Chilling in Punta Cana - Dominican Republic
Sun, cocktails, and chill - that was what was needed from my recent break - Kriss Herbert writes about his trip to Dominican Republic!
IS IT SAFE
As with just about any holiday destination my husband suggests - I check to see what GBTQ+ rights are like there, something that we shouldn't need to do in 2023, but hey. A quick google showed same-sex sexual relations are legal in the Dominican Republic, same-sex marriages are not legally recognised and nearly all Dominican hotels welcome LGBTQ+ customers, I know some people who have been and always said the country is welcoming - they weren't wrong! I go on all types of holidays, city breaks those party ones, but this one was a chilled one, similar to a trip to Mexico - I will say Dominican people just seem naturally friendly and welcoming, a privilege almost that you are there.
We booked to stay at Royalton Splash Punta Cana, An Autograph Collection All -Inclusive Resort (part of the All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy group). We had Stayed in a Royalton before and loved it so gave this one a go. It's Called Splash as there is a water park on site - great for the husband who can't sit still for more than 1 hour. It's also connected to Royalton Punta Cana which is on the beach and guests can share the amenities between the two. We were lucky enough to have been upgraded to Diamond club - this meant we had access to all the pools, and every restaurant across the two sites. It also meant we had a butler, which at first was a bit odd for us, but Edwin (highly recommend) was brilliant. We used him to get anything we needed, but would also reserve any restaurants for the times we wanted in the evening, the upgrade in my opinion is 100% worth it. You can use the butler service as much or as little as you want, but they can get you some good offers on things, so I'd recommend, also good to just have a chat to and find out a bit about the Dominican History.
There are plenty of sun beds and space, and the pools are great, clean, and well looked after. If food is important, there's plenty of restaurants, and a great choice of food, in fact over the 10 days I don't think we managed to do all the restaurants / eating options available to us. From Italian, Mexican, seafood, steak, Chinese fusion and teppanyaki there is literally something for everyone. The choice is huge - that's important when staying in an all inclusive where you might not venture out of the complex (also plenty of stuff for the Fussy eaters own the buffet). My tips, the Steak house was great, teppanyaki good fun, the better Buffet was at the seafront side, and Grazie is a great lunch spot.
The complex is big, there is a little trolley (think larger golf buggy) to move you around or you can walk - I'd recommend walking between the two sites we saw plenty of turtles and lizards when doing so. If you like things lively there is a swim up bar and plenty of pool activities.
My tip: when asking for drinks, specify which brand you want, they will use the local one otherwise, but better brands are available with your all inclusive.
THINGS TO DO
Whilst chilling in an all inclusive is good fun, it's important for us there are things to also do whilst we are away, on this trip there was. couple of things we wanted to do: The first was Scape Park for some adrenaline - think zip lines, caves, pools and snorkeling. The other was Soana Island - chilled boat trip and white sandy beaches.
We booked both of these trips with Amstar - who I can't recommend enough. Easy to talk to, non pressurised sales when asking, and fixed pricing (I hate having to haggle). They came on site every day in the Tourism office at the Royalton Punta Cana, but all the trips are listed online.
We booked on the Soana Island VIP boat trip. An early start with pickup at 7am. The coach trip took a while to the harbor - about an hour with the mini bus meeting up with a larger coach, but our tour guide for the day was really informative and kept us engaged during the trip.
The trip is broken into 3 parts. 1st we visited a Natural pool - plenty of starfish here and some drinks in the sea. Then we went to Soana Island for lunch and a chill, then a catamaran trip back to the harbour.
The booking stated a catamaran out, and speed boat back, but our trip was the other way round. When I say speed boat, I'm not talking James Bond style, more a faster boat. The day we went typically the weather wasn't great it in the morning, which had us worried for the day, we didn't need to be!
On the speed boat we were given soft drinks, and kept entertained by the boat crew. The natural pool is a large section of sea that is about 4ft deep, plenty of star fish swimming around and drinks and snacks were given (booze at this time) a nice little 45 mins chill before climbing back on board to head to Soana Island.
Words are hard to explain what Soana Island is like, so I'll let the video do the talking. We were given a very good lunch as part of the trip, had a good few hours of just chilling with an open bar (which we made good us out of) after a good few hours of chilling, it was on board the catamaran for the leisurely trip back, again on board was an open bar (worth noting our bar ran out of booze towards the end of the trip - maybe we drank it dry??)
Another Early start and full day, but we were excited for this. Scape Park has massive ziplines, some point to point high up, some into water. Plenty of spaces to chill and relax at the same time, Caves to check out and some amazing natural pools. Food wasn't included on this trip, but a decent meal was bought on site. With us going a bit out of season it was notably quiet. Worth mentioning there is quite a bit of walking, and climbing, I would recommend water shoes as well for this trip.
I hate heights, but strongly enjoyed this, my favourite was the drop zip Lins where you drop in the pool under you - don't go in it with sunglasses on, as you'll lose them and have to ask the nice people there to dive down 12foot to get them - like the husband had to.
If you like a bit of action on holiday this is something you have to do. A full day out, we did it all with a couple of hours to chill at the end. There was no waiting around for zip lines, but as mentioned it was quiet - this might be different in busy season - also not many kids about.
If you've been to Cancun You would have heard of this place. Crazy is how I would describe it. It was about a $40 taxi out from the hotel, but if you book with a. tour operator travel is often included. It's hard to explain exactly what Coco Bongos is. there's a show, music, dancing, drinks and a whole lot of fun. It's worth mentioning the music was varied for all ages and countries, the shows varied from impressions (but done in a drag lip sync style) to acrobatics. It gets busy - my top tip here would be pay extra for a table. The floor was very busy and during shows the bar closes as this becomes the stage. It opens at 8, shows start at 9. We arrived at 8:30 and it was busy from there. it's an open bar (though tip well for stronger drinks) and the open bar lasts till 1am. We left after the last show at around 12:30. 100% recommend, whether it's this one in Punta Cana or any other one when on holiday - I can't wait to go back. Age wise of people there also varied from including some 50+ and all were having a good time.
Tipping is always a discussion point on holidays, especially us brits who aren't fully used to it. For me we tipped good service. The people round the pool who bought us drinks, and in restaurants those who served us. When we didn't we didn't get any evil looks or anything. We tipped housekeeping and our butler. Service was slightly better when tipping but you never felt bad when you didn't tip. Make sure you take plenty of $1 bills with you.
If you're looking for a good chilled all-inclusive with a few things to do during your stay, with sandy white beaches friendly people, and the all-important weather; then I'd fully recommend Dominica Republic is on your visit list.
Written March 2023 by Kriss Herbert, Thanks to All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy, Royalton Splash Punta Cana, An Autograph Collection All -Inclusive Resort, Coco Bongo Punta Cana, Amstar, and Dominican Republic Tourist Board.