Time to Consider All-Inclusive Resort?
A Perfect Way To Slip Back Into Vacationing
When it comes time for you to jump back into traveling and vacationing, how will you go about it? Sometimes it easiest to go somewhere where it is all laid out for you in one place, one price, one booking. Are you the one that usually does all the prep work and research for your getaways? I recently decided to let someone else do all the thinking and organizing and handed our vacation over to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana.
We had been to Punta Cana before and knew the flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida was going to be quite easy and beautiful as we glided over several of the Bahamian islands. Landing at the airport, we exited the plane, walked down the portable ramp, onto the tarmac, and then were bussed to the terminal. Little airports like this are cute and usually easier to maneuver. Customs was simple coming into the Dominican Republic for COVID testing was not needed to enter the DR.
As part of the Dominican Republic’s “Responsible Tourism Recovery Plan,” visitors are no longer required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the country. Additionally, mass testing will not be performed at the airport upon arrival, but will instead be done at random. Travelers must fill out a Traveler’s Health Affidavit online before traveling to the DR. – T+L Magazine
Knowing that once we made it through customs, we would be in the hands of the Hard Rock, the vacation was on as we wheeled our luggage into the DR heat. Exiting the airport, we found the Hard Rock section of the resort counter and we were guided to our private shuttle to the Hotel & Resort, just a quick 20 or so minute ride.
Why do people choose to go to All-Inclusive Resorts? It’s because you’re able to be in a slice of paradise and everything is right at your fingertips. No, all-inclusive resorts are not for everyone and are not for every single trip you go on, but they are an educated right choice when it comes to decadence, relaxation, and effortlessness and a great way to get back into travel.
Why the Hard Rock and Why Now?
How was the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana? First thing we need to realize is that this Punta Cana resort is not a Punta Cana resort you’ve been to before and not even a Hard Rock you’ve been to before. Hard Rocks had always been reminiscent of overdesign and knickknack overload like Bugaboo Creeks or Cracker Barrel with just too much going on at times visually. Hearing this Hard Rock was completing a remodel/renovation, it was something I wanted to see. The Punta Cana location has shed what I referred to as the company’s Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold and has diminished the wall coverings making the presentation of the music artifacts more elevated than just way too much.
Walking through the halls of the main building, it was evident that the Hard Rock Punta Cana was fresh, updated, and well designed. Easier on the eyes, this design gives the remaining art, instruments, etc. a more museum-like display and so much more enjoyable. I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing as I saw the highlighted pieces that the resort chose to showcase instead of the old way of stacking layer upon layer. That feeling was magnified when we entered our room.
We had been to other resorts in Punta Cana and had experienced rooms with odors, water damage, and some other surprises, but none of that here. We had grown to expect that in some Caribbean resorts so to see the quality and freshness here, we were ecstatic.
No Rest for the Palate
After settling in and not having anything but airplane snacks in our bellies, food was needed. One of my favorite benefits of a resort’s all-inclusivity is eating, the food, the drinks, the food, the options, the indulgence. You don’t go on vacation to watch your calories, and if you do, well you’re doing it all wrong, especially at an all-inclusive resort.
Dining options were so plentiful, we did not have enough time to enjoy them all. Zen, Caio, and Toro will be on our list for next time as the two former were just not in the cards time-wise and Toro was being remodeled, but we did enjoy The Market Hall, Los Gallos, and Montserrat Manor.
Market Hall was truly a “choose your own culinary adventure” as Asian, Italian, American, and Mexican dishes were all present for the taking. Not only is the food all included at inclusive resorts, but most of the alcohols are, too. When you start going to mid to top shelf and elite, there will be some charges for those beverages.
The Market Restaurant showcases new culinary concepts and experimental dining, featuring a New Orleans style French market, Mexican Mercado, Asian Market, Italian Mercato, Spanish Boqueria, and a full bar featuring classic Dominican and traditional cocktails. Inspired by the lush greenery in Punta Cana, the design represents a contemporary chic greenhouse featuring a hanging tropical garden, details crafted from Dominican artists and a hint of modernism in the furniture and environment.
Okay, I lied a little bit. Some of the food is not included. We did make a reservation at the Montserrat Manor. This restaurant is within the casino part of the hotel/resort and both casino and restaurant can be visited by locals or those staying at other resorts. It was worth the experience as it was our last evening on the island and made it very special with the live music and bountiful and delicious offerings.
Named after the island of Montserrat in the West Caribbean, home of the studio where Rock & Roll history was made in the 70’s and 80’s. A modern American steak house cuisine with the highest prime meat brought directly from Chicago, hand selected and wet aged for 21 days. We also specialized in local fish caught daily and live lobsters.
Guest will not only be treated to a mouthwatering meal and the fine beverages, but will also get a taste of the rock star life.
We also did stay in our rooms for some mornings and ordered breakfast from the menu on the television as 24-hour room service was included, too. Yes, we did think about that burger at 2 AM often, but didn’t pull the trigger.
