Santo Domingo VS Punta Cana – Where Should You Go in 2023?
The Dominican Republic is the most popular destination in the Caribbean. And we are not at all wondering why. Stunning white-sand beaches with turquoise waters seduce you to come here every year. Nevertheless, people often face a choice, Santo Domingo or Punta Cana. And that is for a reason.
Moreover, these are the most famous destinations. The reason is that Punta Cana is the most popular resort town, and Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic. To help you make your choice, we have made some comparisons on the main points that are important to the traveler.
General information about both destinations
1. Santo Domingo
As you already know, Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic. It was founded in 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus, a brother of Christopher Columbus, as the capital of the first Spanish colony in the New World. Santo Domingo is located on the southeast coast of the island of Hispaniola, and it is also the oldest permanent city established by Europeans in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, the capital’s Colonial Zone was considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is also the largest city in terms of population in the Caribbean. Santo Domingo is always busy, with constant traffic jams.
2. Punta Cana
Punta Cana is the most visited resort town in the Caribbean. It is best known for its dreamy beaches, which you do not want to leave. Since it is the most popular destination in the Dominican Republic, everything is done for the convenience of tourists here. In addition, tourism is one of the main economic sources of the country, and everyone is interested in the resort attracting a lot of people. So, that is why hotel and restaurants standards are high here. And Punta Cana does a great job with this, as more than 4 million tourists come here every year for an unforgettable vacation with luxurious service.
The weather in Punta Cana vs Santo Domingo
Well, the high season in Punta Cana is from October to April. During this period, the minimum temperature does not drop below 22 °C (71.6 °F) at night. And the best time to visit Santo Domingo is from November to March. The minimum temperature does not drop below 20 °C (68 °F) at night.
- The warmest months in Punta Cana are June, March, and April. The average temperature is 30.5 °C (86.9 °F). And the warmest months in Santo Domingo are July, September, and August, with an average temperature of 31 °C (87.8 °F).
- Well, the coldest months in Punta Cana are January, February, and March. So, the average temperature during this period is 27.2 °C (80.9 °F). The coldest months in Santo Domingo are January, February, and December. And the average temperature is 28 °C (82.4 °F).
- The rainiest months in Punta Cana are August, September, and October. There are about seven rainy days per month. The rain season in Santo Domingo is from July to September. And there are about nine rainy days per month.
- The windiest months in Punta Cana are December, February, and March. And in Santo Domingo, these months are February, March, and December.
- The warmest water is in August, September, and October, with an average temperature of 29 °C (84.2 °F). And the temperature and warmest water months are the same in Santo Domingo.
Beaches in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana
Without a doubt, there are many beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic. But when we are talking about beaches in Santo Domingo, we should say that they are not there. That is why the type of vacation in these places is different. In Punta Cana, it is more beachy, while in Santo Domingo, it is more active.
Santo Domingo beaches
The closest ones are in the town near the capital, which is called Boca Chica. It is about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the center of Santo Domingo, or 3 kilometers (2 miles) away from the airport. In addition, you can do scuba diving and snorkeling in Boca Chica. The beach is beutiful there. And there is also the small seaside community and tourist destination Juan Dolio, which is 45 minutes away by car.
In conclusion, we can see that if you are looking for a beach holiday, Santo Domingo is not the best choice. Because to lie on the beach and swim, you will need to rent a car or take a taxi and go out of town, which takes time. Because just walking to the beach will not work for you there.
Punta Cana beaches
Probably one of the best things that await you in Punta Cana is the beaches. They have white and warm sand with crystal clear water. Find yourself on one of these beaches, you feel like in paradise. The city’s coastline stretches from north to south, from the Atlantic to the Caribbean. And the total length of beaches is about 32 kilometers.
The most popular one is stunning Bavaro Beach. The length of the coastline is about 2 kilometers, there are many pubs and restaurants, so you can enjoy the food looking at the ocean. The water in Punta Cana is usually calm, but if you want to do water sports, there is no problem. Macao Beach is the best one for windsurfing, kite surfing, and much more. There are also a large number of hotels, villas, and apartments on the coast. So you can literally live on the beach without having to go anywhere to swim.
