Punta Espada, a par 72, 18-hole golf course on-site
15-minute taxi from Punta Cana International Airport
No nearby activities or off-site dining
The 176-room Sanctuary Cap Cana looks like a small Spanish village perched on a cliff by the ocean -- note the breathtaking views. Its beautifully decorated pools, spa, golf course, and restaurants are all among the D.R.'s best, though they don't quite match those at the Casa de Campo. But the Sanctuary does have somewhat more mordern rooms, some with private pools.
Built on a cliff's edge, this quiet, 176-room beauty has the works.
Located near the Cap Cana Marina -- touted as the Caribbean's most modern marina -- the Sanctuary is in an indisputably beautiful location. The sprawling resort complex, with a fortress on one end and cottages on the other, looks like a charming Spanish village -- except that everything was built in 2009. Out by the beach, much of the land accommodates the marina and a small township of time-shares, condos, and summer homes share the Sanctuary's property. Development of the marina itself is ongoing as the area has a ten-twelve year master plan.
Secluded relaxation, but only 15 minutes from the airport
The Sanctuary is in Punta Cana, only 15 minutes away from the airport and near the million dollar Cap Cana Marina -- due to be a major tourist attraction upon its full completetion. The area also contains Punta Espada, a par 72, 18-hole golf course.
NB: Make sure to call for a cab a half-hour before you actually need it. Because the hotel is so far from any neighboring towns or hotels, it takes a while for cabs to get here.
Relaxed yet refined and with great views, these rooms are among the best in the D.R.
The Fortress, the hotel's main building, is geographically separated from the bungalows and villas at the other end of the cliff. Staying inside the Fortress is closer to what it's like in an urban hotel -- one large building with rooms stacked one on top of the other around a central space that includes the lobby and conference room. But these rooms are far from boring. After all, it has a moat that doubles as a swimming pool for guests on the ground floor, another pool inside, and a solemn pool in the very center that looks like the interior of some long-forgotten temple. Wok, the hotel's Chinese restaurant, is also housed in this building. Plus, due to the elevation, rooms at the Fortress have a bird's-eye view of the cliff all the way to the shore.
Bungalows and villas, however, typically open out to the beach at the base of the cliff, like the ocean junior suite. Besides the neighboring rooms in the bungalow, there are also several other cottages closer to the beach with only a couple of rooms to each building, more space, and an even better view.
Bedrooms are large in both spaces, with either a king-size or two double beds; all beds have four metal posts and a canopy overhang. The beds are very comfortable, and the smooth, high-end linens are a substantial improvement on the majority of beds at Dominican resorts.
While the rest of the room has romantic (dim) lighting, the large bathroom is brilliantly lit. The rough, unfinished natural stone tiles add to the room's rustic air. The huge tub, however, is unequivocally luxe, with more than enough space for this six-foot-tall reporter to dunk his knees. The shower stall, however, is a little too narrow and the ordinary showerhead is a bit disappointing for the price of the resort. The toilet and bidet are in a closet to the right of the shower.
Finally, there's the room's serene porch. With two wicker chairs and matching ottomans, you can sit down and savor having the beach literally at your doorstep.
Instead of swiping a card for room access, keys are held up to the door.
Entryways complete with an elaborate valet -- with a mirror, hooks for coats, and a space for umbrella.
Large, lagoon-shaped infinity pool, plus plenty others, along with a marina and a recently revamped spa and fitness center.
The Sanctuary has several pools, though you might have to hunt around to find them. The most obvious is the large, lagoon-shaped infinity pool overlooking the beach with hands down the cleanest and most sparkling water in the D.R. Unlike at most all-inclusive resorts, there are typically very few guests who swarm the swim-up bar. 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 leaves that had collected 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. The final pool is a rectangular, medium-size infinity pool.
The fitness center offers guests modern machines and weights.
A strong contender for the definitive golf course in Punta Cana
One of the Sanctuary's biggest assets is its own golf course. Punta Espada -- a par 72, 18-hole golf course -- 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 new courses, like the one at the Punta Cana Hotel, could provide some real competition.
Kids are allowed, but the resort has a grown-up feel
Though children are allowed in the Caribbean and Colonial sections of the resort, the hotel is generally quiet and romantic. The guest rooms are large enough to accommodate a rollaway bed, which the hotel provides for free.
Straightforward options, minimal fees, and top-notch beach and spa facilities make this a solid (and easy) choice.
Wedding Size: Up to 400 guests; max only two weddings per day
Extra Fees: fee for a priest or judge; fees to privatize space (see below)
Ceremony Locations: The beach (this space is public); in an Island Suite (max 50 people, fee to privatize); or in the Ballroom (max 400 people, larger fee to privatize). Children are only allowed in certain parts of the hotel -- must get approval for wedding locations.
Reception Locations: The Ballroom, on the Capriccio or Fortress Terrace (max 100 people, fee to privatize); on the Ocean Lounge Terrace (max 80 people, equal fee to privatize); or in the Blue Marlin Restaurant (bigger fee to privatize).
Photographers and Videographers: Packages range from basic photography prints to video footage and albums.
Music Options: Guitarist and singer provided for the ceremony; may bring outside musicians (no fee) for the reception.
Food and Drinks: There are two packages which include hors d'oeuvres, three- or four-course or buffet dinners, standard or premium open bar for four hours, and a DJ for four hours. Kids' menu available; no vegetarian, kosher, or gluten-free menus, but specific menu items exist to accommodate vegetarian diets.
Cakes: Cake prices range per person, depending on flavor and decoration.
Spa Treatments: At one of the best spas in the Dominican Republic, the bridal treatments include a facial, hair and makeup consultation, and day-of hair and makeup.
Honeymoon Suite: Newlyweds usually stay in the Luxury Suite, Ocean Villa, or Royal Villa, each with terraces, outdoor space, and direct beach access and views.
Airport Transportation: Private transportation available for groups of up to six; otherwise, the Punta Cana Airport is just a 15-minute ride away from the resort.
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