Punta Cana is one of the most popular beach getaways in the Caribbean. The plethora of affordable all-inclusive beach resorts, access to the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and relatively short three-hour flights from Miami make the sunny destination an ideal spot for families to relax and have fun together. It's easy enough to spend the entire vacation hiding out in the hotel, especially when food and drinks are included in the room rate and kids are happy splashing and swimming in the property's enormous pools. But it would be a huge mistake to overlook Punta Cana's best excursions. That said, we rounded up five fun things to do with your family in Punta Cana, so read on and get inspired to make long-lasting memories.
1. Swim with stingrays and nurse sharks.
Catalina Island is a two-hour journey (including a shuttle and boat ride) from most of the resorts in Punta Cana, but we think the trek is entirely worth it. Sure, there are many closer snorkeling and beach options in Punta Cana, but these are often crowded and have long wait times -- and the coral reefs aren't that healthy. It's worth the extra effort to snorkel on a living reef with tropical fish, stingrays, and nurse sharks. The beaches are part of a protected national park, plus there are clean toilets and facilities available. Snorkeling tours generally include open bars, a Dominican barbecue beach lunch, and a chance to shop for souvenirs at a fraction of the cost at Punta Cana's shops. Diving trips are also available.
2. Zip-line through the canopy.
Canopy Adventures boasts an impressive network of more than 4,000 feet of zip-line cables winding through canopy. Adventure-loving families can whiz along eight different lines (with double steel cables for safety) while enjoying incredible views and an adrenaline rush. Kids as young as five years old can get in on the action, but there's a fair bit of hiking between some of the platforms, so be prepared with appropriate footwear. Guides present guests with local fun facts and history and can answer questions about culture and wildlife. Bananas and bottled water are supplied as a post-zip-line snack. Plus, a professional photographer takes videos that can be purchased as a DVD at the end of the day.
3. Take a speedboat to Saona Island.
The hardest part about visiting Saona Island is leaving. The idyllic island is part of the East National Park (protected since 1975) and lies off the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic. Reachable by speedboat, Saona is known for its palm tree-lined beaches and shallow natural pools that are home to large galaxies of starfish (please don't touch them). The island also holds a small fishing village with traditional pastel-colored houses run by solar power. Visitors can check out the turtle sanctuary, walk for miles down the beach, swim in calm waters, and enjoy rum punch from tour operators.
4. Ride horses on the beach.
If horseback riding has been on your bucket list, Punta Cana is an ideal place to make that dream come true. Horseback riding on the beach is common, but there are also opportunities to visit inland ranches and get a close-up view of the county's rain forests, mountains, and fauna. Riders at HorsePlay Punta Cana have the chance to cross streams and sample fruit straight off the ranch's trees. Visitors can also combine a zip-line adventure with a morning horseback ride for two unforgettable activities in one day.
5. Take a family surf lesson.
Macao Beach is located on the northern end of Punta Cana, and the waves there are often ideal for beginner surf lessons. Private lessons usually include surfboards, rash guards, and about three hours with instructors both on the sand and in the water. Families that are serious about water sports (both surfing and kitesurfing) should check out the waves in Cabarete, about five hours north of Punta Cana.
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