Most people think that Punta Cana is one area with one (big) beach (literally Punta Cana Beach), which is easily accessible from everywhere. But surprise, it is right the opposite. “Punta Cana Beach” is not existing and the whole Punta Cana region is spread out along a 40 miles coastline, lining up different beautiful beaches like precious pearls on a necklace. With this choice of more than a dozen strips of sand, I am explaining to you here the differences between the top 10 beaches, giving you some recommendations on where to stay and showing you which is the best beach in Punta Cana. For better orientation, I am listing them from South to North.
- 1) Playa Juanillo – the picturesque beach in Punta Cana
- 2) Playa Blanca – the white beach in Punta Cana
- 3) Playa Cabeza de Toro – the hidden gem of Punta Cana
- 4) Playa Bavaro – the main beach in Punta Cana
- 5) Playa Corales – the individual beach, part of Bavaro Beach
- 6) Playa del Cortecito – the beach with local bars
- 7) Playa de Arena Blanca – the all-inclusive beach of Punta Cana
- 8) Playa de Arena Gorda – the endless beach
- 9) Playa Macao – the surfers beach and locals favorite
- 10) Playa Uvero Alto – the remote beach of Punta Cana
- Bonus: Playa Esmeralda – the prettiest beach
- Summary: which one is THE best beach in Punta Cana?
Are you interested in the most beautiful beaches of Samaná. Check them out here.
Some of the beaches in this article are also part of the most exciting attractions in the area. To check out more amazing things to do in Punta Cana, continue reading here.
UPDATED: January 2021
1) Playa Juanillo – the picturesque beach in Punta Cana
Playa Juanillo is the perfect beach in Punta Cana for a quick beach getaway: a couple of beach clubs, a perfect watercolor and stunning photo opportunities (among them a long jetty, a creatively painted van and the beautiful color of the water itself). Playa Juanillo might not be the best beach for swimming as the water is quite shallow, but it is an amazing option for sunbathing, sipping a cocktail, watching the marvelous scenery of swaying palm trees and enjoying the Caribbean beach atmosphere.
Where to stay at Playa Juanillo: if you want to splurge a bit, Sanctuary Cap Cana* is a castle-style all-inclusive resort and located right at Juanillo Beach – one of the best adults-only options in the whole Punta Cana area.
Where to eat at Playa Juanillo: Little John Restaurant is a perfect place if you are visiting Playa Juanillo just for the day and are looking for some casual bites and delicious drinks.
What to do at Playa Juanillo: this beach is one of the whitest of all beaches in Punta Cana, so to see the color is an attraction itself. Furthermore, you can take stunning photos and relax at one of the sunloungers if you buy food or drinks at Little John Restaurant. Check out this article for further things-to-do in Punta Cana.
2) Playa Blanca – the white beach in Punta Cana
Playa Blanca is Spanish and means “white beach” and that’s exactly what perfectly describes it – it is without a doubt the whitest beach in the whole area of Punta Cana. Take a stroll along this marvelous stretch of beach and enjoy the stunning scenery. Don’t forget your sunglasses, the sun and especially the white beach might blind you.
Side note: if you have a long layover for whatever reason at the Punta Cana airport, Playa Blanca is the closest beach just 2 miles away from the airport.
Where to stay at Playa Blanca: The Westin Punta Cana* is – besides some luxury villas – the only hotel at Playa Blanca and one of the best non-all-inclusive hotels in Punta Cana. If you prefer to stay in an Airbnb at Playa Blanca, you can check out this wonderful and affordable 3-bedroom apartment* just a few minutes walking from the beach.
Where to eat at Playa Blanca: the best option to eat at this gorgeous Punta Cana beach is Playa Blanca Restaurant right next to the main parking lot. They offer a decent mix of elegant atmosphere and a casual beach menu.
What to do at Playa Blanca: the best is to relax and enjoy the beautiful colors of this beach. If you’d like to head out, you can visit “Los Ojos Indigenas”, a nature reserve with around a dozen of crystal-clear lagoons, which are connected by a pleasant hiking trail. Some of the lagoons are also available for swimming. Los Ojos Indigenas is just a 3-mile drive from Playa Blanca Beach away, but please note that there is a hefty 50 USD entrance fee.
