October 30 to November 6, 2005 We arrived in Punta Cana on October 30, via AirTransat. We had booked Club Transat seating, which in my opinion is the best the charter airlines have to offer. To me the priority checkin and luggage handling (first off the plane) is worth it, along with free food, snacks and drinks on the flight, not to mention the larger seats. During the first week of our two-week visit, we stayed at PUNTACANA Resort and Club. Before I talk about the Resort itself, I will give you a little bit of history: In 1969 a group of American investors bought 48 square kilometers of jungle on the east coast of the Dominican Republic, with 10 kilometers on the Caribbean Sea. Later, local investor Frank Rainieri and others joined this group with his vision to use this land for tourism development. Known today as GRUPO PUNTACANA, S.A., they began development of the land in 1971, with the opening of a small hotel called Punta Cana Club, that had 10 two-room villas, a Clubhouse, a small town for employees, a power plant and a basic runway for aircraft. In 1978 the Dominican Government started construction of the first access road to connect Punta Cana with the country road network, but the nearest airport, Santo Domingo, was almost 4 hours away. In 1982 the group started construction on the first private international airport in the world, Punta Cana International Airport, which was completed in 1984. Due to its isolated location and lack of public facilities, GRUPO PUNTACANA, S.A. assumed responsibility for building and maintaining facilities such as access roads, security, waterworks, electricity, garbage disposal, waste water disposal, schools, etc. Today the owners of GRUPO PUNTACANA are Theodore Kheel, Frank Rainieri, Julio Iglesias, and Oscar de la Renta. This and other corporations belonging to the group now go under the trade name of PUNTACANA Resort & Club.
The Resort has undergone many changes over the years. We visited the resort about 5 years ago, and I could not believe all the changes since I saw it last. It was damaged in last year’s hurricane, and there are many new structures.
Arrival at Punta Cana Airport:
For guests who have booked directly with the hotel and do not have transportation included via a tour operator (ie. Apple, Sunquest, etc.), you will be greeted as you enter the airport (sign with your name on it) and be expedited through the airport customs process (ie. You get to go to the head of the line). As they own the airport, they are the only ones allowed to do this. Assistance is provided with your luggage as soon as you get it off the carousel and transportation is waiting to take you to the hotel. Completely hassle-free. When you leave, you have the option of paying $25.00 U.S. per person to use the VIP Lounge at Punta Cana Airport, which is only for guests of PUNTACANA Resort & Club. Here you can get free drinks and snacks. There is a TV, and 2 computers you can use, couches and chairs, washroom facilities and everything is spotlessly clean. A comfortable way to pass the time until your flight boards. There is a screen showing the flights and their status, and you can hear the boarding announcements made in the airport. There is a window in the lounge where you can look out into the departure lounge of the older section of the airport – it is a one-way glass, you can see out, but nobody can see you 🙂
Arrival at PUNTACANA Resort & Club: The Resort is located only 5 minutes from the airport (not noisy, no planes flying over the resort). Upon arrival you are greeted with a welcome drink and a wet facecloth. At checkin you are provided with your room keys and information about the hotel. Ask for your safe key, it’s included, just don’t lose the key or they’ll charge you $30.00 U.S. TV remotes are in the room, there is a $20.00 U.S. charge if you lose it. The bellboys will take you and your luggage to your room. Checkin is at 3:00 p.m. and checkout is at noon. Extended checkout is available for $20.00 U.S. per extra hour. I was told occupancy was at 80% the week we were there, but it was never crowded anywhere. They had two conventions. Guests are mostly American and some Europeans. We found many of the staff spoke excellent English. It was also interesting to learn that they have an excellent school there that the children of the employees of PUNTACANA Resort & Club attend.
There are no wristbands at this hotel. It is sold on an MAP basis, which means breakfast and dinner at selected restaurants is included. All drinks (including water, soft drinks, etc.) and lunch and snacks are at extra charge. You will be asked to sign for all your meals (including breakfast and lunch for inventory control), although I must say we only had to sign for breakfast a few days out of the 7 we were there). Having only been to all-inclusive hotels, it took a bit of getting used to having to sign every time we got something…more than a few times we would just get up to leave and have them running after us to sign…oops.
