Punta Cana is one of the most visited parts of the Dominican Republic. For good reason. You can find over 32km (19mi) of white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. But that’s for the normal tourists.
For those of us rocking the scuba scene, diving in Punta Cana provides over twenty dive sites to enjoy. These range from wrecks to caves to reefs.
We understand that time is of the essence and you may not have time to explore every dive site on your trip. So, we’re removing the guesswork for you. Read on to discover the top five sites for diving in Punta Cana.
Best Diving in Punta Cana
#1 Enriquillo Wreck
This is one of a few outstanding wrecks off the coast of Punta Cana. You can find this wreck nestled between the waters in front of Club Med and the Westin resort. The wreck was intentionally sunk in the mid-2000’s to create an artificial reef.
If you are looking for a good penetration site, add this to your list. There are a few entry points where you can access the interior of this former US Coast Guard cutter.
The ship isn’t the only thing for you to see here, though. You can find plenty of marine life around the site. This is a great place for both wreck diving and underwater photography.
- When to Dive: The Dominican Republic is great for year-round diving. June to October is the hurricane season. But, this can also be one of the best times of year for diving in Punta Cana due to a lower volume of tourists. You will want to keep an eye on the weather reports before booking your trip though. The air temperature in Punta Cana is lowest between December and April, averaging between 22°C and 28°C (72°F and 82°F). These temperatures rise during other parts of the year, averaging around 30°C (86°F).
- What to See: The main attraction here is the wreck. The site sits at a max depth of around 18m (60ft) and is accessible by boat. The wreck has some impressive coral growth. Expect to see a variety of hard and soft coral surrounding the wreck.The real treat here though is the variety of life which calls the wreck home. You can find groups of barracuda, large schools of sea breams, mackerel, turtles, and more. If you are lucky you may even come across a nurse shark or two. Here’s a video showing off both the wreck and the marine life at this site.
This is not a good site for beginners. The currents here can be very strong so it is best to sit this one out if you are not comfortable in these conditions. It is best if you have your advanced open water certification as it is a deep dive. Also, make sure you are only entering the wreck if you have the right experience. Some of the spaces can be a little tight and it is best to know what you are doing if you plan to penetrate the wreck.
#2 El Acuario
As you can guess, the name of this site translates into the aquarium. You can see a wide variety of fish and coral at this site. This is one of the areas around the country where extensive reef restoration has taken place. Great news for us.
You can see large schools of fish swimming around robust coral in a wide variety of colors. This is a fantastic site for beginners. The reef is at a shallow level between 5m and 7m (16ft and 23ft). You can get to this site from either the shore or by boat.
- When to Dive: The weather remains consistent throughout the year. December through April are the coldest months and May through November are warmer.The Dominican Republic receives a lot of rain. If you want to avoid the rain then February through March are the best months to go. The months of May, October, and November tend to be the wettest months of the year.The water temperature around Punta Cana remains consistent year-round. August through October tends to be the warmest months with sea temperatures averaging 30°C (87°F). January through April are the coldest averaging 27°C (80°F).
- What to See: This is the spot if you want some awesome pictures of reefs and marine life. You can see a variety of fish including groups of barracuda, eagle rays, porcupine fish, and more. Sometimes, divers can find schools of large parrot fish swimming around the reef. Be on the lookout for nurse sharks as like to hide out around the reefs. This video does a fantastic job of showing off the robustness of the reef.
This is a fantastic dive site regardless of the level of diver you are. As it is shallow, newer divers won’t have to worry about currents or depth. For more advanced divers, there is still plenty to look at and enjoy.
The waters in this area stay warm throughout the year so you shouldn’t need a wetsuit. If you know that you usually get cold when diving, even in warmer waters, a rash guard should be enough to keep you warm.
#3 Astron Wreck
This is one of the best known wrecks around Punta Cana. You can spot the wreck before you even get into the water on the boat ride over as part of the wreck protrudes from the water. This provides great contrast between the rust colored ship and the blue water.
The ship is an old Russian cargo ship. It sank in the 1970’s under unusual circumstances. The ship ran aground during a storm. But, a giant hole in the lower part of the ships hull is indicative of some kind of explosion such as from a mine or a torpedo.
You can do this as a penetration dive. If you are still a beginner though this is a great ship to swim around and enjoy. Make sure you have the right level of experience if you do decide to enter the wreck. Always make sure to follow the instructions of your dive master.
- When to Dive: This is another site that can be done year-round. As with other sites in the area, you can expect May, October, and November to be the months with the most rainfall. The water temperature remains consistent throughout the year. You may choose to dive during the months of June through October as this is hurricane season. This is low season for tourism around the Dominican Republic and dive sites will be less crowded. Just make sure to pay attention to weather reports to avoid major storms.