3) Playa Cabeza de Toro – the hidden gem of Punta Cana
Playa Cabeza de Toro is home to a few resorts, among them Be Live, Dreams Punta Cana and Catalonia Bavaro. While the beach itself is a typical Dominican beach (which means beautiful and sandy 😉 ) but not spectacular, it’s absolutely worth to just walk a few hundred feet north where you can find a pristine palm grove and an untouched beach, sending your thoughts right to this Robinson Crusoe movie set you have always dreamed of visiting. Have your camera ready and take advantage of this beautiful setting most Punta Cana tourists won’t see.
Where to stay at Playa Cabeza de Toro: Be Live Collection Punta Cana* is a popular and affordable resort option, while Catalonia Royal* (check extensive hotel review here) is the best hotel in Cabeza de Toro. Recently, two brand new all-inclusive resorts have opened their doors in Cabeza de Toro, Radisson BLU* and Serenada Punta Cana*, both directly at the beach. If you prefer an Airbnb in Cabeza de Toro, you can check out this beautiful 2-bedroom apartment with a lot of personal touches*.
Where to eat at Playa Cabeza de Toro: the best location is a popular and spacious beach club called Pearl Beach Club. They have a pool, several lounge areas, daily activities and a huge food and drink menu so that you can have a perfect day at Punta Canas’ beaches.
What to do at Playa Cabeza de Toro: if you would like to discover a little hidden gem of Punta Cana, you can walk northwestward (around a mile) from Cabeza de Toro along the beach until you reach a pristine section with many coconut palm trees. It’s a romantic setting and will guarantee you many beautiful photos. Check out this article for further things-to-do in Punta Cana.
How to get to Playa Cabeza de Toro: You can either take a taxi or a rental car (check prices for rental cars in Punta Cana here*) or if you feel more adventurous, take the local public transport (ending in Cabeza de Toro). You can also walk there from the Bavaro Beach area on some pristine nature trails.
4) Playa Bavaro – the main beach in Punta Cana
Playa Bavaro or Bavaro Beach can be considered as the main beach of the whole Punta Cana area. It is the most frequented area of all Punta Cana beaches due to having a lot of big all-inclusive resorts first row as well as two public access points (Playa Los Corales and Playa del Cortecito, see below for more details) for all the people staying in apartments or smaller hotels in the village of Bavaro. Furthermore, it is one of the widest stretches of the whole region which makes it particularly spectacular, taking into consideration the endless swaying palm trees as well.
By the way, all beaches in Punta Cana are free. If you would like to get more ideas what you can do for free in Punta Cana, please check out this article with amazing ideas of things-to-do for free in Bavaro.
Where to stay at Playa Bavaro: My favorite all-inclusive resort at Playa Bavaro is Dreams Royal Beach* (formerly called Now Larimar) due to its perfect price-value ratio. If you’d like to stay in a modern and elegant beachfront apartment, try Sanctuary @ Los Corales* or check out this wonderful beachfront Airbnb at Bavaro Beach*.
Where to eat at Bavaro Beach: Jellyfish Beach is a local favorite with plenty of space at the terrace, the upper deck or right at the beach. They have an extensive menu with affordable prices and occasional live music, so make sure to visit this popular beach club at Punta Cana’s longest beach.
What to do at Bavaro Beach: Bavaro Beach is particularly famous for its multiple watersport offerings. Banana boat, parasailing*, fishing or waterskiing are only some of the activities the local fishermen and tour operators will offer you. Let’s have some fun at Punta Canas’ beaches! Check out this article if you’d like more information about Bavaro Beach.
How to get to Playa Bavaro: Depending on the hotel where you are staying, chances are that you can walk along the beach to reach Playa Bavaro – or you might even stay right at it. If you need directions for arriving by public transport or rental car, have a look at this comprehensive Bavaro Beach guide.
