Riu Palace Punta Cana 3.5

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
The top resort in a sprawling, five-hotel complex, the 612-room Riu Palace Punta Cana has access to some excellent pools, top-notch liquor, and a gorgeous, though especially crowded, beach. For the price, the rooms and food are subpar. Opt for nearby (and cheaper) Barcelo Premium Punta Cana instead.

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 The top resort in a sprawling, five-hotel complex, the 612-room Riu Palace Punta Cana has access to some excellent pools, top-notch liquor, and a gorgeous, though especially crowded, beach. For the price, the rooms and food are subpar. Opt for nearby (and cheaper) Barcelo Premium Punta Cana instead.
The top resort in a sprawling, five-hotel complex, the 612-room Riu Palace Punta Cana has access to some excellent pools, top-notch liquor, and a gorgeous, though especially crowded, beach. For the price, the rooms and food are subpar. Opt for nearby (and cheaper) Barcelo Premium Punta Cana instead. This multi-leveled upscale all-inclusive property is located on a planned village square and yacht-filled marina in the remote, uncrowded Cap Cana development. The 166 huge, modern rooms have nautical touches and kitchenettes; they feel like the apartments they were once intended to be. The small beach located near sister resort Alsol Tiara (a five-minute walk away) isn't the highlight here, but there are four chic pools, transportation to Punta Espada Golf Course, and no reservations required for the restaurants. It's a great value for a four-pearl resort, but those who want to be closer to the action in Bavaro can compare rates with Ocean Blue & Sand. Be Live Grand Punta Cana's beautiful beach and large pools satisfy most guests, but amenities are otherwise very basic for an all-inclusive. In 2012, the hotel fully incorporated it's sister property, Be Live Grand Bavaro, into the fold. The two properties -- now one under Be Live Punta Cana -- suffer the same shortcomings, namely uneven renovations (some rooms are incredibly modern, others are incredibly worn) and lack of impressive amenities. Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa is located on the same beach and has more consistent room quality and better amenities, though it can be a bit more expensive. This adult-only, all-inclusive beachfront resort is one of the smaller and quieter options in Punta Cana, with just 255 rooms. It offers impressive food variety given its size, with two a la carte restaurants on-site and more options next door at larger, family-friendly Catalonia Bavaro Beach (for Royal guests, no reservations are required). Other features include a spa, gym, two pools, a small private beach a five-minute walk from the property (where beachside massages are offered), and a putting green. Neighboring sister property Catalonia Bavaro Beach has entertainment and additional amenities. Just be aware that this is an upper-middle-range, not a luxury, resort, with some visible wear. The Excellence Punta Cana is a more upscale (and expensive) adult-only option. Rooms are a little worn, but the superb (though crowded) beach, free-form pools, high-quality food, and packed activities schedule draws families and couples alike. It's not quiet or intimate -- it's among 1,825 rooms in a four-resort complex -- but it's a great value. Better buffet service and a closer proximity to the beach make this resort pricier than its sisters. The massive, all-inclusive Hard Rock is a sleek option in Punta Cana, located on a gorgeous stretch of white-sand beach. Getting from one place to the other on the sprawling property can take some time, but the hotel provides a shuttle. In addition, the size allows the resort to have broad appeal -- it attracts families, couples, and partiers. The signature Hard Rock rocker vibe can be seen throughout the hotel, whether it be in the music-themed decor or the free guitar rentals. On-site amenities such as tennis, golf, and horseback riding help keep guests busy. There are plenty of dining options as well. Feeling less like a hotel and more like its own little utopian town, this 1,139-room, 120-acre all-inclusive mega-resort is like three different properties rolled into one: a kid-friendly family place, a understated adult-only hotel for sophisticated couples, and a nature-rich preserve where guests share their vacations with sea-turtle eggs, flamingos, and a branch-level ropes course. Guests can expect to take trolleys to get around the sprawling property; for somewhere with a more compact layout, consider the Majestic Colonial Punta Cana. A kids' haven that's not quite directly on the beach, this 525-room all-inclusive resort one-ups King Neptune with what's billed as the largest resort water park in all of the Caribbean. Rooms are upscale and some categories have big whirlpool tubs; Family Suites with bunk beds are available. Restaurant options include a buffet, three a la carte restaurants, and multiple bars, and guests also have access to some options at sister property next door, the Royalton Punta Cana. The Royalton is more upscale, right on the beach, and better suited to couples. Built like a giant wooden hunting lodge, the 510-room Natura Park isn't actually the eco-friendly resort it claims to be. But with lush gardens and rampant wildlife, it's one of the D.R.'s most exotic-feeling mega-resorts. A lagoon-shaped pool, great buffets, and a spa means you're not exactly camping, but the rock-hard beds might make you feel like you are. The 756-room Dreams La Romana is an upscale all-inclusive in Bayahibe, a small town about 50 minutes from Punta Cana airport. Though there isn’t much to see or do in the area, Dreams is situated on the island’s Caribbean side, which means the ocean water is clearer and calmer than that in Punta Cana, and the sunsets are unbeatable. The hotel itself is spread across a large property, and has four pools, a great beach, and an awesome array of restaurants and bars. Food and drinks here are noticeably better than at most all-inclusives, and reservations are not required for a la carte dining. There are different sections of the hotel — one for families, one for adults-only, and one for activities — allowing Dreams to appeal to all types of travelers. Those who would prefer to be directly in Punta Cana should check out sister property, Dreams Punta Cana Resort and Spa, which has similar rooms, rates, and amenities. 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. Marketed as its own property, The Level Melia Caribe Tropical is actually the exclusive enclave of the massive, upscale Melia Caribe Tropical resort. With adult-only and family-friendly sections, The Level has broad appeal, and guests get perks such as private check-in, large rooms, and exclusive pool, beach, and restaurant access. But it's worth noting that The Level is situated in the forested swaths of a massive, overwhelming property where rooms are far from amenities and don’t have ocean views. A better pick for an exclusive enclave is the less confusing Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, but its nightly rates are more expensive.
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