Imagine you’ve just spent four hours on an airplane flying to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. You’re tired, sweaty, achy, and just a tiny bit grumpy because the businessman in the seat next to you decided to take the entire armrest for himself. You arrive at your hotel and are immediately handed an icy-cold margarita. Good start. After checking in, you make your way to your room, and upon opening the door you are greeted with the sight of a hot tub in the middle of the room. That’s right, a hot tub. Not in the bathroom, not outside—in the middle of your room. And it’s facing the spacious balcony, which overlooks the ocean. Are tears of joy acceptable at this point?
This was my experience when I first arrived at the absolutely stunning all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana. This is such a sprawling resort that they have golf cart cabs that shuttle you from your room to the pools, restaurants, and beach. And did I mention the hot tub in your room? Sorry, I’ll move on.
Last time I was in the Dominican Republic I stayed at Casa de Campo and I remember thinking, “It can’t get any better than this.” But then I stayed at the Hard Rock, and now I realize that maybe, just maybe, the Dominican Republic has some of the nicest hotels in the Caribbean.
The Hard Rock boasts 13 luxurious pools complete with swim-up bars and waterslides for the kids (or adults, we don’t judge). The beach is so pristine and the sand so soft that it feels like you’re walking on pillows. They have hundreds of thatch umbrellas and beach chairs that don’t discriminate whether you’re VIP or not. But who doesn’t feel like a VIP when a waiter is serving you mai tais while you bake in the toasty Dominican sun?
There are nine incredible themed restaurants, but I unfortunately didn’t get to visit all of them (though I tried my hardest). I ate at Isla, which features Caribbean cuisine, where I had a particularly delicious surf and turf. I also went to Zen, a teppanyaki-style restaurant, and Los Gallos, which features Latin American cuisine.
You really can’t go wrong with the food here, and, much like when you’re sailing on a cruise ship, you won’t go hungry or thirsty during your stay. Everywhere you roam you’ll find restaurants, grills, or bars. They even have minibars set up in the hallways to ensure you’re never without a beverage.
While all the bartenders and servers were beyond friendly, I will note that they overpoured the liquor quite often. Most people probably won’t care about this and would much rather get drunk faster. I, however, like to enjoy my cocktails with just the right amount of ingredients. Oftentimes my mojito would taste like straight rum with a slight hint of mint.
The nightlife at the resort is so varied and fun that you really don’t need to leave the resort property at all (although we recommend leaving at some point because the Dominican Republic is a beautiful island). Every night throughout the resort they feature karaoke, live bands and music, plenty of places to dance, live Broadway-type shows, and one very intense nightclub called Oro. This is the only space in the resort that has an entrance fee. If you like your nightlife with a strip club vibe, then this place is for you, but leave the kids in the hotel room. There’s also a casino if you’re feeling like gambling instead of dancing.
And if all this wasn’t enough, the resort also features a golf course designed by the Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus, as well as mini golf for the family, beach volleyball, and soccer tournaments, and, just like the Hard Rock Cafes, copious amounts of music memorabilia is featured throughout the resort, including Madonna’s limo.
I have stayed at resorts and hotels all over the world, and it was at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino where I had the most fun. Sure, it’s family-friendly, it’s all-inclusive, and it isn’t “boutique” or swanky, but they have hot tubs … in your bedroom. Case closed.
Coming soon: We’ll have a full guide to the Dominican Republic, as well as all the best cigar factory tours to experience.