9 Things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana

need to travel to Dominican Republic Saona Island
Take a cruise to the protected Saona Island for a day trip. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

With over 1,000 miles of coastline and some of the prettiest beaches in North America, the Dominican Republic is a popular beach destination. With convenient flights from the U.S. and Canada, Punta Cana is one of the most popular areas in the Dominican Republic. Most travelers head to an all-inclusive resorts during their trip to DR, making for an easy beachy getaway. However, there are several things to keep in mind. Here are the top things to know before visiting Punta Cana.

9 Things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana

  • Punta Cana International Airport PUJ is one of the largest airports in the Caribbean with service in-between 26 international destinations.
  • Cabs can be expensive so arrange for a transfer before arriving
  • Spanish isn’t necessary, though it’s nice to use some common phases.
  • Changing money isn’t necessary however cash for tips is necessary.
  • There are several resort areas in Punta Cana, like Bavaro, Cap Cana and La Romana.
  • DR boasts 200 Beaches
  • Nude Sunbathing Isn’t a Thing in DR
  • The Dominican Republic features a National Park, perfect for an all-day excursion.
  • Bottled Water is a Must in DR

How to Get to the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is the second-largest island in the Caribbean. It offers several international airports. After several trip to DR over the years, I am sharing the Things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana.

The Punta Cana International Airport

With service from several international carriers, including direct flights from Britain, France and South America. U.S. travelers will find American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Jet Blue Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines.

WiFi is available, and restrooms are located near the immigration line.

A valid passport with more than six months before expiration is required for your trip is required. e aren’t required to enter the country. A 30-day tourist visa will be stamped into your passport upon entry. The Dominican Republic Entry fee is included in your flight.

The Dominican Republic requires U.S. Passengers to fill out an online Immigration form before they arrive. Before my last trip in December 2023, my airline sent me a link (Delta Airlines).

On departure, U.S. residents can opt for the automated immigration lines. You will just scan your passport and pass through a gate.

The Punta Cana Airport features enhanced security measures with pat-downs. A TSA pre-check line isn’t available.

The departure area is fully air-conditioned and features a duty-free shop and another shop specializing in Dominican Republic products, like rum and cigars.

Find American fast food in the departures area, like Wendy’s, Sbarro, Nathan’s, Cinnabon and Baskin-Robbins. Also find a bar for pre-departure cocktails.

Find a small play structure for younger kids. The Punta Cana International Airport also features a nursing room.

Other International Airports in The Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo International Airport (SDQ)–With service from the U.S. on American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Jet Blue Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

Santiago International Airport (STI)–With service from the U.S. on American Airlines, United Airlines, Jet Blue Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

Puerto Plata International Airport (POP)–With service from the U.S. on American Airlines, United Airlines and Jet Blue Airlines.

Resort Review: Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana
need to travel to Dominican Republic sunset
Watch a perfect sunset while visiting the Dominican Republic. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Airport Transfers

When leaving the arrivals hall at the Punta Cana International Airport, a line of cab drivers will greet you. I recommend arranging transportation with your resort or hotel before arriving. This is one of the Things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana.

There are several transportation and tour counters in the area. I usually check in with my transportation company to find my driver. Often they are waiting a short distance from the airport and pull up after you arrive.

Most cars in the Dominican Republic are air-conditioned.

What Language is Used in the Dominican Republic

The Dominicans speak Spanish though most understand and speak some English. Knowing some basic Spanish is helpful, especially the basics.

Hola = Hello

Buenos Días = Good Morning

Buenos Noches = Good Night

Si = Yes

No = No

Muchas Gracias = Thank you very much

What Money is Used in the Dominican Republic

The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso (RD$). Though the U.S. Dollar is widely accepted. This is one of the Things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana.

Change will most likely be given in U.S. dollars. For those who want local currency, ATMs are located in hotel lobbies as well as the airport.

Credit Cards are widely accepted throughout the Dominican Republic. It’s advised to use a credit card for large purchases like lodging. Though use cash for souvenirs and small purchases. Tips are accepted and appreciated in DR from spa services to daily maid service.

