Puerto Plata VS Punta Cana – Which Destination to Choose in 2024?

When people decide to go on vacation to the Dominican Republic, they often face the choice of Punta Cana vs Puerto Plata. Since both destinations are the most popular among tourists, it is hard to decide between them. But we will try to help you to make the best choice for your Caribbean journey.

First of all, these two vacation spots are striking in their beauty. But, what is important, they still differ from each other. That is why your choice should depend on what you expect from the trip. So, to let you know what you can expect, we prepared the main points for each destination.

General information about both destinations

Over the past few years, the Dominican Republic has been visited by more than 7 million tourists a year. Of these, 4.3 million tourists visited Punta Cana in 2017. While Puerto Plata was recorded about 60 000 international tourist arrivals.

Well, Punta Cana is located in the easternmost region of the Dominican Republic. It is a place where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea. Also, Punta Cana is a newer destination, so, therefore, most of the hotels and vacation spots look more modern and well maintained. Accordingly, the price for such comfort is slightly higher.

Punta Cana, the DR

Punta Cana, the DR

In contrast, Puerto Plata is the third-largest city in the country and is located on the North Atlantic coast of the Dominican Republic. It is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean and southwest by the hill Isabel de Torres. Puerto Plata is older than Punta Cana in terms of hotels. That is why it happens that the price for vacation packages here is slightly lower.

Puerto Plata, the DR

Puerto Plata, the DR

The beaches of Punta Cana and Puerto Plata

Undoubtedly, you can see heavenly beaches in both places. There are a lot of activities to explore. Despite this, there is a big difference in the sand and the behavior of the ocean. So, let’s take a look.

The most popular beaches in Punta Cana

In our opinion, Punta Cana is the best option for your relaxing beach holiday. Why? Because beaches in Punta Cana are known for their white and soft sand and calm turquoise waters. It is perfect for swimming, especially for kids, because parents do not have to worry when their kids go swimming. Those clean beaches with high palm trees will amaze you.

  • Bavaro Beach (Playa Bavaro). This is one of the biggest and most popular beaches in Punta Cana. There is a line of big all-inclusive resorts, villas, and apartments. Also, most boat trips and excursions to places leave from this dreamy beach.
  • Macao Beach (Playa Macao). This beach was nearly untouched and the locals’ favorite one. But when all-inclusive resorts were opened there, they took half of the beach. But this other half is publicly accessible, and you can visit it. Also, it is one the most popular spots for surfing.
  • Juanillo Beach. It is one of the few beaches that has public access. There are many coconut palm trees, and the sand is white and clean.
  • Playa Los Corales. It is part of Bavaro Beach. And it is easy to get to Los Corales, you can walk along one hotel beach to another without problems.
  • Playa Blanca. The word “blanca” translates as “white” from Spanish. So, it explains that there is perfect white sand on the beach. We have to mention, that it is part of Puntacana Resort & Club. But the entrance is free for those who go to the Playa Blanca Restaurant or have kite surfing lessons at El Kite Club.
  • Playa Arena Gorda. This is a big beach with turquoise water, but it is hard to find public access.

The most popular beaches in Puerto Plata

What about Puerto Plata? Well, it is the perfect place for water sports. If you are a fan of these kinds of activities – this option is for you. It is known for activities such as kitesurfing, windsurfing, and diving. And the reason for this is that it is windy there, and the water is temperamental with rougher waves. Especially the Cabarete beach is a favorite place for many surfers who come to the Dominican Republic just to visit it.

Also, the sand on Puerto Plata beaches is  darker not that soft than in Punta Cana. In addition, beaches are rockier, so you can step on rocks or shells. That is why you should be more careful there when you are with kids. And here are the most popular beaches of Puerto Plata:

  • Cabarete Beach. It is one of the best kitesurfing and windsurfing spots in the world. The weather is windy enough, so it is just perfect for water sports. But if you just want to swim, this is also a good option as the waves are not that high.
  • Playa Dorada. It is the most popular beach in Puerto Plata, and we undertand why. Golden sand, crystal blue water, and mountains as a backdrop will amaze you.
  • Playa Sosua. Many tourists consider this one as their favorite. It is a good place to do snorkeling and diving because of marine life.
  • Cayo Arena. It is a tiny coral island located northwest of the Dominican Republic, off the coast of Puerto Plata. There are no shops and hotels. It is a perfect spot to place in crystal clear water.
  • Playa Luperon. It is a great place where you can go snorkeling because there are many beautiful fish and corals. Also, there are not a lot of people on the beach.
  • El Encuentro Beach. It is not easily accessible to the public, but you should find the way. In addition, it is a good place for people who like or want to try surfing. There are a lot of surf schools.

