The Dominican Republic in the Caribbean offers a tropical escape blending outdoor adventure, cultural enrichment and culinary discoveries. Here’s a list of absolute musts to do in Punta Cana with kids, or without for your trip.
Top Things to do in Punta Cana with Kids
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Lounging in a beachside cabana offers busy adults the time they need to recharge and relax. But I didn’t want to sum up my time in the Dominican Republic with a one sentence, I sat by the beach with a glass of champagne.
Don’t get me wrong–I love champagne and there’s nothing better to drink sitting next to a white sand beach. I just wanted to learn a few things and walk away with a better understanding of the Dominican Republic. A few of my favorite things like chocolate and coffee grow in the Dominican Republic. So I needed to learn more.
After two visits to the Dominican Republic, I’ve sampled several excursions. The tour operators are efficient and most guides speak fluent English.
Cruise to Saona Island
As a part of the Parque National del Este, Isla Saona, or Saona Island, offers a undeveloped paradise. Only about 100 people live there and the beach offers wide white sand beaches with a few open air huts and lots of lounge chairs.
First depart from the coastal town of Bayahibe along its beach and take a catamaran and return by speed boat, or vice versa. Along the way, get an overview of the area along with unspoiled views of the Parque National del Este.
Then stop at a salt water swimming area. As a natural shallow area, enjoy swimming, floating or standing in the water right off your boat. And maybe find a star fish though don’t touch or pick it up.
After swimming in the natural swimming area, your cruise continues on the Saona Island. This area is a protected area with some of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic.
After a short walk from the departure point, grab a lounge chair on the deep white sand beaches and soak up some rays. Though find chairs in the shade of tall palm trees too. The turquoise water is perfect for splashing and wave crashing.
As an undeveloped area, it offers limited services. Find cabanas with a simple catered Caribbean lunch. Most offer grilled meats, roasted or steamed vegetables, rice dishes, pasta salad and tropical fruit. Also available is soda, water and beer with rum punch included in the price. Pina Coladas are additional. This area offers covered tables and basic restroom facilities.
On both legs of the cruise, beer, water, soda and a rum punch is available. Take in the scenery or dance to some island tunes. For my excursion, I used Scuba Caribe, with locations in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Aruba and Jamaica
So my Mom wouldn’t buy me a monkey as a kid. Something about throwing poo…
Since I still wanted to play with a monkey, I was beyond excited when I learned I could feed monkeys in the Dominican Republic. I was all in.
I was a little hesitant, I’ll be honest. What do you expect from a place called Monkeyland. I didn’t want to see unhappy, little monkey faces. I’m too much of a kind-hearted animal lover for that.
To my delight, I found a family of tiny, curious two-pound Spider monkeys that swung from limb-to-limb in their five-acre sanctuary in the rainforest of the Dominican Republic. At night the monkey family sleeps in a large protective house, keeping them safe.
After a quick briefing, I walked though the door of the monkey compound. Down a few steps and into a grove of trees where the monkey guide handed me a bowl of cut up tropical fruit, nuts and sunflower seeds. Seriously, I would feed the nutritious snacks to my three kids.
In a blink of an eye, monkeys jumped onto my head with tiny, velvety feet and ran along my shoulders and arms to grab their treats. The monkeys perched on top of my head to nibble their fruit. I wanted to grab one and stuff it in my bag to take home, the monkeys were that cute and gentle. I didn’t.
A must-do for the family. My kids, 11, 15 and 16, would’ve loved it. Though the monkeys prefer calm-natured people that remain quiet during their feeding.
Maria’s House or Casa de Maria
I’m just your typical coffee-drinking, chocolate-hoarding Mom. So when I learned that the Dominican Republic grew cacao (the beans roasted to make chocolate) and coffee beans, I had to learn all about it.
Just down the road from Monkeyland, the Bavaro Runners stopped at a traditional Dominican house owned by Maria for a lesson in agriculture. Her land is covered with different tropical crops that yield year-round, like coffee, cacao and pineapple.
Behind her simple yet colorful house, I walked down to a covered area where Maria works to turn the raw products into my favorite treats. First, I sampled the cacao seeds, fresh from the pod and experienced a completely different taste and texture. The seeds reminded me of a tart banana, almost lemony and look nothing like chocolate.
