Iberostar Costa Dorada Hotel Rating: 3.5 Pearls
For a massive, hyper-indulgent, all-inclusive mega-resort, the Iberostar Costa Dorada is among the best in Puerto Plata -- great buffets, activities, entertainment, liquor, and service. Sure, the gym is small, and the giant pool can get a little chilly. But to the many guests who come back every year, those are just petty details. It's also cheaper to reach Puerto Plata than La Romana or Punta Cana; flights to the Puerto Plata airport tend to cost less, and the 25-min taxi ride from the airport averages $35.
Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach Rating: 3.0 Pearls
Quality food, oceanfront bungalows, free trapeze lessons, and beachside canopy beds make this 600-room resort — refurbished in 2010 — an excellent value; the sexy, 80 percent Italian clientele doesn't hurt, either. There are some minor cleanliness issues, like debris in the pool, but the beach has some of the softest sand and clearest water in the D.R. (though there are the occasional coral rocks).
Natura Cabanas Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Offering eco-friendly bungalows in a lush, friendly setting, Natura Cabanas is a taste of serene, northern-coast luxury for a remarkably fair price. Guests enjoy delicious, fresh food, a clean, crowd-free private beach, daily yoga and Pilates classes, and a fabulous spa. It's quiet -- and a bit rustic without TV or AC in the rooms -- but that's the point.
Grand Paradise Playa Dorada Rating: 3.0 Pearls
Located in the safe mini-tourist city of Playa Dorada, this family-friendly all-inclusive resort has an excellent buffet, some of the newest, cleanest rooms in the D.R., and one of the best beaches on the north coast. It's an incredible bargain, if you ignore the cheap booze, the lingering service kinks, and a pool that's less awe-inspiring than others.
Occidental Grand Punta Cana Rating: 3.5 Pearls
An 877-room all-inclusive, the Occidental draws mostly young families with its massive, lagoon-shaped pool (one of Punta Cana's best), as well as its popular beachside activities, lively entertainment, many restaurants, and all-night pizzeria. Rooms are well decorated and even include spa robes and slippers. Reasonably priced, this all-inclusive has bang for the buck!
Be Live Grand Marien Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Modern rooms (half of them renovated in late 2008 with marble, Jacuzzi-equipped bathrooms) amp up this otherwise ho-hum all-inclusive. An enormous pool, a nice spa, name-brand liquor, and reservation-free restaurants are the property's other perks, but the crowded, less pristine beach isn't ideal, and the buffet and entertainment are mediocre. Still, for Puerto Plata, it's a great value.
Puntacana Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Punta Cana Hotel's 202 suites are steps away from the beach, on a giant property that includes the La Cana golf course, Six Senses spa, a nature preserve, eight restaurants, horse stables, and more. Spread out over a 26-square-mile property, guests feel like they have the place to themselves. The hotel's huge beach enjoys shallow, calm water with only negligible seaweed and fine, smooth white sand. There are few guests, so finding quiet is easy -- a priceless perk that comes at not such a great expense with this value pick.
Grand Paradise Samana Rating: 2.5 Pearls
Because the Grand Paradise Samana is located on one of the D.R.'s best beaches, the 2.5-hour, $95 taxi from the closest airport is well worth it. But the bungalows and guest rooms are extremely worn and dingy, and the resort lacks luxe features like a gym or spa. Still, with a quality buffet and, again, a spectacular beach, most guests don't ask for more.