Cost of living in Punta Cana & Santo Domingo
First of all, we should say that staying in Santo Domingo probably will be cheaper for you. And this is natural because this is not a resort town with beaches. And most people go to the Caribbean because of the ocean and stunning white sand beaches. But prices in Punta Cana are not always higher. In order to understand, we have prepared the main points regarding the prices.
- Consumer prices, including rent, in Santo Domingo, are about 10% lower than in Punta Cana.
- Rent is about 27% lower in Santo Domingo than in Punta Cana.
- Food prices in Santo Domingo are about 1% higher than in Punta Cana.
- Restaurant prices are about 29% lower in Santo Domingo than in Punta Cana. The average bill in an inexpensive restaurant will be around US$ 7 for one person in Punta Cana and about US$ 5 in Santo Domingo.
So, now let us take a closer look at the price difference in both directions.
1. Prices in supermarkets
For example, milk will cost you the same at both destinations, it costs about one dollar. The price of a 1,5-liter bottle of water is about US$ 1,3 in Punta Cana and US$ 0,75 in Santo Domingo. Other products cost almost the same, but are mostly more expensive in Punta Cana. Nevertheless, chicken fillets, cigarettes, a bottle of wine, local cheese, a loaf of bread are cheaper in Punta Cana.
2. The cost of an apartment rent
These cities are very different in atmosphere, as Punta Cana is a more relaxed city, as opposed to a busy and noisy capital. It will cost you about US$ 543 per month in the city center for a one-bedroom apartment in Punta Cana, and about US$ 425 per month in the city center for a one-bedroom apartment in Santo Domingo.
3. Price for monthly utilities
Oddly enough, in this case, Santo Domingo is more expensive. Some basics such as electricity, heating, water, and more will cost you about US$ 60 per month for a 85m2 apartment. For the same apartment, you will pay around US$ 80 in Santo Domingo. In addition, the price for the internet is more or less the same, it is about US$ 47.
4. The cost of travel by transport
Here we have to mention that cost of the transport is higher in Santo Domingo. The price for the taxi (1 km) is about US$ 2 in Punta Cana and US$ 3 in Santo Domingo. In addition, a one-way ticket in local transport will cost you less than US$ 1 in both cities.
Outdoor activities in both cities
In fact, both cities are not that far from each other. The distance is about 195 kilometers, which takes less than three hours by car. And the best part is that you will find something to do here and there. The only thing is that it depends on what you expect and what you want on the excursions. Therefore, let us look at specific examples of what sights and activities are waiting for you.
Punta Cana attractions
- Saona Island. This is one of the most favorite tourists excursions. And the reason for this is that this is a genuine Caribbean paradise. It is located off the southeast coast in the Dominican Republic’s La Altagracia province. In addition, it is almost uninhabited, and there is stunning unspoiled nature. Also, this island is the Dominican Republic’s most important nesting site for turtles.
- Cayo Levantado & El Limon Waterfall Excursion. Cayo Levantado is a stunning small island. A lot of people know this place as Bacardi Island. The reason for it is that a Bacardi commercial was filmed here in the 1970s. The island sits just about five kilometers (three miles) from Samaná Bay. El Limon Waterfall is located on the Samana. This is one of the most frequently visited places among tourists. The waterfall is in the jungle of El Limon National Park. To get to it, you will need to overcome about 2 kilometers through the forest. Well, you can do this on horseback or foot. The waterfall amazes with its beauty and nature around. You will be able to see many endemic plant species and unique birds.
- Redonda Mountain (Montaña Redonda). The distance between Punta Cana and Redonda Mountain is about 75 kilometers. If you are tired of the slightly lazy beach experience, this is a perfect opportunity to burn a few calories. It is also the best option for people who like hiking or being active during vacation. In addition, you will visit Macao Beach there, which is considered one of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic.
Santo Domingo excursions
- Zona Colonial. Well, accented with baroque architecture, a Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial marks the area where Columbus settled in the New World. In our opinion, it is a must-see place when you are in Santo Domingo because the best historic sites you can see here. Rest assured that by being here, you will be able to enrich yourself culturally. Without a doubt, we also recommend you visit Catedral Primada de America there, it is the oldest still standing cathedral in the Americas.
