So, you’re planning on visiting the Dominican Republic for a sun-filled vacation. Congrats, you’ve made a great choice! However, there is one more question you have to think through: which part of the country do you want to visit?
The Eastern region of the Dominican Republic is home to some of the most stunning beaches on the continent — and the world — among which are Punta Cana’s and La Romana’s shores.
These towns welcome millions of tourists year in and year out. And with good reason: the beaches are as beautiful as — if not more beautiful than — they look in postcards. Who wouldn’t want to see and enjoy them with their own eyes?
Punta Cana and La Romana are equally gorgeous, which might make it hard to compare them and make a decision. Luckily, there are so many other important aspects to weigh that will surely be helpful.
And the reality is these destinations are actually quite different. As travel experts, let our honest comparison finally help you make that all-important vacation decision. Let’s get started!
- A Quick Overview
- How Do The Beaches Compare
- What About Activities & Attractions
- Which Is Better For Nightlife & Events
- Which Is Better For A Family Trip
- How Does The Accommodation Compare
- Where You Should Stay According To Your Budget
- Our Final Thoughts
A Quick Overview Of Punta Cana vs La Romana
Punta Cana is the biggest of the two regions. It is a resort town where large hotel chains offer a luxurious and relaxing all-inclusive stay. There’s often direct access to the paradisiacal beaches, which makes everything easier.
Punta Cana has some shopping centers and other activities outside the resorts, but that part of the town is not as developed as the hotel zone, which extends along the coast.
On the other hand, La Romana doesn’t have many high-end accommodation options like Punta Cana, but it makes up for it in varied activities and a fascinating city center. That doesn’t mean that it is an energetic city, rather it is quite a laid-back one. And the smaller selection of hotels and restaurants compared to Punta Cana makes it less touristy, so less busy but also a bit more authentic.
How Do The Beaches Compare?
As we have already mentioned, Dominican beaches are top-tier. Once you get there, you will never want to leave!
Punta Cana and La Romana boast an incomparable coastline, but which area is the best fit for you? That depends on the vibe, the accessibility, and the activities the beaches offer.
Punta Cana has approximately 32 kilometers of fine white sand and countless palm trees that charm anyone who walks the place. The warm, crystal-clear sea mirrors the blue sky and complements the view, making this Dominican Republic treasure a magical place.
The atmosphere varies from beach to beach. If you are into more rugged, laid-back, local beaches, Cabeza de Toro Beach is your place. It allows you to avoid crowds and relax surrounded by vegetation and nature. If you prefer being active, you can take kitesurfing lessons there since the sea conditions are ideal for the sport.
Macao Beach and Los Corales Beach have a similar vibe to Cabeza de Toro, so they might be worth checking out. There are little to no resorts blocking them, and they have public entry points, making them easily accessible. That is a huge point in favor.
On the other hand, there are more crowded and touristy beaches where you can find lots of resorts and activities. That is the case for Bavaro Beach, considered the best beach in Punta Cana, where both relaxing and having fun are possibilities. It has two different sections, called Arena Blanca and Arena Gorda.
The only downside to this gorgeous place is its accessibility. The beaches don’t have a public entry point, so you’d have to stay at a resort to enter them. The alternative is accessing them through Los Corales Beach (which connects with Bavaro) or one of the bars at El Cortecito Beach. You’d be walking through Arena Blanca until you reach Arena Gorda. It is quite the quest, but it fits the long-walk-lovers like a glove.
Playa Juanillo is another touristy beach, but it is also commercial. It offers upscale restaurants, casinos, and resorts. The atmosphere is classy and energetic, in contrast to Cabeza de Toro’s relaxed and local vibe. You should absolutely pay a visit if you are interested in an exclusive getaway.
As you can see, Punta Cana’s beaches are rather varied. Even if there’s some issues, such as accessibility, you are still left with excellent options to enjoy. When in Punta Cana, we are sure you will find the beach of your dreams.
La Romana is not short of dreamy beaches to spend the day on, but their best asset are the sunsets.
Since the area faces west, you can watch the orange appear in the sky while lying on the sand. However, these beaches are not always located right outside your resort like in Punta Cana, a potential downside for some.
La Romana is also a good connection point with islands such as the well-known Isla Saona and Isla Catalina which are known for their incredible pristine beaches. You can reach these pieces of paradise by paying for a catamaran excursion, which includes swimming in the islands’ natural pools, open-air bars, and buffet,
If you don’t feel like embarking on a voyage, Minitas Beach, Bayahibe Beach, and Dominicus Beach only require a short drive from the urban area to lose yourself in their natural beauty. They are easily accessible (except for Minitas, which belongs to Casa de Campo Resort) and have many activities you can participate in, as well as restaurants and shops.
