The most visited destination in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is a magnet for resort chains and resort goers. Along all watery borders are complexes of varying quality: all-inclusive resort villages that weigh gardens against pools, small motels on public beaches with stuff floating to the surface of their swimming holes; family friendly hotels and adults-only hedonistic beach clubs. There are flags planted on these sandy patches, boasting names of Club Med, or Barceló; Iberostar, Now or Majestic Colonial, Holiday Inn and way more. And in the towns: colorful Colonial architecture, a mixture of Spanish European and African, with huge national parks and tons of cultural attractions. It’s a dizzying task, trying to figure out where to go and where to stay, but with a little help, you could be lying on a beach or riding a sand buggy down undulating dunes. Here are Hopper’s top 10 picks for best all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic.
Photo via their official site.
While not strictly an all-inclusive (OK: it’s not an all-inclusive at all), the Barceló Santo Domingo is perhaps the most leisurely accommodations for people who are genuinely interested in exploring the capital city of Santo Domingo. There may not be a beach or everflowing ramp drinks, but their two sparkling pools, jacuzzi, casino and wellness center certainly set the Barceló apart from the Holiday Inn. During their stay, visitors can go out and wander the colonial-style architecture of the city, passing through cultural museums and historic attractions, as well as the many traditional markets. Located conveniently just a few minutes from the beach and across from a subway station, the Barceló Santo Domingo is perfect for exploring travelers who also value a little relaxation on the side.
With areas designated for families as well as adults-only accommodation, the Majestic Colonial on the Playa Bávaro offers a 400-meter long swimming pool, six diverse restaurants and 11 bars, constant entertainment, tennis and basketball courts and more. Those who opt to join the Colonial Club, the adults-only higher end package can receive perks like a larger room or suite with a better view, Nespresso coffee machines in those larger rooms and suites, access to private pools and bars, a bottle of champagne upon arrival, pillow menu, butler service and more. On the family side, the Majestic sets the little ones up with supervised kids’ clubs, video games and more all ages amenities.
Photo via their official site.
Juan Dolio, a small seaside community on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, located only 60 kilometres from the capital Santo Domingo, offers a great variety of luxury attractions and a phenomenal coral-reef protected beach while still being close to the rich cultural epicenter of the country. Outside of all of the facilities of the Barceló Capella Beach (of which there are many, including large pools, spa and wellness center, two restaurants and three bars), a stay at Barceló Capella Beach means an opportunity for discovery, which many resorts don’t highlight. Down the way are a number of local markets; the area is close to Altos de Chavón in nearby La Romana, a model medieval European village marked by narrow cobbled alleyways leading to design shops, arts centres, galleries, boutique restaurants and music venues. Resort guests will not only enjoy the rest and relaxation of this small but charming beach destination, but also be closer to experiencing the real DR.
When you have low Colonial-style villas and bungalows all facing either inwards at a network of pristine pools or out onto the expansive clear turquoise Caribbean sea from the famous resort area of Bavaró, it means that it’s not hard to find a good view – in fact, all of Now Larimar Punta Cana’s 721 rooms and suites have them. This resort really ups the luxury with a world-class spa that specializes in after sun soothing, facials, aromatic black mud body treatments and more; nearby professional golf courses; five à la carte restaurants, two buffets and the option to tour neighboring resort restaurants. It’s the little things, though: built-in tile loungers in the pool, Dominican Republic themed dinner buffet nights, paella cooking classes, tons of activities for kids and teenagers and beepers for the parents, and more fun amenities.
Photo via their official site.
While many all-inclusive resorts tend to isolate their guests from the rest of the culture – which certain resort-goers prefer – the Barceló Puerto Plata is way too close to the culture not to appreciate. After all, why spend days lying on a beach (albeit an exceedingly nice one) when you could be doing a city tour with a local, going up a funicular to the top of mount Isabel de Torres, or a stop at Christo le redentor (a model of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio), or stopping at the local markets, cigar factories, or the Fort de San Felipe? All of this is within easy reach of the resort. Evenings for guests at the Barceló are fun and relaxed, beginning with dinner at any one of their six à la carte restaurants, and ending with a beach disco, or a fine cocktail at one of their excellent bars.
