Most travelers unfamiliar with the Caribbean have probably never heard of Punta Cana — and that’s what makes this delightfully sunny town quite a special place. Located in the Eastern Region of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is mostly a resort town. While many locals live in the area, it can be quite deserted outside of high season. And with an almost constant tropical temperature of around 78 degrees and white sandy beaches lined by shallow marine pools, it’s truly a small paradise for visitors.
Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, the town offers a wide range of sports and beach activities for travelers. However, the most intriguing activities on this island are the day trips. Making up the second half of Hispaniola (with Haiti), the Dominican Republic was discovered and claimed by Christopher Columbus back in 1492. Since that time, it has had a fascinating and turbulent history under the rule of the Spanish, fighting for independence. There are towns that are centuries old on this lovely tropical island, and they make for great exploratory adventures.
Here I’ve compiled a list of the best day trips from Punta Cana.
Photo by Miguel R via Trover.com
A two-hour drive from Punta Cana is the fascinating capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo. Founded by Columbus himself in 1496, this city is the oldest European settlement in the Americas. Here, the influential port and harbor meet the industrial center of the city, which is peppered with some seriously impressive historical buildings.
Head to the Zona Colonial (colonial zone) in Santo Domingo, where you’ll find Catedral Santa María La Menor, the first cathedral in the New World. You’ll also find the first castle (Alcázar de Colón), the ruins of the first monastery (Monasterio de San Francisco), and the oldest fortress in the Americas (Fortaleza Ozama). There’s so much to do in Santo Domingo that you can easily spend a day exploring.
Photo by Roman Chumakoff via Trover.com
Saona island is the picture-perfect castaway island. Used in many films for this very purpose, it’s located just off the mainland in the southeast of the Dominican Republic. You can arrange excursions of various types via catamarans or small boats to reach this protected nature reserve. Here you’ll find various tropical plants and wild animals as well as idyllic white-sand beaches. It truly is a traveler’s haven, though during the high season you’ll be there with droves of other tourists. Pack lots of sunscreen and enjoy the tranquility of this (nearly) uninhabited island.
Altos de Chavon
Photo by Jeremy Foster via Trover.com
Probably one of the most interesting places you’ll ever visit, Altos de Chavon is a small village that was constructed very recently in 1976. The head of Paramount Pictures had the idea to recreate a Mediterranean-style, medieval village from stones blasted from an old bridge.
Today, you can stroll the cobbled streets and pop into the local art galleries and small shops throughout the village. You can also visit the quaint St. Stanislaus Church or the Roman-inspired 5,000-seat amphitheater. There’s so much to see and do in this strange village, located just an hour outside of Punta Cana. Travelers to the area should not miss this unique day trip.
Whether you’re in the Caribbean to soak up some sunshine or take a leisurely holiday, these day trips are a great way to break up your trip. Book a Punta Cana hotel close to the attactions, arrange for a tour or rent your own car, and get exploring.