Accommodations: There are 420 rooms of various types with ocean, golf, and garden views. We had a Deluxe Junior Suite in Villa 4 on the second floor of a 3 floor building. It was in a very central location, close to the pool and lobby, and close to the buffet restaurant and the beach. (If your room is further away, there is a shuttle that you can take that goes around the resort on a regular basis). A deluxe junior suite is like a regular deluxe room, with an extra room off of the main room, like a sunroom, windows all the way around with shutters, and a couch and tables. Although we were close to the beach, the trees and vegetation blocked our view of the ocean from the balcony. The suite was nicely decorated and had solid wood furniture (Dominican-made). There is a large closet with shelves for your clothes, and ample hangers, unless you’re like me and overpack – you only need half as many clothes as you think you need. There is no dresser in the room. There are two bedside tables with one drawer. There is also an umbrella, ironing board and iron in every room. The bathroom is pretty standard, tub and shower, toilet and vanity, with a makeup mirror and hairdryer. There is a clothesline for hanging clothes over the tub. We always had plenty of hot water, and I mean hot, not warm. Air conditioning in the room worked very well. We had, I think, a full-size bed as opposed to a Queen size. Pillows were very small and soft, but I imagine you can ask for more if you need them. There was a coffeemaker, and 2 bottles of water per day is left in the room. There is a minibar, but you have to pay for everything in there. That’s one thing I would like to see here, more water available for free, even water coolers in the bar area would be good. (There is a water cooler in the gym and by the tennis courts). All other water is sold by the bottle at the bars. Maid service was excellent, our maid spoke some English. Along with our usual tip I left her some candies one day, and she left me a thank-you note. Turn-down service is provided daily (we didn’t get it a few nights, but we may have had the do not disturb sign out). Fresh flower blooms were put in the room every day, unfortunately I think this caused some of those little tiny bugs to appear in the bathroom area. Not a big deal, just be sure not to leave any food out as this will attract them also. Voltage in the rooms is 110 VAC (same as North America). They get a wide variety of TV channels, including the main network channels, so you don’t have to miss your favourite shows. (NBC CBS, ABC, Fox A & E, ESPN, Family/Disney, 3 or 4 movie channels, CNN, Discovery, Golf, WGN, TBS, TNT, USA channel, SciFi channel and Spanish channels).
The first night when we went to bed, Pat put the deadbolt on the door. He found it very hard to turn, but it did eventually lock. Next morning we got up and got ready to go for breakfast. Unfortunately we could not open the door. The deadbolt was jammed and we had to call guest services to send someone to get us out They were very prompt, though, and after the bellboy and the maid had tried to open the door (I don’t think they understood the problem, maintenance was called and he ended up having to go through the next door room and climb the wall onto our balcony and dismantle the lock mechanism from the inside. Anyway, he got us freed fairly quickly, and by the time we returned from breakfast it was repaired.
Other Types of Accommodation: A Deluxe Suite is two-storeys, with a deluxe bedroom upstairs and a complete living area and second bathroom downstairs. Deluxe Rooms are located in six three storey buildings with golf, garden or ocean views. One building sits directly on the beach.
Two or three bedroom individual beach villas are located directly on the beach. One bedroom has a king size bed, and the other bedroom(s) have two full-size beds in each. Each bedroom has its own ensuite, and all are connected by a common area with kitchenette, living/diningroom, and garden or terrace. I think these are a great idea for families or friends traveling together.
These are the same as the beach villas, but located at the front of the resort, near the tennis courts, in a more tropical setting. Maximum occupancy for suites, junior suites and suites is 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids under 12. Villas accommodate a maximum of 4 adults in a two-bedroom villa and 6 adults in a 3-bedroom villa. There are some no smoking rooms available. The resort is not really wheelchair-accessible and has no handicap-equipped rooms. The hotel offers facilities for meetings and conventions, with air-conditioned conference rooms for up to 200 people. Also with its proximity to the airport, it seemed to be a favourite place for flight crews to spend their layovers. We saw a number of flight crews checking in and out while we were there. Adjacent to the hotel and surrounding the golf course are the residential areas of Corales and Arrecife, home to celebrities such as Julio Iglesius, Mikhail Barishnykov, and Oscar de la Renta. A new exclusive boutique hotel, Tortuga Bay, will be opening in December, comprised of 15 luxurious villas.