- Alcázar de Colón. This 16th-century palace was the nucleus of the Spanish court for more than 60 years. You will find there a museum housing an impressive collection of late medieval and Renaissance art. The excursion of the Alcázar de Colón is a must-see for people who want to learn more about the rich history of the Dominican Republic. We also recommend you bring your headphones there because of the museum’s self-guided audio tours.
- Malecon. People also call it George Washington Boulevard. You have a great opportunity to stroll along with it past two historical monuments, jog and ride a bike, or just enjoy the magnificent sunset. There are also many luxury hotels, casinos, and restaurants alongside where you can eat delicious food with a beautiful view.
The atmosphere and local culture
- Santo Domingo is a metropolis with a rich history and diversity of cultures. There are also many historical sites, hotels, and restaurants. If you like outdoor activities, vibrant nightlife, then this is the perfect option for you. Because here it will not work just to lie on luxurious beaches because if you want to do this, you need to go to the countryside. Also, do not forget that Santo Domingo is the largest city in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean.
- The population there is more than 2 million inhabitants. At this point, it is way crowded than Punta Cana, and it can be more dangerous there because it is not a tourist area. You should be careful there and watch your belongings. The city is also famous for its constant traffic jams. But for cultural enrichment, this is a wonderful city where you can feel the real rhythm of life of the capital and the culture of the Dominicans.
- Unlike Santo Domingo, Punta Cana is more relaxed and family-oriented. Many tourists come here to enjoy the most stunning beaches. Find yourself on any beach of this tourist town – you will be like in a fairy tale. This is the case when the photos from the travel agency booklet do not lie because this white, clean sand and turquoise water do not require any photoshop. Punta Cana is the most visited resort town in the Caribbean, more than 4 million foreign tourists come here every year.
- It is also one of the safest places in the Dominican Republic since everything is made for tourists here. The hotels have high standards, that is why people usually enjoy 5-star services in Punta Cana. In addition, it is not only family-oriented but also many young people come here with their friends. Especially, students from the United States and Canada come here to spend their unforgettable holidays in Punta Cana. Moreover, if you are not a big fan of beach holidays, then you always have the option to take an excursion and go anywhere in the Dominican Republic from here.
So, which destination to choose in 2023–
Santo Domingo or Punta Cana?
As you can see, each destination is unique in its own way. Both cities are different, and your choice should depend on what you expect and want from your trip. That is why let us highlight the main points regarding Punta Cana and Santo Domingo.
- Firstly, Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic. On the one hand, it is a perfect chance to get acquainted with Dominican culture and feel the local flavor. You will be able to see how the locals live and visit the main historical sights. If you are a lover of active travel and sometimes extreme travel – this is the place for you! On the other hand, sometimes it can be a little dangerous there because not only tourists are in the city. The city is busy, it is crowded enough and a lot of traffic jams here. In addition, if your main goal on a trip to the Dominican Republic is relaxation and enjoying the beaches, this is probably not the best place for you. But, even though there is no beach relaxation, you can hire a driver and go to the countryside.
- Punta Cana is a perfect option for those who want to take a break from the bustle of the city and lie on a gorgeous beach. It will be also safe here with children. In addition, the water is usually calm, so you can sip your cocktail while lying on a lounger and not worry about anything. Punta Cana is a small town, but it has everything you need for your trip. There is also a large selection of luxury hotels, villas, and apartments overlooking the ocean and gardens. The weather is excellent, and it is warm here all year round, just like in Santo Domingo.
We have also prepared a small table for you, where you can clearly see the main comparisons.
|Punta Cana||Santo Domingo|
|High season||From October to April||From November to March|
|Type of vacation||Family-oriented and relaxed||More active and cultural-oriented|
|Beaches||There are many stunning beaches, also there is Macao Beach where you can do water sports||There are no beaches in the city, but you can go to the countryside by car|
|Safety||It is one of the safest area in the Dominican Republic||Less safe, as it is a large city and a capital, the level of crime is higher|
|Water||About 28 °C (82.4 °F)||About 29 °C (84.2 °F)|
Regardless of where you decide to go, we are confident that your trip to the Dominican Republic will be unforgettable. Our team will help you make your stay in Punta Cana an amazing experience. We only have the best accommodations at reasonable prices, and they are all located in secure locations. So, we look forward to meeting you here!
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