My dad and I kicked off the month of June by taking a dad/daughter trip to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic! We stayed at the Royalton Bavaro, which is a large all-inclusive beach resort. Years ago, my dad and I spent two of my college spring breaks together in another part of the Dominican Republic (read about that HERE), but we had never stayed at a resort right in Punta Cana before now.
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Punta Cana is the Dominican Republic's main resort and tourist area. There are dozens of large mega-resorts located on the miles of white sandy beaches. Most resorts are all-inclusive, which give guests access to unlimited food and drinks during their stay. Between all of the resorts having multiple pools, private beach access, and daily activities, there's more than enough to do right at the resort for several days with no need to leave. The Dominican Republic isn't the safest Caribbean country for tourists to explore on their own, so the easy option is definitely to pick an all-inclusive resort and stay put on resort property through your whole vacation. If you do opt for any excursions off-resort, make sure they're booked directly through your resort or through a reputable local travel or tour company! We didn't do any excursions on this trip, but we did take a snorkeling day trip on one of our past Dominican Republic trips when I was in college.
The good news though about staying to your all-inclusive resort of choice is that it'll make for a very relaxing trip! And we all could use some true R&R on vacation as we take a break from our busy day-to-day lives. 😊
As I mentioned, there are so many resorts to choose from right in Punta Cana. I actually was the one who found the Royalton Bavaro and sent it to my dad, and he liked it as well, so he booked it! There are several Royalton all-inclusive properties throughout many Caribbean islands, and a few just within Punta Cana itself. I'm not sure if we happened to catch the Royalton Bavaro at a super discounted time or if it's normally this reasonably priced, but room rate that my dad booked for both of us seemed so affordable for how nice the hotel was! It ended up being less than $200 a day per person (so under $400 a day for both of us). I did the math and that was actually less per day than my boyfriend Ryan and I spent during our Orlando FL trip a few months prior. It's crazy how quick vacation spending can add up in the US when you have to purchase breakfast, lunch, dinner and Uber rides every day, vs. staying put at a Caribbean all-inclusive resort.
My dad and I both flew into the Punta Cana International Airport, but he came from Maine and I came Virginia. PUJ is actually the largest international airport in the Dominican Republic, and there are direct flights from numerous US cities. I had brief layovers in Newark and Washington DC on each leg of the trip. Unfortunately, I ended up losing the first day of our vacation due to a storm passing through Virginia. My flight wasn't able to be rebooked until the next day. But so is life when flying- sometimes things like that happen.
If your resort doesn't have airport transportation included in your stay, I would 100% recommend booking reputable transportation in advance. The DR is not the place where you want to try to find an Uber or taxi yourself on the fly. Prebook a safe and well rated transportation company that will be there waiting for you in the arrivals terminal. I asked for transportation recommendations in a travel Faecbook group that I'm in, and a number of people recommended Mike Fisher Transportation. My dad and I both booked with Mike Fisher and were very pleased! The drivers were very nice, and the vans were comfortable and well air-conditioned (and also had Wi-Fi). Our transportation was completely private, and it cost $35 cash each way. I'd highly recommend Mike Fisher's company for your Punta Cana airport needs! Mike Fisher also has an excursion business that I'd recommend checking out if you do want to book day trips off-resort.
We were so impressed by how nice the Royalton Bavaro was. Both my dad and I thought it was significantly nicer than the all-inclusive resorts that we had stayed at in the Bayahibe region of the DR when I was in college. The rooms are spacious and had very comfortable beds. While there isn't a lot of AC to be found in all places in the resort (a lot of common areas like the buffets and resort lobby are open-air), the guest rooms are very air conditioned. If anything- I wish I had brought a warmer pair of pajamas since it was so cold in the room overnight! The wifi at the Royalton Bavaro works incredibly well, and there's a strong signal over the entire resort. We never had to purchase international data plans for our cell phones since the free wifi worked so well.
One of the best parts of staying at an all-inclusive resort is the unlimited food and drinks! I was very impressed with the options at the Royalton Bavaro. There are multiple buffets, bars, snack spots and dinner restaurants on-property! Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style each day, and I would really look forward to both. I enjoyed the large spread of tropical fruits served at each. My absolute favorite thing food-wise about the trip was the create-your-own pasta station at the lunch buffet! The guy working at it would customize whatever type of pasta you wanted with a variety of sauces and add-ins. So good!
You could opt to do the buffet for dinner as well or try the various dinner restaurants on-property. The only dinner spot that required you to make advanced reservations at the hotel desk was Zen, the hibachi restaurant (due to the seating arrangements around the hibachi cooktops). For our dinners, we tried the Brazilian steakhouse, the regular steakhouse, and the hibachi restaurant. I liked all of them, but I think hibachi was my favorite. There is a coffee and ice cream shop near the hotel lobby that's open throughout most of the day and evening, and the perfect place to stop for an afternoon snack when the larger restaurants are closed.
There are many options for enjoying water at the Royalton Bavaro. The resort has a nice stretch of white sandy beach with clear and beautiful aquamarine water that guests can enjoy. I really enjoyed swimming in the ocean and relaxing at the lounge chairs. My dad went for several walks on the beach- the stretch of beach that the Royalton Bavaro is on keeps going and going and you can walk by other neighboring resorts. I also met CoCo the Monkey and Blue the Parrot (pictured above) on the beach! There are souvenir vendors and guys with animals like these two that walk around to visit beachgoers.
There are also multiple pools at the resort! Although I did like the beach, I spent more time overall in the pools. There are two large main pools (one includes a swim-up bar), a splash pad for kids, a couple hot tubs, and my favorite of all, the 1200 foot long lazy river!! I love a good lazy river, and spent every afternoon of the trip floating away in it. There is also an additional pool for resort Diamond Club members, and some first floor suites include swim-up pools at the room terrace. The main pool that has the swim-up bar also featured daily water fitness classes lead by the resort staff. I did one on the last day and it was a lot of fun.
There is a casino and spa on-property that guests can enjoy for an additional cost. As far as other free amenities, there's a mini golf course, daily programs for kids and teens, and daily family friendly evening entertainment. The best evening program that we attended was the White Party for all guests on the beach! As of this year, the Royalton Bavaro does the White Party every Thursday night. It's a giant family-friendly dance party where everyone wears white and light colored clothing and dances under the stars on the beach!
My dad and I really enjoyed our dad/daughter trip and stay at the Royalton Bavaro! The whole time that we were there, my dad kept saying he would love to check out other Royalton resorts in other islands in the future.
Because I am always 100% honest in my travel blog posts, I do want to share that both my dad and I experienced some severe food poisoning or stomach bug issues at the end of our trip. I don't often get sick when traveling, so this definitely stands out. I think what happened to my dad was definitely true food poisoning. It started for him a couple hours after dinner on what was supposed to be on the last night of the trip. Unfortunately, he stayed sick the entire night long, and ended up having to extend his trip by a day as he wasn't well enough to catch his early morning flight the next day. Luckily though he felt fine later that day and was able to travel home the next day. I on the other hand felt fine until about 24 hours after getting home, when I started having some stomach symptoms. I believe mine was more virus-like symptoms than food poisoning. The sickness lingered for me for four days, but my digestive system still didn't feel fully normal until a week later. There's definitely a chance that whatever I picked up had nothing to do with my dad's food poisoning. Maybe I caught something in the airport or had bad airport food? Who knows. Despite this happening to both of us, we still overall loved our trip! Food poisoning and viruses can happen anytime on vacation technically. I just did want to give the disclaimer that this happened to us.
Check out some of my Caribbean blog posts from trips past: