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The 5 Best Punta Cana Excursions

by Lisa Stentvedt
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If you are looking for the best Punta Cana excursions for your trip to the Dominican Republic, I am happy to share my 5 favorite excursions and tours with you! These are all great in different ways, and I hope this guide helps you choose which day trips and tours are the best for you!

Since I just returned from an incredible journey to Punta Cana and had the opportunity to experience some of the best excursions this tropical paradise has to offer, I figured I’d share my findings with you.

I have to admit, some of the tours in Punta Cana are similar to those offered in other destinations (going on a catamaran snorkel trip is offered all over the Caribbean, for example).

Since I have done these types of tours all over (check out my guide to the best tours in Cancun here!), I can easily compare and recommend the top activities in Punta Cana. That’s why I love sharing my insights with fellow travelers who are seeking advice on which excursions to book.

Let me guide you through the ultimate excursion experiences in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic!

Quick Punta Cana Travel Guide

Where to stay: Punta Cana is located on the east coast of the Dominican Republic, with loads of high-end all-inclusive resorts lining the coastline. Most visitors to Punta Cana opt to stay at one of these resorts, as it truly is a destination for relaxing and enjoying the Caribbean climate. Popular resorts include Dreams Macao Punta Cana, Impressive Premium Punta Cana and the Hard Rock Hotel.

Top activities and tours in Punta Cana:

Packing for Punta Cana: Punta Cana is hot year-round, so you obviously want to pack your swimwear, flip flops and light summer outfits. Resorts usually have a casual dress code, but won’t allow swimwear in the restaurants. So pack a few summery dresses or shorts and tops for dinner as well. Don’t forget reef-safe sunscreen, sunglasses and a good book, and read through my all-inclusive packing list before your trip!

Airport transfers: There are plenty of vendors and sellers waiting for you at the Punta Cana airport, so finding a taxi or transfer to your hotel is not a problem. However, if this feels a little overwhelming to you, I recommend booking a transfer in advance – for ease of mind. Our transfer by taxi (booked upon arrival) to our hotel cost $30 USD, whilst booking a transfer in advance would have been less than $15 (this is the highest-rated one).

My Top 3 Picks:

#1 Cultural Tour
a dark stone cathedral against a blue sky, with a large triangle shaped entrance. This is the cathedral of Higuey, which can be seen on a cultural tour from Punta Cana.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Half-Day Dominican Republic Cultural Tour

✅ Explore local culture and heritage

✅ Try local coffee and cocoa

✅ Small group – personalised experience

#2 Day Trip to Saona Island
a photo of the ocean taken from a boat in Punca Cana, with parts of the island visible in the distance. The ocean is a beautiful green and the sky is bright blue.

Small Group Saona Island Full Day Tour

✅ One of the most popular excursions in Punta Cana

✅ Small group

✅ All-inclusive Experience

#3 Zipline & Buggies adventure Tour
a sandy trail in punta cana going away from the camera, with palm trees and shrubs on either side

Adventure Bundle: Monkeyland, Ziplines & Buggies

✅ Full day trip for the adventurous

✅ Full 12-cable zipline experience

✅ Buggy tour and river swim

The 5 Best Excursions in Punta Cana

Below I share the best excursions in Punta Cana – sorted by topic, not quality. Basically, the first tour on the list is what (I feel) is the best cultural tour for anyone wanting to explore Dominican culture whilst staying in Punta Cana. The next one is the best boat excursion from Punta Cana, and so on.

Of course, all tours are highly-rated and ones I personally recommend. So when I say they aren’t listed by order of quality I simply mean that these are all great tours. #1 isn’t “better” than #5 – they are simply the best tour for the category I have put them in.

I recommend you use the table of contents above to see which tours I have covered here, and to jump directly to the one you are looking for. But in short, I’ve covered culture tours, boat tours, diving experiences, adventure excursions and family-friendly tours in this guide.

I hope dividing it this way is helpful!

Read later: Punta Cana or Cancun – which should you visit?

#1 Best Cultural Tour From Punta Cana

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 5 hours | ✅ Book it!

My friends and I did the private version of this tour on our most recent trip to Punta Cana, and had a great time!

Basically, we wanted to get out of our resort and see more of the island, and it was between this and a day trip to Santo Domingo (that I hope to do on my next trip).

Side note: This day trip to Santo Domingo (5/5 stars, $95) also seems like a great option for those looking to explore DR culture whilst in Punta Cana!

We were picked up in the morning by our driver and guide, and off we went into the island and away from the resorts. On the way our guide (Wilson) told us some of the history of the Dominican Republic and answered all our questions. He gave us an overview of the island and its people, and it was a great way to learn!

I also made sure to ask him in detail what he thought is the best time of year to visit Punta Cana. I’ve elaborated on his answers here!

We stopped at a souvenir shop on the way, clearly built for tourist groups. This was the only part of the tour that felt a little “touristy”, and the rest felt super authentic.

