Craving adventure? Well, you might want to keep your eyes south to a Caribbean favorite, the Dominican Republic! The country is perfect for plenty of fun-filled activities that you can enjoy with your friends, family, and loved ones.
Vacation spots in the country are almost endless, from waterfalls to high mountain peaks. By the way, did you know that the Dominican Republic is home to Duarte Peak, the highest peak in the Caribbean?
The main difference between Puerto Plata and Punta Cana are the trips’ activities. Puerto Plata will offer you more adventure-filled excursions, especially if you’re a history buff. Punta Cana is more about sun tanning and beach activities.
That said, if you’re venturing into more coastal areas, you might be stuck between two options: Puerto Plata and Punta Cana.
By the end of this post, you’ll be able to choose the perfect vacation spot between Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana, so stick around!
Puerto Plata in a nutshell
Also known as the Silver Port, Puerto Plata was found by none other than the famed Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus.
The potential of this land was eminent from its precious raw resources. The region is known for its coffee ground produce as well as precious amber deposits.
Puerto Plata was formerly inhabited by Taino natives but has since been colonized by the Spaniard conquest.
If you look into the area’s geography, you’ll notice why it’s so enticing to a large sum of tourist groups. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Puerto Plata is located on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic.
The beachy place is populated by over 300k people. It’s roughly 130 miles away from the nation’s capital, Santo Domingo. The land stretches over approximately 200 square miles.
Puerto Plata has its own airport (the code is POP/MDPP), which is around a half-hour drive away from the region. There are also other surrounding airports such as the Santiago Airport, which is about 1,5 h drive away.
You can also go from the capital’s airport, Santo Domingo Airport, but it’ll take much longer about 4 hours.
Punta Cana in a nutshell
Punta Cana is a beachfront rich with lots of wildlife and luxurious experiences. The area is located in the country’s province, Altagracia.
Punta Cana is located on the Dominican Republic’s east coast. The resort-filled space is slightly smaller than Puerto Plata, extending to about 180 square miles. It’s also not as populous, with only about 100K inhabitants.
Punta Cana’s origin story doesn’t date that far, spanning its vacation fame from the year 1971. That was when investors saw a profitable touristic future in the coastal area and decided to erect the first hotel.
Before the land was salvaged for tourism, it was previously a densely packed jungle with a few fishing villages spotted near the coast. Now, roads, landscapes, and hotel resorts are built to provide you with a rich tropical experience.
Luckily, the nearest airport to Punta Cana is the Punta Cana International Airport, which is only around three miles away. The next closest airport you can use is the La Romana Airport. It’s a 40-mile drive from there to Punta Cana (~45 min).
If you want to explore the capital first, then you can go through the Santo Domingo Airport. It’s an 84-mile drive away from Punta Cana.
Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana: Detailed breakdown of 4 main points
After getting a brief overview of each destination, it’s time to look into the multiple vacation features that will win you over. Some of these aspects include activities, prices, hotels, and others that might crack your interest.
Without further ado, let’s take a deeper dive into the comparison between Puerto Plata and Punta Cana.
1. Fun activities
Whether you enjoy organizing your trip down to the last minute or just going with the flow, fun activities are essentially the heart of your trip.
A place brimming with authenticity and culture like Puerto Plata is bound to have many activities that might be tempting to try out.
Going up the 2,600 feet Isabel de Torres peaks might be a fun activity if you’re an avid hiker. If it seems like it’s too strenuous, you can opt for a cable car ride to the top of the mountain instead.
A glorious statue awaits at the top, resembling Rio De Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer in Brazil. Note that the local monument is also named similarly.
Under the statue, you can enter a shopping mall. The summit has a few restaurants, but we know you’ll be out looking for some souvenirs to bring back home.
The mall has lots of souvenir shops, but the best part is that they don’t only offer your average keychains. You’ll be able to purchase some extravagant handcrafted amber jewelry.
