Many Dominican resorts show off photos of candlelit dinners, secluded beaches, and mesmerizing sunsets. What they won’t show you are the screaming toddlers, the poolside beer-chugging contests, and the flies buzzing around the buffet. After touring the D.R. incognito, we can assure you that these hotels (many of the adult-only) truly deliver — comfortable rooms, scenic pools, blissful spas, and a discreet yet obliging staff.
Designed by Oscar de la Renta, the 30-room Tortuga Bay hotel offers amazing service (including preferential treatment at Punta Cana Airport), an on-site nature reserve, several superb restaurants, and three world-class golf courses. The rooms are spotless and handsome, with elegant tropical decor, hot tubs, and balconies and terraces.
The Eden Roc, opened in 2012, is one of the most high-tech properties in the Dominican Republic, and is located in the gated Cap Cana community -- which has a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, marina, and beach club. The 34 colorful suites are clustered around a small, man-made lagoon and feature elegant decor (picture four-poster beds, intricate floor tiling, and spacious bathrooms). Up-to-date amenities include iPad-controlled lights, sound systems, and TVs with numerous channels in Spanish and English. Suites also come with small pools and golf carts for getting around the property.
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.
The 96-room Zoetry Agua is one of the most luxurious and tranquil all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic. Catering towards couples, the resort boasts an uncrowded white-sand beach, sleek and spacious suites, a pristine pool, and one of the Dominican Republic’s top spas. Included amenities -- yoga classes, laundry services, top-shelf liquor, and even a horseback riding session -- are plentiful, and the secluded location and lack of kids’ club make it an ideal choice for those seeking a romantic and relaxing getaway.
One of the few boutique hotels in Punta Cana, the quiet, 55-room adult-only Sivory lures couples to its secluded location -- about a (bumpy) 60-minute ride from the airport. Service is impressive, as is the natural setting, and the beach is free of hawkers and tourists. Large, beach-chic rooms have some of the best bathrooms in the D.R., but are showing minor wear.
This upscale, adults-only all-inclusive property is a 45-minute drive from the airport and has a spacious beach with rougher waves than at Bavaro Beach down the road. Swimming can be a challenge, but this surfer's paradise has a more secluded feel, even with 464 rooms on the property. The meandering pool is never too crowded, and at night, adults -- mostly honeymooners, couples, and wedding groups -- can choose from a number of high-end restaurants before hitting the theater or lively casino. Room service is offered 24 hours, and chlorophyll juice and apples are offered in the the stand-out fitness center, yoga room, or luxurious two-floor spa. Excellence knows how to give excellent service, starting with the welcome glass of champagne immediately upon arrival. A more expensive club upgrade is available and may be pitched, but many will find they don't need it with all that is already on offer.
It's one of the most stylish, most luxurious hotels in the Dominican Republic -- but it's surrounded by 14 crowded, all-inclusive mega-resorts in the gated Playa Dorada complex. Rooms are gorgeous -- chic decor, private outdoor tubs, and four-poster beds -- but at the beach, the rooftop pool, and on the balconies, guests suffer through their neighbors' poolside megaphones and karaoke nights.
CHIC by Royalton Luxury Resorts is a 323-room upscale all-inclusive with contemporary decor and a happening vibe. Opened in December of 2014, this adult-only property is quickly becoming one of Punta Cana’s most sought-after spots, thanks to its ultra-modern rooms, varied on-site dining options, and beautiful pool and beach facilities. Amenities such as an on-site spa, a small fitness center, and free Wi-Fi throughout also make CHIC an attractive option. Guests who upgrade to the Diamond Club will be treated to premium drinks and exclusive beach and pool access — but otherwise it’s not worth the extra nightly cost. Though this is by no means a spring break type of place, loud music and lively poolside activities are part of the scene here.
This sumptuous, upscale 18-room hotel on top of a picture-perfect cliff on the northern shore of the Dominican Republic is aptly named -- its Indian-influenced architecture and decor is indeed palatial. Rooms have attractive carvings, textiles, and balconies, and some have terrific ocean views. There are a pretty, quiet pool, open-air massages at the spa, and quality food that can be served just about anywhere on the property. The small, gorgeous private beach is a highlight, and though it can disappear seasonally, the renowned Playa Grande is a 10-minute drive.
The D.R.’s only luxury resort set on its own island, the Luxury Bahia Cayo Levantado offers a relaxing atmosphere for couples and families. There are scenic beaches, beautiful pools, and some of the best rooms in the country (each with private hot tubs). The beauty is incredible, but the dining and service lag behind even less expensive resorts.
One of four Paradisus resorts in Punta Cana, the upscale, 554-room Palma Real has a romantic Caribbean setting and feels bigger than its sister properties, with a palatial lobby leading to a jaw-dropping courtyard, pool and beach area. The food and beverage offering here is a highlight; there are impressive international buffets as well as a la carte restaurants (one from a Michelin-starred chef) that will appeal to adults and honeymooners. Suites are decorated with classic mahogany furniture and marble tile floors, and have coffeemakers, minibars, and free Wi-Fi. A beautiful spa is also available.
