plata but get better and cheaper flights to Punta Cana, you can find all the options for getting from Punta Cana to Puerto Plata here.

Head to head: Punta Cana Airport vs. Puerto Plata Airport

Airports as of December 2023Punta Cana AirportPuerto Plata Airport
Destinations in the US226
Destinations in Canada1910
European countries123
South American countries60

Flight connections: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

 The discrepancy of Punta Cana and Puerto Plata can also be seen in the total number of passengers. While Punta Cana and Santo Domingo together received 7 million passengers in 2023, Puerto Plata and Santiago just counted around 1.2 million passengers combined. You definitely find more flight connections to Punta Cana, even though they are not necessarily cheaper.

 Preliminary score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 1-0

Transfer time from the airport to the hotel

Transfers from Punta Cana International Airport

 Punta Cana International Airport is located right at the ocean and the roads from the airport to the resorts are well maintained and developed. Depending on where you are staying, your transfer time – assuming you are booking a private transfer – can vary between 5 and 45 minutes. When choosing a resort directly in Punta Cana or Cap Cana you are there in 10 minutes, if you go all the way to Uvero Alto it will take you at least 35 minutes. However, most all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana are a 20-30-minutes ride away from Punta Cana International Airport.

The arrival area of Punta Cana International Airport

 In case you won’t like to book a private transfer from the airport in Punta Cana, you can also go by shared transfers, Punta Cana public transport or rent a carContinue reading here about all options you have to get to and from Punta Cana International Airport.

Transfers from Puerto Plata International Airport

 Gregorio Luperón International Airport in Puerto Plata has a nice oceanfront location as well, counting (usually) for beautiful ocean view approaches when landing. It is located halfway between Puerto Plata and Sosua. Travel time to most all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Plata is a mere 20-minutes, if you have booked a hotel at Playa Cofresi (Senator, Playa Bachata) it is a 35-40 minutes ride.

 Same as in Punta Cana, transfers at Puerto Plata Airport can be arranged by private transfers, shared transfers, public transport or by renting a car.

In case you are arriving in Punta Cana and want to go to Puerto Plata you can find a full guide here about getting from Punta Cana to Puerto Plata or vice versa.

Head to head: airport transfers Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana

Airport TransfersPunta Cana Airport TransfersPuerto Plata Airport Transfers
Travel time to most resorts10-40 minutes10-40 minutes
Public transport availableYes, limitedYes
SUV transfers availableYesYes
Shared transfers availableYesYes

Airport transfers: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

 Travel time, prices and available options are similar at both airports, Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. Therefore, it is a tie. 

 Preliminary score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 1.5-0.5

Hotel Quality and Selection 

Hotel Options in Punta Cana

 Hotel options in Punta Cana are endless – and this goes for the choice of accommodation types in general as well as for the selection of all-inclusive resorts. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a luxury villa next to the golf course, a small guesthouse in the town center, a beachfront condominium or one of the omnipresent all-inclusive resorts, Punta Cana has it all. And as most of the properties were just built in the last 5-15 years, the majority of accommodation is quite new.

Quality is an important word in Punta Cana, I am always impressed with what you get for your money. Everything is super clean, high quality and the service usually impeccable (of course, depending on your final choice of accommodation), but there is hardly anything you will miss while enjoying your vacation in Punta Cana. If you are not sure how to find the best all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, check out this article.

A wonderful tropical pool at Dreams Royal Beach in the Dominican Republic

Hotel Options in Puerto Plata

 Puerto Plata does have its own little all-inclusive area called Playa Dorada with several all-inclusive resorts as well as further hotels at Costa Dorada and Playa Cofresi. However, you can see and feel that the boom of Puerto Plata was in the 90s – and that most resorts were constructed back at that time. This is why most accommodation in Puerto Plata tend to be a bit older even though they are renovated, of course. Furthermore, when determining if you shall visit Punta Cana or Puerto Plata, the latter one is lacking true luxury options as most hotels here are in the budget and middle-class segment. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get good deals in Puerto Plata, especially as the price level is significantly lower than in Punta Cana (see next point in the comparison Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana).

Head to head: Punta Cana accommodation vs. Puerto Plata accommodation

Hotel OptionsPunta CanaPuerto Plata
All-inclusive resortsaround 9010-40 minutes
Airbnbsmore than 4000more than 2000
Hotels, guesthouses and
private accommodation
around 800around 450

Hotel options: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

 Punta Cana does have significantly better hotel options – both in quantity and in quality. Just check the links above and you will be overwhelmed by the options (this is why I offer travel coaching by the way 😉 ). On the other hand, compared to Punta Cana, Puerto Platas’ choices are limited, but you can get good deals though.

