*Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post, we were not hosted by the resort and all opinions are our own.
If you are planning a trip to Punta Cana or just looking for a tropical get-away, this is the post for you. Darrin and I just got married in November of 2022 in Punta Cana. All of our wedding details are available here, if you are interested. Having a destination wedding was a lot of fun and it was really cool to be able to vacation with our closest family and friends all at the same time. To plan our accommodations for the wedding, we worked with a travel agent (Will from Destination Wedding Specialists). From there, we secured a room block for our guests. Working with a travel agent comes with perks, a few being: a semi-private welcome party dinner, flight credit etc.
When we arrived to the resort, I was really impressed by the design. The lobby is an open concept and you can see straight out to the rest of the property. The property is really well maintained and easy to walk through. It was really easy to get acclimated to the layout in order to know where you were going.
The Room Situation
Our booking was seamless because the travel agent did the leg work. We went with a Preferred Club swim out room for 7 days – November 16th to November 23rd. Our room itself, was on par with any standard hotel room. Our room was very similar to the rooms of guests who didn’t book preferred. A cool feature, and really convenient if you have little kids, was the jacuzzi tub inside the shower. It was spacious and had shower heads on both sides. I loved it because we were all able to wash up at the same time, which was a life saver. Another plus, was that our room was in building 1, very close to the beach.
There were a few cons to our room, some avoidable and some not – either way I think transparency is key. First, a perk of the preferred club is you get a butler. Why on Earth would someone need a butler? Sounds ridiculous, I know. But, my guests had great butlers. They exchanged Whats App contacts and would get sent activities information, they would check in to make sure they had everything they needed, and even coordinated dinner reservations. I on the other hand, got a butler that never introduced himself to us. It wasn’t until like day 3 that I realized the butlers were so involved with my guests and we didn’t have that same experience. I reached out to the preferred club lounge and was given an eye roll and told they would call him to come see me. When he came, he asked what exactly I needed. Not the guest experience I was hoping for, so I told him that I didn’t need anything.
Another con, this one unavoidable, was the room temperature. It was really warm in our room. We would turn the temperature down and come back to the room with the thermostat back up to 78 degrees. First world problems, I know. But, I don’t sleep well when I’m warm. I called maintenance to have a look but they did not find a problem in how it was functioning. Keep in mind that we visited in November, so it would make me really concerned about how hot the room would be in the summer months.
An important thing to keep in mind is that just because you book a room block, doesn’t mean you will have a physical block of rooms next to one another. Since there are so many room types between the preferred club and standard, we were on complete opposite sides of the resort from each other. The resort is small, but having to divide up or meet at a central location is tricky.
The last con about our room, and I would just specify next time during booking – our room’s swim out faced the tropical side. We couldn’t see the beach, and it was on a main service walk way. So at all times there were workers rolling carts (laundry, maintenance, wedding preparations etc.). A guest of mine with the same room faced the pools, still couldn’t see the beach. But their pool was ice cold because it wasn’t in the sun. So they never used theirs. Next time I wouldn’t pay extra for the swim out. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it, unless you are a really big swimmer. But that brings me to my next point.
Pools (Standard + Preferred)
I was really shocked at how early the pools closed. At sundown, the pools were closed. I love a good night swim, so I was bummed that we couldn’t hang with our friends in the pool. We had a swim out room but a lot of my guests didn’t. It is probably for safety reasons, since alcohol is unlimited.
What really impressed me was the kid water park area and the lazy river. Cassidy and her cousins loved playing together there. A lot of my guests had rooms right next to the kid area, so it was a short walk from the room in case the kids needed naps. There were kiddie slides, water fountains and sprayers. The lazy river was relaxing and was lined with beach chairs in the shade and in the sun to match your preference. Right next to the river was a food truck. We enjoyed the tacos but I believe they had hot dogs and hamburgers as well.
My favorite pool was the one right behind the Oceana restaurant. It had a shelf area the kids could play on and access to a swim up bar. There are a ton of chairs but they get taken quick, so I definitely recommend claiming a spot when you get up in the morning.
Towels were a hot commodity. It was so hard to find pool towels in stock. So I would bring room towels with me. Which sucked because I would have to keep asking for extra from the house keeper. Toward the end of my trip I realized there was a separate towel area for preferred guests, but again – not all of my guests paid extra for preferred.
The Food + Drinks
The resort has multiple restaurants to choose from:
- El Patio – if you only like Tex-mex, you aren’t going to like this, but I enjoyed it. The portions were on the smaller side, but the vibe in this place is awesome. I loved the decor.
- Himitsu – this was hibachi style. We enjoyed the show and the food. There was one minor incident which I describe below.
- Oceana – seafood dishes. Order the Mahi!
- Portofino – Italian cuisine. My food came out really cold. I ordered ravioli and they served me four tiny pieces.
- Seaside Grill – a mixture of seafood and burgers. this restaurant was closed for private dining until the very last night we were there. each night there was a sign saying the restaurant was closed due to a private event.
- Bordeaux – French cuisine.
- World Cafe – this is buffet style and they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Coffee shop – I really enjoyed this cafe. They have pastries, hot and iced coffee, as well as ice cream.
Overall, the food was underwhelming if I am being honest. My favorite meal was at Oceana where I ordered Mahi. It was delicious. We tried everything but the French cuisine. I was looking forward to eating food that was popular in the Dominican Republic. The only traditional meal we were able to find was the Dominican breakfast.
