4 Best Sights in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Basilica de Higüey Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia

Higüey's concrete basilica was completed in 1972, and is characterized by its representations of oranges, symbolic of the nearby orange grove, where a vision of the Virgin Mary has become legend. There's a shrine depicting an orange tree and stained-glass windows with cutouts shaped like oranges inside the cathedral. The pinched arches of the facade stretch 250 feet (76 meters) high (many visitors comment that it looks like the McDonald's arch). The basilica is the site of annual pilgrimages on January 21 and August 16. If you want to go to mass, call first as the hours are subject to change. New is a museum on the grounds of the cathedral that chronicles the history of religion in the D.R. as far back as the 1700s. The cathedral is best seen on a guided tour of Higüey


Playa Bávaro

Bávaro is the most developed stretch of the 35 miles (56 km) of white-sand beach in the Punta Cana area, which is lined with both midsized and mega-sized all-inclusive resorts. Although it encompasses many smaller towns, the main area, which is past Cabeza de Toro, is thought to begin with the massive Barcelo Bávaro Beach Resort and extend to the funky, fun fishermen's beach, Playa El Cortecito, known for the landmark restaurant Capitán Cook’s. The water is characteristically warm and fairly shallow, with seaweed kept in check by hotels. Each resort has its own designated area with its chaise longues lined up in neat rows. Although there are stretches that are idyllically quiet, for the most part it is nonstop action. In several areas there are designated, makeshift markets. Amenities: food and drink; toilets; water sports. Best for: walking; swimming; windsurfing.

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Bávaro, Dominican Republic

Playa Punta Cana

This long stretch of sandy coastline on the Caribbean side of the peninsula is where tourism first began in Punta Cana. This undulating beach with powdery white sand is shaded by lilting coconut palms. Much of it still looks like virgin beach, since there is not the proliferation of all-inclusive hotels you find farther north in Bávaro. The beach extends south to Playa Juanillo, which is similarly incredible and now the site of the Cap Cana development. The waters are generally calm, with more wave action in the winter and during hurricane season. Seaweed has become more of a problem in recent years, and resorts have crews that gather it and rake their stretch of sand. Coral rock can make areas difficult to walk in the water, which is often shallow close to shore; however, the reefs are super for snorkeling and you can walk or swim from shore. The Westin Punta Cana has fresh contemporary food offerings at their beachside restaurant. Playa Blanca is a delightful seafood restaurant adjacent to the Kite-Club and Club Med. Amenities: food and drink; toilets; water sports. Best for: kitesurfing; snorkeling; swimming; walking; windsurfing.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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Scape Park at Cap Cana

This complex in Cap Cana combines beautiful natural scenery with plenty of fun activities for a full day; it can only be visited as part of a daylong tour. The Hoyo Azul combines a tour of the bush with a refreshing swim in a natural cave pool. Another option is the Cenote Indigena Las Ondes, which ends in a swim in a natural sinkhole. The park also has a zipline ecoadventure, a mountain bike ecotrail, Scape Ranch for horseback riding; and the Sunshine Cruise (a booze and snorkeling cruise). Packages can be as short as a half day or as long as a full day, and you have your pick of tours and fun. Lunch, which is a good barbecue meal, can be added but can be a bit busy. Nevertheless, everything is well organized and fun.

For the best prices, book through the Park, and you'll be picked up from your Punta Cana, Bávaro, or Uvero Alto resort.