US$200 and Up
- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
A surge in upscale all-inclusives skyrocketed in the last five years. When you compare what these rooms would go for in other parts of the Caribbean, these resorts are still a considerable deal. The travel industry is in the process of wooing travelers in search of a Shangri-La vacation. Not only are they paying close attention to design in these newer resorts, but they are adding amenities such as butler service, non-buffet eateries, VIP areas with their own pools and restaurants, and family freebies. Many resorts that have been around for a while have renovated to add these features and give facelifts.
Bahía Principe Clubs and Resorts (Arena Gorda–Macao, Bávaro, tel. 809/552-1444, www.bahia-principe.com) is a complex home to the Gran Bahía Principe Punta Cana (US$268) and the Gran Bahía Principe Bávaro (US$260). Don’t let the names fool you; they are side by side along the same amazing pearl-white beach of Playa Bávaro. The grounds are very well tended, lush, and vast enough to offer frequent-running shuttle services to take you from one end to another. Down by the beach, there is one large pool that can get quite lively, but in the middle of the complex there are two other pools reserved for quieter sun worship. The rooms are spacious with very nice bathrooms.
Nightly entertainment is abundant at the Principe resorts. Cabaret-style shows, a piano bar, and karaoke night (it’s fun to hear singers from many nations) are relaxing ways to pass the evening. For more lively nights, head over to the Pueblo Principe (the resort’s “small town”) and listen to live music, watch a dance contest, groove the night away in the disco, or test your luck in the casino.
The excursion office offers many attractive ways to spice up your vacation. But, for those who would rather stay put, this complex has everything you need. You’ll find a pharmacy, along with shops (albeit quite overpriced) with trinkets, jewelry, clothing, and anything else you want in the Pueblo Principe.
If you’ve been on a search for a hotel that doesn’t have a kids’ club as a major selling point, here it is: Excellence Punta Cana (Playas Uvero Alto, Punta Cana, tel. 809/685-9880, fax 809/685-9990, www.excellence-resorts.com, US$450 and up d depending on season). This is an adults-only (18 or older) resort, making it extremely popular as a honeymoon resort. There are two huge pools, with the biggest one stretching longer than a football field and containing a swim-up bar. At the beach, you’ll find perfectly powdery sand for kilometers, great for long walks with your honey. The waves are strong, which makes it great for boogie boarding, but the strong undertow doesn’t make it a peaceful swimming spot. If you walk to the right of the resort and around the bend, the water can be calmer.
At Excellence’s spa you can enjoy many soothing treatments, including a couple’s massage. There are eight different restaurants, one of which includes a seaside candlelight dinner. Another, The Lobster House, is devoted entirely to the yummy crustacean! At night you can enjoy the martini bar, take in nightly stage performances, go dancing in the disco (Alegria), gamble in the casino, or (and this is the best part) take a moonlit horseback ride along the ocean!
Romance is in the air at Excellence. All 446 rooms have a four-poster bed and Jacuzzi for two. Couples celebrating honeymoons or anniversaries receive complimentary special treatment (you must mention when booking and show proof when you arrive). Special honeymoon and anniversary packages are available for US$600 per couple and include items like arrival fruit basket, breakfast in bed, private beachfront dinner, and a spa treatment. There is even a complimentary wedding package, but wedding packages that offer services above and beyond start at US$850.
Paradisus Palma Real (Playa Bávaro/Punta Cana, tel. 809/688-5000, www.solmelia.com, US$400 and up) is a 554-suite luxury resort. Among its amenities are six restaurants serving international cuisine, a kids’ club, three more-than-generous-in-size pools, tennis, and a fitness center including trainers and yoga, tai chi, and pilates classes. Each guest gets unlimited greens fees at the Cocotal Golf and Country Club, and there is a casino and live shows for nightly entertainment.
Each beautifully appointed suite boasts a Jacuzzi for two, a private terrace, flat-screen TV, 24-hour room service, and minibar. The Paradisus Palma Real, realizing the market for the luxury-seeking travelers flocking to the Dominican Republic, raised the stakes in the game of tourism with their 2007 addition (a resort-within-a-resort), The Reserve, complete with sparkling new pools, a private lounge, and 190 luxury suites. Eighty of those include family concierge service with parental dreamy additions like private family check-in, kid’s beach kit, specially appointed suites, walkie-talkies for easy communication with family, and more to make your family vacation stress free.
Sivory Punta Cana (Uvero Alto, www.sivorypuntacana.com, tel. 809/333-0500, US$300 and up) is located about 60 minutes from the Punta Cana airport. Sure, that is far, but the distance adds to the feeling of being removed from the hustle and bustle. The hotel can arrange for airport pickup. Once you arrive, you’ve found that paradise you’ve been looking for. Sit back and chill out. The huge rooms are so beautifully appointed (flat-screen TVs, couple’s showers, fine linens, high speed Internet, etc.) you may be tempted to spend all your time inside, but try not to succumb to the allure of it because the beach is immaculate and the infinity pool area will melt away any memory of stresses you had back at home. Want to duck the paparazzi and have your own private pool? Look for a suite on the ground floor. Gourmands and especially wine lovers will be happy here.
At NH Real Arena (Bávaro, tel. 809/221-4646, www.edenh-realarena.com, US$200 and up) the 642 regular rooms are spacious, clean, and modern with incredibly comfortable beds. Not only are the rooms decorated with natural and green tones, but they are taking on a “go green” quality as well. For instance, you need to put your room key into a slot in order to operate the lights and air-conditioning in your room, and if you want a change of towels, you’ll need to place them in the more-than-generously-sized Jacuzzi tub (of course the simple fact that there is one in each room negates the water conservation effort).
The beach and the pool, where it seems they spent a great deal of effort in their design, are particularly lovely, extremely peaceful, and well kept. One of the bragging points of this resort is that you don’t need to make reservations for their four specialty restaurants. It is a complete fabrication and an utter frustration among most travelers there. Don’t let that dissuade you; just make your reservations upon arrival. The food, although not stellar, is quite good. The buffet has a suitable variety for everyday choices, especially breakfast.
Also available on-site: business center, kids’ club, seven bars, spa, tennis. One strange thing about the rooms that can’t go unnoticed: The bathroom is exposed to the bedroom save for the toilet and shower, each in their separate rooms with frosted-over glass doors. This could make for a very uncomfortable roommate situation. Really, it’s only appropriate for couples or, well, exhibitionists.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition