Punta Cana embodies the true tropical R&R flavor, offering the perfect balance of energy and dynamics, and peace and quiet, while Jamaica is a hotbed for tropical thrills thanks to its well-loved culture, stunning beaches, and an island riddled with charm. The only question that rests for the globetrotter now is where would you rather be?
If the Dominican Republic has an ace up its sleeve to rake in all the tourists, Puna Cana is it. This resort town at the eastern tip of the country, where the Atlantic Ocean blurs with the Caribbean Sea, boasts the ultimate in resort development over a staggering span — 30 miles (50 km) of white-sand coast; in fact, it’s got at least one of the longest beaches the Caribbean has to offer.
Virtually all the creature comforts you can think of are in this impressive stretch of shoreline speckled with gangly coconut trees starting from Uvero Alto all the way to Cap Cana. Whether you’re solo, with your partner, or with family, there is much to experience with all the vast ground to cover —
Keep children active and curious in the mini entertainment centers, water parks, and pirate shows. Scout out your dream wedding in premier beachside locations. Party hard in nightlife scenes that could arguably challenge even the legendary Cancun. Enjoy water sports, adventure parks, and golf.
Have a hankering for more juicy details? Check them out below.
What Makes Punta Cana Unique?
White-Sand Beach for Days
If you take a leisurely stroll along all of Punta Cana’s beaches, a day of hard-core walking is the minimum to get from one end of the region to the other. In no particular order, some of the finest are Cabeza de Toro Beach, Juanillo Beach, El Cortecito Beach, Bavaro Beach, and Punta Cana Beach — and they are just the well-known lot … listing them all is as challenging as jogging them in a day.
What theme they all have in common is the tropical background of omnipresent coconut palms interspersed among luxury establishments. With such a lengthy scope, almost every form of beach experience, on and off the sands, can be had here; you can kiteboard, bodyboard, surf, fish, sail, scuba, snorkel, or just plain lounge by the sands while being pampered in your secluded part of the coast.
The Perfect Balance of Energy and Peace
Punta Cana is not just limited to its beaches that rouse one’s energies, its inland natural environments provide a great escape to the daily grind and a soothing effect to the weary soul — the veritable yin to the beaches’ yang. There is nothing more peaceful than observing the natural world’s sights and sounds as you stay still and introspect or walk the trails.
Nature reserves and eco-parks showcase hiking trails that emphasize verdant tropical forests with their flourishing flora and fauna and bodies of freshwater, springs, or cenotes; a prime example would be Parque Ecológico Ojos Indígenas with its 12 swimmable lagoons and petting zoo.
But if parks are not all that enticing to you, perhaps you find a pleasant round of golf with spectacular beachside views and the freshness of briny air more relaxing? Whether or not it’s championship-caliber courses you are looking for, Punta Cana’s coast is dotted with golf courses that will tickle your fancy.
Diving for Beginners and Advanced Alike
Offshore and underwater activities are where you can flex your explorer muscles in Punta Cana. There is something about the deep blue that is enticing, awe-inspiring, and tranquil. It’s a great way to live and focus on the moment and clear your mind of extraneous thoughts. Punta Cana offers a fair amount of diving and snorkeling, plus you don’t have to be a veteran with a ton of gear to enjoy them.
Revel in the somewhat shallow depths filled with curious coral cultivations, remarkable rock formations, and schools of marine life from the attractions like “Las Cuevitas & El Canal” or “El Acuario.”
Marvel at the sunken masterpieces of Thimo Pimentel in the Igneri Caribe Taino Underwater Museum. And dive to the sea floor with ‘snuba’ gear (a combo of snorkeling and scuba diving in that awkward-looking old-world diving helmet) and walk among the fishes, corals, and a smattering of wrecks.
If you are one of the more advanced divers, “El Astron” and “Enriquillo RM-22” are two of the most advertised specifically for experienced enthusiasts due to the challenging currents. The former was a ginormous 120-meter-long (394 ft) Russian freighter, and the latter was a 44-meter-long, 10-meter-wide ship (143 foot × 33 foot) outfitted with machine guns. Conquer these dives to cross out another item on your dive site bucket list.
Arguably following in the footsteps of the legendary acclaim of Cancun, Punta Cana is no slouch when it comes to nightlife. In fact, certain famed operators have taken notice of this territory, not the least of which are the people who made Coco Bongo and their extravagant productions possible.
There is much to choose from, whether you like pubs, DJs, nightclubs, acrobatics, discos (inside a neon-lit cave, mind you), light shows, and more, they all can be had here.
But if you are not one to go on a hunt for the best possible spots to drink and dance from dusk till dawn, Punta Cana’s all-inclusive resorts choreograph their own programs and cater to drinking and dancing till the wee hours in the comfort and convenience of their grounds.
