Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana

When people talk about traveling to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata and Punta Cana will always be part of the conversation. Puerto Plata and Punta Cana are popular with tourists because of their pristine beaches and clear turquoise waters. But aside from the sand and sea, the two cities have their charm and hidden jewels for people to discover.
Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana

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Puerto Plata’s allure led it to become a custom-built tourist destination. Thousands of people visit the bustling beach city every year and enjoy its myriad of attractions and activities. On the other hand, Punta Cana is a popular spot for those looking for a tranquil place to relax and de-stress. So although the landscape between these two tourist destinations is essentially the same, the activities and general atmosphere are quite opposites. So how do you choose where to travel between the two?

Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata’s beauty and culture draw thousands of tourists looking for a place with a bustling city center and white sand beaches. The city quickly developed into a top travel hotspot and became the birthplace of tourism for the Dominican Republic. It features all-inclusive beachfront resorts and a variety of attractions and activities. Puerto Plata is a gem sitting in between the Atlantic coastline on one side and the grandiose Mount Isabel de Torres on the other.

At Puerto Plata, there is a multitude of things for you to do. You can take a stroll along its beautiful coast or explore its historic and cultural sites. You can relax and sunbathe by the beach or enjoy the city’s buzzing nightlife. No matter where you go, Puerto Plata’s captivating charm will never cease to amaze you.

What Makes Puerto Plata Unique?

Family-Friendly to Luxurious Resorts

The Dominican Republic designed Puerto Plata to be the country’s top tourist destination. To cater to the thousands of people that flock to the renowned beach town, Puerto Plata features a wide variety of accommodation options. The tourist city has several beachfront hotels, luxury resorts, and family-friendly BnBs.

Thus, everyone can find the perfect place to start their vacation in Puerto Plata.

Unmatched Scenic Beauty

Tourists come to Puerto Plata because of its perfect stretch of white sand beaches and clear blue waters. The Playa Dorada is considered one of the best beaches in the country and it covers a 2.9-mile stretch (4.7 km). Restaurants, pubs, and shops that offer water activities line the busy coast. Its proximity to resorts allows tourists to explore the beach and the beautiful coral reefs under the sea with ease.

But if the beach is not enough for you, Puerto Plata is hugged by Mount Isabel de Torres and is home to several other tourist attractions:

27 Waterfalls of Damajagua

The Damajagua is often referred to as the crown jewel of Puerto Plata. The trip to the majestic falls involves a long stretch of hiking. Thus, making it suitable for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Get the chance to swim, jump, and slide while making your way to the collection of falls, rivers, and natural pools up Mount Isabel de Torres. Make sure to check out the heart-dropping 20-foot drop (6 m) at la Tinajita and the Corkscrew falls.

El Choco National Park

Wander through the thick forest of the El Choco National Park to experience both thrill and serenity. Hikers can take a quiet hike up the mountain and interact with nature at the Monkey Jungle. Thrill-seekers can challenge the seven zipline adventures that fly them way above the tropical forest.

Dominican Culture and History

Aside from nature, Puerto Plata is home to historic sites and local communities. These locations can provide you with unique experiences of the traditional Dominican culture and life.

Luckily, you don’t have to go far to learn more about the city’s history and culture. The grandiose Fort San Felipe sits along the coast of Puerto Plata’s city center. It is one of the oldest and most important colonial military structures in the Caribbean region. You can also learn more about the city at the Amber Museum of Puerto Plata which houses an impressive collection of amber relics and fossils.

If you travel to the deeper parts of Puerto Plata, you can find local shops and businesses owned by the friendliest of people. You can discover home-grown cacao or coffee plantations up the mountains. Immerse yourself in the day-to-day life of a Dominican native while enjoying some of the country’s best cuisine.

Bustling City Center and Nightlife

Although the beach is Puerto Plata’s main tourist attraction, the fun does not stop even when the sun goes down. The coast of Puerto Plata is lined with bars and restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages and amazing local cooking. You can jump from one shop to another and experience the local music, people, and atmosphere to create a night that is like no other.

Punta Cana

Punta Cana is an upcoming tourist hotspot in the Dominican Republic. Although not as developed as Puerto Plata, Punta Cana’s prime attraction is its 30 miles (48 km) of white sandy beaches chucked in the midst of tall pine trees and lush forests.

It is home to several newly-established all-inclusive resorts, whether it’s for a luxury vacation or a much-awaited family trip. Once settled, you can easily make your way to different white sand beaches surrounding the area to lounge under the sun or enjoy watersports.

