Sandwiched between Haiti to the west and Puerto Rico to the east is the Dominican Republic. The eastern tip of the island, Punta Cana, is equal parts beachy and thrill-seeking. Zipline in the rainforest or swim with dolphins in Punta Cana. Plus, snorkeling and scuba diving in any of the region’s clear blue waters promises incredible views. Punta Cana has grown in recent years; all-inclusive resorts and more excursions than ever before are available to travelers visiting the area on their Caribbean cruise. You can spend hours at Playa Juanillo or take a catamaran to the remote Saona Island. With a little extra time, make a day trip to the capital, Santo Domingo, where historic orange and limestone buildings in the Zona Colonial dominate the landscape ahead. Sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, or a long swim awaits you in this Caribbean paradise.
The “Blue Hole” is a swimming hole situated in a limestone cave. For visitors to Punta Cana and Cap Cana. Blue Hole is a popular attraction for its refreshing, clear waters. The easiest way to enjoy it is to book an excursion there, which takes care of transportation to and from, and will gladly explain the formation and history of the caves. Dive into the 45-foot deep waters and lose yourself in the tropical rainforest surrounding you.
Chocolate lovers and those with sweet tooths won’t want to miss ChocoMuseo, n entire museum dedicated to the cacao plant. Take a two-hour chocolate making workshop or simply tour the museum for a detailed history of chocolate. There are samples, of course, and a gift shop to bring goodies back with you to the ship.
This calm beach is ideal for relaxing while on your cruise to the Dominican Republic. It’s not far from the pier where you’ll be dropped off from the cruise ship, which means you could explore Playa Juanillo at the end of your day before heading back to the ship, or start your day with warm sunlight hitting your skin and a cold drink in hand before continuing on to other activities in Punta Cana.
On your cruise to the Dominican Republic, you can start in Punta Cana and be in Santo, the capital city, Domingo in a little over two hours. While you’re there, tour the historic Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor and explore the city’s colonial zone, heavily influenced by French and British occupation throughout the centuries. Enjoy a coffee at one of the outdoor cafes downtown, then find dinner along the waterfront facing the Caribbean.
Dolphin Discovery is one dolphin encounter provider on Punta Cana, and they will organize your experience to the nines. You’ll swim and interact with dolphins while guides give you both encouragement and instruction on the best ways to play with them in the water. This is an unforgettable excursion for all ages, and you’ll always remember swimming with dolphins in Punta Cana.
Manati Park is Punta Cana’s first theme park, founded in 1996, and it has multiple animals shows—including equestrian shows and sea lion demonstrations— that are perfect for young children. Note that they’re open from 9:00 am to 5:00, and closed on Mondays.
It’s rare to find the time to golf while on your cruise, but Punta Espada is the perfect opportunity to hit the green. This vibrant course overlooks parts of the Caribbean sea while you play, making for an unforgettable 18 holes.
Hop on a boat for a ride to the secluded, mostly uninhabited Saona Island on the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic. It’s 12 miles from the mainland, and the island could easily be described as paradise. As part of a protected national park, Saona Island is a haven for wildlife where endangered sea turtles nest. Tours and excursions via catamaran are the most popular way to reach the island.
Passion by Martin Berasategui
Address: Paradisus Palma Real Resort, Playas de Bavaro, Punta Cana 23000
Michelin-rated chef Martín Berasategui wanted to bring fine dining to the Dominican Republic, and what resulted was Passion, located in the Paradisus Palma Real Resort in Punta Cana. There’s a seven-course tasting menu which often changes, but you past plates included grilled salmon, veal, and ravioli with truffles.
La Cava Kitchen & Bar
Address: La Cava, Cap Cana, Juanillo, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
La Cava is a Mediterranean fusion spot in Cap Cana. It’s an upscale setting, but at a moderate price point. They offer several types of carpaccio, including salmon, octopus, and beef, as well as oysters and tuna tartare. There are a ton of options here; they even branch in pastas like risotto and ravioli. Try the salmon steak or the catch of the day while you’re there.
Las Leñas Cafe
Address: Carretera Arena Gorda, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Come into Las Leñas for a strong Dominican coffee, milkshake, or smoothie. They also serve baked goods and pastries like tarts and chocolate croissants. Breakfast options like scrambled eggs and breakfast sandwiches will fill you up for a day of exploring.
Restaurante Don Pepe - Santo Domingo
Address: Calle Porfirio Herrera 31, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
On an excursion to Santo Domingo, you’ll have a cozy yet atmospheric dinner at Restaurante Don Pepe. White tablecloths and a full wine cellar are hallmarks of the place. Seafood dishes like grilled red snapper, paella, lobster bisque, and more run the menu.
The Dominican Republic has a rich, complex history of European imperialism and colonialism that has shaped the country into what it is today. The indigenous people of what is now the Dominican Republic were the Taíno, who were the primary inhabitants of the area before European colonization. The Dominican Republic was the first Spanish colony in the Western Hemisphere, and Santo Domingo became the capital of the Dominican Republic in 1496.
Control of the island shifted hands between the Spanish and the French multiple times over the centuries. In 1791, the slaves of the French quarter decided to rebel, and they declared independence from France in 1804. Subsequently, the Spanish once again took control of the island until the people once again declared independence in 1844. The sugar cane industry was huge in the area during the 19th century as well.
Punta Cana itself is a resort and beach town in the Dominican Republic that didn’t start booming until the late 1960s, when what is now Punta Cana was undeveloped jungle. Today, it’s rapidly growing as a tropical destination for honeymooners, thrill-seekers, and passengers on a cruise to the Dominican Republic.
There isn’t a formal cruise port in the Punta Cana area, so most of the time ships will anchor near Cap Cana and tender passengers ashore. From there, you can venture on to Punta Cana via shuttle bus or taxi.
There are several options for getting around in Punta Cana:
You can take a taxi from the pier into the city center, and taxis are readily available when you’re in the city. Uber also operates in the Dominican Republic.
Renting a car is fun way to go beyond Punta Cana into other parts of the island during your cruise to the Dominican Republic. It can be expensive, and you’ll have to quickly acclimate to the hurried driving style of the city.
This may be the easiest way to get around the city center, but would be difficult and time consuming to venture further out of the city on foot.
This is one of the easiest ways to get around the island; you won’t have to worry about arranging transportation when you’re on your Punta Cana cruise.
One of the places where tourists go shopping in Punta Cana is Plaza Bavaro, where you can haggle for goods with local vendors. There’s also the Punta Cana Shopping Village, where there are clothing boutiques and also several familiar chain restaurants. There are cigar shops and souvenir shacks scattered throughout Punta Cana.
The official currency used in the Dominican Republic is the Dominican peso (DOP). However, U.S. dollars (USD) are accepted in some cases, particularly in tourist-heavy areas as well as many hotels and restaurants. There are also ATMs throughout Punta Cana for you to withdraw cash as you need. Having cash on hand will help you quickly and efficiently leave tips for your food service workers, taxi drivers, and tour operators, and many places are cash only. Visa and MasterCard are also widely used in the Dominican Republic. At a restaurant, your bill will typically include a “servicio,” and if they don’t, be sure to leave a tip of 10-15% for your server. Taxi drivers aren’t accustomed to tips, but it’s polite to give one if they were particularly helpful to you.