Warm ocean breezes, pure white sand, swaying palm trees and waves crashing against the shore all await you in the Dominican Republic.
I recently visited the Dominican Republic for the fourth time. My husband and I like it there so much we keep going back every year in December right before Christmas. Right before the Christmas holiday is a great time to go because it is less expensive and less crowded. For us December is also the time when we are already sick and tired of the cold New England weather and need to get away to warm sun rays. (We are definitely not cold weather people).
Every time we fly down to the DR we leave from JFK in New York City. It is a short plane ride (about 3 1/2 hours). We fly directly to the airport in Punta Cana. Punta Cana has a great airport. It is privately owned and is very easy to navigate. Everything is written in Spanish and English. It is very clean. The bathrooms are so clean it is almost like you are in someone’s home. It is also easy to navigate through immigration in customs.
Each time we have visited Punta Cana we have stayed Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana. It is all-inclusive and you literally do not have to worry about anything while you are there. The resort is only a 20 minute shuttle ride from the airport. I highly recommend staying in Punta Cana because the resorts are close to the airport and it is easy to take a shuttle back and forth. You can add on the shuttle when you book your vacation online. I have used different websites to book our trips to the DR, but I have found that www.cheapcaribbean.com has the lowest rates for flight, resort and airport transportation.
Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana
We really like staying at the Dreams resort. When you arrive they treat you like family. The first thing the workers say upon your arrival is “Welcome home family!” While you stay they treat you exactly like family. We are always greeted with a wet, fresh towel infused with lavender and drinks (usually champagne). On our last trip we arrived earlier than we expected (we didn’t have a wait through customs or immigration and our shuttle ride was ready right when we landed). Despite arriving before check-in the resort workers were able to get us our room early.
When staying at a Dreams Resort you are given the option of saying in a regular suite or a Preferred Club Suite. Always stay Preferred Club! The upgrade doesn’t cost that much more. On our last trip it was $25 more per night. The upgrade room gets you upgraded amenities including a room with either an ocean or pool view. You get turn-down service at night, upgraded mini bar (everything is already included), access to two lounges with TVs, bars and food all day (one is for families and the other is for adults only). You also gain access to Preferred only pools. There are adult only and family pools for those staying in the Preferred Club suites. In addition to these upgrades you also gain additional access to poolside food service and drinks, your own section of the beach where you get beachside food and drink service and access to additional restaurants for breakfast and lunch. It is well worth the extra money. For me it was a must because you also get to use the business center in the Preferred Club lounge – which I needed for work while I was away.
At Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana we have stayed in rooms with an ocean view and rooms with a pool view. Either room has a beautiful view from it. Rooms include a terrace or patio and large bathrooms. We have stayed in rooms with Jacuzzi tubs and rooms with giant walk-in showers. I prefer the giant walk-in showers with two rain shower heads.
The rooms also have a mini-fridge that is filled up daily (all included), a sitting area and outside sitting area. The best part from the room is the view. See the video below.
The beach is very relaxing if you stay away from the people trying to sell to you. The resort does give permits to certain “vendors” who will try to sell to you on the beach. The best way to avoid these individuals (trust me, you want to, they will not take no for an answer) is to sit further away from the water and not make eye contact. We did this and were able to avoid the vendors and relax.
Punta Cana is located on the Atlantic Ocean, so usually when we have visited the water was too cold to go swimming in. On our last trip there was also a lot of seaweed. The resort tries their best to clean up the seaweed with a tractor and they also have nets in the water to try to keep the seaweed from reaching the shore. Below is a video that shows what the beach looks like in Punta Cana.
At the Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana there are also several pools to relax in. Our favorite one is the Preferred Club adult’s only pool. This pool is quiet, always has plenty of seats and there are also lounge chairs that sit in the water. My favorite part is the waiters come up to you throughout the day to take your drink and food orders without you having to worry about losing your pool chair.
In addition to spending time by the beach or pool there are plenty of activities to keep you busy at the resort. The resort workers plan different activities each day from movie nights, dance contests, Spanish lessons, dance lessons, live music, aerobic classes and more. If you don’t want to get involved in a group activity, there are plenty of other activities to do too, including volleyball, tennis, board games, windsurfing, kayaking, hobie cats, snorkeling and more.