 Preliminary score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 2.5-0.5


Prices for a holiday in Punta Cana

 Even the Dominican Republic is a developing country with a decent price level, Punta Cana is not a budget destination. This is due to heavy tourism which levels up the local prices. But also hotels in Punta Cana are more expensive than in other parts of the country – partly because of the high demand, partly because of the high quality mentioned before.

At Dreams Flora Punta Cana you can enjoy super cozy Conversations at the Lobby Bar

 It is very hard to put a general price tag on a Punta Cana vacation as it all depends on your needs and how you are traveling. But to give you a few examples, Punta Canas all-inclusive resorts are starting at around 75-80 USD per person per night in low season, while you can grab a deal in Puerto Plata starting from 60-70 USD. Transport prices in Punta Cana are nearly doubled (public transport and taxi) compared to the rest of the country due to the focus of solvent tourists. And while I can get my Cuba Libre on several beach bars in the country for 100 to 150 Dominican Pesos (approx. 2-3 USD), a common price for the same drink in Punta Cana is between 5 and 6 USD. These examples can be continued with restaurants, services, activities, etc., but I think you get the point.

Travel resources

Punta Cana Airport Transfers: Info | Book It*
Santo Domingo Airport Transfers: Info | Book It*
All-Inclusive Resorts: Info | Book It*
Apartments & Villas: Info | Book It*
Excursions: Info | Book It*
Rental Car: Info | Book It*
Road-Trips & Self-Drive Tours: Info | Plan It

Prices for a holiday in Puerto Plata

 Compared to Punta Cana, Puerto Plata vacations usually come with a lower price tag. As mentioned above, hotel deals might be significantly cheaper in Puerto Plata and due to the lower impact of tourism to this area, general prices are lower as well, even not as low as in other parts of the country. The interesting thing about Puerto Plata is that you get prices like a local once you leave the resort and head toward the city center of Puerto Plata, a nice bustling town with all the chaos, charm and beauty the Dominican Republic has to offer.

Head to head: Punta Cana prices vs. Puerto Plata prices

Punta CanaPuerto Plata
Average price of a guesthouse/small hotel in Februaryapprox. 65 USDapprox. 70 USD
Average price of a guesthouse/small hotel in Mayapprox. 65 USDapprox. 45 USD
Average price of a 5-star resort (all-inclusive) in Februaryapprox. 450 USDapprox. 250 USD
Average price of a 5-star resort (all-inclusive) in Mayapprox. 300 USDapprox. 175 USD
Amount of all-inclusive resorts below 100 USD per person in February04
Amount of all-inclusive resorts below 100 USD per person in May1010

Prices and Travel Budget: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

 A vacation in Puerto Plata is more probable to end up cheaper than in Punta Cana. The only problem might be higher flight prices due to the limited connections described in the first point (but you can fly to Punta Cana and head to Puerto Plata from there), but once you score a good deal, Puerto Plata will please your travel budget more than Punta Cana do.

 Preliminary score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 2.5-1.5

The beaches in Punta Cana and Puerto Plata

The Punta Cana beach

 The beach might be the most important reason when raising the question if Puerto Plata or Punta Cana is better. After all, this is why people choose to book a vacation in the Caribbean.

Looking at Punta Cana, it is no wonder why millions of people head to this holiday destination every year. More than 30 miles of beaches are awaiting you in the whole area of Punta Cana, all of them with the finest sand, ranging in color between white (especially in Cap Cana and Punta Cana) and lightly golden (in the Uvero Alto area). You can have endless beach walks, particularly at Bavaro Beach, swim in the blue or turquoise ocean and enjoy thousands of swaying palm trees.

Beach clubs, pristine stretches and colorful boats every now and then are counting for great photo opportunities, including beautiful Macao Beach. Is there anything else you can ask for from a Caribbean beach?
Interested in further information? Check out the 10 best beaches in Punta Cana here.

