Punta Cana is known for its beautiful beaches and luxurious resorts; however many travelers don’t realize that the Dominican Republic is home to lush forests, rivers, cenotes (naturally formed lakes found in caves), a desert region in the south, wide valleys in the central area, and mountains – the tallest, Pico Duarte, has an elevation of over 10,000 feet!
For each type of natural wonder in the Dominican Republic, there is a traveler itching to explore. Those looking to see more than just the beach at your resort will find plenty to do in the Punta Cana area, which is home to the Cap Cana Forest and also an ecological reserve and a number of beautiful cenotes.
From taking a Segway tour around the area to zip lining through the trees, there are many ways to immerse yourself in the nature of the Dominican Republic! Here are the top six Eco Tours you can take in Punta Cana. To find the one that bests fits you, choose what elements you’d like to see, and determine your travel style, and hit the road!
1) Segway Eco Tour: beaches, lagoons, and forests
You’re the kind of traveler that wants to see it all – while you love the beach, you also want to get out and see more of the region. Whether you’re a solo traveler or traveling with friends or family, you want to take in as many of the sights as possible. You’re definitely a curious explorer and go-getter when it comes to taking a trip.
If this describes you, then you should consider the Segway Eco Tour – one of the easiest ways to check out the natural beauty of Punta Cana! This tour is appropriate for adults and children 8 and up.
Your tour company will give a brief lesson on how to ride your two-wheeled, self-balancing Segway so that even those who have never tried before will be comfortable. However, if for any reason, you are not able to ride a Segway, you can still participate in the tour by riding along in a golf cart. Then it’s off you go – the tour includes a few different stops.
One section of the tour is a trek on wheels through the Punta Cana Ecological Reserve, a private protected area of lowland subtropical forest, where you can see animals and native flowers while also passing by greenhouses, a sugarcane plantation, and a ranch for farm animals.
One incredible place in the reserve is the Indigenous Eyes lagoon, where you can rest or take a dip in the water. Finally, another stop on the tour is a ride through the La Cana Golf Course, and the Tortuga Bay resort to get to Serena Beach.
At the beach, you can get some shade under the palm trees or dip your toes in the water! For this tour, wear comfortable shoes, a bathing suit, towel, and sense of adventure.
2) Saona Island Day Trip: beaches, boats, and sun
When planning a trip, you know it’s absolutely worth a bit of extra travel and preparation to see incredible sights. You don’t mind getting on a bus and a boat to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience! You also know that once you arrive at your destination, you’ll want to kick off your shoes (or sandals) and relax in the shade with a drink in hand.
Your mentality is work hard, play hard!
If this is you to a T, and you’re looking for an exciting day trip away from the routines at your resort, visit Isla Saona, off the south coast of Punta Cana. This island has been featured in a number of films as a deserted island, but in fact, has a small population of a few hundred residents on the southern part in the town of Mano Juan.
This remote island has become an incredibly popular spot for visitors as the beaches have white sand and are surrounded by clear blue waters. Starfish are also known to live in the waters surrounding the island – but remember, to keep the starfish healthy and happy – don’t take them out of the water for photographs!
To get to the island, you’ll board a bus from your resort or hotel in Punta Cana and travel to Bayahibe. From there, you’ll board either a speedboat or catamaran to get Saona Island. Then you can spend some time enjoying the sun and sand with lunch, drinks, and time to relax. This trip is a full day and appropriate for solo travelers or for the whole family.
3) Hoyo Azul: hidden gems of nature, unique history
You’re not the average traveler – you like to come home with incredible pictures and stories to share. Your suitcase always has your camera, walking shoes, and also a bathing suit. When you travel you like to find unique features at your destination and don’t mind going out of your way to see them.
For a special treat while in Punta Cana, visit Hoyo Azul. It is a cenote, a pool that forms naturally within a cave, and is only seen in certain parts of the world. This tour starts off with a hike up El Farallon cliff to get to the entrance of the cave where the “Blue Hole” can be found.
Your tour guide will point out some incredible archaeological finds here: original petroglyphs, or cave paintings, by the Taino people, the original residents of the Dominican Republic. Then you will have a chance to explore and swim in Hoyo Azul. The cool waters are a respite from the heat of the island, and the experience of seeing this natural specimen will be unforgettable!
4) Zip Line Eco Tour: forests and heart-racing fun
Your vacation may not be complete unless you’ve done some kind of extreme adventure, whether it’s skydiving, surfing, or anything else that gets your blood pumping. If you live for the rush of wind and are a slight daredevil, (while still being safe), ziplining might already be number 1 on your to-do list while on vacation in the Dominican Republic.
Nestled within the Cap Cana forest is a spectacular zip line for those who seek a thrill. Buckle on your helmet and strap into your harness for a wild ride over 15 platforms and 8 cables across 2,500 feet of trees.
Note that ziplining is appropriate for children five and up, and while there is no weight limit, your waist should not exceed a 45-inch circumference. This tour is not recommended for expectant mothers.
If ziplining isn’t enough and you want more fun, this tour can be combined with other activities at Scape Park such as a trip to Hoyo Azul or the Las Ondas Underground Cenote, an expedition of Iguabonita Cave, a waterfall safari, or a getaway to Juanillo Beach.
5) Samana Explorer or Whale Watching Tours: waterfalls, animals, and boats
Whether it’s your first time to the Dominican Republic, or tenth time, you always like to see other areas of the island. The Samana Explorer by Plane, which is offered year round, except during January through March, when you can go on a Whale Watching Tour, are great ways to see the Samana peninsula on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic.
For the Samana Explorer by Plane tour, a charter plane will whisk you from Punta Cana to Samana, where you’ll board a Safari truck to explore the Samana area.
You’ll have a chance to ride horseback to see the Salto del Limon waterfall and swim in the lagoon by the 170-foot waterfall! Then you’ll be served lunch and then head in a private boat to Cayo Levantado, also known as Bacardi Island where you can try some island drinks.
During the months of January and March, you can explore Samana with a Whale Watching tour to see some of the 300 humpback whales that voyage to Samana bay from the north. This tour is similar to the Samana Explorer by plane with all of the incredible sights – with the added bonus of seeing these amazing whales.
6) Los Haitises National Park: forests, caves, and rivers
For those who want to see the Dominican countryside and many ecological highlights, a trip to Los Haitises National Park might already be on your radar. Nestled just south of the Samana Peninsula, Los Haitises National Park, meaning “the mountains” in the Taino language, has over 300 square miles of protected forest.
You’ll board a bus to travel from Punta Cana to the park through the towns of Higuey, Hato Mayor, and El Seibo. The park has incredible flora such as orchids, mangroves and different types of trees, as well as fauna such as birds like pelicans.
Part of this tour includes a catamaran ride through the canals in the park leading to a tour of two caves that were once used by the Taino people: Cueva de la Arena, which is located on a beach, and has rock sculptures made by the Tainos; and Cueva de la Linea, deep in the forest with Taino petroglyphs.
The tour also includes a typical Dominican Lunch at Yanigua Spa, followed by a trip to a nearby river where you can swim and admire the waterfall.
Sign up for any of these tours and immerse yourself in the paradise that is the Dominican Republic. Step away from your resort for an afternoon or for a full day to explore remote islands, waterfalls, and preserved forests and get to know the country better!