And not only that but there are also operators with party buses that will handle your nighttime itinerary for you, just pick a package and the party bus will handle the logistics for the ultimate nightlife crawl.
Ya Mon! Jamaica is a tried and true cultural legend. Its accomplishments have spread far and wide outside of its borders, and yet all those are just a drop in the ocean when it comes to what the mainland natural experience and the people have to offer when you step on its shores and partake in the genuine culture and cuisine.
Whether you are looking for something definitely unique that no more than a handful of places on earth can even begin to challenge them, or just lay back and relax on some world-class beaches, Jamaica proffers them quite readily. Even their cloud forest biome is something that not every destination can show off, and the opportunity for you to have a picnic in the clouds is one seductive proposition too good to pass up.
Adventure awaits you here in every corner. Beaches, forests, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and the list goes on. Even the food itself can be an adventure. It can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Read further to figure out how these Jamaican resources will jive with you.
What Makes Jamaica Unique?
If you want to experience things outside the conventional carte du jour of beaches and nightlife, there are at least 3 eccentric things you will find in Jamaica today that should spark the curiosity in any traveler. And you will get to know them here in no particular order.
It is one of the special beauties mother nature has to offer that is not in abundance in the areas most traveled by human feet. You might find them in abundance, say, in the ocean in the middle of nowhere. This fact makes bioluminescent sites that are readily reached a mere handful around the world. Lucky for you, Jamaica has its Luminous Lagoon.
From Falmouth city, this wonderful lagoon sporting an unearthly glow is just a stone’s throw away. You can even theoretically walk along the coast to get stupendous views of Bush Cay towards the east on the way to the attraction.
Once there, prepare yourself for the most magical night swim (or boat ride) ever. Time your visit on an ideal moonless night to really recognize the ghostly glowing clouds in the water made of special types of plankton. Flap your arms in the water and watch as the light traces your actions. It’s a perfect way to wrap up your day with family and friends … the kids will love it!
Rose Hall Great House
A visually impressive Jamaican-Georgian-architecture mansion that commands an equally impressive panoramic view of the Caribbean Sea. It has the makings for a great photoshoot. But that’s not all, the plantation grounds have been converted to amazing golf courses with spectacular views, especially the Cinnamon Hill Golf Course’s vista of the Caribbean.
All that sounds like typical stuff, doesn’t it? Where does the unconventional come in?
Thing is, there is more to the place than just sensational sights and appealing architecture. Legend has it that the grounds are haunted by a horrendous witch that had a hand at her husbands and help’s grisly fates.
If you or your group are the types to “Scooby-Doo” these kinds of legends, this place is for you. The tour guide will give you some juicy tidbits on the legend, so pick their brain. But if you aren’t able to solve the mystery and reach a dead end, there’s always the backup —
Take a photo op on the beautiful grounds, park, garden, or in the mansion itself, or just take a leisurely swing at some 9-hole golf, or perhaps head over to the private beach for a dip or sunbathing.
What’s so special about a café you say? How about an unbeatable view of the sunset? Not good enough for you?
How about an unbeatable view of the sunset while wading in a pool atop a cliff face? Still lacking?
How about an unbeatable view of the sunset while watching some cliff divers shouting Geronimo? How about you yourself doing the cliff jump while shouting out some cry? This is probably the reason why it’s one of Jamaica’s most famous bars.
The place is readily accessible from the town of Negril. It’s just a short drive along the coastal road. It can get a bit crowded at 2 pm onwards, though, so if you’re after sunset views, pack some tolerance.
When it comes to beaches, Jamaica has its fair share of them worth deifying in the pantheon of beach destinations. Each of them has its own quirky character that draws in even the most discerning of tourists, beckoning them into their superb sands and crystal clear waters.
One of these lovelies is Negril’s Seven Mile Beach, which could very well be the poster child of Jamaica’s beaches. This lengthy stretch of sexy sand has the Jamaican vibe written all over it — live reggae, rum on hand, and perhaps some barbeque Jamaican style or jerk, to name a few.
If you’re a fan of Agent Double O Seven, one of the most iconic Bond flicks was shot on the beach on Oracabessa Bay. It has a magnificent view of Santa Maria Island, which adds to its alluring atmosphere on top of it being a Bond-branded location.
Then there’s Frenchman’s Cove, which has a prominent estuary, feeding fresh water — from some inland source — into the sea. It’s the perfect place to clean up all those annoying salt and sand and the rest of the grainy stuff clinging to you after taking a dip in the salty sea.
Of course, there are more than just those mentioned. Try the controversial Winnifred Beach (enduring against the many waves of privatization) or experience the rich local culture in a beach community like Treasure Beach. Or perhaps spring to the uninhabited, offshore sands at Lime Cay and Maiden Cay. You have much to decide when it comes to beaches, so get hopping.