Punta Cana is also a sought-after destination for adventurers and nature lovers. If you want to spend most of your time exploring unique landscapes, Punta Cana is the choice for you. The famed beach town is also home to national parks and reserves that feature some of the country’s largest cave systems.

Throughout your stay at Punta Cana, you can experience both thrill and excitement but also get the chance to chill and relax by the beach.

What Makes Punta Cana Unique

Pristine Tranquil Beaches

Punta Cana is known for its wide selection of acclaimed beaches within its immediate vicinity. Punta Cana has several smaller beaches that offer tourists different atmospheres and activities. Some are known for their landscape, while some are popular water sports hubs. You can find a place that will provide a more private and intimate experience as well as one with thrilling activities. Here are some of the most popular beach spots you can visit:

Playa Arena Gorda

The Playa Arena Gorda lies closest to several all-inclusive resorts. This makes it easily accessible to thousands of people staying by the beachfront. It features a wide stretch of white sand and calm waters which makes it perfect for lounging and other relaxing activities.

Playa Bavaro

Playa Bavaro is considered one of the most developed coasts in Punta Cana. It is one of the longest stretches of beach in the Caribbean region. Different shops, restaurants, and other local attractions line the front of Playa Bavaro. It is also a popular spot for diving and snorkeling because of the well-protected and maintained coral reefs underneath.

Playa Blanca

This location is primarily known for its selection of water sports and activities. Visitors can experience kitesurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, jet-skiing, water-skiing, wakeboarding, and parasailing. Don’t forget to take your adventures under and try out some of the amazing snorkeling and diving spots around Playa Blanca beach.

Luxury Golf Resorts

Punta Cana is characterized by relatively flat land, making it an ideal spot for golf resorts to set up. Several high-end hotels and resorts include vast golfing spaces such as a nine-hole executive course and a 27-hole course. Tourists can play elite-level golf courses for cheap while Punta Cana is still new to the golfing scene. Level up your game at the Corales Golf Course, La Cana Golf Club, or Punta Espada Golf Club while also taking in the beauty of Punta Cana around you.

Perfect Escape to Nature

Punta Cana is the perfect place for tourists who are not afraid to get down and dirty to explore. Aside from the Punta Cana beaches, the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic is also home to unique landscapes.

The Cotubanama National Park is a massive protected area famous for its cave systems, including the Cueva de Berna. Take long hikes and you will find the Hoyo Azul amid Punta Cana’s deep forests.

Punta Cana’s unique geography has everything whether you like to take your vacation slowly by the beach or adventure-filled deep in cave systems.

Fun and Exciting Adventures

When it comes to tourist attractions and activities, Punta Cana also has several places for tourists to enjoy. Discover unique attractions and experience thrilling activities. The El Astron is a popular diving location that features the submerged Astron ship right off the coast of Punta Cana’s Bavaro.

If diving is not your style, there is a different adventure waiting for you. You can make your way 4,300 feet (1.3 km) above ground and zipline over the lush rainforest at the renowned Canopy Adventure.

Puerto Plata or Punta Cana – Which Is Better?

Puerto Plata and Punta Cana are both beautiful cities. They feature a wide variety of attractions and activities for visitors to do. They are arguably two of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the Dominican Republic. You can never go wrong choosing between Puerto Plata and Punta Cana. Whether you’re looking for an adventure-packed trip or a peaceful and tranquil vacation.

Puerto Plata boasts of its highly-developed tourism. The city is designed to be tourist-friendly. It has hundreds of accommodation options, romantic and intimate getaways, and family-focused activities.

Take the chance to explore the city from the outside and within. Lounge around the sandy beach and dive deep into the deep blue sea. Also, take the time to hike up majestic mountains and explore the historic city center. In the end, you will always have something fun to do if you stay in Puerto Plata.

Punta Cana is making its name known for its tranquil beauty that is like no other. And the city’s peaceful atmosphere and community make it the perfect place to sit down and relax while enjoying the sea breeze. But, Punta Cana also has more than its scenic beaches to offer. You can take long hikes through the mountain and explore mystic caves. Get the chance to immerse yourself in the Dominican lifestyle with an array of cultural day trips.

Choosing between Puerto Plata and Punta Cana can be a matter of preference. They both provide visitors with a stretch of stunning scenery left and right, as well as numerous activities to do. If you can’t decide where to go, why not visit both and experience the bustling Puerto Plata and tranquil Punta Cana yourself?