Maria dries the cacao seeds before roasting them. Then she pounds and sifts the seeds to remove the flavorful nibs. The nibs are molded and eventually grated with cinnamon and raw sugar for a Dominican cocoa powder. I got the opportunity to taste the fresh cocoa powder—a must-do for the chocolate lover.
Coffee requires less steps, the Christmas red-colored beansdry for days. Then are roasted to a deep chocolate brown before grinding. The best part, I sampled a hot chocolate, fresh coffee and pineapple from Maria’s trees.
Not only did I find cacao and coffee plants, her land brims with tropical flowers and chickens run around eating bugs. Maria’s House is a popular stop to learn more about the cultural heritage of the Dominican Republic.
Learning about Sugar Cane, Rum and Cigars
The Dominican Republic, the second largest Caribbean island after Cuba, is an important agricultural center. Sugarcane is the largest crop harvested in the Dominican Republic and my Bavaro Runners Tour explained the production process.
As I walked through a field of towering sugar cane plants, I imaged a machete-wielding farmhand harvesting the cane and dragging it to a pair of oxen. Traditionally oxen drove the sugar cane press that extracted the sugary juice when the stalks were placed between two rollers.
Fortunately, this process has been automated but the harvest is still done by hand. Before moving on, I sampled the raw sugar cane juice that’s sweet yet not syrupy.
The next stop on the tour featured a series of boilers where the sugary juice reduces into molasses. The molasses can be used as a sweetener or fermented. The fermenting process produces rum, another important product of the Dominican Republic.
Next to the sugar cane fields, I watched a demonstration of traditional cigar making. With a combination of local and imported tobacco leaves, the cigar maker rolls the leaves into some of the best cigars in the world.
Zip line Adventures in Punta Cana
Bavaro Runners offers a zip lining adventure through their canopy of rain forest trees. Twelve zip lines connect 18 platforms for a ride of a lifetime, thrill seekers even fly over a small river.
Certified by the Association of Challenger Course Technology, safety is paramount at the Zip Line Adventures. Kids have to be 6-years-old and 44 pounds to ride and adults have weight restrictions too.
Punta Cana is world famous for its sugar-white sand beaches with water of the purest turquoise. Though hotels line many beaches, Macao Beach is a locals favorite.
With deep beaches ideal for sunbathing, Macao Beach offers a deeper straw-colored sand dotted with palm trees. A beach for beach-lovers, I found a surf camp and several huts offering seafood and drinks.
Where’s Scuba Caribe
Located in Bayahibe, I used Scuba Caribe to catamaran to Saona Island though it does offer a cruise from Punta Cana as well. Since I was staying at the resort next to the departure point, I walked to its hut. The excursion to Saona was an all-day excursion.
Where’s Runners Adventures
Runners Adventures (formerly Bavaro Adventures) picks up their guests from the lobby of their resort, a convenient feature for travelers without rental cars. Depending on the adventure, guests will ride in an open air safari truck or smaller air-conditioned tour bus. Several tours are available, depending on interest.
What You Need to Know
Where to Stay
I’ve visited the Dominican Republic twice. And I’ve stayed or visited the following properties.
Hilton La Romana All-Inclusive Resort
Sanctuary All Inclusive Adult Resort in Cap Canaoffers a luxurious resort only 15 minutes from the Punta Cana Airport. The property boasts 323 suites with Spanish Colonial architecture with beachy details.
So swaddl yourself in a lush tropical escape with six restaurants and six bars along with six pools. This resort offers 17 different room categories including oceanfront villas and a private island suite.
If you’re looking for more information for your trip. I recommend the following guides.
Disclosure:The tours were provided for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links.
Know Before You Go:
- Release of liability will have to be signed for everyone.
- Kids are welcome though strollers might be difficult to navigate in the hilly terrain that’s explored during the typical excursion.
- Monkeys are sensitive to insect repellant so it can’t be worn in the monkey compound.
- The Monkeyland tour not recommended for people with peanut allergies.
- My school age kids would love the Monkeyland though it might be intimidating for timid preschoolers or babies.
- For the Bavaro Adventures, I recommend wearing hiking sandals and clothes that can get dirty.
- It rains at anytime in the rain forest.