Keep in mind that Minitas and Dominicus get quite crowded during high season. So if you are looking for a less frequented beach, Bayahibe might be the best for you.
It is a fishing village and port, so there might be boats loading and unloading on the shore, but visitors have never complained about it. Restaurants and bars surround Bayahibe, which is convenient if you are at the beach from early in the morning and need to have lunch or a snack.
What About Activities & Attractions?
For some travelers, vacations are not all about relaxing on the sand. Luckily Punta Cana and La Romana offer various activities that cater to adventurers and those who seek fun experiences. There’s room for the culture-lovers, too.
Keep reading to find out which Dominican Republic city fits your activity needs best!
Punta Cana offers many exciting activities, alongside all the usual watersports such as snorkeling, jet skiing, and surfing.
Scape Park utilizes natural wonders and turns them into attractions. For instance, there is an underground cave that displays fascinating geological formations. You can explore them accompanied by a guide. You can also swim in a stunning cenote called Hoyo Azul and zipline across the jungle!
The Ojos Indígenas Ecological Reserve hosts 12 incredible lagoons where you can swim with turtles and fish. It also has fantastic hiking trails that go through the jungle and the forest.
The sea in Punta Cana can be a bit ‘wavy’, especially on Macao Beach and Uvero Alto, two of the only beaches in the area where you can surf. But don’t worry if you are a rookie — there are several surf schools along the shore. The instructor will teach you the basics on the sand before taking you to the waves. Fun!
And if you love nature, give the Uvero Alto Surf School’s eco-friendly tour a chance. They take you paddleboarding along a river, where you can spot creatures like pelicans and stingrays.
Punta Cana also has a coral reef barrier, home to hundreds of marine species. Macao, Bavaro, and Uvero Alto are not ideal for snorkeling from the shore though as the sea is a bit rough sometimes, as we have already mentioned. So we recommend taking a boat ride into the sea, where the water can be calmer. You can book these excursions from your resort or hotel and take a diving lesson in the pool before venturing into the ocean.
If you’re up for even more adventure, Macao Beach hosts buggy tours that go through the wilder areas of the beach, the shore, some dunes, and muddy paths! Some expeditions even offer cocoa and coffee tastings, cave exploring, and stops at local ranches to interact with the locals. So you get adventure and culture!
The sea in La Romana tends to be calmer than in Punta Cana, meaning there’s less surf and more opportunities for diving and snorkeling.
In Bayahibe you can snorkel by yourself near the shore, and you will most probably see starfish! On the other hand, if you decide to book a scuba diving tour with a boat ride, you will witness bigger marine species that inhabit the coral reefs. Manta rays and cuttlefish are just two examples.
Captain Kidd’s Shipwreck in Catalina Island, and the Atlantic Princess Shipwreck in Bayahibe, are two underwater museums you can tour with a diving excursion too. Many coral reef excursions include these museums in their itinerary. They are located at a shallow depth, so you don’t have to be a professional diver to swim through them.
The activities in La Romana are not limited only to the beach though. Walking down Libertad Avenue, you will see the Obelisco. As its name indicates, it is an obelisk-shaped monument covered in colorful paintings. They represent the Dominican Republic lifestyle, music, culture, and history. Less than a 10-minute walk from the Obelisco are other emblematic landmarks, such as the Santa Rosa de Lima Church and La Romana Central Park.
If you head east from the city center, you will arrive at Altos de Chavon. This small town has turned into the city’s cultural center, where different artists set up their galleries, studios, and craft shops. It was built as a replica of a 16th-century Italian-Spanish town, with cobbled streets and colorful flowers adorning the buildings’ windows and walls.
The picturesque San Estanislao Church is the most popular attraction in the village, along with the impressive Amphitheater and the Archeological Museum, which holds a large collection of pre-Columbian items. The entrance to all the attractions is free, so there’s no excuse to miss them!
Altos de Chavón is close to Casa de Campo too. This resort has three golf courses: Los Links, Dye Fore, and Teeth Of the Dog. The last one is the most prestigious of the three, with eighteen holes, seven of them facing the blue Caribbean Sea. If you are a golfer, you’ve probably already heard about it, as it is one of the most coveted golf courses among the sport’s fans. So if you love golf, La Romana may be a better choice than Punta Cana for you.
