I’m often asked about the merits of staying at an all-inclusive over a traditional resort when traveling. While both have merits, when I want to travel without worrying about the expenses on the road, all-inclusive is the way to go. Especially if you just need to crash on the beach and not count calories or pennies when it comes to booze and food. And while in the past, the concept of an all-inclusive resort was often associated only with watered down drinks, Spring Break style parties and giant buffets, these days there are options for all styles of travelers. I went to the Dominican Republic as the guest of the Ministry of Tourism recently to check out two all-inclusive options in the Punta Cana region: CHIC Punta Cana and the Hard Rock Punta Cana. The first was a small boutique style all-inclusive with only 320 stylish rooms and suites, while the second was much larger and had more of a distinct party vibe.
CHIC Punta Cana
The smaller of the two resorts, CHIC Punta Cana is great value for money. If you aren’t looking for a serious foodie holiday (admitted they didn’t have the absolute best food I’ve ever tasted, but it also wasn’t terrible, and remember, no matter how good, the food at an all-inclusive is never going to be as good as a pay per meal restaurant). It worked well for the price point, and with the base rates so low, it’s also easy to choose to go out to eat somewhere else for a night or too on your holiday without breaking the bank. There are also a number of different restaurant choices on the property, so you will have variety in what you eat, and not be forced to just do a buffet every night.
On the plus side, I loved the edgy modern decor in the rooms and the in-room liquor dispensers. It’s an adult-only property, which is another plus, and has a party vibe by its huge main swimming pool with cabanas and swim-up bar during the day, although nights are much more quiet.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana
With 1,775 rooms, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana is a completely different experience. Situated on pristine sugar white sands stretching 121-acres along Macao Beach in the Dominican Republic, it was the island’s first all-inclusive hotel and casino and offers a rock star vibed getaway with iconic music memorabilia, a Vegas style casino with its own club, ORO nightclub. There are also 13 different swimming pools, four swim-up bars and dining options at 10 different restaurants.
I love the rooms at the Hard Rock for couples. Each one comes with this giant Jacuzzi tub that sets a sort of sexy vibe. The quotes from music legends above the beds and the use of marble, glass and muted colors to set the scene are also appealing.
If you consider yourself a bit fanatical about music memorabilia, you’ll love the displays throughout the hallways here. There is plenty to see. There’s also a complete shopping arcade inside the resort – again Vegas style – although prices were the same as they are back in the US (this is not a place to hunt for bargains). And I thought the food was better here, although the price-point is also a bit higher, so it should be expected. The variety of restaurants was key, but I must admit I was obsessed with the buffet in the main restaurant for not only breakfast, but also lunch and dinner if you stay long enough. Despite having a lot of choices, food still tasted fresh.