This past week, Louise and I have been exploring the Dominican Republic, a beautiful and vibrant country in the heart of the Caribbean. We’re staying here thanks to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and for once in our busy lives we’re enjoying staying in one place and relaxing.
Here’s why we’re loving staying at the Hard Rock, and why we think the Dominican is the perfect place to go ‘All Inclusive’:
As much food/Drink as you can handle
Above all else, the best part about all inclusive hotels is the food. It’s really what it’s all about. Whenever you feel the urge for a snack, a drink or a full blown meal, there’s always an abundance of food on tap. If you really want to keep things interesting, picking a hotel with a lot of restaurants means that you’ll always have somewhere new to try. Not only is it all you can eat, but it’s also all you can drink. We’re not huge drinkers, so perhaps we don’t get our money’s worth but the point is you can have exactly as much or as little as you like.
Obviously, the downside is that if you’re in a particularly boisterous hotel, you might have a few drunk vacationers stumbling around by the time the sun goes down. Also bear in mind that it can also get quite rowdy because this type of resort tends to be popular with Stag/ Stagette parties looking to get up to a few drunken shenanigans.
In the case of the Hard Rock, there are 9 great restaurants, so we’ve been totally spoilt for choice (Italian, local, steak, mexican, sushi, teppanyaki, pizza etc.). There’s also 24hr room service (including special 3 course meal orders), so we’ve basically upped our meal intake to about 4 or 5 per day!.. It’s very possible that I’m going to need new pants by the end of the week. There’s also a constant hot dog stand, 24 hr coffee and donuts, and an ice cream store. If it’s booze that you’re after, our room literally has a liquor cabinet that gets restocked daily, and you can find pretty decent piña coladas everywhere.
Here are a couple more photos from our room and the hotel lobby.
You don’t have to plan anything
When we’re travelling and staying in regular hotels and resorts, figuring out where we’re going to eat can be stressful. Looking at Trip advisor, scrutinising reviews and wandering streets aimlessly tends to take up a lot of time. If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation, having to plan your next meal or activity can be tiresome. Of course, figuring things out on your own can be part of the fun, but every now and then it’s nice to be able to switch your brain off and just go with what’s easiest.
Everything you need is on the resort.
If you’re planning to do an all inclusive trip, it needs to be in a place where you won’t feel guilty about lazing around all day. Fortunately, the Dominican Republic really seems to be one of those places. There are plenty of countries where I’ve felt huge pressure to go out and explore, but simply put, Dominican seems to be more about having fun and relaxing. There are a few activities that we thought were worth checking out (like Scape Park), but honestly it doesn’t seem to be a “travelling country” in the sense that you might want to, say, travel around Europe. It really is the perfect place to be at a seaside all-inclusive resort.
The Hard Rock has 13 pools (including a lazy river and a water slide); 16 bars; tennis courts; a golf course; a casino; a theatre; nightclubs; scuba lessons, and a ton of different activities. There aren’t many reasons to leave the resort when you have that much to do!
Tours and Excursions
While Dominican is the perfect place for a ‘resort holiday’, there’s always the odd day where cabin fever sets in and we feel like we need to go and do an activity or some sightseeing. Fortunately, almost anything worth doing on Dominican can be done through a tour; Taxis are prohibitively expensive, and driving yourself anywhere seems to be discouraged.
As mentioned, Dominican seems to be a place for activities, so most of the excursions seem to revolve around thrill seeking. These include buggies, ziplining, cliff jumping, catamaran adventures, snorkelling, scuba diving, horse riding, ATV’s etc. There are several adventure parks that accommodate this type of thrill seeking day trip and usually the hotel concierge will be flush with information to help guide your decision.
On the less active side, factory tours seem to be a highlight here. Whether it’s a rum factory, a cigar factory or a chocolate museum, there are plenty of ways to learn and indulge at the same time! There are also plenty of opportunities to learn about the local indigenous Taino people and their history before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
In terms of how all inclusive resorts manage excursions, they all tend to have concierges that help guide you through the process. Hard Rock uses a system of resort credit, where you can book trips or pay for various activities with a credit (something that often comes with the holiday package and which makes booking a little less painful).
Aside from culture and thrill seeking, we did come across some incredible natural wonders; the natural cenotes of Domincan. Cenotes are natural freshwater springs that are famous for their incredible blue hue. They’re usually found in or around caves as they bubble up through the rock.
The Sea, Sunsets and Sunrises
If you’re more interested in beautiful long beach walks with crashing white horses (or maybe if you’re interested in surfing), then the North shore might be more appealing. If you’re looking for calmer beaches then the East or South coast is where you’ll want to be headed.
In terms of Sunset or Sunrise, we can definitely vouch for the fantastic sunrises that can be seen from the Hard Rock. Beautiful cotton candy skies over the ocean are an incredible way to start the day.
If you’re looking for a good sunset, it can be quite tough in the Dominican. As virtually all of the west coast is in Haiti, there are few places you can watch the sun set. One of the best spots we’ve found is on the South coast at a beach called Dominicus Beach.
Driving around the Dominican:
For some reason, everyone seems to be terrified of driving on Dominican. It might have something to do with its record for having the most dangerous roads in the western hemisphere; something we struggle to believe.
We decided to rent a car and found it to be some of the easiest driving anywhere. The roads are virtually car free around Punta Cana. Sure, some of the laws seem to be optional, but don’t be discouraged. If you’re somewhat confident behind the wheel, you’ll be fine. The only vaguely risky part is avoiding the motorbikes that drive at night with no lights. Not too much of an issue though honestly.
This was our little beauty.
If you do decide to drive, make sure you make reservations prior to any attractions or tours. Many attractions will be part of gated communities, meaning you can’t just drive through the barrier without prior warning. Another reason why taking a tour is actively encouraged.
So what are you waiting for?