Beautiful beach in Cap Cana at Hyatt Zilara Resort in Punta Cana

The Puerto Plata beach

 Puerto Plata has a decent beach as well. Calm waters, a long stretch of golden sand, a very calm atmosphere and if you leave Playa Dorada eastward, you enter a particularly pristine part of the beach without any people or buildings – nature at its best. Still, Puerto Plata cannot compete with Punta Canas beaches, there is hardly anyone arguing about that. The only advantage Puerto Plata might have beach-wise is that it is a lot less populated – the hundreds of people strolling up and down the beach in Punta Cana you won’t find in Puerto Plata.

The beach Playa Dorada in Puerto Plata

Which beach is the best: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

 Hardly any category in the battle of Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana is as easy to determine as the question of the beach. The long beaches in Punta Cana are clearly better than the ones in Puerto Plata. Still, have a look at the Dominican Republics beaches to find out more.

Preliminary score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 3.5-1.5

Excursions and guided tours

Excursions and guided tours in Punta Cana

 Punta Cana has an endless choice of excursions for its visitors – especially for those, who are only staying in their all-inclusive resort and would like to see something different than just the hotel. Dune buggies, catamaran tours, Los Haitises National Park, Safari adventures, VIP tours, riverboat experiences, Isla Saona, Ziplining, a monkey jungle or a full-day excursion to Santo Domingo are just a few of the options you can experience when vacationing in Punta Cana.

TOP 12 Punta Cana Excursions

Isla Saona: Saona Info | Book it*
Private Saona Island Tour: Private Tour Info | Book it*
Dune buggy and ATV excursion: Buggy Info | Book it*
Punta Cana Ziplining: Zipline Info | Book it*
Party boat & booze cruise: Party Boat Info | Book it*
Best Nightlife Show: Coco Bongo Info | Book it*
Scape Park Cap Cana & Blue Lagoon: Blue Lagoon Info | Book it*
Los Haitises National Park: Los Haitises Info | Book it*
Santo Domingo: Santo Domingo Info | Book it*
Samaná (Salto El Limón & Cayo Levantado): Samaná Info | Book it*
Helicopter & airplane tours: Helicopter Info | Book it*
Whale watching (Jan-Mar only): Whale watching Info | Book it*

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the 40+ best Punta Cana tours!

It does not matter what kind of guided tour in Punta Cana you are looking for, probably one of the excursion operators will have it for you. If you feel like exploring, you definitely won’t get bored in Punta Cana, as you can see in this overview about the best things-to-do in Punta Cana.

Excursions and guided tours in Puerto Plata

 But the tour operators in Puerto Plata are getting creative as well to gain access to the wallet of the vacationer. Cayo Arena, 27 Charcos de Damajagua, the historic city of Puerto Plata, seeing manatees, visiting monkey jungle, an ocean view zipline, countryside safaris and the cable car up to Puerto Platas mountain Isabel de Torres are just one of the few experiences you can have when booking organized excursions. And this is not without a reason, because the surrounding of Puerto Plata is super nice and interesting. Contrary to the section above mentioning the price differences between both destinations, prices for guided tours hardly vary for Puerto Plata or Punta Cana.

View from Montana Isabel de Torres on Puerto Plata and the cable car

Head to head: The best Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata excursions

Best excursions in … Punta CanaPuerto Plata
best overall excursionIsla Saona Small Group Tour
(more info | check prices*)
Review score: 4.95/5.00
Puerto Plata City Tour
(check prices*)
Review score: 4.84/5.00
for ocean loversSmall Group Snorkeling
(more info | check prices*)
Review score: 4.91/5.00
Catamaran Day-Trip & Snorkeling
(check prices*)
Review score: 4.78/5.00
for foodies & gourmetsOliver Rum Tasting
(more info | check prices*)
Review score: 4.75/5.00
Private Puerto Plata Food Tour
(check prices*)
Review score: 5.00/5.00
for nature loversMontaña Redonda + Playa Esmeralda
(more info | check prices*)
Review score: 4.79/5.00
Waterfalls of Damajagua
(check prices*)
Review score: 4.82/5.00
for adventure junkiesPunta Cana Ziplining
(more info | check prices*)
Review score: 4.84/5.00
Puerto Plata Zipline Adventure
(check prices*)
Review score: 4.83/5.00

Where can you have the best excursions: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

 It is hard to choose a winner in this category as both holiday destinations have their highlights. Furthermore, both are offering a high diversity of excursions, hence it’s a draw between Puerto Plata and Punta Cana.

 Preliminary score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 4-2

Sports and Adventures

How to be active in Punta Cana and where to find adventures?

