Romantics, Golfers, Yogis: There's a Punta Cana For That
Of the 5.3 million people who’ve traveled to Dominican Republic in 2019 (fun fact: no "the" in the country's official name), the majority stayed in Punta Cana. So clearly, the region is already a crowd-pleaser. And given its 30-mile stretch of powdery sands, turquoise seas and swaying palms, we can see why.
But between major new openings and re-dos of old favorites, the nation’s easternmost point is about to go next-level. So whether you’re among the legions of longtime Punta Cana fans—or a total newbie—you’ll want to get there ASAP, especially if you fall into one of these six categories:
To anyone who thinks a secluded stretch of resorts must lack local flavor, Punta Cana says think again (or piénsalo otra vez, as the case may be). Several properties are consciously incorporating local touches and encouraging cultural immersion. At the freshly made-over Occidental Punta Cana, for one, the epic dessert buffet is almost entirely Dominican: majarete, arroz con dulce and even habichuelas con dulce, a hard-to-find sweet bean dessert unique to the country. The evening entertainment, too, is set up the way Dominicans like it—al fresco with a live merengue band. And the folkloric dancers are just as fabulous. Meanwhile, the recently updated Excellence Punta Cana’s The Kitchen Table highlights local cuisine, and Bohío at longtime favorite Barceló Bávaro Palace offers an all-Dominican menu.
Step off campus and you’ll find a host of top-notch local restaurants. Capitán Cook on Bávaro Beach is best for fresh fish and tostones with a view. Choose from the day’s catch, then relax with a cold Presidente and watch the kite surfers glide by. Then there’s Playa Blanca’s sleek beachside—beloved for Dominican favorites such as chivo guisado (spicy goat stew) with coconut rice.
And when the urge for indulgence strikes, head to the aptly named Mundo Auténtico (authentic world), where you can sample local rum and chocolate, and watch onsite cigar rollers play their trade.
Though the baseline romance is pretty epic (see: the aforementioned 30 miles of powdery-soft sand, transparent turquoise water and gently swaying palms), Punta Cana is constantly turning up the heat.
One mainstay of the adults-only scene is Barceló Bávaro Beach, whose Premium Level oceanfront suites come with vista-blessed outdoor hot tubs and free access to the spa’s hydrotherapy circuit. And newer openings have brought even more aquatic fun: Check out the plunge pool suites (complete with butler service) at Secrets Cap Cana and the swim-out master suites at Be Live Collection Punta Cana.
Looking for a more intimately scaled space? Boutique properties are surfacing here, too. Consider the recently updated 55-suite Le Sivory, where the Bali-inspired beachfront suites come with private pools—oh, and access to an 8,000-bottle wine cellar.
Of course, even the most lovestruck of couples (we're looking at you, honeymooners) want to leave their hotels...at some point. And for a magical dinner out, the sailboat-shaped La Yola—perched over an illuminated stretch of water at Punta Cana Marina—is hard to beat. You’ll find that the curried lobster pairs particularly well with a bachata serenade.
If you want to fully embrace the Punta Cana lifestyle—beach by day and bonche (party) by night—step out to Calle Aruba in Los Corales, home to a whole row of lively bars and lounges. One favorite is the Living Room, where the rum cocktails and live music will have your hips swaying in record time.
The serenity now crowd
For anyone who wants to achieve a state of pure bliss, the simple but sublime combo of sand and sea is hard to beat here. Still, Punta Cana’s spas are up for the challenge.
The longtime gold standard, Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana, lulls you into another dimension with services that range from the Regional Treatment (a maracuyá-infused scrub and wrap followed by a yogurt rub-down) to the Seaweed Body Treatment (an alga-rich exfoliation and cocooning session that ends with lymphatic drainage massage).
Or go underground at the new Hyatt Zilara’s Larimar Spa, a cavern-like space with 14 treatment rooms and a lagoon-facing relaxation area. There you’ll find everything from quartz therapy to the nation's first Himalayan Salt Lounge. And yogis will love Chic Punta Cana—especially sunrise yoga at its beachside studio.
Lest grown-ups have all the fun, family-friendly resorts are ratcheting up the excitement, too. At the new Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana, for one, there's a sprawling water park—complete with lazy river, three giant slides and a water cannon. Then again, families are equally drawn to the naturally occurring water here, a typically calm stretch of the Caribbean that kids can explore in kayaks, snorkels—or just trusty parental arms. You can also drop the littles at the KidZ Club for supervised fun—and the bigs at the Teen Club, where DJ lessons are all the rage.
Head off campus to immerse yourselves in nature at the nearby Scape Park, whose 247 forested acres make a gorgeous backdrop for horseback riding, wildlife spotting and zip lining. Want more adrenaline? Head to Bávaro Adventure Park for everything from mountain biking to zorbing.
A longtime golf mecca, Punta Cana hosted the nation’s first-ever PGA tournament last year: the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. The 2020 edition takes place March 26-29, but you can catch qualifying rounds over the next few months as the Canita Tour hits various courses across Punta Cana.
Then again, whenever you go, you have access to Golfweek’s top Caribbean golf course of 2019: Punta Espada Golf Club, the first Jack Nicklaus signature course in the country, with fairways that hug jagged clifftops, eight holes along the water and one that challenges you to aim directly over the sea.
To up your game on vacation, head to Casa de Campo—not technically in Punta Cana, but close—for the new state-of-the-art Golf Learning Center. There’s a 430-yard driving range, plus all kinds of tech to help you improve your positioning and swing.
Home to one of the longest coastlines in the Caribbean, Punta Cana serves up stellar fishing of all kinds: lagoon, fly-fishing and deep-sea. But you never have to go too far offshore before you start to reel in the big game—mahi mahi, wahoo, blue and white marlin, swordfish and billfish, to name a few.
Tournaments are a great time to witness and compete in Punta Cana’s rich waters, and you’ve got ample time to plan for the next two: the Casa de Campo International Blue Marlin Classic in April and the Cabeza de Toro International White Marlin Tournament in May.
Not that you have to compete to have fun on the water, of course: Top fishing charters Gone Fishing and Atlántida Punta Cana, open to all levels, will take you in search of wahoo, jacks, mahi mahi, tuna, white and blue marlins and barracuda.
What's the catch? There's so much to do in Punta Cana, you're likely to be lured back for a return visit very soon.