Which Is Better For Nightlife & Events
If you’re the sort of person who searches for the nearest party when the sun goes down, goes out to eat often, or participates in every celebration, neither Punta Cana nor La Romana will disappoint you. Dominican Republic nightlife is fun and energetic, with varied options and vibes in each area.
Punta Cana is known as one of the areas with the best nightlife in the Dominican Republic. Coco Bongo is maybe the best example of its vibrant nature too. Professional acrobats, dancers, and singers put on spectacular live shows every night, referencing international movies and Latin music genres.
If you want to sip drinks with an ocean view, Los Corales has many bars like Flamingo Bar. The staff pour fresh cocktails into big glass cups and offers ice-cold beer that are super refreshing in the hot tropical weather.
Beach bars usually close at 11 pm but partying until dawn is possible in Punta Cana, too. It has an abundance of nightclubs where reggaeton, salsa, bachata, and other beats set the tone for the night. Live DJs and strobing lights make the crowd dance until their feet hurt. If this sounds like your jam, visit Oro Nightclub inside the Hard Rock Hotel, Jewel, and Imagine Punta Cana. You won’t be disappointed — the parties in these clubs are unmatched.
Trying typical Caribbean food is a must for every tourist too, and Citrus Restaurant is an expert at it. You can try everything, from ceviche and sushi to pasta and burgers. Made with fresh fish and ingredients, the meals in Citrus are expensive but worth it.
If trying your luck is your thing, Hard Rock Casino Punta Cana, Avalon Casino Punta Cana, and Casino Dominic Cap Cana are located in Bavaro, Cabeza de Toro Beach, and Cap Cana. You can play classic, Caribbean, or 3-card poker, among many other card games.
Once the game is over, the party starts. These three places are not only casinos, but also nightclubs. The atmosphere is classy but not too formal, and live DJs play various Latin beats you can dance the night away to.
Nightclubs and pumping parties are one of Punta Cana’s characteristics. However, aligning with the more serene nature of La Romana, its nightlife also tends to be quieter. Instead this destination specializes in restaurants and bars that close no later than 2 am.
Genesis Nightclub in Altos de Chavón is one of the only exceptions to the rule: dimly lit with red led lights and metal chandeliers, it offers live music shows and an elegant atmosphere. It opens at 8 pm and closes at 4 am, making for quite a long party.
If you want to grab a bite and enjoy happy hour, head to Onno’s Altos de Chavón. They have the best pizzas and tapas in town, live DJs, and good drinks. It also closes at 4 am, but the atmosphere is completely different from Genesis, as it is more of an after-work spot.
El Taquito Mexicano, one of the highest-rated diners in the city, has a wide variety of meals. It combines Mexican, Caribbean, and Latin cuisine. In this way, it allows foreign tourists to experience new flavors and cultures all at once. It is located in the city center and has moderate prices.
Or why not visit Café Marietta and take an imaginary trip to Italy. Also located in Altos de Chavón, it has a wide selection of pasta, pizza, and burrata cheese. The high-quality gastronomy is not even the best part. While delighting your taste buds, look out the window and watch the Chavón river flowing between vegetation-filled hills.
Which Is Better For A Family Trip
Most of the millions of tourists that visit the Dominican Republic take their families along on their trip. No wonder why — it is an enjoyable and relaxing destination for all ages.
While it is true that most families choose Punta Cana when planning their vacation, La Romana is just as suitable for this kind of trip. Its quietness, calm sea, and tranquil nightlife make it an excellent option for younger (or elder) family members.
However, Punta Cana’s water theme parks, staff-organized games inside the resorts, and water sports might be more fun for kids than a quiet place. And it’ll certainly keep them busier than La Romana.
It all comes down to your family’s preferences, ages, and activity levels. We can assure you that your family will have a blast in whichever destination you choose.
How Does The Accommodation Compare?
Accommodation is key when deciding where to spend your holidays. Although you won’t be sleeping in your hotel bed the whole day, your accommodation of choice should meet your comfort and practicality requirements.
It should also align with your daily itinerary — if you know you will be doing day trips and tours every day, it is not convenient to book a five-star resort with hundreds of amenities you will not use. In this case, contemplating more affordable alternatives will save you a lot of money.
On the other hand, if you plan on living the hotel life, relaxing by the pool, booking spa sessions, and eating big meals, considering a luxurious resort might be the best option so you can have the best time on your trip.