 If staying in an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana – especially in one of the better ones – you have plenty of activity options to choose from. Usually, this includes snorkeling, Hobie Cats, a gym, team activities, kayaking, tennis, pool, sometimes golf and much more. However, if you leave the resort and would like to be adventurous, options are limited in the surrounding of Punta Cana, even though there are some pretty cool Punta Cana adventures. Surfing at Playa Macao is one possibility, hiking to the highest waterfall of the Caribbean, Salto de la Jalda, another one. You can go parasailing or scuba diving and in case ziplining counts as an adventure, this is possible as well. You see, there are a lot of things to do in Punta Cana.

Zipline Excursion in Punta Cana at Bavaro Adventure Park

But to explore Punta Cana on your own and be adventurous – you have to get creative to achieve this as the typical adventure playground (jungle, mountains, pristine beaches, waterfalls, lagoons, etc.) is missing. 

How to be active in Puerto Plata and where to find adventures?

 Concerning watersports, Puerto Plata can count on at least the same options as Punta Cana. Although the resorts – due to their limited size – might offer fewer activities, you find plenty of additional options outside. The best snorkeling reef in the Dominican Republic (Cayo Arena) can be reached from Puerto Plata, catamaran tours are sailing along the north coast and Cabarete, approx. 40 minutes away from Puerto Plata, is the kitesurfing capital of the Caribbean. Further water activities include windsurfing, SUP yoga, SUP and scuba diving.

 However, the true difference between Puerto Plata and Punta Cana is the number of activities you can do on land. It is not only the city of Puerto Plata which is nice to visit but also the nature is absolutely stunning. Thanks to the mountain chain right in the back of Puerto Plata, the Cordillera Septentrional, you have the right setting to go hiking, mountain biking, river chasing, caving, canyoning or river-tubing. Nothing is impossible in this area. As the mountains are particularly famous for their blue rivers, some of my favorite waterfalls are located here, such as La Rejolla, Charcos del Militar, Rio Soñador, Magic Mushroom, Salto de Elena or Cola de Pato. If you want to go adventurous, then Puerto Plata and the surrounding area will be your paradise.

One of the amazing La Rejolla waterfalls

Where can you have the best adventures: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

 While the water-based activities are similar in both destinations, Puerto Plata has unquestionable advantages when it comes to onshore activities and adventures. Considering this, Puerto Plata is absolutely nice to visit. If you love pristine nature and lush mountains, Puerto Plata beats Punta Cana and is your place to go.

 Preliminary score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 4-3

Where can you get the best food?

Food options in Punta Cana

 When comparing Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana in terms of culinary options, it really depends on what you are looking for. If you love international food at different levels, Punta Cana is the right place for you. Due to the number of tourists visiting Punta Cana, you can find all kinds of international cuisine when spending your vacation in Punta Cana – either directly in your resort or in one of the several restaurants. Also if you are into fine dining, Punta Cana has you covered as most of the best restaurants in the Dominican Republic are located in Punta Cana, among them Bamboo, Passion, Montserrat Manor or La Palapa. On the other hand, if you are into street food or local “hole in the walls”, Punta Cana might be difficult to explore, especially when traveling on a budget.

Typical Dominican breakfast in Punta Cana - Mangu, Cheese and Egg

Food options in Puerto Plata

 If you are looking for the fine dining experiences just mentioned for Punta Cana in Puerto Plata, forget about it. In those terms, Puerto Platas food options are limited. However, if you want to eat out as the locals do, Puerto Plata has plenty of opportunities for you, especially within the city limits. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for an air-conditioned restaurant with trendy Dominicans or a casual snack bar at the oceanfront promenade in town – both options offer the most authentic Dominican food including the opportunity to be just among locals.

Where can you have the best food: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

 If it comes to fine dining, Punta Cana is without a question the No. 1 choice in the entire Dominican Republic. However, if you prefer Dominican food options in authentic settings, Puerto Plata represents much stronger local flavors. As food preferences vary from person to person, I’ll count it as a tie when answering the question: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana.

 Preliminary score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 4.5-3.5

Get your free e-book now – “17 amazing things-to-do for free in Punta Cana”!

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Road trips and rental cars

Road trip options from Punta Cana

Assuming you’d like to fly to the Dominican Republic for a road trip, is Puerto Plata or Punta Cana the better starting point?