- What to See: This is without a doubt one of the coolest wreck sites around Punta Cana because of the way it sunk. There are many entry points for the wreck. There are large compartments where coral is growing around the walls you can explore. Be on the lookout for the different aquatic life around the ship. You can find barracuda and many smaller types of fish swimming around. Here is a great video showing off the interior of the wreck and the surrounding reef.
This is a good spot for beginners as well as advanced divers. So, if you couldn’t make one of the other wrecks on this list due to difficulty, this is a great alternative. As with other wrecks we’ve talked about, do not attempt to enter this site if you don’t have the experience. Always make sure you are following the lead of your dive master. Also, don’t forget the camera for this amazing site.
#4 Padre Nuestro Cave
This one is a little different than the other sites on our list. Padre Nuestro is a freshwater cave dive about 48km (30mi) away from Punta Cana. If you’re looking for an alternative to the reefs and wrecks that line the shoreline, this is a prime spot.
Padre Nuestro is a cave system that runs about 290m (951ft). You can see some incredible stalactite and stalagmite formations throughout the dive. There are two main chambers to explore along with the tunnels. Make sure and talk with the dive center about the best time of day to dive. You want to go when the sun is right to illuminate the cave.
- When to Dive: This is another site that you can dive throughout the year. As this is a freshwater dive and inland, you won’t have to worry about weather conditions at the sea. Stormy weather during the wet season, May to December, may block access to this site as it is on a dirt road.
- What to See: You won’t be finding much life at this site. Instead, the primary attraction here is the cave. You can see stalactites and stalagmites throughout the cave.Depending on whether it has rained recently, you can see tannic water towards the roof of the cave. This can be especially impressive in the right light. Here is a video for you to see what the cave looks like from the inside. You can also check out this website for some great pictures of the site.
This isn’t a spot for beginners. You need to have a cave diving certification. Before going to this site, you need to register with the local authorities in Bayahibe and pay the park entry fees. The same goes if you want to dive any of the other caves around the region. You will need a truck to get to this site so talk to any of the dive centers which dove here.
#5 Atlantic Princess
The Atlantic Princess is a good site to see both a cool wreck and a robust reef. You can access this site regardless of your skill level. It is both shallow and, usually, there are no currents. If you have the proper wreck diving experience, you can go into the many chambers of this impressive wreck.
The Atlantic Princess was a small cruise liner which ran aground on the beach in 2008. In 2009 it sunk and was left to create an artificial reef. The wreck sits in about 12m (40ft) of water near Playa Bayahibe.
Coming from Punta Cana, it will take you about an hour and a half to get to Bayahibe making this an easy day trip.You can access the wreck from the shore.
- When to Dive: You can access this dive year around. This wreck doesn’t have strong currents which affect popular nearby wrecks such as the St. George. You will find access to the site cut off during storms. May through December will have the highest chances for storms. But, even during these months, they can be infrequent.
- What to See: As mentioned above, this is a great site for both beginners and more advanced divers. As a beginner, you can find colorful and vibrant coral surrounding the wreck. If you are an advanced diver with wreck diving experience, this is one site to do a penetration dive into. You can also find plenty of aquatic life around and inside of the wreck. It is quite common to see parrotfish, rays, jacks, and sergeant majors around the wreck. You can usually see spotted rays and garden eels in the sand and coral around the wreck. Check out this video to get a better idea of what this wreck is like.
This is a fantastic all around site. Because it is in shallow waters, it is a good site for both beginners and advanced divers. This is in contrast to other sites around Punta Cana which are in deeper waters with strong currents.
One downside of being in shallow waters is that this wreck is more affected by storms. If you plan on doing a penetration dive then make sure you follow the lead of the dive master and only go into safe areas.
Best Diving in Punta Cana Tips
This is one of the best areas around the Dominican Republic for diving. The waters are warm throughout the year so you shouldn’t need a wetsuit. Also, this area sees little precipitation compared to other parts of the Caribbean.
Remember that if you plan on diving any of the caves you will need to pay for the proper permits. You can usually do this with the respective authority in the nearest town to the national park.
Lastly, many of the sites on this list are special types of diving such as wreck, cave, or drift diving. We recommend that you have the appropriate experience with each type of diving. If you don’t feel comfortable then don’t do the dive.
If you are looking for general open water diving there are plenty of reefs to explore and great marine life to see. The sites on this list represent what we feel is the best Punta Cana has to offer for a variety of divers.
Wrapping It All Up
What do you think?
The Dominican Republic is one of our favorite countries for diving around the world. It offers a little bit of everything from giant marine life to spectacular reefs and wrecks. Punta Cana represents some of the best that the country has to offer. If you plan on visiting the Dominican make sure to add this town to your list
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