Phone Service in the Dominican Republic

Since I travel internationally, I have a global plan through my U.S. carrier. When I land I just switch over to the local service provider. I just use my data to check email and messages. The provider I used throughout my trip to DR was Altice.

Most all-inclusive resorts offer extensive WiFi for their guests. Most of the time this service is included. This is one of the top things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana.

Where to Stay in Punta Cana

Most resorts in the Punta Cana area are all-inclusive resorts. Travelers will find everything from luxurious and laid-back adult all-inclusives to family resorts with waterparks.

Some resorts are divided into an adults-only side with an adjoining family side, each with separate restaurants, pools and gathering places. Other resorts offer buildings dedicated to adults or families.

With several different resort areas in Punta Cana, visitors will choose from laid-back La Romana to buzzy Bavaro. Cap Cana boasts Juanilla Beach, one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean.

Cap Cana

Near Punta Cana, Cap Cana boasts wide white sand beaches with lots of palm trees. A resort community, Cap Cana features the Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana and the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana. Both of these properties opened in 2021 and offer a luxurious all-inclusive resort experience.

Nearby is Sanctuary Cap Cana, another luxury all-inclusive resort. Located on Juanillo Beach, it offers pristine white sand with mature palm trees.

Cap Cana is located just south of the Punta Cana International Airport. The Cap Cana Marina offers boat excursions. This area is ideal for watersports like kayaking, SUP boarding and sailing.

La Romana

La Romana offers a quieter resort experience. It’s located west of the Punta Cana International Airport and along the Chavón River.

I stayed at the Hilton La Romana, an all-inclusive resort with tropical landscaping. It is close to Bayahibe, a resort town with shopping and dining. It is also the departure point for boat excursions to Isla Saona, part of the Parque National Cotubanama.


Bavaro features the largest concentration of all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic. It’s north of the Punta Cana International Airport and on the Atlantic Ocean.

Along this strip of beach, often called the Coconut Coast, resorts are shoulder-to-shoulder. The white sand beaches are the draw though some resorts offer bigger beaches than others so research is key.

Bavaro is quite busy. The resorts tend to be louder and the beaches busier.


Best Beaches in Punta Cana

With about 200 beaches in the Dominican Republic, it can be hard to choose. DR boasts 25 Blue Flag Beaches (more than the U.S.), known for their conservation and recycling efforts.

Macao Beach–Known for its surfing area.

Bavaro Beach–This beach extends for 30 miles and features many all-inclusive resorts. It is a favorite.

Juanillo Beach--Exceptionally wide beach with mature palm trees. Since there are fewer resorts and many are gated, this beach is less crowded.

Bayahibe Beach–Located in the village and a frequent departure point for excursions to Soana Island.

Note: Nude sunbathing isn’t a common in the Dominican Republic. Even topless sunbathing isn’t a thing in DR. This is one of the Things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana.

Saona Island

Part of the Cotubanama National Park, Saona Island is a pristine tropical escape. With a lack of development, including hotels, it is an ideal day trip.

Christopher Columbus discovered the island and named it after a friend. It was the location for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

The easiest way to reach the island is via a catamaran tour. Most trips stop at Palmilla Swimming Area, a shallow area that adults can touch the bottom in the turquoise water.

Most trips depart from Bayahibe and take 8 to 10 hours. Lunch and drinks are usually included in the tour.

Popular Punta Cana Excursions

Arrange for a tour during your visit to the Dominican Republic to learn more about its agriculture and animals.

Feed a Spider Monkey.

Learn about the chocolate production.

Watch a cigar rolling.

Walk through a sugar cane field.

Take a Zipline through the tree canopy.

Learn about coffee production.

Is the Water Safe in the Dominican Republic

While visiting the Dominican Republic, drink bottled water. The tap water is NOT safe to drink. So drink bottled water exclusively during your visit. I even brush my teeth with bottled water or mouthwash. This is one of the Things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stay away from the following:

  • Tap or well water
  • Ice made with tap or well water
  • Drinks made with tap or well water (such as reconstituted juice)
  • Unpasteurized milk

Complimentary bottled water should be available in your room during your entire stay. Water fountains are not the norm in the Dominican Republic.