Grounds and Beach
The grounds are beautiful here. Lots of birds, and you’ll see lots of green geckos. Very tropical, one of the most beautiful spots I’ve seen in the Dominican Republic. The resort sprays twice a day for mosquitos, we did not notice any problem with them at all. This resort is right on the Caribbean, with its turquoise-green water and palm trees and mangroves dotting the beach. The water is very calm here, seldom are there any waves to speak of. There was a bit of seaweed on the beach, but the beach is machine-groomed every day. I’m told the water is usually very clear, but due to a lot of rainstorms prior to our arrival, the water was quite silty and not very clear. There are no vendors on the beach. The pool is not large but is very refreshing, with a swimup bar. The pool is only 4 feet deep. We were always able to find a chair there, but there is not a lot of shade. We usually spent the mornings at the pool, then went to the beach in the afternoon. No problem finding a spot there either. They play “easy listening” music at the pool, no loud music.
Beach towels are available at the pool or the beach – we had no towel cards, you just sign the towels in and out (although there was no one there most of the time, we just exchanged them as needed). If you lose your towel it costs $30.00 U.S.
La Cana Restaurant – The included buffet breakfast and dinner is served in La Cana Restaurant. It’s a beautiful open-air restaurant overlooking the ocean. There is a large selection of food at the breakfast buffet – fresh fruit, smoothies, omelettes, pancakes, bacon, sausage, fresh donuts…anything you can think of. The first night we arrived La Cana was closed and they had the dinner buffet at La Choza on the beach, where they were barbecuing fish, chicken, and beef. We ate at the La Cana buffet for dinner two other times during the week, lots to choose from, and they always had a pasta station. Some mornings and on Dominican night, vendors would set up their stalls adjacent to the restaurant.
Anani – this is one of the included restaurants for dinner, located upstairs from the main lobby. This restaurant is very elegantly decorated and is air-conditioned. Try their black bean soup, it is excellent! You need to make reservations for this restaurant with guest services. Guitar players will serenade you as you eat.
Mama Venezia – this is the third included restaurant for dinner, located across from the Anani Restaurant. It was closed while we were there, due to low season, but the menu was available at the Anani Restaurant., so we ate from that menu one night. The Mama Venezia restaurant is not air conditioned.
There is no restriction on how many times you can eat at any restaurant. The following restaurants are not included in the meal plan, but are certainly worth considering:
La Yola – this restaurant is located in the Marina area. La Yola is Spanish for “boat”, it is modeled after a fisherman’s boat, and overlooks Punta Cana Marina. Open from Wed. to Monday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. for supper. Advance reservations required at guest services. Shuttle transportation provided. The food was very good here, and the atmosphere was wonderful. I had beef teriyaki and mashed potatoes, they also had seafood and pasta entrees.
El Cocoloba Restaurant – specializing in Caribbean food nouvelle cuisine. This restaurant is located at the Clubhouse. I had an organic salad (many of the organic vegetables they use are grown at the resort), a beef tenderloin with peanut sauce, vegetables, and cheesecake for desert…it was absolutely excellent. There is a small air-conditioned area of the restaurant, but we opted to sit out on the terrace, it was beautiful. You can even arrange for a private dinner on the beach.
Prices at these restaurants are about the same as what you’d expect to pay at home for a nice meal. Lunch is available at the following restaurants (lunch not included in meal plan)
La Choza – located on the beach, open-air, casual restaurant. Sandwiches, burgers, steak (try the Churrasco), salads, etc.
El Grille – this is at the Clubhouse, we did not eat here, but heard it was excellent. It’s open from noon to 4:00 p.m. for lunch, no reservation required.
Franco’s Pizzeria – adjacent to the pool. They have really good pizza, and sandwiches and pasta dishes.
All of these restaurants are open-air. Entrees start from around $8.00 U.S. for lunch.