Besides taking time to relax and take part in all the activities you never go hungry while staying at the resort. Because it is all-inclusive all meals, drinks and snacks are included with your stay. You literally do not need to spend any money if you do not want to when you arrive at the resort. Room service is available 24/7 so even if you are hungry at 3 a.m. you can get food. For breakfast you can eat at the buffet, which has everything from pancakes, omelets, traditional Dominican food, pastries, bacon, cheeses, sausage, etc. Those staying in a Preferred Club suite can go to the sit down restaurant Seaside Grill for breakfast as well.
For lunch you can eat by the pool or beach (if you stay Preferred), at the Barefoot Grill on the beach, which has things like hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and nachos. Or you can go to the buffet which will have a variety of pizzas, salads, Dominican food, Mexican food, Italian food and also American favorites.
Dinner is when you really get to try a variety of foods. The buffet is also always open for dinner, but why eat at the buffet when you can try other sit down restaurants? You have the following options:
Bordeaux – a restaurant with gourmet French cuisine
El Patio – an authentic Mexican restaurant – they even have a mariachi band play throughout your dinner.
Himitsu – a pan-Asian restaurant
Portofino – serving gourmet Italian cuisine
Seaside Grill – featuring grilled food (steaks and seafood)
Besides the restaurants there are also three different bars to visit at night. After dinner we liked visiting the Coco Cafe for coffee con leche (coffee with milk) and a pastry or going to one of the bars for a tropical drink.
The one extra we always pay for when we visit is massages at the spa. When booking at Cheap Caribbean they have always given us coupons to use at the resort. We usually get $40 off each massage. It is worth paying the extra. We have always opted for the 50 minute Swedish Massages. Every time they have been relaxing and the tension and stress melted away. After your massage you get to relax in the spa pool/hot tub area. On our last trip we spent over two hours in this area relaxing. The have lounge chairs to relax on next to a mini waterfall. There are also three different pools to go in. One is ice cold, which is used to close your pores. There is one that is slightly warm and then there is a hot tub pool. You are supposed to go from the hot to the slightly warm to finally the cold. The cold however is just too cold! I forced myself to try it out, but it felt like walking into a pool of ice cubes.
We usually go for four days. After everything (flight (Jet Blue – even more room seats), transportation, resort stay (with all our food, drinks and activities) and drive to airport in NYC) we pay a about $950 per person. I think it is a pretty great deal for a few days in paradise.
For more information on Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana visit here.
Things to Avoid While Visiting Dominican Republic
When visiting another country there are always things you need to avoid and things you need to do to stay safe. When you get off the plane and out of customs/immigration you will be approached by people who want to help you. Avoid these individuals. They will try to take your bags and they are looking for a tip. Go straight to ground transportation (you will see the signs) and find the company you purchased your shuttle from.
You will be given a time from your shuttle person with information that says you need to see someone the following morning to find out the return shuttle information. Don’t go at this time. The person will be in the lobby all day. They are attempting to get you to attend a sales pitch to go on outside excursions. The sales pitch will last up to 1/2 hour and they will make you wait to find out your return shuttle information.
I don’t recommend going to the excursions. Some of the places the excursions are located are far from the resort and safety can be iffy. If you are looking to just relax you have everything you need at the resort without spending this extra money and taking the risk.
You will be hit up with one more sales pitch when you arrive. After arrival and check-in you will be introduced to the concierge. He or she will try to get you to sign-up to attend a special breakfast the following morning. This special breakfast is also a sales pitch. They will be trying to sell you a time share. We did this once. They got us to go because they promised it wouldn’t last more than an hour and we would get $100 for the spa. We wasted three hours during this sales pitch that we could have spent relaxing at the pool or beach. Avoid it – tell them you are not interested, but thank you.
Also, I previously mentioned avoid the people trying to sell to you on the beach. They will try to sell you everything from cigars, excursions, clothing, souvenirs, etc. On our last trip someone even had a monkey they were trying to get people to take photos with (which really annoyed me because I wanted to free the monkey). Avoid eye contact and if you have to talk to someone and they ask you to buy something just say no thank you and that you left your money in your room. Once they know you do not have money they will leave you alone.
If you do want to buy souvenirs there are stores at the resort, however the cheapest place to buy your souvenirs is the airport.
Other Videos my husband took:
This first one is the takeoff from the airport in Punta Cana.
View of the beach at Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana with Louis’ commentary.
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