From there, we kept traveling inland, and visited a family in a small village where they grow cocoa and coffee beans. We got to try local coffee, and also try the yummy flesh around the cocoa beans (I have never tasted it before). Meanwhile, Wilson was telling us about how the coffee and chocolate is made, and how important it is for the community.

We all ended up purchasing coffee to bring home (I also got Dominican coffee as a gift for my parents, who were watching my cat Malbec). They take cash only (both local Peso and US Dollars), so make sure to bring cash in order to shop.

From there, we stopped in Higüey to look at the fascinating cathedral there, and later at a cigar factory (where we were offered to try the cigars if we wanted). On the way back we stopped at Macao Beach, considered one of the best beaches in Punta Cana.

All in all, this was a great way to explore a little bit of the island and learn more about the Dominican Republic. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who wants to go beyond the resorts of Punta Cana!

Great way to get off of a resort and better understand how locals live. Our guide Teo was very warm and accommodating.

– Malia, April 2024 (Read more reviews)

🤩 Check Prices and Availability!

a dark stone cathedral against a blue sky, with a large triangle shaped entrance. This is the cathedral of Higuey, which can be seen on a cultural tour from Punta Cana.

#2 Best Boat Excursion from Punta Cana (Saona Island)

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 9 hours | ✅ Book it!

There are so many boat tours leaving from Punta Cana, from relaxing family-friendly snorkeling tours, to full on party boats with drinks flowing and loud music. There’s something for everyone, truly.

But, the best (and most popular) boat trip from Punta Cana is the full day tour to Saona. It is super popular, and there are several companies offering variations of it.

Saona Island is located just south of the Dominican Republic. It is a gem in the Caribbean Sea. This small island is renowned for its white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life – which is why it is so popular for boat tours.

As a protected nature reserve, Saona Island offers visitors a chance to experience unspoiled natural beauty, with lush tropical forests and diverse wildlife to explore. The turquoise waters surrounding the island are ideal for snorkeling, allowing visitors to discover colorful coral reefs and an array of marine species.

Browse the most popular Saona Island day trips:

The highest rated one (and the best, in my opinion) is this small-group tour.

This excursion guarantees a personalized touch with breakfast, lunch, and drinks all included in the package. With groups limited to just 14 people, you can expect an intimate and immersive adventure.

The knowledgeable guides ensure you make the most of your time, providing insights into the island’s history and culture. Spend approximately 4 hours relaxing on the stunning beaches of Saona Island, making memories that will last a lifetime.

You also learn about the Saona turtle conservation on this tour – and as you know, I love turtles!

Thanks to our guide Malvin, the trip was superb throughout. Very knowledgable of the history of his country, he helped us to understand the evolution of this fascinating country in a very pleasant way. The guide’s attention to all the details directed at the group was a bonus. If it was worth paying extra to spend the day in a small group? No 100% YES! a dream scenery, photography beaches, crystal water, unique experience and memorable moments. That’s what this trip offered us. I recommend without hesitation.

– Claudia, May 2024 (Read more reviews)

🤩 Check Prices and Availability!

a photo of the ocean taken from a boat in Punca Cana, with parts of the island visible in the distance. The ocean is a beautiful green and the sky is bright blue.

#3 Best Adventure Tour of Punta Cana

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 9 hours | ✅ Book it!

Embark on an exhilarating Adventure Bundle Excursion in Punta Cana, packed with thrilling activities that promise a perfect blend of adrenaline and natural beauty exploration.

This tour offers entry to Monkeyland, where you can interact with and observe playful monkeys in their habitat. Feel the rush as you soar through the treetops with a 12 step zipline experience, taking in stunning aerial views of the Dominican Republic’s lush landscapes.

To top it off, enjoy a buggy ride to the Anamuya River, where you can cool off with a refreshing swim if you desire. Ideal for adventure seekers looking to spice up their vacation with unforgettable experiences amidst the captivating nature of Punta Cana.

The tour is a full-day tour, so make sure to bring sunscreen and backpacks with everything you need. They’ll pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.

Side note: If you love the idea of exploring by dune buggy/4×4/quad (I don’t know how many names these vehicles have), you’ll want to make it to the bottom of the post. Further down I share some even more of these types of tours.

Amazing adventure! We had a blast and the staffs were very friendly. We loved every activity, everything was full of adventure and adrenaline, really the only issue that happened was that our buggy had some problems with the brake and clutch. We had a lot of fun feeding the monkeys but the most fun we had was with the ziplines.

– Rattana, April 2024 (Read more reviews)

🤩 Check Prices and Availability!

#4 Best Diving Excursion in Punta Cana

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 9 hours | ✅ Book it!

When it comes to diving in Punta Cana, the best excursion for divers is heading to Bayahibe, just a short 50-minute drive away from Punta Cana. One of the highest-rated options in the area is booking this private dive excursion.

