Coming down the steps of the plane you spot a friendly face holding a sign with your name on it. With a warm welcome, you are immediately whisked past hundreds of hot tourists waiting in the customs line, your bags are picked up, your private car awaits and just 30 minutes after your feet hit the ground you find yourself walking through the doors to your ocean view room. At Punta Cana Resort, this dream is a reality.
If you are looking for a quick and easy escape from the city this summer, consider a stay in this lavish, all-inclusive resort. Taking advantage of their VIP airport service, luxury begins the moment you arrive. The best part is it's reachable after just a four-hour direct flight from BWI on Southwest, which start at $380 round-trip, so all you need is a weekend to make paradise your reality. We'll guide you through where to stay, what to eat and where to go to make the most of a short stay.
Where to Stay
The Westin Punta Cana Resort & Club offers a traditional hotel experience: two hundred ocean view rooms situated around a stunning center pool positioned right on the beach. The Dominican cigar bar is a must visit for those looking to partake in one of the country's famed artistries. If it wasn't for the view, I may not have ever gotten out of bed as this was by far the most comfortable hotel bed I have ever slept in -- a welcome surprise considering how badly I needed this vacation.
Tortuga Bay hosts posh two, three and four-bedroom villas designed by Oscar De Renta (a Dominican native) and is home to the designer's island boutique, the creation of which was one of his last projects before passing away in 2014. Everything about this AAA Five Diamond property is focused around a pampered guest experience with a personal concierge assigned to you for your entire visit.
Punta Cana Resort also offers a wide selection of lavish private homes available for rent. With optional private chef, housekeeping and butler services, this choice is indulgent and supremely private. I toured a seven-bedroom property with vaulted ceilings, private pool, two kitchens and an open-air pool house all just steps from the beach. Going for about $2,500/night during high season, the price tag was surprisingly reasonable, especially if you're traveling with friends.
What to Eat
Eat what is fresh, eat what is local. This rule applies no matter where you travel. In Punta Cana, this translates to fish, seafood and fresh fruit juices.
The resort features six restaurants including a AAA four diamond award recipient, Bamboo, and a AAA three diamond award recipient, La Yola. All restaurants offer open-air seating, which really should be a requirement in the Caribbean.
The red snapper from Brassa Grill came with eyes and teeth still in tact, and was by far my favorite meal. Watching my fellow travelers inspect the fish with trepidation and child-like intrigue was almost as entertaining as the fish was delicious. If you stick to the fresh and local rule, you will not be disappointed, but resist the urge to order the steak or a burger, as those sorts of American standbys leave something to desired.
What to Do
Punta Cana Resort offers all the usual suspects -- poolside/beachside drinking, a full-service spa, tennis, yoga and plenty of excursions, including everything from horseback riding, fishing, and wreck diving to heli-tours.
A visit to the ecological reserve located inside the resort is an absolute must; just a short hike into the woods will lead you to the most breath-taking fresh water lagoons. Situated in the middle of dense, hot, forest, the still water is icy cold, deep turquoise and crystal clear; it was the prettiest water I have ever swum in.
Golf Like a Pro
For the golfer, Punta Cana Resort offers four, five and seven-night all-inclusive golf packages that include their home courses, La Cana and Corales, as well as Punta Espada, which is just minutes away.
La Cana consists of three nine-hole courses designed by P.B. Dye featuring an island green, wooden railroad ties and deep pot bunkers.
Corales features six seaside holes, and a host of equally memorable and challenging inland holes for a robust experience start to finish. And because no round of golf is complete without some drama, the 18th hole has you teeing up over the crashing waves for your final shots of the day. Corales will play host to the Web.com Tour for the next three years.
Punta Espada is by far one of the most awe-inspiring courses I've been to. With dramatic elevation changes throughout and eight holes playing along or over the water, it is easy to get distracted by the beauty of this place.