The atmosphere and vibe comparison

Since both destinations are in the Dominican Republic, there is no need to talk about the friendliness of the locals. It is exactly what you can find there, and this is one of the things that create the atmosphere in the Caribbean.

Despite this, for example, the quality of the infrastructure in Punta Cana is superior to Puerto Plata, as the area is newer. Punta Cana is more modern and well-equipped for tourists. The hotel options there are endless, and resort standards are higher, basically the same as in the United States. If you would like luxury and all-inclusive options – Punta Cana is the best for it. Tourists come here for refinement and luxury. Once in Punta Cana, it will be difficult for you to go on vacation somewhere else, because comparing any other place with Punta Cana can be disappointing.

Puerto Plata has its own tropical vibe. We should mention that the experience in Puerto Plata is more authentic when you leave the resort. There is a real connection to the local life and people there. This is what will make you feel the culture of this country deeper. In Punta Cana, this is also possible, but a little more difficult. Also, most of the hotels in Puerto Plata were built in the 90s. So, some of them need renovation, and some of them are refurbished or new. Regardless, you can feel the warm old atmosphere of the Dominican Republic here, which is also wonderful.

Activities in Punta Cana vs Puerto Plata

Since we have already talked about calmness on vacation in Punta Cana, we cannot fail to mention the equally calm and discreet sport. It is golf! Punta Cana is definitely one of the best spots for playing golf. There are a huge number of hotels and villas, which are located in the closed areas of golf clubs. For example, our villa Waterfall is located in the Cocotal Golf and Country Club, which is a gated community in Bavaro.

There is also a good selection of excursions to choose from. Water sports are also popular, but it is safer because of the calm waters. Jungles, waterfalls, golfing, snorkeling – you can find these there. And, also the distance between Punta Cana and the capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, is way smaller than with Puerto Plata. You can check all the excursions on our website.

Well, Puerto Plata is famous for its ability to water sports. Because of the weather, you can try different kinds of sports. It is often windy, and there are waves. So, if you like the extreme sport you probably will love it. You can have a good experience doing windsurfing or kitesurfing there.

Mountains and jungles surround Puerto Plata. It means that you always have the opportunity to enjoy the incomparable beauty of Dominican nature. So, it is also a good option if you like activities such as hiking. After all, not far from the town, there is a natural collection of 27 stunning waterfalls. And this is another great opportunity to plunge into the wild nature of this country and feel it. You can jump and swim in these waterfalls.

Which one has the best nightlife?

Well, we should mention that both destinations have electric nightlife. There are a lot of beaches with bars and pubs where you can have fun.

Despite this, Punta Cana is best known for being a relaxing beach destination. It is a perfect place for a vacation for a family trip or a honeymoon. You can get a dose of relaxation and complete tranquility here. And this is because of the clean and paradise beaches, which you do not want to leave at all. But there are still plenty of opportunities to have fun with friends in the best nightclubs.

Puerto Plata has a vibrant nightlife. It is a more party-oriented destination with a big amount of nightclubs. It is very noisy but there are lots of fun. There is a great variety of clubs and bars with music for all tastes, including bars with local music.

Excursions in Punta Cana and Puerto Plata

Thanks to the incredible nature of the Dominican Republic, because you will probably see its beauty from any corner of the country. Nevertheless, the types of these beauties are different, so let’s find out what exactly.

If you are staying in Punta Cana, there are many things to do. Being here, you can conveniently and quickly reach the best attractions of the Dominican Republic. Despite this, as has been said many times before, it is famous for its stunning beaches. Find yourself on these beaches, it will seem to you that you are in a picture of a travel magazine.