The bars were really good. They had specialty drinks that were yummy. I tried quite a few. I’m a mojito girl, so I stuck to that but I realized toward the end of my trip that they were able to make flavored mojitos. The passion fruit was so good. Near the beach there is the Barracuda Beach Bar, and it has swings. It was really cute to be able to sit on the swing at the bar. My favorite bar was the Sugar Reef Terrace. The bartenders were really nice and they had a large area to hang out.
Another thing that made the food less desirable was the amount of flies. They were everywhere. At the hibachi restaurant, I was putting soy sauce into my rice and a dead one flowed from the dispenser right onto my food. The same thing happened at the world cafe. The waiter came over to pour ice water into my glass and in poured a fly. It was gross.
A few of my guests got sick during their stay with stomach bugs. Which I hear is normal, so I’m not attributing it to the food – but it makes me less trusting of the sanitation when dead flies made their way into my food/drinks more than once.
My Favorite Part, the Beach
The beach was probably my favorite part of this resort. The ocean is beautiful and they maintain the sand daily. On our final day, we came out to watch the sunrise and it was breathtaking. I wouldn’t advise swimming in the water, especially kids. The waves were pretty rough when we were there. Also the sand drops pretty quickly. Cassidy enjoyed getting her feet wet and playing in the sand.
This beach is public, so locals come up to you frequently trying to sell things (hair braiding, hats, excursions, photos with monkeys, marijuana etc.). If you aren’t a fan of that, you may not enjoy it – but there is a section closer to the hotel for preferred club only where vendors aren’t allowed to go. I just didn’t enjoy that you’re far away from the water.
There are stray dogs on the beach that will come up to you as well. They are super sweet. While we were there a mama dog would come around often, you could tell she just recently had puppies.
This resort has a lot of activities to experience daily that are included in your stay. We got to see fire dancing, mermaids, acrobats, fireworks, dance parties etc. Cassidy really enjoyed the dance party the first night we were there. They had a limbo competition and a conga line. We didn’t utilize it but there is a kids club available, rock climbing, bowling and a gym.
There is also a night club. We went a few nights and it was fun. They played a wide range of music and took requests. The bars were closed around 10pm I believe, so the only other place to get drinks was the night club.
This resort also hosts a lot of weddings, so be prepared to see weddings and wedding related activities taking place on property. I didn’t mind it at all. It was fun to see all of the decor and ceremonies.
There are also nights where vendors are allowed to set up inside of the resort property near the World Cafe. Personally, I didn’t enjoy this. They kept coming up to us as we would walk by. I understand that it helps support the local community but everything was priced in US dollars and it was pricy.
Let me give you some advice..
Since we booked through a travel agent, he was able to prepare us quite a bit on what to expect during our stay. These are the some tips that we were given that turned out to be very helpful and some advice I would give if you are thinking about booking a trip.
- Bring US dollars with you for tipping staff members. Our travel agent advised us that $2 bills are loved by staff, as they consider them good luck. This was absolutely true. We tipped $2 a person at dinner and for service by the pool. When we were drinking from a bar, I was giving $10-$20 depending on how much I was ordering. Not only do they appreciate it, they will remember you and your order the next time you come. Please tip your housekeeper and butler (if you had a good one).
- Bring more money than you think you need. There are not ATMs there that dispense US dollars. Everything that I purchased required US dollars. Don’t exchange for pesos at the airport.
- Factor in the cost of transportation during your trip. This also required US dollars, and was anywhere between $40-$90 dollars to go. It is extremely expensive and the way it was explained to me was they charge by zones. So Dreams Macao was outside of the Punta Cana zone so they charged more.
- The stray dogs on the beach are nice but the cats walking and laying through the resort are not. Touch at your own risk.
- Double and triple check to make sure you have your essentials. There are shops in the resort but the mark up is astronomical. My cousin paid 5x more than she would in the US for a box of tampons.
- Bring tums, your stomach is weak. I put tums and liquid iv in all of my guests welcome bags. Let me tell you it was a lifesaver. I mentioned above that a few of my guests got stomach bugs, they were thanking me.
- Excursions, there are a lot of options. I recommend trying to find a local excursion, rather than one through a company at the hotel. Let me give you an example. My best friend went on a dune buggy excursion and it was amazing, they were able to get photos and video. I made the mistake of booking the dune buggy excursion through an adventure park. Everything was man made, and they made us lock up our phones and video equipment for the entire thing. They did this because they sell photos, so they wanted you to buy from them. We had fun but I found it to be a cash grab.
- Cell service. We have Verizon, and our plan gave us a 9 day international data pass for free. But my guests with other phone plans had to pay extra. Figure that out prior to your trip. We all downloaded WhatsApp because it was easier to communicate through there than standard text messaging.
My Final Scoring
- Rooms – 7/10
- Pools – 8/10
- Food – 6/10
- Drinks – 10/10
- Beach – 10/10
- Entertainment – 8/10
- Customer service – 6/10
I pride myself in being really honest on this platform, and I genuinely stand by the scores listed above. There was another customer service issue during our stay that I didn’t want to include in this blog post. I honestly think it would come off as bashing them when that is never my attention.
We will definitely be back to the Dominican Republic, I am hoping next time we can get out and explore the island more. If you have a favorite resort, place to see or recommended activity, drop it in the comments below.