5) Playa Corales – the individual beach, part of Bavaro Beach
Playa Corales is one of the two mentioned public access points in this area (and part of Bavaro Beach). While all beaches in the Dominican Republic are public, it sometimes can be a bit tricky to reach them, especially in Punta Cana, where most of the beachfront row is blocked by well-guarded and fenced all-inclusive resorts.
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However, Playa Corales is where you always can go, it does not matter if you stay in a big high-end resort or in a small guesthouse away from the beach. It features a couple of public beach bars as well which makes it a lively and active place-to-be, including chill-out music and sun loungers. Furthermore, you can also grab ready-to-eat snacks, cold beers or delicious to-go meals from supermarkets and restaurants approx. 5 minutes walking away in case you’d like to have your own beach feast menu.
Where to stay at Playa Corales: Los Corales is best for those looking for alternative options to the typical all-inclusive resorts. For stylish beachfront apartments, a good bet is Playa Turquesa Ocean Club*. If you have a smaller budget, have a look at well-managed ArtVilla Bavaro* und if you’re backpacking the Dominican Republic, I’d recommend the GAVA Hostel* (not a proper hostel though, which is simply not existing). You can also find an amazing 8-bedroom villa right in Corales* in case you are traveling with some friends.
Where to eat at Playa Corales: Soles Chill Out Bar is your first point of reference when looking for a place to hang out, relax and listen to music while sipping on a cold drink or having some casual beach food. It’s a long-running institution in Punta Cana. More restaurant recommendations in Corales can be found in this Bavaro Beach guide.
What to do at Playa Corales: At Corales Beach, you can try a couple of these 15 amazing things-to-do for free. How about getting to know local life in a typical Colmado or looking for some instagrammable spots at the beach? Check out this article for further things-to-do in Punta Cana.
How to get to Playa Corales: From the main area of Los Corales, just walk along Calle Residencial Los Corales to reach the beach. If you are staying inland, take a local guagua and tell the driver you want to get off at Los Corales. For further directions, continue reading here as Corales is part of Playa Bavaro.
If you are at another stretch of beach in Bavaro/Punta Cana, simply walk northwest or southeast until you reach Playa Corales.
6) Playa del Cortecito – the beach with local bars
Playa del Cortecito is the brother of Playa Corales. Both are part of Playa Bavaro but as they are the most important public access points of the Punta Cana beaches, they deserve a separate mention. While Playa Los Corales takes advantage of the wide palm-lined stretch of Playa Bavaro, Playa del Cortecito has a different approach as it is quite narrow. However, this enables a couple of super cool beach bars right at the ocean to serve cocktails literally with sea salt on the edge of your Margarita. In addition, especially Onno’s (bar and music) and Captain Cook (seafood restaurant) are famous among locals so it is the perfect hangout spot if you’d like to connect a bit with the Dominicans (usually resort-workers) around here.
Where to stay at Playa del Cortecito: Capri Beach House*, a small independent hotel is a good bet at the beach. Travelers on a shoestring can use the same recommendations as for Playa Los Corales as both beaches are just around 1 mile away from each other. The closest all-inclusive resort to Cortecito Beach is Palladium Punta Cana*.
Where to eat at Playa del Cortecito: Onno’s is popular among locals and tourists in Punta Cana likewise. Enjoy tropical drinks and international favorites right at the beach or at their spacious terrace, accompanied by DJ or live music. Onno’s is one of the best Punta Cana beach bars.
What to do at Playa del Cortecito: Cortecito is a perfect starting point for a long beach walk. You can walk in both directions and explore the diversity of Punta Canas’ beaches. For more things-to-do at Bavaro Beach and Cortecito, continue reading here.
How to get to Playa del Cortecito: Either walk from your desired accommodation or from another beach to Playa del Cortecito. If you come with a local guagua from Friusa or Verón, just tell the driver to let you off at El Cortecito.
7) Playa de Arena Blanca – the all-inclusive beach of Punta Cana
The mentioned public access points are followed by a long stretch of white to golden-colored sand – Playa de Arena Blanca – lined by one all-inclusive resort after the other. Occidental Punta Cana, the Princess Resorts, Paradisus Punta Cana, Ocean Blue & Sands and VIK Hotel Arena Blanca are names of those properties.