Logistically, Punta Cana is not 100% perfect for a road trip in the Dominican Republic. You have to take the Punta Cana-Santo Domingo highway twice to actually start and end your Dominican Republic itinerary, as this is the only road that connects Punta Cana with the main part of the country. An exception is if you just would like to head on a 2- or 3-day road trip from Punta Cana, where Los Haitises National Park and Bayahibe are perfect destinations.

A beautiful eco-lodge at Los Haitises National Park, Altos de Cano Hondo

However, Punta Cana also offers a lot of advantages when it comes to road trips and multi-day itineraries. First of all, Punta Cana car rentals are usually cheaper than those in Puerto Plata. The roads from and to Punta Cana are also much easier to drive, which is particularly important for newbies when it comes to driving in the Dominican Republic. And, last but not least, there is a bigger choice of rental car companies in Punta Cana and opening hours are usually more flexible.

Road trip options from Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata usually marks the better starting point for road trips in the Dominican Republic. There are particular more destinations to visit in the nearby distance, such as Punta Rucia, Cabarete, the north coast including the romantic and rustic Playa Magante beachfront bungalows* and Cordillera Septentrional with its mountain villages Yasica Arriba, Tubagua and Jamao al Norte. You can also take the ultimate Dominican Republic itinerary from Punta Cana Travel Blog and start it right in Puerto Plata.

Road-Trip through the west of the Dominican Republic with views on the Sierra de Neyba

On the other side, rental cars in Puerto Plata might be a bit more expensive and once you leave the airport area, you are directly heading into the busy traffic area of either Sosua or Puerto Plata. Therefore, starting a road trip in Puerto Plata is only recommended for those who have previous experience in driving in the Dominican Republic or other Latin American countries.

Head to head: the best road-trips in Punta Cana and Puerto Plata

Best road trips from … Punta CanaPuerto Plata
for 1 dayMontaña Redonda + Playa Esmeralda + MichesNorth Coast (Cabarete – Rio San Juan – Laguna Dudu – Playa Grande)
for 3 daysSamaná Road-Trip (Las Terrenas & Las Galeras)Samaná Road-Trip (Las Terrenas & Las Galeras)
for 1 weekRoad-Trip to Central Mountain Area + North Coast + SamanáNorthwest, Central Mountain Area & Santo Domingo

Where is it better to start a road trip: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

There are advantages and disadvantages for both destinations, which is why this category between Punta Cana and Puerto Plata is tied.

Preliminary score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 5-4

Weather: where can you expect the better Caribbean climate?

Punta Cana and Puerto Plata

As you can already see from the headline mentioning both destinations, it is easier to answer the question for the best weather in the Dominican Republic with one mutual answer for Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. The reason is that there are hardly any differences when it comes to the weather in Punta Cana and Puerto Plata.

 Even though many people speak from different seasons in different areas in the Dominican Republic, this is usually not true. Puerto Plata feels slightly wetter than the drier east of the Dominican Republic including Punta Cana, but you will hardly feel this difference (see table below) as both holiday destinations are offering perfect Caribbean weather to enjoy your vacation. In general, the Dominican Republic is a year-round destination where you’ll see the sun nearly every day – just the number of rain showers might vary between the dry season (January to April) and the rainy season (May to November/December).

For further information, you can see the table below for the detailed climate figures when it comes to the comparison of Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana (or check the weather article on the blog here). As you can see, the difference is marginal and won’t influence your vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Head to head: the weather in Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata

Weather statsPunta CanaPuerto Plata
Average high temperatures83-88°F82-89°F
Average low temperatures72-77°F69-76°F
Clear sky in January in %81%82%
Daily Chance of precipitation
in the wettest month
27% (November)26% (May and November)
Average monthly rainfall (in inches)0.9-2.60.9-2.1

Where can you expect the better Caribbean weather: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

 This question of Punta Cana or Puerto Plata is clearly a draw. There are no significant differences in the weather between both areas.

 Preliminary score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 5.5-4.5

Authenticity: where can you explore the real Dominican Republic?

Is Punta Cana authentic?

Let’s check the last question in our comparison of Puerto Plata or Punta Cana: authenticity.

 One reason why I started Punta Cana Travel Blog is to show you the real and authentic Dominican Republic because many people just stay in their all-inclusive resort and are raving about how amazing the Dominican Republic is. Well, that is as wrong as if you would say you have been to Los Angeles and love the beauty of California.

 Of course, you can do great excursions and visit Isla Saona, Los Haitises National Park, Salto de la Jalda, Montaña Redonda or other unique and gorgeous natural sights – it will be mind-blowing and gives you a perfect start into the diversity the Dominican Republic has to offer.