This exclusive experience includes convenient hotel pick-ups and allows you to bring a small group of up to 6 people along for the underwater exploration. If you are a diving enthusiast looking for a top-notch experience, this private dive excursion is a must-do in Punta Cana.

Since it accommodates up to 6 divers, it’s great for friend groups who want to dive together. All equipment and lunch is included, and you can expect visiting dive sites such as the St. George (pictured with me below!) or Atlantic Princess wrecks, or some of the epic reef dives around Bayahibe.

Personally, I would have loved to do this tour whilst in Punta Cana, but sadly my friends flat-out refused to try scuba diving. Rude, I know. Especially since it’s super easy to book the Beginner Scuba Diving course there.

I have been diving with El Tour Caribe for 2 straight years now… and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t look to change that now. Lise and her team are very detail and experience oriented. Do yourself a favor, and book with them to create a fun, safe, and unforgettable experience underwater!

– Tripadvisor Reviewer, February 2024 (Read more reviews)

🤩 Check Prices and Availability!

In addition to Bayahibe (which I highly recommend), another popular dive site accessible from Punta Cana is Catalina Island. Sadly, I wasn’t able to go do this during my last trip (I didn’t want to be away from my friends for another day – I’d already spent 3 days diving in Punta Cana), but I’ve noted it for my next!

a girl diving in the dominican republic, smiling at the camera and giving an OK dive sign.

#5 Best Family Friendly Punta Cana Excursion

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 4 hours | ✅ Book it!

For families visiting Punta Cana with kids, an ideal excursion option is this buggy adventure through the stunning landscapes of the Dominican Republic. Led by a guide, families get to drive their own buggies, making it an interactive and thrilling experience for both kids and adults.

Along the way, there are stops to sample local delights like chocolate and coffee, adding a cultural touch to the journey. One of the highlights is the opportunity to swim in a freshwater cenote, providing a refreshing break and a chance to cool off.

The convenience of hotel pick-up and drop-off adds to the appeal, making it a hassle-free and enjoyable experience for families looking to explore the natural beauty of Punta Cana together.

Felix, Joel, Esteban, the other guide with the locs (and the rest of the crew) are AMAZING! My family of 5 felt so welcome and we had the best time. Book this tour now. Buy the photo package. The quality is top notch 👌🏾 and Esteban’s photo skills are impressive. Felix took good care of us the whole time. There are vendors at each stop, but follow his instructions and trust that he will look out for you as if you’re family. We will come back each time we’re in Punta Cana.

– Shay, April 2024 (read more reviews)

🤩 Check Prices and Availability!

Honorable Mentions: Popular Punta Cana Tours

Above are the top 5 best excursions in Punta Cana, in 5 popular categories that I felt deserved to be included. Of course, there are plenty more to choose from, such as horseback riding on Macao Beach, snorkeling tours and shorter boat tours (the Soana island one can be a bit long for some), and even rum tastings.

Below I have selected a few tours in each category that I felt deserved a mention.

Most Popular Boat Tours in Punta Cana

From full on party boats (booze cruises) to family-friendly catamaran sailings, there are plenty of options for those that want to get out on the water whilst in the DR!

Horseback Riding

When I first went to Punta Cana I had no idea it was so popular to go horseback riding there. But, it is, and there are plenty of tour operators offering this. Personally, I think it’s a great alternative to the 4×4/quad bike/buggy tours – these are perfect for those who want to slow things down a little.

ATV/Buggy Tours

As you have seen so far, there are plenty of tours available for the adventurous souls heading to the DR! Below are some of the top rated 4×4/dune buggy/ATV tours in Punta Cana!

FAQs About tours and excursions from Punta Cana

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions I could find about the best excursions in Punta Cana! I’ve tried my best to answer them, but feel free to leave a comment on this post if you have more.

What excursions are there in Punta Cana?

Loads! You can join everything from boat trips to quad bike tours in Punta Cana.

How to book an excursion in Punta Cana?

Many of the major resorts will have tour companies in the lobby letting you book directly through them. However, I prefer booking my excursions in advance online, through brands I trust such as Viator or GetYourGuide.

How many days should you spend in Punta Cana?

I recommend spending at least a week in Punta Cana.

Do you need to book your tour in advance in Punta Cana?

It is not always necessary to book in advance, because there are so many companies offering tours. However, if you know which day and tour you want, it is recommended to book in advance to be guaranteed a spot.

🤩 This Saona Day Trip is the #1 boat tour in Punta Cana!

Final Thoughts

As you plan your next adventure in Punta Cana, remember that the memories you make on these excursions will stay with you for a lifetime. Whether it’s exploring the depths of the ocean or soaring above the treetops, each experience adds its own magic to your trip.

I hope you have a fantastic time on your trip, and don’t forget to check out my all-inclusive packing guide for your next journey!

Read next: do you need a passport for Punta Cana?

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