Many Dominican resorts stuff their marketing materials with images of candlelit dinners and hot tubs strewn with rose petals. What they won’t show are the shrieking toddlers, the hard-boozing bachelor parties, the mediocre buffets, and the bottom-shelf liquor used in the drinks. After touring nearly 80 Punta Cana hotels incognito, we can assure you that these are the ones that truly deliver, with comfortable rooms; superb restaurants; and quiet, meandering pools.
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. Guests here have their own personal golf carts to use, which makes for easy access to scuba diving center, pools, tennis courts, and the Six Senses Spa at the nearby Punta Cana Hotel property.
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.
With fewer than 200 suites, this family-friendly section of Paradisus Palma Real all-inclusive offers a serene, luxurious environment. The property offers sprawling grounds, meandering pathways, and upscale amenities such as a top-notch spa, yoga, and a seemingly never-ending pool area; couples will find that the well-behaved little ones here are hardly ever a bother. Guests have free access to the services, facilities, and restaurants at next door Palma Real -– particularly the beach area, which this property lacks.
Made up of 55 massive suites, the aduly-only Sivory is surrounded by dense tropical plant life and sits on one of the most remote stretches of Punta Cana (a 60-minute drive from the airport). Every suite features a two-person Jacuzzi tub, a two-person shower, and a private, intimate balcony -- all ideal for a romantic getaway. In addition to its premier spa with outdoor "bucket" showers, the hotel has three exceptional restaurants on-site, as well as a wine cellar stocked with over 8,000 bottles.
Despite its kid-friendly mantra, this upscale boutique resort is a relaxing, appealing pick for both couples and families. The Reserve is pricier than its larger sister property next door, the Paradisus Punta Cana, but for good reason. The 132 classic one-bedroom units here (some adjoining) have separate living/dining areas, pull-out sofas, and spacious bathrooms with jetted tubs for two. Reserve guests can access the amenities and restaurants next door (minus Royal Services), so they don't lose out on features by staying here. The beach area is a good hike away, but the tangerine bikes are useful for getting around, and it's not too far to walk to the large pool complex, fitness center, yoga studio, and Asian-themed spa.
This 174-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, few resorts can compare.
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. Room decor is similar to, but a step above, that at the Now: 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.
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.
This remote boutique hotel is so serene that all guests can hear are waves pounding the shore and water trickling through the resort's serpentine pool. Catering towards couples, the resort boasts an uncrowded white-sand beach, sleek, spacious suites, a pristine pool, and one of the Dominican Republic’s top spas (which offers free access to the spa pool, steam room, and sauna). The secluded location and plentiful included amenities -- yoga classes, laundry services, top-shelf liquor, and even a horseback riding session -- make it an ideal choice for those seeking a romantic and relaxing getaway.
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.
Opened in November 2013, the Breathless is one of the newest, most luxurious all-inclusive options in Punta Cana. The 750-suite adults-only property is massive, so guests rarely feel overwhelmed by crowds, whether they are in one of the restaurants, at one of the pools, or relaxing on the gorgeous white-sand beach. Rates include everything from the food and alcohol to the water sports and themed pool parties, but some guests complain that the food and service at the restaurants lag.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.