What to Wear in the Caribbean

Need some help with what to wear? Here are all the best tips and products for your trip.

Beach Packing List 
Things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana champagne at beach
Drink champagne on the beach, it’s low in carbs and very glamorous. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Liquor Safety

Practice some basic precautions during your stay. The drinking age in the Dominican Republic is 18.

  • Make sure all bottled beverages are sealed with their factory seals in your mini fridge.
  • Don’t drink from open liquor bottles in your room.
  • Watch bartenders make your beverages.
  • Before drinking, smell your cocktail.
  • Drink slowly.
  • Eat before and while you are drinking.
  • Drink bottled water while drinking alcohol.
Things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana
Try the tropical fruit in the Dominican Republic. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Food Safety

According to the CDC, stay away from the following:

  • Food served at room temperature
  • Food from street vendors
  • Raw or soft-cooked (runny) eggs
  • Raw or undercooked (rare) meat or fish
  • Unwashed or unpeeled raw fruits and vegetables
  • Unpasteurized dairy products
  • ”Bushmeat” (monkeys, bats, or other wild game)

Insect Safety in DR

According to the CDC, protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Use an appropriate insect repellent (see below).
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). Do not use permethrin directly on your skin.
  • Stay and sleep in air-conditioned or screened rooms.
  • Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.

I recommend the following product to treat your clothes before departure, available from Amazon.

Make an Appointment at Travel Clinic

I headed to for Caribbean travel information, including required immunizations. My family practitioner advised me to make an appointment at a travel clinic.

At the travel clinic, my nurse practitioner advised a Typhoid vaccine, along with Hepatitis A and a booster vaccine for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis since it had been five years since my last shot. I was covered for the MMR vaccine, or measles, mumps and rubella.

The nurse practitioner also discussed mosquito safety since dengue fever is sometimes an issue for the Caribbean. I packed a 3 oz. container of insect repellant and used it when I walked through a shady area and in the evenings.

Along with vaccines, she discussed traveler’s diarrhea (TD). She advised I start taking probiotics before and during my trip. I also drank a dose of Emergen-C daily, especially after long international flights. I packed some over-the-counter medications for TD symptoms since it’s the most common illness during travel.

Fear of TD–Traveler’s Diarrhea

I have a fear of TD. Who has time for that? I didn’t want to find a Dominican pharmacy, so I packed all the supplies I might need. Here’s what the CDC recommends.

  • Antiacid—like Tums
  • Pepto-Bismol tablets
  • Imodium tablets
  • Oral Rehydration Salts—available at REI
  • Prescription Antibiotics—prescribed by a doctor or nurse practitioner based on your itinerary.

If you get seasickness, here are the top tips and products to reduce the effects.

First Aid Supplies

Accidents happen so pack a basic first aid kit to be prepared, even for minor scrapes and blisters.

  • Pain Reliever
  • Motion Sickness pills, like non-drowsy Dramamine
  • Cough Drops
  • Cold Medication—I prefer a separate Day and Night version.
  • Anti-Histamine—like Benadryl
  • Triple antibiotic cream—like Neosporin
  • Anti-Itch Cream
  • Bandages
  • Anti-septic wipes
  • Sunscreen
  • Inspect Repellent

Restroom Supplies

When traveling away from resorts, pack some restroom supplies. You will need them outside restaurants and hotels.

  • Toilet paper, off the roll in a plastic bag
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wipes
  • Bleach wipes

Note: I left all medications in the original container to avoid issues with security or customs.


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Travel to the Dominican Republic's Punta Cana for a relaxing Caribbean island getaway. Here's all the details for your trip from what airport to use, to what to pack, all-inclusive resorts and excursion recommendations. What you need to pack for Dominican Republic | Where to stay in DR | Best excursions in Punta Cana #DominicanRepublic #PuntaCana
credit: Catherine Parker


Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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