For example, we recommend you an excursion to Saona Island. It is a government-protected nature reserve. And it is not in vain, because this is a truly stunning place. Various videos and advertisements are shot on this island, showing this piece of paradise in our world. You can book a regular excursion, private or VIP trip to Saona Island.

What is about Puerto Plata? Fans of active excursions, where you need to move a lot, will definitely like this place. In our opinion, the vacation in Puerto Plata is more activity-oriented. At this point, we recommend you take waterfalls of the Damajagua tour, or it is also called “27 Charcos”. Where “charcos” translates as “pools”. So, it means that there are a lot of natural swimming pools of the falls. This tour will include hiking, swimming, jumping – for true lovers of extreme sports. But overcoming all obstacles will be worth what you see.

Weather comparison of both destinations

Firstly, if we look at the temperature of both locations, we can see that it is almost the same. Nevertheless, the night temperature is higher in Punta Cana. Usually, it is about 23 – 26 °C (73.4 – 78.8 °F). At the same time, it is 21 – 24 °C (69.8 – 75.2 °F) in Puerto Plata. The water temperature is more or less the same in both areas.

What about comparing precipitation?

  • Puerto Plata has the most precipitation in January, March, May, and September. Punta Cana – in July and August.
  • The rainiest months in Punta Cana are August, September, and October. In Puerto Plata – November, October, and May. There are about 7-9 rainy days a month in total.
  • The windiest months in Punta Cana are December, February, March, and in Puerto Plata are August, July, and June.
  • The coldest months are the same – January, February, and March. The temperature is about 26 – 27 °C (78.8 – 80.6 °F).
  • The warmest months in Punta Cana are July, August, September. The average temperature is about 30.5 °C (86.9 °F). The warmest months in Puerto Plata are June, July, and August. The average temperature is about 30.5 – 31 °C (86.9 – 87.8 °F)

Which is the best choice – Punta Cana or Puerto Plata?

Let’s summarize all of the above. As you can see, both are great vacation spots in their way. From any corner, you will be delighted and surprised by the unique beauty of the Dominican Republic. However, when choosing a place, you need to understand what exactly you are looking for on your trip. Based on your preferences, you can find the best option for yourself. Now let’s take a quick look at the highlights of the two locations.

  • Firstly, if you are looking for paradisical beach relaxation, then Punta Cana will be the perfect option. The beaches there are better than in Puerto Plata, because of their white and soft sand. Also, the water is calmer and clear, so it is safer if you are with kids. Paradise beaches, unforgettable excursions, various water sports activities – all these you can find here. Since Punta Cana is newer, the resorts have higher standards, and everything is for tourists’ comfort. In addition to it, the prices are slightly higher, but it does not mean they are not affordable. You can find a stunning property for a reasonable price. And we assure you that this price will fully justify itself. Probably this is the reason why Punta Cana is the most visited place in the Dominican Republic.
  • Secondly, if you are looking for adventure and extreme entertainment, Puerto Plata is a good choice for you. Punta Cana surpasses Puerto Plata in beaches. Even so, there are plenty of things to do here too. You will have a great opportunity to devote your time to water sports or hiking. It is also a good option if you are traveling alone because Punta Cana is more family-oriented. Last but not least, Puerto Plata is more authentic, there are more locals here, so it will be easier for you to plunge into the flavor of the Dominican Republic.

We have also prepared a small table below, where you can see the highlights that we discussed in detail earlier.

Summary comparison of both destinations

Punta Cana Puerto Plata
High season From October to April From December to April
Beaches White and soft sand. Water is clear and calm Darker sand, where you can find rocks & shells. Water is clear, but with rougher waves
Hotels There are more of them and they are mostly newer There are not so many of them, and they are older
The average temperature 26 – 29°C (78.8 – 84.2°F) 26 – 29°C (78.8 – 84.2°F)
Type of vacation More relaxed because of its beaches More active due to the conditions for water sports (it is more windy) and active excursions

Regardless of which one you choose, we sincerely hope that your experience in the Dominican Republic will be wonderful. Our team will also help you make it like this. That is why you should contact us, and we will help you choose the best accommodation and excursions!

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