Updated on April 30, 2019 by Asher Fergusson
What do I really need to pack for Punta Cana?
A popular destination from tourists all over the world, Punta Cana welcomes swimmers, snorkelers, and beach bums to enjoy its year-round tropical climate and beautiful beaches. Punta Cana is also located quite close to the historic towns of Higuey and Cabeza del Toro. History buffs will enjoy a day trip to Higuey, the 500-year-old city is home to landmark moments in the Spanish colonization.
Because of its tropical climate, diverse population, and varied activites, this spot can be tough to pack for. Here’s a guide for what to wear in Punta Cana, what NOT to bring, the seasons, and some FAQs to help you plan the best trip possible.
10) Single Dollar Bills – If you are staying at a resort, even if it’s of the all-inclusive variety, it is still customary and polite to tip for services. Whether you’re having a drink by the pool or going out to eat, a small tip to service staff goes a long way to showing your gratitude.
What should I wear in Punta Cana?
Dominican style is mostly relaxed and suited towards the year-round tropical weather. Similar to American style, it is casual and comfortable with a few key exceptions. Known for its resorts, like Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic relaxes its dress code for vacationers—with resort wear significantly more relaxed by the beach or poolside. With so many aquatic sports available—from scuba diving to sailing and snorkelling— and the tropical heat, dress for comfort and protection. With Spanish and native Taino influences, bright colors are always welcome.
That said, there are a few exceptions. The Dominican Republic is a Catholic country, and emphasizes more modest dress in church and more formal settings. Meanwhile, if you go out to dinner or drinks in trendy Santo Domingo, you will be expected to dress up. That means swapping out your flips flops for high heels and proper trousers. Feel free to dress to the nines!
Women feel free to wear bold colors, bright dresses, and sandals. Whether you’re out on the town or relaxing on the beach, the tropical and Spanish influences permeate local fashion. Opt for natural fabrics that keep you cool and protect your skin. Otherwise, the Dominican Republic is the perfect place to experiment with summer fashion. It is perfectly acceptable to show a little skin, especially on the beach or in trendy Santo Domingo restaurants, but for formal occasions and visiting historic churches, keep legs and shoulders covered.
To keep cool, men will also want to opt for natural fabrics like linen and cotton. They’ll keep you protected during the day, and most items, like a linen button down, will transition well from beach to a night on the town. While the Dominican Republic boasts a casual sense of fashion, flips flops are a no-go off the beach. Opt for comfortable boat shoes and colorful shorts, or light fabric trousers if you go out for drinks off the resort.
Spring — March, April, May:
Temperatures do not vary too much year round in the Dominican Republic, with winter temperatures still quite hot. Spring temperatures see the thermometer go up by only a few degrees, from a February average of 28 (84) to an April average of 31 (88). Technically hurricane season begins in May. While it’s good to keep an eye out for inclement weather, conditions stay pretty clear until August.
Summer — June, July, August:
June and July are the nicest months of the year. The average sea temperature for Punta Cana is 32°C (82) – that’s the same as in June. While this temperature is great for swimming and sailing, with tropical winds at your back, bear in mind that the sun index is quite strong. For starters, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to get much hotter than that. Moreover, with the strong sun index and longer days, you’ll need to be extra cautious to avoid sunburn.
Autumn — September, October, November:
September still remains hot, with average temperatures around 28 degrees. By October, it begins to cool down by a slim margin, with temperatures reaching 29 or 30 (86 to 89) and steadily into December. The sun index gets a little weaker, so those visiting from more temperate climates, like New York or London, will find autumn weather a pleasant change of pace.
Nevertheless, September and October are peak times for hurricane season, so be extra mindful of weather reports. Otherwise, your vacation may be interrupted by heavy rains and dangerous conditions.
Winter — December, January, February:
Christmas in the tropics? With temperatures hovering around 84 degrees (28), who can say no to such pleasant conditions? Far away from hurricane season, you can expect a January of February full of sunshine. January occurs in the dry season, so you can expect perfect conditions to explore the island’s natural beauty.
What NOT to bring:
2) Dark Colours – Just like your fabrics, keep your colours light. Resort wear may be relaxed, but who wants to dress like Morticia Adams to go to the beach? If you go into town, bright colours are encouraged by the local fashion sense.
4) Too many layers – You’ll do well to bring a light jacket or jumper for the breezy evenings, but if you bring any autumn or winter outerwear with you, you’ll be boiling. A simple wind resistant jacket will take you through any sailing adventures, and a breathable cover up will suit for any evenings out.
FAQs for your Punta Cana Trip
1) What is transportation like?
Public buses, known as guaguas, connect the Punta Cana and Bavaro area. However, taxis and shuttles are easily available (fairly affordable and infinitely faster) to connect you to the airport or any major hotel. If you want to explore the island, your best bet is to rent a car yourself and travel on your own schedule.
2) What Cities should I visit?
Punta Cana is a small town that offers over 32 kilometers of beach territory, golf courses, and a few local joints to try the local cuisine. That said, the country is a small island nation so it never hurts to spend a day or two in the capital, Santo Domingo, or explore historic towns like La Vega or Santiago.
3) Do people speak English?
While Spanish is the official language, most people in resort towns like Punta Cana speak pretty proficient English. Still, it is always polite to learn how to say thank you (gracias) and please (por favor). Small efforts will go a long way.
4) Is it safe to drink the water?
No it isn’t, as the tap water is not purified. Your best bet in all cases is bottled water, and opt for drinks without ice if you can’t see where the ice is sourced. If you’re taking a tour, bring a bottle of spring water with you.
5) What is the best time of year to visit?
Spring, Autumn, and winter are all lovely, as the heat cools down just a little. Summer brings extreme hit and direct sunlight so if you’re prone to sunburn, it may the time of year to avoid taking a trip.
6) What currency is used in Punta Cana and the DR?
The official currency is the Dominican peso, which you can easily exchange at hotels or the airport upon landing. That said, if you are at a resort, you can tip in American dollars, which servers can exchange just as easily. Many restaurants and hotels in Dominican cities will accept American dollars and Euros directly.
7) Do I have to tip in restaurants and bars?
It is customary and good courtesy to leave 10% if you enjoyed your services. Some restaurants will add 10% gratuity to your bill, so make sure you look at your check before leaving extra. You will know if it has been added if you see “propina incluida” on the check.
8) What is the food like?
Dominican food is a real mix – of fresh with fried, of meat paired with colorful fruits and veg – all of which are absolutely worth your while to try. Sancocho, a traditional meaty stew, is packed with flavor—especially if you go for sancocho de siete carnes, with a varied selection of meat ingredients, which promises a rich and varied flavor. Vegetarian? Try mangu, a plantain mash, with coffee for breakfast. Otherwise, opt for stewed beans, braised chicken, and don’t skip out on the fried plantains. Expect a rainbow on your plate with contrasting flavors and textures that are sure to tickle your palate.