Room Service is available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. with breakfast until 11 a.m., salads, sandwiches, etc.are available – we never tried it.
Bars There are lots of bars throughout the property.
Los Platanos – located at the Golf Clubhouse – open 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Lobby Bar – in the hotel lobby, where people tended to congregate in the evening. Open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
The Lounge Bar – located off the lobby – opens at 7:00 p.m.
Manantial Pool Bar – open from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
La Choza – beach bar – open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
La Jola – at the Marina – open from noon to 1:00 a.m.
Mascara Bar & Lounge – at Galerias PUNTACANA, opens at 9:00 p.m.
La Cana Restaurant bar
Franco’s Pizzeria bar Try a Banana Mama – they use real bananas and mix the ingredients in a blender! Strawberry Daiquiri’s are good too.
Beer available – Presidente, Miller, Coronna, Budweiser, Quisqueya Also premium liquor. But no Canadian Club…
Not sure of the cost of the beer, a Banana Mama was $5.00 U.S., an Espresso Coffee $3.00 U.S., a bottle of water $1.50 U.S. Oh, and they have Pepsi, not Coke.
For golfers there is La Cana Golf Course, designed by P.B. Dye. It has 18 holes, 14 with ocean views, and 4 holes interacting with the sea. The famous pot bunker of the Dyes is present in this golf course, and the 7th hole is golfer’s purgatory. For guests the cost for 18 holes is $100.00 U.S., including a cart. A second new golf course by Tom Fazio is now under construction on the property. The La Cana Golf Course Clubhouse has a pro shop, lockers for visitors and members, and has its own pool and beach, as well as The Grill Restaurant for lunch and El Cocoloba Restaurant for dinner. (these restaurants not included in meal plan). This place is gorgeous, even if you’re not a golfer, you have to go and see it. It was decorated by Oscar de la Renta. You can take a shuttle or it’s about a 20 minute walk along the beach. Guests of the hotel can come and spend the day at the pool or beach here if they wish.
Tennis – There are 6 tennis courts made out of limestone mixed with blue sand, available for no charge during the day. There is a night fee of $10 US/hr. Lessons are available. The Nature Villas are located in this area as well as a small swimming pool.
Watersports – Sailing, windsurfing and snorkeling lessons are free of charge 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.. Make your reservations at the activities centre. Boating, canoeing and sailing are also available free of charge. Fishing, scubadiving, and waterskiing are available at additional cost. They have their own dive centre where you can book dives, or take certification courses.
There are ping pong tables, soccer and air hockey tables in the pool area.
There is a kids club for children aged 4 to 12 adjacent to the pool, open daily with an activities program including boat rides, water skiing lessons, horseback riding, and a variety of competition and beach sports, painting lessons and other activities.
It’s open from 10:00 a.m. to noon and from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Lunch for the kids is available for an additional cost of $10.00 U.S. Seemed to be a lot of families with kids there while we were there.
Tours Any off-resort tours you want to take can be booked at their travel desk, in the Commercial area near the lobby. Some of the tours available are: Catamaran to Saona Island, Dominican Jones, deep-sea fishing, ½ day or full day, Fun Fun Cave, Hot Caribbean nightlife show, Higuey to Romana, horseback riding tour 1 or 2 hours (they have their own ranch across the road from the entrance to the hotel), Manati Park, Saona Island, Bavaro Runners, Santo Domingo city tours, Safari Monster Truck, ½ hour sightseeing tours, shopping trip to Higuey – 3-1/2 hours, Bavaro Trackers, helicopter tours, Shopping tour to Bavaro – 4-1/2 hours. Swimming with dolphins at Manati Park, Bavaro Trackers. Car and bicycle rental is also available. You can also rent a 4 passenger golf cart for $40 US/day or a 2 passenger golf cart for $30 US/day to get around the resort. Myself, I enjoyed the walking, as the grounds are so beautiful.