Which Is Safer – Punta Cana or Puerto Plata?

The Dominican Republic is classified as a Level 2 destination by the US State Department in 2019. This designation refers to the Dominican Republic as a place that requires increased caution. However, it is safe to say that the main tourist areas in both Punta Cana and Puerto Plata are safe. Hotels, resorts, beaches, and other heavily populated areas are well patrolled by authorities.

Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata Beaches

Puerto Plata’s beaches are known for their bustling activities. The 3-mile (4.8-km) long Playa Dorada is lined with restaurants, pubs, and bars. These entertainment establishments are open and crowded even at night. However, nearby beaches like the Playa Cofresi and Sousa provide visitors with a mostly untouched beach to sit and relax at.

Punta Cana beaches stretch for a total of 30 miles (48 km). You can find a nice patch or stretch of white sand and you can take a breather and lie down beneath the tall palm trees by the coastline. The atmosphere in Punta Cana is calmer and softer as compared to the buzzing Puerto Plata. Also, the sea in Punta Cana is a lot calmer and clearer compared to those in Puerto Plata.

Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana Resorts

Puerto Plata is an older tourist destination compared to Punta Cana. Some of the earlier built hotels and resorts are not up to par with modern standards in terms of design. Others are simply starting to look old over time. Regardless, Puerto Plata has over twenty hotel and resort establishments along the coasts. More accommodation options are located deeper in the city.

Punta Cana is a newer tourist hotspot when it comes to development. All-inclusive resorts, hotels, and BnB options are built later than those found in Puerto Plata. Thus, accommodations in Punta Cana tend to be pricier compared to those in Puerto Plata.

Punta Cana or Puerto Plata for Singles

In terms of the general atmosphere, families tend to prefer Punta Cana while couples and lone tourists prefer Puerto Plata. Punta Cana’s calmer community and an array of activities draw families. On the other hand, Puerto Plata’s party-oriented community and active nightlife scene make it the perfect place for young people.

How Far Is Punta Cana From Puerto Plata?

Punta Cana lies on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic while Puerto Plata is located to the north along the Atlantic coast. The two coastal cities are over 400 kilometers or 248 miles away from each other. It would take roughly five to six hours to travel from one city to the other by land. However, there is the option to fly to cut the travel time down to three hours.

How to Travel From Punta Cana to Puerto Plata

There are several ways to travel from Punta Cana to Puerto Plata via bus, taxi, or shuttle. The fastest option is to take a designated shuttle that specifically travels from the Punta Cana Airport to Puerto Plata. The shuttle passes through the heart of the Dominican Republic and takes about six hours. Keep in mind that the shuttle is on demand and is much more expensive.

If the shuttle is not a viable option, you can still get to Puerto Plata from Punta Cana via public transportation. Taking a bus is the cheapest way to get to the northern region when you are coming from the eastern end. However, there is no direct bus route and you would have to hop from one station to the other several times. Depending on your choice, the travel time from Punta Cana to Puerto Plata via bus can take up to six to eight hours long.

How Much Is a Taxi From Punta Cana to Puerto Plata?

If flying nor bus travel is neither an option for you, you can get to Puerto Plata from Punta Cana by renting a taxi. The drive would cover up to 400 kilometers or 248 miles and can cost $20 to $50 depending on where in Punta Cana or which resort you are coming from.

Is There a Bus From Punta Cana to Puerto Plata?

There are several bus trips from Punta Cana going to Puerto Plata. There is a bus shuttle at the Punta Cana airport that drives directly to Puerto Plata. There are several other public bus routes to Puerto Plata at the Bávaro-Punta Cana Estación 2. This is the primary station that starts the trip heading to the northern coast of the Dominican Republic.

Does Puerto Plata Fly to Punta Cana?

When traveling to Punta Cana from Puerto Plata, flying would be the fastest option. Simply book a flight from Puerto Plata (POP) to Santo Domingo Airport (SDQ). From then, you can take a bus to the Altos de Chavon in La Romana and a taxi to reach the heart of Punta Cana. Flying can cut the travel time between the two cities down to just three hours instead of six.

Punta Cana to Puerto Plata Transfer

There are also VIP transfers available for tourists in Punta Cana. Several establishments offer VIP transfer services in Punta Cana heading to Puerto Plata using a van or an SUV. Prices for this service range from $300 to $600.