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Punta Cana Vs. Puerto Plata: Which Is Best For Your Travel Style?

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Punta Cana and Puerto Plata are the most popular resort destinations in the Dominican Republic respectively, but which one is better for you? At first glance, both come with countless all-inclusives, endless white-sand beaches, and an array of entertainment options – so what’s the difference?

A white-sand beach in Puerto Plata with tropical palm trees

Despite their similarities, there are also striking contrasts when it comes to natural surroundings and activities travelers can enjoy in each city.

In this article, we’ll tell you which destination is perfect for you based on several travel categories: 

The Perfect White Sand Beaches: Punta Cana

While tropical beaches are ubiquitous across the Dominican Republic, there’s no doubt Punta Cana comes out on top in terms of the best white-sand beaches. Stretching for over 30 miles, Punta Cana’s famed Bávaro beach is not only the best in the country but also one of the top-rated worldwide. Travelers can also enjoy Playa Macao, and Arena Gorda beach, just to name a few. 

Bávaro beach with tropical turquoise water and sun

If you’re headed to Puerto Plata, you’ll be pleased to know there’s no shortage of stellar white-sand beaches, either. What it lacks in award-winning beaches, it makes up for with its smaller, more peaceful seaside locations that are perfect for an afternoon stroll or a casual tanning session under the tropical heat. 

Stunning Tropical Nature: Puerto Plata

Aside from the Dominican Republic’s picturesque beaches, the country’s flourishing rainforests and tranquil waterfalls are a draw for countless visitors. Nature lovers should definitely opt for Puerto Plata for their next Caribbean getaway, where gorgeous mountains provide the perfect backdrop for endless rainforest exploration.

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Aerial view of Puerto Plata's city centre from mountain

Puerto Plata’s Damajagua waterfalls are a must-see for any nature enthusiasts. These stunning waterfalls are located just a stone’s throw away from the bustling city and are best explored on a guided tour. Visitors can also enjoy Mount Isabel de Torres, one of the city’s highest peaks offering ample panoramic views of nature and urban sprawl. 

Dominican Republic waterfall

International Connectivity: Punta Cana

Home to the country’s largest international airport, it’s no surprise we’ve chosen Punta Cana as the top destination when it comes to easy access. With dozens of direct flights from the U.S., Canada, and Europe, Punta Cana is the most connected city in the Dominican Republic. Its award-winning airport is extremely well-organized and safe, making for a smooth arrival and departure.

Punta Cana's busy airport with passengers departing

While Puerto Plata is also home to an international airport, it lacks the clout of its eastern rival. That being said, Puerto Plata is the ideal choice for a cruise ship stop, and the city houses two of the largest international cruise ship ports in the country. 

A tropical beach in Punta Cana with palm trees

The Best Family-Friendly Destination: Tie

This year, a record number of travelers are expected to visit the Dominican Republic, many of whom will be families. We have to call this one a tie since both cities offer family-friendly tours and all-inclusive resorts. Ultimately, the choice depends on what travelers are interested in experiencing. If you’re after some of the top-rated luxury resorts, then choose Punta Cana. If you want to get out and explore history, culture, and nature, then Puerto Plata is the place to be. 

A tropical beach in Puerto Plata with Crystal clear water

Culture And History: Puerto Plata

Most travelers choose the Dominican Republic for its tropical beaches and year-round warm weather. But for many, culture and history are bucket list items worth including on their itinerary. With a history stretching back centuries, Puerto Plata offers much more to see and do compared to its younger Punta Cana counterpart, a city that was mainly built and developed over the last several decades. In spite of its young age, Punta Cana hosts some impressive cultural events, including its annual carnival, one of the largest on the tropical island. 

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