 However, if you would like to dig into real Dominican life – music, little villages, ramshackle beach bars, colmados, dancing on every corner, deep-fried empanadas and much more – it gets difficult in Punta Cana as you have to leave the comfort zone of the tourist area and start your journey to Higuey, Miches or other towns which are away from the tourist radar. To do so, it is best to get a Punta Cana car rental, start a road trip in the Dominican Republic and follow one of the amazing travel itineraries I have compiled here on Punta Cana Travel Blog.


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The author Chris in the Dominican Republic

Is Puerto Plata authentic?

 If you are just staying in your all-inclusive resort in Puerto Plata, it feels similar to what I just explained about Punta Cana. You are living in your comfort bubble of 24-hour food, organized excursions and personal service – which is not bad at all, do not get me wrong. If you would like to experience the authentic Dominican Republic, you have to leave this comfort zone as well, but it is a lot easier in Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana. You have frequent public buses running right in front of the Playa Dorada or Playa Cofresi resort area, the city of Puerto Plata is easily reachable and features some amazing visit-on-your-own attractions and the mountain chain right next to the city awaits you with some amazing adventures you can easily explore on your own if you are experienced in the field – even though a guide is highly recommendable. And last but not least, if you head to the Malecon of Puerto Plata, buy yourself a Presidente beer and relax at the oceanfront promenade where you can have one of the most authentic local experiences one can imagine in the Dominican Republic.

The historic center in Puerto Plata with La Puntilla and Fortaleza San Felipe

Which tourist area is more authentic: Puerto Plata or Punta Cana?

 Thanks to its connection to the local life and the city of Puerto Plata, experiences in Puerto Plata are more authentic once you leave the resort. In Punta Cana, this is possible as well, but it is a bit harder to leave the comfort zone of the tourist area due to logistical and infrastructural reasons.

FINAL score: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata 5.5-5.5

Summary: should you visit Punta Cana or Puerto Plata?

 It’s a tie between Punta Cana and Puerto Plata – a little bit surprising at first glance. But upon a differentiated view, the result makes more sense.

 Both destinations have their advantages and disadvantages. Punta Cana cannot be beaten in terms of beaches, hotels and flight connections, while Puerto Plata is the perfect playground for vacationers who want to combine a beach holiday with some adventurous outdoor activities. It depends on you, which is the right place for you. 

 For the same reason you can also justify this result – even the tourism figures are speaking another language. While Punta Cana has more than 80 resorts with 2-3 million visitors every year, Puerto Plata can count with around 10 resorts and maybe a 10-15% share of the amount of Punta Cana tourists. But why is everyone heading to Punta Cana if both holiday destinations offer an equal value? 

 The solution is simple: for most vacationers, flight connections, hotel choices, the quality of the beach and the price are the most crucial key decision points when booking a vacation. In 3 of those 4 categories, Punta Cana is clearly outperforming Puerto Plata. In other words, if we would award double points in those most important categories, Punta Cana would be the sole winner of this competition Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata.

 Therefore it is also important for you to determine what you want when traveling to the Dominican Republic? If beaches, superb hotel quality, relaxation and a smooth holiday experience are your key decision points, Punta Cana is the right choice for you. Continue browsing through this Punta Cana Travel Blog to find more inspiration for your holiday.

 If you are an adventurer, love to hike mountains and would like to see the authentic Dominican Republic, you should consider Puerto Plata or other regions in the country – or plan a road-trip in the Dominican Republic so that you get the full experience. I can help you with that!

And if you are still not decided if you shall book your vacation in the Dominican Republic to Puerto Plata or Punta Cana, just contact me here and I’ll help you out.

What’s your favorite – Punta Cana or Puerto Plata? Have you been to one of these destinations or maybe even to both? Or are you just planning your trip to the Dominican Republic and can’t decide? Let me know in the comments!

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The face behind Punta Cana Travel Blog: 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.

3 thoughts on “Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana – which holiday destination should you choose?”

  1. You live in a seriously lovely location. Lucky guy! Nice article. I would love that cable car. That’s an insane climb. If I ever get an opportunity to ride a cable car, I always take it. Love them.

    1. Hey Martin,
      indeed, I can’t complain about living in the Dominican Republic, especially during these times of Covid-19.
      The cable car is a great attraction in Puerto Plata and the view from the top is amazing – it is absolutely worth it.

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