One does not simply think of Jamaica and automatically assume that it’s only all about reggae beats and beach-hopping. The natural world waiting to be explored if you step away from the sand and sea for a moment could very well be something that could forever change your perception of Jamaica.
Raft Along the Martha Brae River
Arguably the #1 rafting adventure to be had in Jamaica. Ride a thirty-foot-long (9 m) bamboo raft with some rough-and-ready seating on the back end and the captain all the way at the front for some semblance of privacy.
It runs a three-mile (5 km) course for an hour of sightseeing under bamboo trunks bending arches over the calmly flowing river. It has wide-open areas for your daily dose of ‘D’ and narrower areas with blotches of shade for respite from the sun.
Walk Up Dunn’s River Falls
This could very well be a stairway to heaven with its intriguing beauty. Climb our way up the steps. Be careful though; slippery when wet is an understatement up in here. The great thing about its steps is that you can rest up in them as though they were a bunch of terraced pools … which they are.
Explore Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park
Jamaica’s national park singleton, BJCMNP, is a tropical montane rainforest with its hundreds of endemic denizens flourishing under its verdant canopy and strings of clouds hugging the dewy slopes, including but not limited to the largest butterfly in the West, the giant swallowtail. Wildlife-watch, walk, hike, camp, or merely have a picnic to take in the great outdoors.
If these spots are not close to your main itinerary, you can check out other river runs like the Black River Safari or Milk River, waterfalls like Konoko Falls or YS Falls, and more.
The Home of Jerk
The signature flavor and aroma of Jerked meat, especially when freshly cooked while you wait for your order is simply euphoric. The accentuated earthiness, smokiness, and a kick of pepper heat will make your mouth, nose, and eyes water in a display of anticipation, and ultimately, satisfaction.
The history of jerked meat is closely tied to the slaves who sought their independence. It was their source of life to fight another day, even in the most inhospitable of conditions. Eventually, it made its way to Boston, Portland, the birthplace of jerk cuisine and its commercialization.
Each region of Jamaica has its own take on the cuisine. Savor the different local interpretations of jerk meat preparation — from the base meat all the way to the choice of spices and marination methods. Head over to the Boston Jerk Center if you want the authentic and original commercially introduced version.
Is Jamaica or Punta Cana Better?
Both incredibly beautiful, faithful to tropical flavors, and people of great pride and warmth, deciding between Jamaica and Punta Cana is quite a complex choice. However, despite their differences and similarities, and they do have astounding qualities separately, it all goes down to whatever floats your boat. Pitting them against each other takes away their beauty, and to make your choice much easier, the best thing is to be well-informed about their draws and appeals.
If you’re looking for that proverbial Caribbean experience filled with novelty, thrill, beauty, and a bit of R&R, Jamaica is the place to be. Home to many of the Caribbean’s most stunning beaches, the birthplace of reggae, and a world-famous culture, staying here is best reserved for those looking to have a wide variety of experiences.
Punta Cana on the other hand is the epitome of rest and relaxation as the whole resort city itself lives and breathes quiet, laid-back, and relaxed against a backdrop of gorgeous beaches and the right balance of energy and fun. If you want to have more than just a holiday full of touristy things, you can head to Punta Cana, and let it remind you of what a do-nothing-have-fun kind of vacation really is.
Jamaica vs. Punta Cana for Family Vacation
Both destinations have touristy things going on that are perfect for a family vacation, or any type for that matter. However, the differences in their appeal will be your deciding factor. Jamaica, on one hand, you have the entire island to explore, packed with adventures and thrills that may be ideal for adventurous families. Jamaica is also considered to be an all-inclusive capital thanks to its abundance of all-inclusive resorts, providing an optimum experience on top of the already bountiful island.
Punta Cana is big on resorts that offer the right balance of rest and recreation for families, honeymooning couples, and large groups of friends. The resort city is known to be an all-inclusive resort central due to the sheer number of resorts that offer such services. Not to mention, Punta Cana is more family-friendly as opposed to Jamaica’s island living best suited for adult travelers.
Jamaica vs. Punta Cana for All Inclusive
The thing about Jamaica and Punta Cana is that they’re both big on the all-inclusive-resorts front, catering to a wide market of travelers from across the world. Jamaica is an all-inclusive resort capital, and Punta Cana has over 100 all-inclusive resorts lined up on its white sandy shores. The only difference is which destination appeals to you more.
Jamaica is an entire island that offers tropical living, and the richness of a world-famous culture, while offering tons of experiences and things to explore because of its diversity. Punta Cana, on the other hand, is a resort town that boasts a rich shoreline of white sand beaches lined with premier resorts, mainly offering peace and relaxation, unlike Jamaica’s continuous thrills.