With 372 rooms, Royal Turquesa is the more expensive, adults-only section of the massive all-inclusive Palladium complex, and has a more peaceful setting than its three neighbors. Notable aspects here include the swim-up suites and a prime stretch of private beach dotted with lounge chairs, hammocks, and daybeds. The main pool is smack in the center of the resort and has built-in lounge chairs and a swim-up bar. Rooms options come in seven spacious types, all with canopy beds, stocked minibars (soda, water, beer, and liquor), DVD players, sofa beds, and jetted tubs. There is premium liquor at the bars, and two restaurants (including a romantic French option) are exclusive to this in this section only; guests can also access the wide selection of bars, restaurants, and activities at the three sister properties, though they're a long walk or crowded shuttle ride away.
This 274-room, adults-only all-inclusive resort with photogenic Greco-Roman design is part of the Iberostar brand's Grand Collection, and is the most luxurious of four Iberostar options in Punta Cana. Prices are understandably higher, though they're not that much higher than at sister property Bavaro Suites. There's a ton of space for relaxing, especially at one of three pools and an extra wide stretch of beach. The four room types are equipped with spacious balconies, enclosed foyers with large closets, and a hidden delivery area for 24-hour room service. Butlers are available at no extra cost, though they might only prove valuable for restaurant reservations, which are notoriously difficult. After dinner, guests can enjoy a performance in the Milanese-inspired theater, La Scala; for drinks, a three-mast ship serves as a late-night watering hole, though few actually use it.
The tranquil Sea Horse Ranch stands on the northern coast of Cabarete and spans over 250 acres. The resort features sophisticated luxury villas, each with private pools and a slew of pampering services -- like a private chef and maid service. The grounds also house an equestrian center, tennis academy, and a stunning ocean-front restaurant with live music nights every month. While there are two lovely pools and two beaches within a short drive, the property lacks its own truly swimmable shoreline. There's really nothing that even comes close to comparing to the level of luxury in the area.
This 244-room adults-only resort is adjacent to the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana and falls under the brand's more luxurious Don Pablo Collection. The property has colonial-style architecture and spacious, cheerful accommodations. There are plenty of opportunities for romance -- there is a long beach for strolling, a pretty dock for private dinners, and sunset views of the bay. The downside: The turquoise waves and beaches in Punta Cana are better for swimming -- it's a fact. That being said, those in search of peace and quiet will be attracted to the elegant lobby area, the stunning pool overlooking the beach, and access to great golfing and day trips to nearby islands.
Often lauded as one of the best upscale hotels in the Dominican Republic, Casa Veintiuno is an intimate bed-and-breakfast with just three poshly decorated rooms. Thanks to hospitable Belgian owners, Casa Veintiuno exhibits a flair of European cool that can’t be found anywhere else in the area. Rooms are equipped with French designer bedding, Dutch mattresses, and Italian espresso machines. There’s a small pool surrounded by cushioned lounge chairs and a tropical garden, as well as an on-site gourmet restaurant that serves free breakfast. Though the hotel isn’t located on the beach, it’s within a five- to 10-minute walk of both of Sosua’s beaches.
The four-and-a-half pearl Sublime Samana looks and feels like one of the most exclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic, and it does a wonderful job of catering to romance-seeking couples (but also fun-loving families). The 27 villa-style suites include full kitchens with Viking appliances and multiple flat-screen TVs, though not all have ocean views. Features include two al fresco restaurants, a pristine white sand beach, a rustic spa, and a nearly 500-foot long outdoor pool. The secure, gated property feels worlds away from the hustle of downtown Las Terrenas, however, it’s only 15 minutes by car from the town’s dining, shopping, and nightlife scene.
The adults-only Bavaro Beach is the smaller resort in the Barcelo Bavaro complex, and offers the tranquil vibe of a smaller property, but the extensive features of a megaresort, including a spa, fitness center, golf course, and numerous pools. However, most of these amenities are about a five-minute shuttle ride away at the Palace Deluxe resort. This romantic, upscale spot in Punta Cana is located on one of the best beaches in the area, and features four on-site restaurants, two bars, and rooms with modern technology and beachy decor.
The adults-only Secrets caters to honeymooners and couples, but of the more party-hearty variety: The resort offers numerous on-site bars as well as nightly entertainment. However, tranquility (and romance) can certainly be found in the kid-free restaurants, lazy river, and intimate spa, and all rooms feature balconies or terraces with large whirlpool tubs. Floral throws, bright furniture, accent walls, flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and large marble bathrooms all come together to make comfortable, if not particularly luxurious, accommodations. The resort lacks a golf course, but overall its a solid choice for couples looking to let loose -- and still enjoy a bit of romance.
Out of the four Princess properties in Punta Cana, this 263-room all-inclusive is the pricier, adults-only option. It is a bit more upscale than the other three, though honeymooners should go for one of the seven Honeymoon Suites for more romantic amenities. Sometimes the resort can feel like an adult party, especially considering the afternoon pool scene, lobby entertainment, and 24-hour beach bar. Those looking for a quieter experience can hit the beach, snag a day bed and have drinks delivered from a server -- though vendors can sometimes be a nuisance. There are five restaurants on-site, including a romantic beachside Mediterranean option, and guests also get access to nightlife at the other resorts, which ensures plenty of variety.