Punta Cana Resort & Club Reviews – Dominican Republic Hotels – Punta Cana Resort & Club

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.

Beach Villas

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.

Nature Villas

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.

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