Any kind of travel today, one must think of COVID. Announcements about testing before departure are plastered on the pillars at the airport, very visible as you wind thru the customs cheese maze. We recommend to always check with where you are staying as they should know about travel requirements and restrictions. The Hard Rock had COVID testing on-property and set up appointments for us. We had forgotten to ask about the resort’s policy if we tested positive, but when we inquired, we were informed we would be staying on the property as part of the quarantine and all of that was built into the included insurance Hard Rock provided its guests free of charge. DEFINITELY double check on any resort, airline, and national policies as they may change, but definitely bring your masks, not just your fabric or homemade ones, but also official ones as some airlines and some airport security will require medical grade masks. Just fair warning.
As for COVID, we felt very safe wherever we went. Yes, there were some people missing the masks while walking around or had chin diapers (was I back in Florida?), but mostly we were outside and not around a ton of people. But when inside, we were polite and respectful of others. The masks did help a little in the casino as smoking was allowed and was a little prominent, but that was expected.
Adding On Some Extras
We always need a cabana and massage day right? As part of any resort/hotel/vacation, there has to be a break in the schedule for one to be pampered and relax. We did plan one day where massages and big cabanas on the beach were going to happen. We didn’t try the Rock Om (Hard Rock’s signature yoga program) as I’m not that great at yoga. I almost did it as guests could order a yoga kit to their rooms so they wouldn’t have to show the lack of yoga skills to others, but I took a bath on my patio instead.
After the bath, we relaxed by the Eden Pool (adults-only pool where guests can enjoy optional European-style bathing) and then it was off to the Rock Spa. The Hard Rock Resort covers 21 acres making it one of the largest properties on the island, but it is the largest hotel with over 1700 rooms, and with that it also has an expansive 60,000 square foot spa oasis. Yes, I needed to experience a spa like that.
Off the Resort?
There is enough relaxation as well as activities for all to do while on the property, but some may want to see more of the island. One such activity was to get onto and a little under the Caribbean Sea. Out of the possible tours, we chose to “Chill Out” on a catamaran tour.
This half day experience combines fun, party and adventure. We will sail from the beach of “El Cortecito” will undoubtedly show you the best beaches in the area; You will snorkeling in open water through coral reefs and tropical fishes; once you finish you will enjoy soft drinks and water; while listening to music and seen our animation crew to spend an unforgettable time. We will visit an incredible natural pools. Finally, and before arriving to the resort, we will make a short but wonderful shopping stop, where you will have the opportunity to get some fantastic souvenirs.
I had never really been snorkeling before and this was a very low-risk and low-skill snorkeling experience, just right for me. It was also an opportunity to see some of the local shops and some of Punta Cana besides the resort and the airport.
There were other excursions and tours available that we will keep in mind for next time
Something A Little Different?
Another thing I had not done before was a Sip and Paint experience. Yes, I went to a foreign country to do something that people do downtown twice a week. But now I had some time and it’s all about new experiences. We sat down with some others at Uncorked, the wine bar and store at Hard Rock Punta Cana. It was a fun way to meet some new people, drink some wine, be creative, and we made our own souvenir. The paintings were small enough to bring back in our mid-sized luggage.
We also did a rum tasting which included some Mama Juana, a local creation that has become a great staple in bars and homes across DR.
Tipping, Isn’t It All-Inclusive?
I am bad when it comes to tipping. If there isn’t a 20% rule like at a restaurant, I get flustered. And then some people think that all-inclusive is a done deal. I paid on my credit card months ago so I don’t need to pay anything else or bring more cash. No, we should still be tipping as this is a service industry and people are serving. I didn’t look this up until I returned home, but AMA Travel does have a quick guide to tipping at resorts that are all-inclusive.
I was on the lower side with $5 per room service incident, but was higher on the transportation/shuttle driver, but I was alone in the vehicle so I felt I needed to carry the tipping load. Don’t forget to tip!
A Hard Rock Encore Performance?
What’s great about an all-inclusive resort is the foundation is there for food, fun, drinks, relaxation, zero worries. The value is there, too, but if you want to bump it up a notch or three, learn how to play guitar in your room, zip-lining, dolphin swimming, multiple spa treatments, it’s all there at the click of your tv remote or phone.
The Hard Rock Punta Cana was an elevated experience that was easy, exciting, relaxing, and to borrow their tag line from their current campaign, reimagined. It was more than I was hoping it would have been. In the wake of the HBO offering White Lotus, I think more individuals will be looking for great getaway experiences. We think Hard Rock Punta Cana is one that you should consider.
On a side note. There are other resorts that are not open as of yet and may have not made it through the pandemic as well as the Hard Rock. One great aspect of being one of the best resorts on the island is that locals want to go there as well. During the pandemic, deals and specials for locals and offering a great product assisted the Hard Rock in weathering the storm better than others. Now, with a reimagined presence and design, the Hard Rock Punta Cana is ready to welcome back international travelers like never before.
As usual, here are some more images from our Punta Cana vacation.