Another fun activity worth adding to your Puerto Plata itinerary is visiting waterfalls, mainly the Damajagua waterfalls. Lots of tour companies offer an extended tour of the 27 waterfalls in the region as well.
There’s a cluster of activities you can do within the waterfalls such as hiking, observing wildlife, and visiting the Amber Museum. If you need to get that adrenaline pumping, you can go through the 20-feet jump in one of the waterfalls.
Still, looking for more adrenaline?
You can try ziplining in Puerto Plana’s Country World Adventure Park or El Choco National Park, where you can zipline through a jungle filled with squirrel monkeys. You’ll feel like Tarzan after this.
Apart from all that action, you can explore historic sites such as Fort San Felipe or get into cultural festivities with the Puerto Plata Carnival.
In general, if you are a fan of a beach holiday, Punta Cana is definitely your place, it has some breathtaking beaches such as Playa Macao and Bavaro Beach.
Punta Cana might provide you with a more laid-back experience, but if you want to add some action to your trip, here are some activities to keep in mind.
Like Puerto Plana, Punta Cana also offers zip-lining activities in Bavaro Adventure Park. If you like to keep to the ground, then ATV rides might be another option worth considering. You can go on buggy trips with Flintstones Buggy Adventure.
Walking through lush green forestry owned by the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation might drum up your interest as well. On your journey, you might encounter freshwater lakes that the local natives describe as “Ojos” or eyes, due to their shape.
If you’re an animal lover, you’ll love to visit Manati Park. The place is filled with exotic species you won’t want to miss like manta rays, sea lions, and colorful birds.
Not a fan of these activities? No problem!
The resorts in Punta Cana have more leisurely activities such as golfing and tennis. You can also go horseback riding on the beach. There’s always something to do in Punta Cana.
WINNER BY FUN ACTIVITIES: Puerto Plata
2. Resort choices
Resorts and hotels can sometimes make or break your vacation. Choosing the right one doesn’t only involve browsing through the hotel’s brochures online, but also checking the reviews. These customer reviews will help you manage your expectations as well.
Both Puerto Plata and Punta Cana have dozens of highly rated resorts. Let’s take a look at what each one has to offer.
In Puerto Plata, you should try to look for a resort somewhere near the famous Playa Dorada beach. Most hotel options there are old, but they do undergo restorations.
Puerto Plata hotels aren’t as luxurious as Punta Cana. The region might be best for those who are usually out and about and would rarely stay in their rooms.
Plus, the prices offered for Puerto Plata are much cheaper compared to Punta Cana’s high-end resorts.
To be honest with you, I feel like Punta Cana has 3 times more resorts than Puerto Plata. Is that a good thing? It is for you to decide.
If you want to feel more like royalty on your vacation, then Punta Cana has got you covered with its options of deluxe hotels and resorts.
Since Punta Cana is a lot newer than Puerto Plana, expect to see more modernly furnished and all-inclusive hotels. They’re also more common around the beachfront.
Although it may seem like the options are all mostly swanky and expensive, Punta Cana has more options suitable for lower budgets as well. You don’t need to be staying in a suite to enjoy your stay, instead, you can go for a more reasonably priced guesthouse. By the way, we have an awesomely detailed blog post on the topic of where to stay in Punta Cana – broken down by areas and prices for your convenience OR if you are only considering all-inclusive resorts, we have one for you too!
WINNER BY RESORT CHOICES: Punta Cana
3. Beach Options
This is probably what you came for. A dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Dominican Republic. A suntan under the clear skies. It’s all you ever hoped to escape to.
Here’s what both Puerto Plata and Punta Cana have to offer in terms of a chill and fun beach experience.
Staying true to its adrenaline-inducing reputation, Puerto Plata has a select few water sports activities that will keep you pumped.
You can go snorkeling, kitesurfing, windsurfing, and diving on your Puerto Plata beach trips.
