Los Haitises National Park (Samaná Bay)
One of the most beautiful day trips to do in Punta Cana is a visit to Los Haitises National Park. Located in the bay of Samaná, it will give you an idea of what Punta Cana looked like before its tourist transformation. With a particularity: its “mogotes”. The mogotes are small elevations of 30 or 40 meters high formed by the karst nature of the soil of the area and the action of rain and wind, and hence the name given by the Tainos, the natives of the area, to the place: the Haitises means “high or mountainous lands”. Los Haitises can be reached by land or water, and most excursions include an exploration of its dense mangroves by boat and a visit to the ancient caves inhabited by the Tainos, where paintings made by them are still found. Some of the most beautiful caves are those of San Gabriel, La Reyna, La Línea and La Arena. Among its fauna you will find pelicans, gannets, owls, parrots, manatees, bats and various reptiles, highlighting boas and sea turtles. A green paradise of undulating shapes that flow into the sea.
Excursion to Saona Island
Among the sea trips that can be made in Punta Cana, Saona Island stands out, one of the largest in the Dominican Republic. There are many agencies and hustlers that offer this excursion in premises and beaches. The price is usually between 60 and 80 dollars per person and you can do it on a large catamaran or small speedboats. Saona Island has beautiful beaches, jungle, mangroves and some people inhabited by fishermen. The most beautiful parts of the island are far from the most touristic area. The boats all arrive at the same beach, where people bathe and there are some restaurants. However, if you like adventure, take provisions for a couple of days and go into the jungle in search of uninhabited areas. Under the waters surrounding Saona Island, life is an explosion of colors. Do not forget the goggles to dive among corals.
Cultural visit to Santo Domingo
You will not always have so close the possibility of visiting the first European colonial city in America. Santo Domingo is a 3-hour drive – 4 by bus – from Punta Cana and, if you like history, should be on your list of places to visit during your vacation. All the heritage attraction of Santo Domingo extends through the colonial zone. Here you will find the “first” of everything: the first American house where Columbus lived, the first cathedral and the first hospital built by the Spanish. Also the fortress of Ozama, the convent of the Dominicans and the church of Santa Clara are worth a visit. The most iconic squares are Plaza de España and Plaza de Colón, with the statue of the Genoese navigator. In the meantime, historical monuments, current life flows into cafes, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.
Punta Cana Nightlife
During the day, the beaches of Punta Cana are usually the protagonists. However, for many travelers it is only the preamble to what the Dominican night offers. The real experts tan and drink the first cocktails in the sun and at nightfall they head to bars and nightclubs: yes, here you will find all the guiris in the area. If you want to live the Dominican night as the locals live it, make good friends with them and let yourself be guided. You sure won’t regret it.
Art in Altos de Chavón
The town of Altos de Chavón was born in a really peculiar way. In 1976, for the construction of a road it was necessary to blow up a mountain. Charles Bludhorn, president of one of the American companies operating in the area, decided to take advantage of the stone of the mountain to recreate a Mediterranean village of the sixteenth century. The work was designed and made by Italian filmmaker Roberto Coppa and Dominican architect José Antonio Caro, and its result was so satisfactory that it receives thousands of visitors every day, becoming one of Punta Cana’s favorite attractions. Altos de Chavón – with beautiful views over the homonymous river and the Caribbean Sea – is a cultural center that houses artistic workshops (potteries, textiles, serigraphs), shops, art galleries, a renowned design school (affiliated with the Parsons School of Design in New York), an archaeological museum about the history of the area, the church of St. Stanislaus and a large amphitheater, Greek style, with capacity for 5,000 people.
Ojos Indígenas Ecological Reserve
This reserve is one of the best kept secrets among Punta Cana’s tourist attractions. It is a protected natural park formed by more than 600 hectares of tropical forests and twelve freshwater lagoons. From these lagoons comes the name of the park, since for the aborigines they were the eyes of the jungle. You can enter the jungle following the marked trails, which will lead you to springs, mangroves and, ultimately, pure nature. Bathing in the lagoons, taking a catamaran ride or horseback riding along the beaches are some of the activities you can do in the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve.
Even if you really like the beach, the thing is not to stay in it all week. Come to the Costa del Coco (named for the large number of coconut palms there), between Bávaro and Punta Cana, and enjoy 64 km of uninterrupted beach. Fine sand, crystal clear waters and strong constant wind, ideal for windsurfing.