Where to stay at Playa Arena Blanca: By far the best resort along this stretch is Paradisus Punta Cana*.
Where to eat at Playa Arena Blanca: there are no public eateries at this part of beach in Punta Cana.
What to do at Playa Arena Blanca: clearly, the best is to stay at an all-inclusive resort as there is nothing else around.
How to get to Playa Arena Blanca: There is no public access from the road. You just can walk there from other beaches nearby.
8) Playa de Arena Gorda – the endless beach
On the first view, Playa de Arena Gorda just seems like a prolongation of the Arena Blanca Beach. One resort after the other (all the Iberostars, all the RIU hotels, the big Grand Bahía property, both Royalton resorts and many more), no public access for kilometers and tourists as far as you can see. But once you reach the end of the hotel zone – Hard Rock Punta Cana is the last one – a long, nearly endless, white sandy beach with turquoise water is awaiting you. What else you want to expect from a picture-perfect beach in Punta Cana?
Where to stay at Playa Arena Gorda: The best hotel at Playa Arena Gorda is Hard Rock Punta Cana* (check the extensive review here). If you are on a budget, Occidental Caribe* is a great (all-inclusive) value option.
Where to eat at Playa Arena Gorda: There is exactly one public place at Playa Arena Gorda where you can eat: Kukua Beach Club. It’s a beautiful and cozy place and definitely worth a visit, it doesn’t matter if you come from outside or walk along Punta Canas’ beaches.
What to do at Playa Arena Gorda: you should check out this beautiful stretch of pristine beach northwest of Hard Rock and walk either there or along the parallel running coconut grove. Both places are like heaven and show you the unspoiled Punta Cana. Check out this article for further things-to-do in Punta Cana.
How to get to Playa Arena Gorda: There is hardly any public access. The best is if you walk here on a long beach walk from Playa del Cortecito or if you stay in one of the hotels at Playa de Arena Gorda.
9) Playa Macao – the surfers beach and locals favorite
For a long time, Playa Macao was the locals favorite with perfect, nearly pristine beach and surfing conditions during the week and a massive Dominican crowd during the weekend. It still is, but unfortunately a first all-inclusive resort was opened in 2020 at Playa Macao, taking half of the beach for the resort and just leaving the other half publicly accessible. It is still a nice place to come though.
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Where to stay at Playa Macao: If you want to check out the new resort, do so with Dreams Playa Macao (check prices of Dreams Macao here*). On the other hand, if you are backpacking, you find the only proper hostel with a backpacking vibe in the whole Punta Cana area here, the Macao Beach Hostel*. If you are looking for a local experience (something hard to find at Punta Canas’ beaches), you can have a look at this cute private room with Dominican hosts in Macao*.
Where to eat at Playa Macao: Playa Macao is the perfect choice to enjoy a freshly grilled fish right at the beach in Punta Cana. There are several local oceanfront eateries with tables right in the sand of Playa Macao that offer some of the best fish dishes with local Dominican sides, such as rice and beans or fried plantains.
What to do at Playa Macao: One of the top activities at Macao Beach is going surfing – either for a surfing lesson (check out the prices here*) or on your own. If you don’t want to get into the water, you can have a 15-minutes walk to a small hidden beach next to Playa Macao, Playa Escondida. Another option is just to have a beer and enjoy people-watching, as Playa Macao is the local’s favorite beach in Punta Cana for the weekends.
How to get to Playa Macao: You can either take a taxi or a rental car (check prices for rental cars in Punta Cana here*) or if you feel more adventurous, take the local public transport (ending in Macao). From the bus stop, you still have to walk a little less than a mile to the beach or take a motoconcho.