Puerto Plata’s most visited beach is Playa Dorada, where you can immerse yourself in a paradise-like setting.
The sun looking over the sparkling blue waters paired with a mountainous landscape background will surely be one to write home about.
When you look at beach postcards from the Caribbean, don’t you wish you could just teleport there? Well, Punta Cana might be the place to be. White sand and turquoise beaches are one of the best parts of visiting Punta Cana.
The place will forever be etched in your memory of how captivating the beach scene is. You’ll be able to take a long stroll on the 30-mile shoreline with your loved ones while taking in an exquisite view of the beach.
If you’re wondering which beaches you should visit, we highly recommend going to Playa Bavaro since it’s more accessible with the majority of hotels and resorts lining around it. You might also want to consider Playa Blanca for its pristine waters and white sand.
WINNER BY BEACH OPTIONS: Punta Cana
Everything seems great so far, but how much will it all tally up to? This might be the most troublesome part of your vacation planning. Having said that, organizing your finances before your travel will save you a lot of money.
Puerto Plata and Punta Cana have distinctive budgetary plans. The latter is a more pricey vacation overall. Since the hotels are more refined with more services such as spas and golf courses, you can expect a bigger bill.
Meanwhile, Puerto Plata has more leeway in terms of budget planning. You could take into consideration that the activity prices might run a little high in Puerto Plata.
WINNER BY BUDGET: Puerto Plata (but Punta Cana can be done on a budget too)
How Do You Summarize the Pros and Cons in Puerto Plata and Punta Cana?
Here’s a brief summary of the pros and cons of each of the two destinations we’re comparing.
- More budget-friendly
- Has more culturally and historically significant places
- Offers several thrill-seeking activities such as kitesurfing and waterfall jumping
- Closer to city life
- Less crowded by tourists
- More authentic cuisine offered
- Road trips can be accompanied by lots of traffic
- Harsher waves
- Beautiful beach views
- Top-notch hotels and resorts
- More relaxing activities
- Lots of tour activities, mainly water ones such as going on a yacht trip
- More crowded with tourists
- Less authentic in terms of food and cultural exposure
- More expensive
|👑 For Luxury:||Punta Cana|
|💵 For Mid Range:||Punta Cana|
|🛏️ For Budget:||Puerto Plata|
|🏖️ For Relaxation:||Punta Cana|
|🛕 For Culture:||Puerto Plata|
|🕐 For a short stay:||Punta Cana|
|🏨 For Resorts:||Punta Cana|
|🍸 For nightlife:||Puerto Plata|
|🤿 More activities:||Puerto Plata|
|🐚 Better Beaches||Punta Cana|
Puerto Plata vs. Punta Cana: which one should you choose?
Now, the big question remains, which one should you go for? Well, it all comes down to what kind of vacation you’re looking to enjoy.
Are you an adrenaline junkie hoping to go on all the action-packed activities? Or are you more interested in a relaxing and calming getaway from your work life?
You should also ask yourself, how much are you willing to spend on this vacation?
All in all, I’d say a wallet-friendly trip with more local-mingling and exciting activities calls for a Puerto Plata visit. You’ll want to stay in Puerto Plata for a long time to experience all of the goosebump-inducing excursions.
On the other hand, Punta Cana would be perfect if you just want to lay back and take in the view of paradise with a cocktail in hand. This trip would also work best if you’re traveling for a shorter amount of time.
Planning for a trip could not be more exciting. Visiting a country like the Dominican Republic which is so rich with historical background and beauty will be worth it.
Visiting the beaches in Punta Cana should be on your bucket list. Puerto Plata’s authentic artifacts and historical sightings will give you something to talk about.
That being said, whether you’re a beach person or a hiking one, both Puerto Plata and Punta Cana can give it all. There’s no wrong choice here. It all depends on how well you plan your trip and who you bring with you, even if it’s just you.
I hope you enjoy your trip, be sure to let me know if you have any questions!