Photo via their official site.
A golfer’s paradise, the Barceló Punta Cana offers access to five different golf courses within a 30-minute radius from the premises. An athlete’s paradise, the premises has winding lagoon swimming pools, tennis courts, climbing wall, a trapeze, volleyball and basketball courts and tons of water equipment for kayaking and sailing. A lounger’s paradise: six specialty restaurants, two buffet restaurants, eight bars, including the pool bar, beach cabanas, and large, comfy rooms (some with balconies!). Explorers can get Jeep safaris, a bus to the capital city Santo Domingo, deep-sea snorkeling, helicopter tours, swimming with dolphins and zip line adventures.
With four swimming pools, two water parks, 11 culturally diverse restaurants including two buffets and 24-hour snack bar, 13 bars, a 24-hour casino, a chapel, a variety of water-traversing equipment (kayaks, pedal boats, diving masks, windsurfs, sailboats, and catamarans), spa, shopping areas, and tons of other additional perks, the Barceló Palace Deluxe is truly the crowning jewel of the resort chain. Located on the famous crystal blue shores of Bávaro, ranked one of the top 10 beaches in the world, the Palace Deluxe shares many of its facilities with surrounding resorts, so there’s always something for everyone – especially if it means going out and making new friends. The Club Premium offers way more perks, including a priority room, bottle of Imperial Rum, reservation priority for the à la carte restaurants, exclusive lounges with premium drinks, canapés and continental breakfast, access to water parks and spa, pillow menu and laundry service. Home never felt so homey.
The concept of "All-inclusive" resort originated with Club Med (née Méditerannée), so it’s no surprise that the Club Med Punta Cana, located on the easternmost point of Punta Cana in Verón, would be truly, in almost all senses of the world, all-inclusive. Access to pools, restaurants, childrens’ programs and bars are all de rigeuer in the world of beach vacations, but Club Med makes sure their guests are not only relaxing, but staying active in fun new ways at the same time – including flying trapeze and circus lessons, group yoga, a golf school, tennis school, group archery classes, windsurfing, cardio classes and tons of open-access equipment. After all, it’s a club, and they try to make sure everyone’s in this together.
The Iberostar Grand Hotel Bávaro is a little Greco-Roman inspired orange-roofed village by the white sands of the Bávaro de Punta Cana beach, a five-star adults-only paradise with a two-level spa at the edge of the Dominican Caribbean sea which offers professional stress specialists, beachside massages and Turkish baths. Located on the premises is a P. B Dye-designed golf course with top-shelf equipment and food and beverage service in the luxury club. In other words, it’s precisely what a week of utter relaxation calls for. The Grand Hotel is not party central; it’s a place to unwind and luxuriate, whether in its in the spa, golf course, poolside bar, at a yoga session or in a beach cabana. Also, there’s Grey Goose in the lobby bar – need we say more?
Excellence Resorts allows for a chance to leave the kids with an extended sitter and escape to the Caribbean Sea, where a Colonial-style village with thatched roof bungalows and winding pools await. Perfect for newlyweds or a girls’ getaway, the all-inclusive package includes access to the private beach, nine international restaurants, 10 bars, pool and beach waiter service, a fully equipped fitness center, tennis courts and jogging trails, snorkeling gear, scuba lessons and more. And visitors who get sick of sitting by a beach (albeit a clear blue, silky soft sandy one) and eating all the time can easily hitch a ride on a dune buggie or take an excursion down a zipline! Just don’t forget to return to the hotel in time for a 6:30 cocktail or martini at the Martini Bar where they hire a first-class saxophonist and pianist to bring a little romance to the experience.