There is a small gift shop in the hotel Commercial area. There is also a shopping Centre located across the road from Punta Cana International Airport. There is free transportation to and from the hotel between 6 p.m. and midnight. There are a variety of shops and restaurants here, including: *Altamar – bathing suits and beach apparel *Bank – money exchange, personal accounts and other services. Open Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. *Beauty Salon *Baskin Robbins Icecream Shop – open 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. *Tobacco/Cigar Store – open 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. *Coco – clothing store *El Guano Restaurant – Dominican cuisine – open only at lunchtime. *El Portuguesse Restaurant – traditional Portuguesse cuisine – open 12:00 noon to 3:00 a.m. *La Scaveola – flowers, gift shop *La Creperie *Le Four a Pain – bakery *Mascara Bar & Lounge *Medical services – GP, pediatrician, dentist *Movie store – foreign movie rentals, DVD sales *Oscar de la Renta Clothing store – casual clothing for men and women. Seemed to be very reasonably priced. *Pharmacana – drugstore, personal care products, magazines, toys, etc. *Pizzarelli – pizzeria *Bowling Alley – good for a rainy day. *Trattoria Mamma Luise – Italian cuisine *Western Union office *Art Gallery
There are 4 computers available. The cost is quite reasonable at $2.00 U.S. for 15 minutes, $7.00 U.S. per hour. There is free wireless internet in the lobby and convention room areas. Everytime I went to the lobby I would see one or two people there with their laptops.
Beauty salon open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. where you can get braids, manicures, pedicures and massages. You can also get a massage at the beach in a raised gazebo out over the Caribbean. Opening in December at the La Cana Clubhouse will be Six Senses Spa, a world-class spa, this being the first one in the Americas. Sounds like it will be wonderful. I was hoping they were closer to opening when we were there and needed someone to practice on 🙂
Gym Next door to the spa, looks to have very good exercise equipment, saw people using it on a daily basis.
Available next door to the beauty salon, near the pool area.
There is a currency exchange open from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and an ATM in the Commercial area next to the lobby. We took U.S. cash and never had a need to change it into Pesos. You can use U.S. dollars for everything.
Punta Cana Marina is located on the southern area of hotel, providing complete immigration and customs services. Each port berth has 110 and 220 VAC elect. Telephones, cable network as well as gasoline and diesel, boats available for rental.
There are religious services at Our Lady of Punta Cana Church, located at Residencial Punta Cana Sundays at 11:30 a.m. Catholic weddings are held here as well. It’s a beautiful little church.
Both Civil and Catholic Weddings are available. For more information see our Weddings Page.
Part of the resort is designated as an ecological reserve where visitors can see the region’s flora and fauna, with nature trails throughout the property. Guided tours, bird-watching tours and educational workshops are offered weekly by professional naturalists. Reservations can be made at the activities centre or visiting the Centre of Ecological Foundation. Take the path off the beach and you will come to a beautiful clear spring. It is full of large fish swimming around in the crystal clear water. You can go swimming here as well. Their Center for Biodiversity and Sustainability offers educational and research opportunities to visiting students and teachers, who come from all over the world to study Dominican flora and fauna. If you visit in July or August they say if you walk in front of the Tortuga Beach Villas you can see the turtles burying their eggs in the sand at the beach.
There is a theatre adjacent to the pool area and we watched one show on Dominican Folklore and dancing. I don’t think there were any other shows the week we were there. Most people seemed to congregate in the lobby in the evening, they have live music from 7:00 p.m.
The weather was very hot and there were some very humid days. It rained overnight several days, but the days were clear and sunny, some of the best weather we’ve ever had in the DR.
The atmosphere here is very different from an all-inclusive resort. It’s more of a country club atmosphere, quiet and relaxing. While they do have some activities, it is all rather low-key, things like aerobics in the pool, or games at the beach. If you’re looking for a party place with constant action, this isn’t the place for you. But if you’re looking for a place to just relax and unwind and do things at your own pace, it is the perfect place. Staff are friendly and accommodating. The beach and ocean views and tropical gardens at this resort are truly beautiful. PUNTACANA Resort & Club is sold in Canada through Sunquest, Voyages Gendron, and Air Canada Vacations, and through Apple and GoGo in the U.S.
Special thanks to Amil, Francesca, and Dinorah, and the wonderful staff of PUNTACANA Resort & Club for an unforgettable week.