Oceanfront, thatched-roof seafood restaurant, Blue Marlin
Extensive spa area with its own juice bar, massage cabanas, and private pool
Free transportation to nearby Punta Espada, a renowned par 72, 18-hole golf course
15-minute taxi ride from Punta Cana International Airport
Adult-only as of Dec. 2015 (con for some)
Far from the rest of Punta Cana; no nearby activities or dining
Several elevators out of order during our visit
Fee for in-room Wi-Fi
This 176-room romantic all-inclusive luxury resort looks like a Spanish castle town and is perched on a cliff by the ocean in the still developing Cap Cana complex, near the airport but a bit far from the main resort area. Its beautifully decorated pools, spa, and restaurants are all among the D.R.'s best; in this area, the similarly priced Zoetry Agua Punta Cana is one of only a handful of resorts that can compare.
A romantic luxury resort in a faux Spanish village with multiple pools hidden among the battlements and twisting corridors
Lovers of the Middle Ages, historic-looking sites, and remote, adult-only resorts will go medieval for this hotel in the Cap Cana development, which features crenellated structures that evoke Spanish castillos from during and after the Moorish invasion of the peninsula. Towers built from blocks hewn from a chalky yellowish stone frame sweeping views of a jade-green sea, then transition into stone plazas that in turn lead to modern resort pools. Instead of knights and damsels, there are beige-uniformed staff carrying cocktail trays and mostly American couples deciding which of the pools to attend -- one of them a shallow pool under a man-made waterfall. During our visit at one of the pools there were also guests twerking in sync to the directions of a hotel DJ.
Despite the ancient aesthetic, the hotel was actually built in 2009 and renovated in 2014. The hotel has gone back and forth on its kids policies and is entirely adult-only as of Dec. 2015. There are multiple buildings, giving the property the feel of a small village, and rooms are split into three different sections: the Colonial section (the main buildings and resort hub), the Fortress (once the adult-only section, housing the Castle rooms), and the Caribbean Villas. The Fortress is geographically separated from the bungalows and villas at the other end of the cliff, and is around a five-minute walk from the main lobby and pool.
The tall, multi-level Fortress is a striking structure that includes jutting turrets, bridges over a moat (that doubles as a swimming pool for guests on the ground floor), and a central space with its own lobby. The area behind the lobby contains another pool and a Bali sunbed, where couples trade their upcoming plans for their vacations while sipping cocktails from the bar inside. In the bowels of the Castle, hallways look onto an subterranean waterfall that fills a larimar-colored pool of water that looks like it could belong in some forgotten temple. They lead to an extensive spa area that has its own hidden interior courtyard with its own half-moon pool and massage cabins. Wok, the hotel's Chinese restaurant, is also housed in this building. Due to the elevation, rooms at the Fortress have a bird's-eye view of the cliff all the way to the shore.
Closer to the airport than the tourist epicenter of Bavaro, in the large, half-built Cap Cana development
Located deep in the sprawling but semi-arrested Cap Cana development, the hotel is about a 15-minute drive from the Punta Cana airport and a 30-minute drive from the tourist town of Bavaro, the epicenter of most of the area's resorts. To get to the hotel, guests must first drive past the initial Cap Cana security gate, then past long stretches of scrub and and unoccupied residential and hotel properties on a well-maintained but badly signed road. The resort feels isolated from the the rest of the of the Punta Cana community, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what guests want from their vacations.
Those who are happy lazing by the pool and small beach and eating at the several restaurants on-site will be perfectly fine here, but those looking to explore the local culture will almost certainly feel a bit trapped in the middle of nowhere at some point during their stay.
Beautiful rooms decked out in weathered wood, shiny stone, and the requisite rattan; all have outdoor space, and most have ocean views
The 176 rooms are split into three sections -- the main Colonial section, the Fortress, and the Caribbean Villas. Decor varies a little bit depending on the section, but most rooms have rustic-chic elements such as rattan chairs and couches and furniture made to look intentionally weathered, headboards with natural fibers, and an emphasis on polished stone and weathered wood throughout. Some of the bureaus were a bit flimsy and wobbled when we opened drawers, surprising for this category, but overall the feel is suitably luxurious. Many rooms have attractively cared white wooden open entryways between the bedroom and living areas.
All rooms have private outdoor space and most rooms have ocean views (some of the Castle Junior Suites do not). Suites with swim-out access to a moat-like pool are available in the Castle section, and the Terrace Tower Suites have outdoor hot tubs. Decadent Honeymoon Suites have private plunge pools and Castle Island Suites sit on their own private islands accessible by bridge. The Monarch Villa we visited looked right out onto the beach (which was undergoing a serious seaweed issue at the moment), with a large porch area facing the sand. All rooms have impressive bathrooms with both showers and tubs, 24-hour room service, walk-in closets with silky bathrobes, slippers, and safes, minibars refreshed daily, and Wi-Fi (for a fee).
Multiple pools across the village-like property, including a beachfront option with a swim-up bar
The Sanctuary has multiple pools, though you might have to hunt around to find them. The most obvious is the large, lagoon-shaped infinity-edge pool overlooking the beach. Unlike at most all-inclusive resorts, the swim-up bar typically doesn't get too crowded. Apart from the hot tub at the end of the pool, there's another small wading pool (and "small" is a relative concept here) around the corner with a fountain along one end and even more lounge chairs for sun worship.
The other pools are somewhat hidden. The moat around the Fortress is swimmable, but considering the deliberately greenish color, the leaves that can collect around the side, and the fact that it curves around Wok, this is a less popular option. The Fortress does have a pool on the lobby level, though it too doesn't see too much guest traffic. There's also a rectangular, medium-size infinity pool overlooking the main lagoon pool.
A large spa that's one of the D.R's best and a fitness center with modern machines
The large spa area includes treatment rooms, a juice bar, whirlpools, a steam room, sauna, bridal room in the beauty salon, and a private, half-moon-shaped pool in the spa's own interior courtyard. It covers 2,000 square feet of space and is one of the best in the country. The fitness center offers guests modern machines and weights.
There's also a large meeting room inside the Castle, and small shops that sit across the entry courtyard for the main lobby.
The Sanctuary has a wide white-sand beach that gently slopes into the clear ocean. There are plenty of lounge chairs, cabanas, and a beach bar shaped like a boat serving items such as burgers and wraps. Wait staff will come by loungers to take orders. The staff diligently tries to clean the seaweed away every day. Note that the beach is pretty short and ends abruptly at the Blue Marlin outpost.
Punta Espada is arguably the best golf course in Punta Cana and one of the best in the Caribbean.
One of the Sanctuary's biggest assets is its easy golf course access. Punta Espada -- a par 72, 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus -- is immaculately groomed. Fellow guests seemed to agree, spending huge chunks of time there. In fact, the hotel maintains a fleet of golf carts that constantly circulate around the property, picking up guests and dropping them off at the course. The Teeth of the Dog course at the similarly ritzy Casa de Campo has been hailed as one of the Caribbean's most famous golf courses, but the course at the Sanctuary and other newer courses, like the one at the Punta Cana Hotel, could provide some real competition.
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