The Punta Cana tourist region has enough activities to keep you busy, but we encourage you to take a break from the marvelous resort life in Punta Cana (we know is hard) and take at least one day trip. We have come up with a great list of places to visit with great cultural experiences, historical sites and dreamy nature reserves.
Some of the day trips mentioned you can do on your own by renting a car, some are best experienced by booking a tour and letting knowledable friendly tour guides take care of all the details.
Santo Domingo Historical District
The best way to connect with the history and culture of the Dominican Republic is by taking a day trip to Santo Domingo, the capital city. Santo Domingo, the first city established in the New World was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. The colonial historic district (Zona Colonial) houses a number of 16th-century business turned into museums, forts, castles, churches, and elegant squares. Today, Santo Domingo is a mix of old-world, modern and traditional colorful touches of Dominican culture.
A number of tour operators offer well planned day trips to Santo Domingo from Punta Cana, offering tours of the most significant sights of the city and cultural experiences.
Santo Domingo’s top attractions in the Colonial Historic District
- Catedral Santa Maria La Menor – first cathedral in the New World.
- Fortaleza Ozama – The oldest fortress in the Americas
- Alcazar de Colon – the first castle in the Americas where Diego Colon, the son of Christopher Columbus resided. The castle is now a museum, the structure was built in 1510 and restored in 1952.
- Ruins of Monasterio de San Franciso – the first monastery in the Americas
- Dominican Convent – the first convent in the Americas.
- Plaza de España is a nice point of interest with shops and restaurants, it was the first commercial center in the established in the New World.
Popular modern attractions and places in Santo Domingo
- Fine Arts Palace
- Presidential Palace
- National Theatre
Don’t miss taking a walk along El Malecon, a lively place along the water with a string of restaurants and shops.
Altos de Chavón – La Romana, Dominican Republic
Los Altos de Chavon, a Mediterranean village set on hill with sweeping views of the Chavon River and the famous golf course in Casa de Campo. Los Altos de Chavon was designed to capture the romance and elegance of the Old World with the vibe of the vibrant and colorful culture of Dominicans. You may have seen Altos de Chavon in music videos of famous artists such as Marc Anthony. The small St. Stanislaus Church, standing right at the center of the village has been the choice of many couples to hold their wedding ceremony.
Spend a few hours taking amazing vacation photos, walking the cobblestone streets with shops with unique gifts, jewelry, clothing and artistic pieces. Visit the art gallery, enjoy dining at restaurants and take some time to simply relax at the benches with scenic views. Don’t miss the Amber Museum and the Archaeological Regional Museum.
Be sure to check out the events calendar, spectacular musical and artistic events are held throughout the year at the Amphitheater, another masterpiece in the village, a Greek-style amphitheater for 5,000 people.
Getting to Altos de Chavon – La Romana, DR
Getting to Altos de Chavon is an easy drive from Punta Cana by using Google Maps. You can rent a car for a day and spend the full day at Casa de Campo. After taking a self guided tour at Altos de Chavon, you can head to Minitas Beach where you can enjoy the beach and dine at the beachfront restaurants.
Tours to Altos de Chavon
There are various tours offered from Punta Cana, one of the most popular combine Saona or Catalina Islands with Altos de Chavon in one day.
Higuey, Dominican Republic
Higuey is the city of Altagracia Province, just 45 minutes from Punta Cana, you can visit one of the most recognized and visited cathedrals in the Caribbean, a religious museum, an artisan market, and a farmer’s market. As you tour around Higuey, you’ll be driving through the communities where most employees of resorts in the Punta Cana Tourist Region reside.
Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia
In this very busy small city where it seems impossible to drive and cross the street, one you can find quiet solemn spaces on the beautiful grounds and inside the Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, one of the most visited cathedrals in the country by Catholics and visitors alike.
Thousands of visitors from around the country come to the annual pilgrimages held on January 21st.
- The basilica was inaugurated in 1971, built to replace a sanctuary where there was a sighting of La Altagracia.
- The cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, the Basilica was built in her honor.
- Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia was designed by French architects André-Jacques Dunoyer de Segonzac y Pierre Dupré.
In the vicinity of the cathedral you can visit the Museum with exhibits of the religious history of the Dominican Republic.
A great way to support the locals is by strolling through the artisan market (Plaza Higüeyana) and making a purchase.
Getting to Higuey
Higuey is about a 45 minute drive from Punta Cana. You can choose to rent a car for the day and drive yourself or book a guided tour from Punta Cana. If you’re traveling with a group, a car rental is the most cost effective option and great for adventurers who may wish to get a little more out of their day. There are a number of tours available that take care of all the details so you can enjoy your day without worries so you can simply enjoy the experience, see below for online booking tour options.
Driving in Higuey – The streets are really busy, visitors coming from the United States, Canada, Europe and more developed countries may find driving stressful due the lack of organized traffic, with motorcycles driving in all directions, where traffic lights and stop signs seem to be an optional rule. If you choose to drive into Higuey with a car rental, be sure to be extra alert and take the additional car rental insurance just in case.
Best place to park – Use Google Maps to Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, and park at the Museum parking lot. From there you can walk to the cathedral and later cross the street to visit the artisan market.
Isla Saona (Saona Island)
We’ve given you 5 day great day trips from Punta Cana, the one to Saona Island you simply can’t miss. Yes, Punta Cana has amazing beaches, but the beaches and water of Saona Island are on another level, it is an unspoiled nature reserve with stupendous snorkeling, crystal clear turquoise water, a charming little fishing village and magazine worthy scenery. The way there is part of the fun, most tours make a stop at the Natural Pool and catamarans offer great drinks, food and friendly service to keep up with the all inclusive theme of Punta Cana. + Saona Island