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 Los 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.]
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.
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
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.
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 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*.
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.
5) Playa Los Corales – the individual beach, part of Bavaro Beach
Playa Los 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 Los 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 the 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 Los 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).
How to get to Playa Los 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.
If you are at another stretch of beach in Bavaro/Punta Cana, simply walk northwest or southeast until you reach Playa Los Corales.
6) Playa del Cortecito – the beach with local bars
Playa del Cortecito is the brother of Playa Los 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.
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*.
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?
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* (Claim your bonus before booking Macao Beach Hostel here*).
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.
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.
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-rounder 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.