Located on the country’s east coast, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the warm Caribbean Sea, Punta Cana is the most popular visitor destination in the Dominican Republic. This is due in large part to the miles of soft sandy beaches and a wide variety of all-inclusive hotels that tempt families to stay and play. But sun-splashed Punta Cana offers plentiful attractions and surprising experiences that go beyond the resort. There are thrilling adventures, sights and activities that appeal to kids and parents alike. These 'Gram-worthy experiences explain why Punta Cana is a favourite among Canadian families seeking an escape to a sunnier holiday playground. 


Saona Island day trip

Saona IslandDominican Republic Ministry of TourismSaona IslandDominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

Tropical Saona Island is in Cotubanamá National Park (also known as Parque Nacional del Este), one of the Dominican Republic’s 29 national parks and protected areas. Just 19 kilometres south of the mainland, picture-perfect Saona Island attracts more visitors than all the country’s national parks combined—and for good reason. 

Travel by catamaran from Punta Cana to access the Island’s sugar-fine, white sand beaches, swaying coconut trees and shimmering turquoise waters. Saona’s protected status allows wildlife to thrive; it is home to 112 species of birds, as well as turtles, sharks, dolphins and manatees. 


Visit ChocoMuseo

Cocoa beans growing on a tree in dominican republicDominican Republic Ministry of Tourismcocoa bean

Punta Cana is home to its own cacao and chocolate museum located in the Mundo Autentico shopping centre. At ChocoMuseo, enjoy a guided tour of the history of Dominican cacao, and learn how chocolate is made in an artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate factory, samples included. Or dig deeper into the vat of cocoa knowledge with a two-hour chocolate-making workshop.


Explore Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve

Indigenous Eyes Ecological ReserveDominican Republic Ministry of TourismIndigenous Eyes Ecological ReserveDominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

Explore the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve, a 1,500-acre private reserve located 45 minutes south of the Punta Cana hotel zone. The area is set aside for scientific research, conservation of native and endangered species, and recreational activities.

The Reserve is comprised of an interpretive loop trail that leads to 12 freshwater lagoons. You can swim in three of them, including the 26-feet-deep Guama Lagoon. The reserve provides a habitat for an abundance of reptiles, insects, and birds, including the endangered Ridgway's Hawk, found only on Hispaniola.


Take a sunrise balloon ride

Hot Air Balloon Dominican RepublicClaudia LaroyeHot air ballooon dominican republicClaudia Laroye

It’s worth getting up before the crack of dawn to see the sunrise with the only professional hot air balloon operator in the Caribbean, Dominican Balloons. The average flight time is just over an hour, offering plenty of time to snap selfies or take in the lush sugarcane fields and farmhouses as you lazily float above it all.

The entire excursion takes about four hours and includes a complimentary breakfast and Champagne toast (juice for the kids) at the end of the experience, marking a tradition dating back to the dawn of hot air ballooning in France.


Get subterranean at Cueva de las Maravillas

Cueva de las MaravillasDominican Republic Ministry of Tourism | San Pedro de MacorisCueva de las MaravillasSan Pedro de Macoris| Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

The Cueva de las Maravillas (Cave of Wonders) is an enormous system housing hundreds of well-preserved Indigenous Taino pictographs and petroglyphs dating back thousands of years. Descend underground to view the rock art and fascinating stalactites and stalagmites. This is one of the most accessible caverns in Dominican Republic, thanks to a modern lighting system, level footpath and elevator.


When you go

  • We know when travelling with kids, direct flights are ideal. Good news: flights from Toronto to Punta Cana are resuming
  • The people working in Dominican Republic’s tourism industry are fully vaccinated with two doses; a campaign for a third dose is underway.
  • E-Ticket requirement: All foreign passengers entering or leaving Dominican Republic on commercial flights must complete the free electronic entry and exit form which combines the Traveler’s Health Affidavit, Customs Declaration and International Embarkation/Disembarkation forms. The form is available in English and French, and can be accessed here: https://eticket.migracion.gob.do
  • Travellers arriving from Canada do not need to take a COVID-19 test on arrival in the Dominican Republic; temperature checks will be performed upon arrival. 
  • Most hotels and resorts in Dominican Republic can arrange for the PCR test that’s necessary for the return entry to Canada. Check with your hotel or travel agent prior to travel for the latest information.
  • Check here for current COVID-19 requirements for travel to Dominican Republic. Note that requirements can change without notice. 


This article is a paid partership with GoDominicanRepublic. All opinions belong to the writer.