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P. punctata grows to 35 cm in length. The body is dark brown and covered with small, white, tightly spaced dots. Five distinctive black markings are located on the base of the head, on the back, and on the tail. These groupers also show a characteristic loose skin on the chin, hence the etymology of the genus name (from the Greek pogon meaning beard and perke meaning perch). They have seven dorsal spines, 12-13 dorsal soft rays, three anal spines, and eight anal soft rays. The fins are rather clear.
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