10) Playa Uvero Alto – the remote beach of Punta Cana
Playa Uvero Alto is already 25 miles away from the Punta Cana International Airport (check out this article on how to get to and from the airport) but still considered to be part of the Punta Cana region. And the beaches in this area justify it because they are not any kind of less attractive than in the other areas. While the sand is a bit more golden and the water not as turquoise as in other parts of Punta Cana, Uvero Alto scores with less frequented beaches, elegant resorts (all of them are quite luxurious) and a more low-key atmosphere compared to the main beaches of Punta Cana.
Where to stay at Playa Uvero Alto: Breathless* is my favorite all-inclusive resort in Uvero Alto, followed by the Excellence Resort*. Due to the lack of infrastructure in this area, I would not recommend staying outside of a resort in Uvero Alto if you are not planning to rent a car. On the other hand, renting a car could be worth it, as one of the most spectacular and romantic Airbnbs* is located in Uvero Alto. Check out this Airbnb here* and continue reading here if it’s a good idea to rent a car in Punta Cana.
Where to eat at Playa Uvero Alto: There are not a lot of options in Uvero Alto to eat right at the beach. You can check out if El Navegante is open again after its closure affected by Covid-19.
What to do at Playa Uvero Alto: Uvero Alto has a couple of ranches and is famous for horseback riding at the beach*. Have a try and enjoy this unique experience. Check out this article for further things-to-do in Punta Cana.
How to get to Playa Uvero Alto: If you are staying in the area, you can walk the whole beach which is around 6 miles long. Apart from that you can either take a taxi or a rental car (check prices for rental cars in Punta Cana here*). Local transport (guaguas) are possible as well, but the connections make it quite difficult to get here.
Bonus: Playa Esmeralda – the prettiest beach
Are you looking for THE secret spot to go, a true hidden gem and insider tip in the (extended) area of Punta Cana? Then check out Playa Esmeralda!
Until recently it was one of the most remote beaches in the Dominican Republic, but it got better accessible with the new resorts which are under construction since 2018/2019. So far, it is still an absolutely gorgeous stretch of beach, like what you expect in paradise when you get stranded on a beach with absolutely no infrastructure. A while ago we even camped here and could take advantage of 2 miles of pristine and untouched beach.
With more than 60 miles from Punta Cana International Airport, Playa Esmeralda can geographically not be considered as Punta Cana, but as it is reachable in around an hour and it is the closest airport, it is still marketed as Punta Cana region.
Where to stay at Playa Esmeralda: Right now there is just one luxury resort at Playa Esmeralda and no other for dozens of miles, so you have the whole beach on your own. The resort Club Med* is scheduled to start operations in 2021.
Where to eat at Playa Esmeralda: So far, there are no restaurants at Playa Esmeralda as it is still a pristine beach in Punta Cana.
What to do at Playa Esmeralda: When you visit, you are most likely on your own, so enjoy having this paradise all for yourself. On your way to Playa Esmeralda, you can make a stop at Montaña Redonda, a hill with spectacular photo opportunities, thanks to its giant swings right at the edge of the mountain.
Summary: which one is THE best beach in Punta Cana?
So many beaches in Punta Cana and nearly each of them with different characteristics – but which one is THE best beach in Punta Cana? Well, this depends on what exactly you are looking for.
If we translate “the best” to “the most beautiful” (for photos) it might be Playa Juanillo. The different colors here accounts for a spectacular and unique setting.
If the best beach for you is one with the most action, bars and people, Playa Los Corales is the best bet for you.
If you are looking for the most remote and pristine beach (besides of Playa Esmeralda), the Playa de Arena Gorda is your top choice once you leave the hotel zone and venture out to the miles of untouched sand north of it.
And if I would have to choose the best beach for everyone – so literally an all-in-one beach – I would pick Playa Bavaro as it is super stunning, you can do beach walks lasting forever, it is good for swimming, you have some chilled beach bars, independent accommodation, but also high-quality all-inclusive resorts. What else do you need from a perfect beach in Punta Cana?
Are you interested in even more pristine beaches? Then check out the most beautiful beaches of the Samaná peninsula, which you can reach in a road-trip from Punta Cana.
What is your favorite beach in Punta Cana? Have you been here? Where have you loved it or where do you want to go? Let me know in the comments … !
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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.
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