By Matt Gibson
Punta Cana is one of the most visited destinations in the Dominican Republic. Most people go there for the all-inclusive resorts and the golfing. But there’s more to the area than hitting the beach and swinging golf clubs. In fact, there are plenty of adventurous excursions in Punta Cana — you just need to know where to look. These five, in my humble, outdoors-loving opinion, are the best.
1. You can snorkel with stingrays and nurse sharks
Don’t worry, these stingrays and sharks are not the scary kind. (Photo: Marinarium Excursions)
You can sit on the beach all day and sip cocktails with umbrella straws. Or you can spend a day in the water with sharks.
Marinarium Tours takes visitors on catamaran ecotours to the Marinarium Marine Park, where they spend the day sunning themselves on the boat, drinking cocktails, eating seafood, and snorkeling among the local sea life — most notably nurse sharks and stingrays.
Another option: Get your scuba certification. I got mine last year and went diving with thresher, reef sharks, and whale sharks. There is no better way to appreciate the otherworldliness of the ocean’s ecosystems than to spend a day in the water with these majestic beasts.
2. You can explore the ocean floor
Wear an awesome deep-sea diver-esque helmet and get up close with the amazing sea life on the ocean floor. (Photo: Seaquarium Punta Cana)
Honestly, I had to include this tour on the list just for the helmet alone. Look at it!
It’s part of the Seaquarium Underwater Adventure tour, which is basically like scuba diving for people who don’t scuba dive. The helmet is kind of like the giant metal one with the hose coming out of the top that you see deep-sea divers wearing in movies. Once you put that on, a professional diver takes you down to the bottom of the sea, where you get to walk on the ocean floor, explore a submarine wreck and, hopefully, get cozy with a few stingrays and nurse sharks. Bonus: When you wear the helmet, you don’t even get your hair wet!
3. You can ride the waves
Wind + waves = awesome. (Photo: Kite Club Punta Cana)
Surfing in Punta Cana is definitely an option. But why not try kitesurfing, instead? It’s not a cheap sport, but it’s definitely a fun one. And fortunately, Punta Cana has plenty of wind and waves, as well as several kitesurfing schools offering lessons and rentals.
Be warned, though: Learning to kitesurf isn’t cheap. First of all, it takes at least six hours, if not more, to learn how to do it. Six hours of private lessons from the Kite Club Punta Cana costs $549. Group lessons, fortunately, are slightly cheaper, coming in at $349. Or, alternatively, you could just learn here.
Related: Underrated Caribbean Destinations Where You Can Escape the Masses
Another option: You may prefer to try stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). It’s much easier to learn, for starters, and equipment rentals are much cheaper. If you’re thinking about learning how to SUP, check out my tutorial.
4. You can zip above the canopy
Soar above the lush tropical scenery. (Photo: Bavaro Runners)
I love ziplines. It’s not because they’re extremely thrilling; in fact, compared to some of the other activities I enjoy, ziplining is pretty mild. It’s because zipline companies are excellent ecotourism businesses. They’re relatively inexpensive to open, so they’re often locally owned. They have extremely little impact on the environment. And they encourage folks who may not be into hiking or biking to get out and appreciate nature.
The Bavaro Runners Zip Line near Punta Cana is no exception. Bavaro Runners has a network of 14 ziplines connecting 16 platforms across more than two miles of lush, jungle-covered countryside. The tour takes about four and a half hours, and it will be four and a half hours well spent.
5. You can drop into Fun Fun Cave
Exploring a giant cave? Sounds like fun to me! (Photo: Cueva Punta Cana/Facebook)
I’ve saved one of the best adventures for last. This tour, offered by Get Your Guide, combines several awesome outdoor adventures in one amazing trip. First, you hike and ride on horseback through Los Haitises National Park to the cave, which is one of the biggest in the world. Once at the cave, you’ll be rappelled 20 meters to the cave floor, and then you’ll go on to explore the cave on foot. It’s a bit pricey — $150 per person — but when you think about all of the different activities you’re doing, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that it’s worth it.
And there you have it: five awesome adventures to go on in Punta Cana that don’t involve sipping cocktails in some luxurious resort. And the best part? These aren’t the only adventurous things to do in Punta Cana. Rafting and canyoning are also possible within a few hours’ drive of the city.