Punta Cana vs. Puerto Vallarta

Choosing between Punta Cana and Puerto Vallarta can be tough, especially if you’re craving a tropical beach getaway. These places are popular with tourists for a reason. With sunny coastlines and a wealth of fun activities, you can’t go wrong with either destination.

But you ultimately have to choose one, and I’m here to help you come to that decision! I’ll be sharing where to find the best beaches, cheapest accommodation, and the coolest attractions so that you can make a more informed choice!

Which is Better? Punta Cana vs. Puerto Vallarta?

This answer depends on what you’re interested in doing on vacation. If you only want to lay out on the beach, choose Punta Cana. The white sand and blue water are some of the best in all of the Caribbean. But if you’re more interested in history and culture, Puerto Vallarta may suit you better, as there’s a beautiful old town that you can explore.

However, there’s much more to consider when choosing a vacation destination. Let’s dive a bit deeper into what makes each of these places so special.

Location and Weather

Punta Cana is a resort town on the eastern side of the Dominican Republic. Because of its location between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Punta Cana has a warm, tropical climate year-round. Temperatures are anywhere from the mid-80s to the low 90s, even during the rainy season (May to November).

Puerto Vallarta is located in Mexico in the state of Jalisco. Nestled right on the Pacific Ocean, it also has a tropical wet and dry climate, with temperatures similar to those in the Dominican Republic. While the rainy season lasts from May to October, showers aren’t very frequent and usually fall in short bursts.


Although Punta Cana and Puerto Vallarta are idyllic vacation hotspots, it’s surprising how different the beaches are. 

The beaches in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic are postcard-worthy, with powdery white sand, turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees that are characteristic of the Caribbean. The crown jewel is Bavaro Beach, which extends for an astounding 30 miles along the DR coastline. Just one look, and you’ll see why it always makes the list of best beaches in the Caribbean islands!

Other popular beaches include Macao Beach, Playa Blanca, and Uvero Alto Beach.

While the beaches in Puerto Vallarta aren’t as tropical, they are still beautiful, especially considering they’re backed by the lush Sierra Madre mountains. Compared to the Caribbean, the sand is more golden and a little rocky, and the waves can sometimes be rough. However, the ocean is calmer in the summer, so I recommend coming during this time if you want to go swimming.

If you are planning a beach day, head to Boca de Tomates or Playa de Oro. There’s also a long stretch of sand right in town near the Malecon if you want something more central. 


While you could spend your entire vacation lounging on the beach, it’s worth getting out and exploring what Puerto Vallarta and Punta Cana have to offer. 

Puerto Vallarta is a fantastic destination for nature lovers, culture seekers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Here are a couple of activities you can look forward to doing during your visit:

  • Scuba Dive Los Arcos
  • Watch the sunset from the Malecon
  • Hike Up to Mirador de la Cruz
  • Take a walking tour or food tour in Zona Romantico
  • Visit the Church Of Our Lady Of Guadalupe
  • Zipline the Superman – the longest zipline in Mexico!
  • Whale watching from December to March
  • Golfing at the Vista Vallara Golf Club

Punta Cana also has a wide array of fun activities, although they tend to be more focused on water sports and outdoor adventures. For example, you can:

  • Go on a catamaran cruise along the coast
  • Golf at the Punta Espada Golf Club
  • Swim with dolphins in Dolphin Island Park
  • Zipline at Bavaro Adventure Park
  • Snorkel the reefs near Samana
  • Scuba Dive at the Igneri Caribe Taino Underwater Museum
  • Go horseback riding on the beach during sunset


With a wide range of all-inclusive resorts, boutique hotels, and cozy vacation rental properties, both destinations have accommodations for all types of travelers. 

If you’re looking for a carefree experience, I suggest staying in an all-inclusive. Not only are most of them located right on the beach, but they also include unlimited food and drink, daily activities (like non-motorized water sports), and nightly entertainment. 

The majority of beachfront resorts in Punta Cana are all-inclusive, so you’ll just need to find one that fits your budget and style. If a condo is more your style, then you should look further inland. Bavaro has quite a few vacation rental properties that offer a more laid-back and homey atmosphere. 

Puerto Vallarta also has quite a few all-inclusive resorts, especially to the north near Nuevo Vallarta. Closer to the city center and Romantic Zone, you’ll find more boutique hotels, hostels, and vacation rental properties, although they might not have an oceanfront location on the beach like the upscale resorts and hotels. 


Another big difference between both countries is the cuisine.

In Puerto Vallarta, you can indulge in delicious Mexican fare. Whether you’re looking for a quick snack or a fine dining experience, this gastronomic town won’t disappoint. Seafood is also very popular, with ceviche, fish tacos, and shrimp being some of the most iconic dishes. 

Dominican food is also focused a lot on seafood, although you’ll find many other dishes using plantains, meat, and beans. The Caribbean flavors are influenced by African and Spanish cultures, making it a truly delicious mix that you have to try when you’re here.

If you’re traveling and staying in an all-inclusive, your hotel will likely also have international restaurants on the property. But food is a huge part of experiencing the local culture, so if I were you, I’d leave the resort to have at least one authentic meal during your stay!


The nightlife scene in Puerto Vallarta is very different from Punta Cana. 

If you’re main goal is to party, you’ll want to book your vacation to Puerto Vallarta. All throughout the city (but mainly along the Malecon), you’ll find restaurants, bars, live music venues, and nightly entertainment. 

Punta Cana’s nightlife is mainly centered around the activities offered at the hotel. While some places can definitely get wild (they are all-you-can-drink!), you’ll be partying with tourists rather than experiencing the local culture.

You can also visit Coco Bongo, a mesmerizing live performance/night club venue in town.

Puerto Vallarta also has these types of resorts where you can dance and drink without leaving the hotel, but there are more entertainment options in town if that isn’t your scene.

Travel Costs

Cost is an important factor when choosing your vacation spot. While expenses depend on your exact accommodation, excursions, and dining choices, you can consult this list to get an idea of what things cost on average.

Puerto Vallarta:

  • Mid-range hotel: $50 – $100 a night
  • Luxury hotel or all-inclusive: $200 – $400 a night
  • Meal at local restaurant: $5 – $10
  • High-end meal: $30 – $50
  • Cocktail: $5 – $10
  • Local beer: $2 – $4
  • Snorkeling Trip: $40 – $60
  • Zip Line Tour: $35 – $50
  • Food Tour: $40 – $60

Punta Cana:

  • Mid-range hotel: $30 – $80 a night
  • Luxury hotel or all-inclusive: $300+ a night
  • Meal at local restaurant: $5 – $10
  • High-end meal: $20 – $40
  • Cocktail: $4 – $8
  • Local beer: $2 – $4
  • Snorkeling Trip: $60 – $80
  • Zip Line Tour: $80 – $100
  • Catamaran Trip: $75 – $100

As you can see, it’s really a toss-up as some things are more expensive in Puerto Vallarta while other things are more expensive in Punta Cana. But in general, I would say that there is more variety in Puerto Vallarta.

Punta Cana caters to tourists, and many activities and restaurants will have a higher mark-up. While expensive and touristy places exist in Puerto Vallarta, it is also possible to find cheaper alternatives (this is a working town, after all). 

I hope that you have a better understanding of the similarities and differences between Puerto Vallarta and Punta Cana. Both places are beautiful resort destinations that I know will make picturesque settings for your awesome beach vacation!