Luckily, Punta Cana and La Romana have something for everyone in terms of accommodation.
While they are not the norm, Punta Cana has many apartments and villas as an alternative to other more luxurious and expensive forms of accommodation. They are excellent options since they are comfortable and well rated by visitors.
However, all-inclusive resorts are Punta Cana’s quintessential accommodation type. Their services and amenities take your stay to the next level: infinity pools, spa experiences, food buffets, live shows, and water activities, among many others.
The best part about resorts in Punta Cana is their direct access to the beach. They have private areas with deck chairs, parasols, and beach service. You can also get out of these zones, take long walks along the shore and visit other beaches.
To summarize, Punta Cana’s accommodation ranges from simple inexpensive flats to super high-end resorts. No matter the size of your budget, you will certainly find a good lodging option to rest after a fun day on the beach.
La Romana doesn’t have as many luxury accommodation options as Punta Cana. But does offer hotels and rentals, such as apartment complexes and villas.
The hotels and apartments are distributed throughout the city and near the beach. If you are looking for the most upscale options, there are villas around Casa de Campo and a few resorts on Dominicus Beach.
Resort availability is one of the main differences between Punta Cana and La Romana. While in Punta Cana you can find at least five resorts on most beaches, whereas La Romana only really has one beach that offers all-inclusive experiences.
This makes Punta Cana a busier and more tourist-centered destination which, in turn, positions La Romana as the better option for a more relaxed, laid-back vacation.
Where You Should Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: Embrace the refined retreat and first-rate treatment you’ll get at Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana. In delightfully designed rooms you can enjoy breathtaking views of the sea, and all at an affordable price point.
Infinity pools close to the beach, breathtaking views of a heavenly paradise, and delectable gourmet food are all available at this all-inclusive property. You can float up to swim-up bars in the opulent private pools, lounge poolside with sea views, or enjoy the day drifting down a lazy river within the water centre.
Plunge into nearby Juanillo Beach’s crystal-clear seas and savor fine dining at the resort’s restaurants and bars. Bliss.
Luxury: Immerse in the Caribbean’s crown treasure and the only AAA Five Diamond-awarded resort, Tortuga Bay. This resort features villas with furnishings created by renowned architect Oscar de la Renta, and has flawless service.
This elegant hotel, which has opulent villas, provides unmatched luxury, solitude, and safety. All the suites and villas are nestled along exquisite white sandy beaches, providing guests with every convenience possible.
Numerous amenities are available for use by visitors of all ages at Tortuga Bay. Discover miles of pristine sand, two championship golf courses along the coast, relax in the Six Senses Spa, or enjoy the many water sports. It’s one of the hotels we all want to stay in at some point in our lives.
Budget: Bahia Principe Luxury Bouganville is the perfect spot for soaking up the sun, unwinding in a breathtaking bay, and treating yourself to luxury amenities but at a price point many can afford.
The colonial villa accommodations are snuggled up against Santana Beach’s powdery white beach, so you’re just steps away from paradise.
The resort also boasts entertainment, pools, and a gym. It offers non-motorised water sports, water activities, and beauty and massage treatments.
Luxury: Your Casa de Campo Resort & Villas experience awaits you where you can discover a new definition of luxury.
Celebrities and affluent tourists alike love the safe and luxurious atmosphere of this private gated resort. You can play on one of the three Pete Dye golf courses at this opulent hotel, which is regarded as one of the top golf resorts in the world. In fact you’ll even have a small golf cart to use to drive around the resort!
This high-end property also offers world-class activities thanks to its marina, an equestrian centre with polo, a shooting range, fantastic shopping, three private white sand beaches, and eight exceptional restaurants, including the magnificent Minitas Beach Club!
Punta Cana vs La Romana: Our Final Thoughts
The main difference between Punta Cana and La Romana resides in their vibe, activities, and accommodation. After all, the prices and beaches are pretty equal.
If you prefer more tourist-orientated places, long walks on the beach, resorts, fun parks, surf, and a wide selection of nightclubs and restaurants, go for Punta Cana.
However, if you are on the hunt for a vacation away from big crowds, diving, laid-back hotels, and picturesque streets, then La Romana is the best fit for you.
Remember that you will get to admire beautiful beaches in both areas. Think about the relevant differences we highlighted and you will be able to choose the destination of your dreams.
Last but not least, enjoy the Dominican Republic! Everyone returns home delighted with their time spent in this country, no matter what area they visited.