When it comes to dream getaways and honeymoon vacations, Punta Cana and Puerto Plata should be two destinations at the top of your list. Both of these friendly beach paradises can offer amazing experiences, especially if you’re looking for sun, sea, sand and adventure.
However choosing whether to visit Puerto Plata or Punta Cana for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday can be exceptionally difficult. Particularly as these destinations are actually very different from each other.
Having visited both, we compare Punta Cana vs Puerto Plata below, and show you what each has to offer! We then give you a run down of some of the best natural sights and things to do in each destination to help you decide which one is better for your holiday.
Punta Cana vs Puerto Plata: Which is the better choice?
Both Punta Cana and Puerto Plata have great coastlines, but if beaches are your priority then Punta Cana will be a better choice than Puerto Plata.
The quality of beaches in Punta Cana is far superior to Puerto Plata, as this area of the Dominican Republic has incredible palm-tree lined white sand beaches, whilst the ones at Puerto Plata are much darker in color and not as soft. It’s less windy at Punta Cana too, making it a better place for swimming due to the calmer water.
If you’re looking for a resort holiday, or an all-inclusive holiday, then Punta Cana may suit you better as well. That’s because Punta Cana is geared towards tourists, and is marketed as a destination for sun, sea, sand and relaxation.
Puerto Plata is not as polished, but what that means is this destination has more of an authentic vibe and feels more like the real ‘Dominican Republic’. In comparison, Punta Cana can sometimes feel a little ‘Americanized’.
Puerto Plata has some lovely beaches too, and because it’s more windy here, it’s a watersports hub. So if you want to have some fun on the waves and water, then you’re going to love it.
Both destinations are within easy access to the Dominican Republic’s lush mountainous inland as well, so there are some great excursions close to each – like hiking or swimming in waterfalls. Although, we would say that these sort of excursions are more easily accessible from Puerto Plata.
In terms of expenses, as Puerto Plata is less touristy, the price of hotels and eating out is cheaper than in Punta Cana. That’s a big plus for solo travelers and backpackers, and funnily enough, solo travellers tend to enjoy Puerto Plata more than Punta Cana, whilst couples and families tend to prefer Punta Cana over Puerto Plata!
As for safety, both Puerto Plata and Punta Cana are safe, as long as precautions are taken. I.e. avoid unlit areas at night and confrontations with locals. Non-tourist areas in the Dominican Republic do have notable crime rates though.
To help you further with your decision, we look at things to do, excursions, and nightlife in both destinations below.
Punta Cana vs Puerto Plata: Natural sights and things to do
The Dominican Republic is marketing itself more and more as a resort destination, with the region of Punta Cana as its crown.
Beaches here, such as Bavaro Beach and Macao Beach, are incredible white-sandy stretches of coastline that are perfect for a day’s swimming and sunbathing. The water is often very calm, and the beaches here in the east are regarded as some of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic.
For one of the best places to swim in the area, head to Hoyo Azul. This watering hole looks out of this world, and jumping into the clear blue water on a hot day is a must!
Staying in Punta Cana, take a visit to Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve. This nature reserve has shady hiking trails and lagoons for swimming. (Related: Common and Deadly Spiders in the Dominican Republic).
Something that might make you happy to hear is that chocolate is a big thing in the DR! The chocolate made on this island is some of the world’s best, and ChocoMuseo in Punta Cana is a museum dedicated to it. If you take one of their half-day workshops, you will get the chance to make your own bar.
Punta Cana has a fun nightlife that can rival anywhere in the country too. For something unique, head to Imagine Punta Cana which is a nightclub set in a cave. Made up of different passages and rooms, this evening spot is famous for its atmosphere and being one of the best places to dance in Punta Cana.
Another one of our favorites is Coco Bongo Punta Cana. This place has great music, entertainers like acrobats and dancers, and is often regarded as the hottest club in the region. A must visit if you come here on vacation.
There are some great beaches in Puerto Plata, and one of our favorites is Playa Dorada. This pretty stretch of golden sand rarely gets very busy, is set against a jungle backdrop, and has some great bars and restaurants. It’s a popular kitesurfing spot too, and is home to gorgeous sunsets.
However what we love about Puerto Plata is the fact this region has so much to do away from the coast. For a bit of history head to the Fortress of San Felipe. This well-preserved 16th century fort was built to protect the city from pirates, and costs just a few dollars to visit. The views from the fort out across the ocean are pretty spectacular.
But if you want the best views in Puerto Plata then take a ride on the city’s cable car! The cable car will take you from the city up into the mountains, and the views from the top are just stunning. If you’re wanting a challenge, you can hike to the top of mountain (that will take 2-3 hours), and then take the cable car back down. (Related: Hiking in the Dominican Republic).
Puerto Plata is surrounded by lush mountains and jungle, which means you are never far from some of the Dominican Republic’s best natural attractions. About 15km from Puerto Plata is 27 Waterfalls – a natural collection of 27 beautiful waterfalls where you can hike, swim, and jump in to!
There are guides at 27 Waterfalls who know which waterfalls you can safely jump from, but they will also introduce you to the wildlife, local fruits, and more.
After a busy day swimming in waterfalls or learning to kitesurf, it’s time to enjoy a well deserved night out – thankfully Puerta Plata has a lively nightlife scene. One of the best known party spots is Lust Afterwork – a bar with an inside club and a rooftop terrace. Expect good drinks (at a good price), great service, and contemporary music.
For a bit of everything, make your way to Kviar Show Disco & Casino Puerto Plata. The dance club is fun and plays mostly Latin music, whilst the small casino attached is a great place to try your hand at blackjack, roulette, or poker.
Punta Cana vs Puerto Plata: Which is the better holiday choice?
Both of these destinations are worth visiting, but if your priority is beaches then Punta Cana is the better choice. The white sand beaches in Punta Cana are better than Puerto Plata, plus the water is calmer, more clear, and better for swimming. There’s a good nightlife scene too, albeit it’s mostly made up of expats and tourists.
The nightlife scene in Puerto Plata is good too, and driven more by locals than tourists. Puerto Plata feels like more of an authentic and local experience than Punta Cana, and tends to be a cheaper destination too. With a variety of exciting excursions close by, Puerto Plata may be the better vacation spot if you’re looking for adventure and a bit more than just sun, sea, and sand.
Recommended for your trip to the Dominican Republic
*This article may contain affiliate links which allows Wandering our World to make a small commission on any sales made – and keep the coffee flowing! It involves no extra cost to yourself. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases, but only recommend products we believe in.