For my kids-free getaway to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic last fall, the focus was on adventure. How many active tours and excursions in Punta Cana could my husband and I fit into just three full days on this tropical island? Well, we managed a full-day tour, three half-day tours, and an evening at a nightclub (which was an after-dark adventure in its own right).
All of our activities were booked through Expedia — our airport transfers, too. It was helpful to have an on-the-ground Expedia contact to answer questions as they came up (“Do we need to bring a towel for this excursion or are they included?”), and smooth the way when there was a mix-up with our departure transfer time.
When comparing notes with other couples we met on these tours, we found we were hitting some of the most popular attractions in the Punta Cana area, as these activities kept coming up in casual conversation. Here are just a few top excursions in Punta Cana, all bookable on this Expedia Things to Do page:
Juanillo Beach VIP Excursion
For this full-day trip (about 9 hours), we were picked up at our Punta Cana hotel in a large motor coach (holding at least 30 other people who’d booked the same tour), and driven to Juanillo Beach, located within the swanky development of Cap Cana. On this private beach, we relaxed on beach beds, drank unlimited alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) drinks and nibbled on snacks. This part of the trip didn’t feel much different from our sitting on chaise lounges on the beach at our all-inclusive hotel and enjoying the unlimited drinks and snacks there — though this private Juanillo Beach was much less crowded, of course.
Part two of our day featured a motor-catamaran ride around the coast of Cap Cana, admiring fancy houses, and once again we were offered unlimited drinks and snacks. We anchored in a shallow area near the shore (actually near the beach we’d previously sat on), and got a kick out of one of the staff members hopping into the water with a floating cooler full of rum, beer, vodka (and maybe a couple mixers; can you sense a theme here?).
Once we were finished frolicking on the boat and in the shallow “natural swimming pool,” we returned to the Cap Cana marina for a sit-down, three-course lunch featuring lobster and wine at an open-air restaurant. Our day was topped off by a visit to the Scape Park at Cap Cana, to jump in a crystal-clear “blue lagoon” cenote (pictured at right).
In all, it was fun to experience a few different activities on this full-day tour. It’s not cheap ($199/person), and when you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort for which you’ve already paid for your food and drink, it may be a bit painful to pay additionally for more food and drink. Still, I most appreciated being able to get out on the water during the upbeat boat ride.
Bavaro Adventure Park
This 100-acre nature park is a great way to experience several different active adventures in one place, from ziplining and mountain biking to Segway-ing to Zorbing. Oh, yes, Zorbing. Of all the activities we sampled at Bavaro Adventure Park, I was most excited to climb into a big plastic ball and get tossed down a hill. It did not disappoint:
Actually, it was really hot, smelly, and sweaty in that giant ball. And indeed, we got no instructions after being strapped in. But isn’t that footage hilarious? Can I scream any louder? I think not.
With the Bavaro Adventure Park package we booked through Expedia, we could choose three activities. We opted for the 45-minute Segway tour along a dirt path, since I’d never Segway-ed before (I didn’t find it as natural and easy as my husband, at all). We also embarked on a zipline adventure that included walking across some hanging bridges and ascending a climbing wall (the scariest part for me). Walking through Dino World, with more than 40 animatronic dinosaurs and a “mini adventure park,” is more appropriate for children, and we figured the Flight Simulator looked kind of fun but didn’t provide enough of an adrenaline rush we were looking for. We’ve done a bungee trampoline and we mountain bike at home, so didn’t need to do it here. Other options at Bavaro Adventure Park include paintball and a dedicated “climbing garden.” Something for all adventure seekers!
This tour, too, included transportation from our hotel. In fact, all of these Expedia-booked excursions did.
Props to the on-site photographers who captured the above photos. These are available to tour participants for a fee.
Reef Explorer Tour with Massage
Can you guess why I wanted to book this 1/2-day excursion? Anything having to do with massage gets an extra look in my book. And this excursion to the Marinarium’s Reef Explorer also featured the opportunity to take part in a few different activities (I like options). I’d say more than 60 of us took two water taxis to the “Reef Explorer” — i.e. a free-floating “island” and secure dock off the Punta Cana coast. There, we were able to choose from kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling with sharks (they were contained by fencing), petting sting rays (also contained), sunbathing on floating mats AND getting a 15-minute foot reflexology or back/neck massage. My kind husband gave me his massage card, so I actually got BOTH!
We returned to Scape Park for this above- and below-ground activity that had us hiking through the jungle and up some steep steps to El Farallon Cliff, for panoramic views of the surrounding area, and down into a network of caves (“Cueva Iguabonita”), that are home to spiders and lots of bats! (Ick.) Our guide here was excellent, as he shared a lot of information about the flora and fauna, the stalactites and stalagmites, and the critters that make their home here, as well as a bit of history about the area’s first inhabitants, the Taino.
We could have handled a bit more of a rugged adventure, and we actually wished the hike was longer. However, there as a six-year-old child in our group, and for him, it was plenty. I’d advise this adventure for school-aged children.
Coco Bongo Night Out
To round out our active days, we opted for a late-night excursion to the Coco Bongo nightclub. This is definitely not something I’d normally do; I am asleep most evenings by 10pm, and we didn’t even get picked up for this excursion until 10:30pm! However, when in the Caribbean with no kids in tow…. might as well live it up! Plus, this is no ordinary nightclub. First of all, the building its housed in is a monstrosity on the corner of a commercial intersection; it’s a huge indoor/outdoor venue. Though the shows are all inside, the outdoor atmosphere is festive, with club-goers buying drinks at open-air bars and posing next to funny statues, like a humongous statue of Superman.
Second, you’re not just enjoying unlimited drinks and heart-thumping music at this dimly lit dance club (for $70 apiece, which includes transportation from your hotel). There are constantly revolving dance and lip-sync performances on stage. Funny gags from entertaining clown-like characters and some entertaining trapeze acts reminded me of Cirque du Soleil, too. Balloons, confetti and bubbles also make an appearance — all senses are stimulated here! We really got a kick out of it all, and though we watched most of the spectacle from a mezzanine-level cocktail table, other guests were down on the ground level — no VIP seating — dancing and seemingly having a grand ol’ time. (With free-flowing drinks, and scantily dressed dancers of both genders gyrating on the bar, I’m not surprised.)
We only lasted at Coco Bongo until just after 1am, and were able to return to our hotel via private shuttle we’d arranged (taking a taxi would have been an option, too). If you purchase a tour with transportation, that transport won’t return to your hotel until closer to 4am! There’s no way these old fogies would have been able to stay out partying that long, so I’m glad we made a plan to leave early. Just be aware you’ll need to pay for your transport if you want to get your beauty sleep and exit before your scheduled shuttle or bus ride.
My husband and I received complimentary activities, courtesy of the local outfitters and Expedia.
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