In July my friends and I ventured down to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for a relaxing weekend getaway.
Yes, the Punta Cana that in recent months has been in the sensationalist American media spotlight for the string of coincidental deaths and tainted alcohol. This in turn has made Punta Cana light on the number of American tourists, which to be honest can be a blessing. But lets not forget the world is bigger and Europeans, Central/South Americans and more are still flocking to this Caribbean beach resort town for some nice R&R at the multiple all-inclusives. Now, that being said, we did choose an area that is away from the main string of hotels and area where the incidents happened. We opted for Sanctuary Cap Cana, an adult only all-inclusive. It is located in Cap Cana, a gated community just 15 minutes away from the airport by a USD$30 taxi. We only stayed in our resort for two reasons 1) out of caution 2) There really is nothing else to do in Punta Cana except for malls and golf courses. The culture and history is in cities like Santo Domingo. But the entire place, including at the airport and the taxi drivers, did not at once feel dangerous or threatening. Perhaps because of the recent coverage, people were very welcoming and friendly and recognized the tarnished image of their country to Americans but were saddened by that. This is all to say that we survived Punta Cana, ate all the food, drank all the alcoholic beverage at our all-inclusive and are fine. So yes, its safe. And no, hotels arent any cheaper just because Americans, despite being the largest group, arent going.
I booked through AmEx travel online so I could earn 5x points, this is not a Fine Hotels & Resorts, but it nonetheless earns you 5x points when you pay upfront and book online. Because it is all-inclusive, the rate does change depending on the number of heads. But the average/person for 2 nights came to around $350. The all-inclusive rate includes in-room mini-bar, all alcoholic beverage unless otherwise noted with price (ie: bottles of wine, top-shelf liquor), food (except things like lobster and finer cut steaks), most amenities and activities (except spa, golf). The hotel also has nightly events/entertainment and daily activities and things for guests to enjoy and not simply bake in the sun, though most opt for that. You have 5 pools to choose from, 5-6 main restaurants to choose from (Italian and Teppanyaki require advance reservations, or say they say, for dinner), and a Sanctuary shopping area for shops and some more food options (not all are included in the rate).
Our itinerary was simple:
- Arrive Punta Cana Friday night
- Take taxi to hotel, driver charged us $35, but is should only be $30.
- Had night cap drinks
- Spent the next day eating, drinking and hopping around the various pools at the hotel. (The best pool is the Castle Pool).
- Left on Sunday, $30 taxi to the airport, and arrived at the airport early to check out the Priority Pass lounge with an infinity pool overlooking the tarmac!
That was it! As such, I will treat this post more as a review of the hotel as that was essentially our destination. It is not an overly extensive one either as we really did not do much besides lounge around and drink and eat our way through the day. It was very relaxing and the environment of the resort did add to the relaxing vibes. Oh and at the bottom there is also a small bit on the extraordinary Priority Pass Lounge.
Sanctuary Cap Cana
Over all Sanctuary Cap Cana exceeded my expectations, especially being the first all-inclusive I have stayed in.
It offers unobstructed beach front seaviews and direct access to its own white sand beach.
The hotel is set into three main parts. A castle (housing the spa), and Spanish colonial area and two main suites rooms buildings as well as some villas. All sections have hotel rooms.
We booked a Junior Suite-Ocean view, at least according to AmEx travel, but I believe according to the Sanctuary Website and the map we were given at check-in, this is either now called Luxury Junior Suite or we were given a separate category as Junior Suites were located in a colonial building by the lobby per the map and we were in the luxury suites building. Nonetheless the room was clean, modern, well lit, comfortable bedding and nice big bathroom and walk in closet with safe. Mini-bar is all included as well. Despite it being quite new, age and difficult upkeep in hot humid beach climate is showing already as many things were rusting, wallpaper coming off….etc.
As mentioned, the hotel has 5 beautiful pools, our favorite was the Castle Pool. A few restaurants require reservations and slightly nicer dress though this did not seem to be enforced as we saw plenty of guys in shorts and t shirt at the steakhouse which is supposed to have a pants only for guys dress code.
Over all food was quite good for the price you are paying for an all-inclusive. Our favorite was the Steakhouse, which was excellent for dinner. Everything from the appetizers to sizzling meat platter (perfect for 3-4) and dessert was great. House wine wasnt great but hey its free flowing included in the rate so I am not one to complain too much. Also service was great at the steakhouse. You can order a better cut and lobster for an extra cost. Blue Marlin was not bad for lunch, and is nicely located on stilts atop the waves with a nice lounge area that looks out to the horizon. Service here was mediocre to almost not caring, but the seafood paella is definitely worth ordering. Breakfast buffet left a lot to be desired in terms of variety and taste and service. Drinks/cocktails on offer were also excellent, and top shelf rums werent terribly expensive either, especially a pour of the 1886 Reserve at $10/pour or $95/ bottle, at duty free it was $85, so mark up wasnt too bad.
On Saturday night there was free entertainment on the beach with fire performance. Further, in the Sanctuary village there was a Sanctuary Village Night, with outdoor buffet, music, and even hand-rolled Dominican cigars (not included of course), but at $15 each it was worth it, as it was very good quality. There is a shop in the village called Anejos that does rum flights and sells cigars as well.
Service throughout was friendly, laid back and mostly professional. At breakfast, there were some folks who stood out, but most were not very good. I asked for ketchup and was told it’d be brought to me, never was. On the second morning it was brought over promptly. First morning we were offered mimosas, second morning we werent. Inconsistent indeed.
Service at Love Bar was also distant and ok, drinks were great though.
The standout staff that made our stay memorable and enjoyable was Carlos and Moises at the Ocean Bar at the Castle Pool where we ended up spending our entire time. They were super attentive, very friendly but still professional and made delicious cocktails. The Castle Pool is also never crowded and is a tad more out of the way than all the main pools/ beach/ restaurant area as such less people come here. Even folks staying at the castle rooms and suites either stayed in their own villas with pools or went to the larger pools. Castle Pool is the smallest of all 5 pools but the area is intimate, not crowded and plenty of sun. The service and drinks is also a plus.
Over all, good value, good location and a great place to stay in Punta Cana. Would recommend and would return. Just over all service could be a little more consistent throughout and I think if everyone was like Carlos making each guest feel like a VIP, it would truly make a difference.
Punta Cana Airport Priority Pass Lounge.
There are very few airports in the world that is worth going early for. Place like Singapore are worth going for the shopping and various attractions. Punta Cana is also one to go early for. Why? The Priority Pass lounge with an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the tarmac. Ok fine, perhaps if you’re not as into planes this is not the best reason to go early. But even if you arent, it is so cool and relaxing to take a dip before your flight.
The lounge is airside, post-security. It is quite new and very clean. There are shower facilities and lockers for those who use the pool. Inside there is a simple buffet and bar (2 alcoholic beverages included per person). WiFi only worked indoors unfortunately. To get towels, you must hand in a form of ID as a security deposit at the front desk, and they will hand you a nice resort bag with a towel.
It was a swimmer and plane nerd’s dream come true to relax in this pool before the flight and watch planes come and go while sipping some Dominican beer. Highly recommended!