Best bang-for-your-buck all-inclusives in the Dominican Republic
Travel dollars can go far in the Dominican Republic, especially at the country’s hundreds of all-inclusive resorts, where most costs are built into the rates. For travelers who’d rather not have to get their wallet involved every time they want to have a meal, grab a drink or take a catamaran out for a spin, all-inclusives can be a pretty sweet setup.
Here are the ones in the D.R. that deliver the best value for the price. Prices are based on average rates for a standard room, as of March 2018.
Year after year, party people (and their kids) return to this 516-room mega-resort in Puerto Plata. Iberostar Costa Dorada’s buffets and three a la carte restaurants are said to far exceed the average all-inclusive fare, and its hard-working animation team (especially Justin Bieber, Mickey Mouse, and Pepsi Cola) earns the praises of just about everyone. In addition to surprisingly good food and entertainment, Iberostar Costa Dorada has beautiful grounds with roaming peacocks, orchids and ponds with flamingos and turtles. Rooms are more outdated Holiday Inn than luxury chic (prepare yourself for squiggle-print bedspreads and clunky old furniture), but their minibars are stocked daily and the safes are free. Though the rooms and common areas could stand a refresh, the resort as a whole is in excellent condition. The beach, with its soft golden sand, is huge, but the water is less thrilling — brownish-green with only slight visibility (not ideal for snorkeling). From $137/night.
While most all-inclusives in the D.R. are all about the beach, the non-beachfront Memories Splash Punta Cana has a different angle. Here, it’s all about the water park — the biggest at any resort in the Caribbean — where admission is free for guests (and expensive for day-trippers). Memories’ guests zip down tube slides, run under enormous suspended buckets of water, and brave the oncoming surges of water in the wave pool. The park evidently outshines the ocean, if you go by the number of people there versus the beach. To reach the beach, guests can hop a free, frequent shuttle to the next-door Royalton Punta Cana, Memories’ newer, pricier sister property. From $173/night.
Though it has nearly 200 more rooms than Memories, the 708-room Ocean Blue & Sand still isn’t that big by Punta Cana standards. Nevertheless, the hotel packs as much as it can into its beachfront footprint: a hopping pool complex with a dance-club feel and free aerobics classes, a restaurant-packed central plaza (styled after an idealized Caribbean town), a free kids’ club, and a teen center with a bowling alley. Seaweed and significant erosion subtract from the small beach’s appeal, but the hotel tries to offset this with free non-motorized water sports and a climbing wall. All rooms have free minibars, free Wi-Fi, and free room service during certain hours. From $174/night.
Sunscape Dominican Beach Punta Cana is a laid-back all-inclusive that opened on El Cortecito beach in 2016. It shares its amenities (restaurants, spa, beach, and pools) with the next-door Sunscape Bavaro Beach Punta Cana, but this property feels calmer and less crowded than its more active neighbor. The 457 modern rooms have coffeemakers with free coffee and minibars stocked with beer, soda, and water, as well as free room service. Wi-Fi is available in all guest rooms, but it’s only free in the upgraded Sun Club rooms. Sadly, the oceanfront directly in front of the resort is blighted by erosion barriers. On the plus side, non-motorized water sports (Hobie Cats, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards) and waiter service on the beach are both free, and it’s a two-minute walk in either direction to gorgeous, unspoiled beaches. From $138/night.
Like other Princess properties in Punta Cana, Tropical Princess Beach Resort & Spa enjoys a prime location on a long, beautiful beach with good swimming conditions. Non-motorized water sports are included in the rates (same for mini-golf, tennis and bikes), and Tropical guests have access to amenities, like the casino, at other Princess locations. The 310 rooms are housed in a series of colorful two-story buildings near the beach and pools. All rooms have small patios, air-conditioning and ceiling fans, and minibars with water and soda (stocked daily) — but no coffeemakers. From $120/night.
Viva Wyndham Dominicus Beach is larger and more affordable than Viva Wyndham Dominicus Palace, its next-door sister resort. On top of its lower rates, the 613-room family-friendly all-inclusive throws in an impressive amount of freebies: non-motorized water sports, 24-hour snacks and afternoon tea (in addition to all meals, of course), a kids’ club, daily activities, live music and dance classes. The central buffet overlooks the water for pretty sunset views, and a la carte options (limited to three dinners per week) include Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, French and Mexican options. From $124/night.
The three-and-a-half-pearl Occidental Punta Cana sits right on Bavaro Beach — Punta Cana’s most popular and full-of-energy stretch of sand. The resort has some aesthetic and quality shortcomings (the spa, for example, is a bit worn), but its relatively low rates and beachfront setting keep it quite busy. All 860 rooms have minibars and either pool-, garden- or ocean-view outdoor spaces; pricier rooms add whirlpool tubs on the balconies. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for Wi-Fi unless you’ve opted for a Royal Level upgrade. Occidental’s three pools include an oceanfront zero-entry pool and a huge party pool with a swim-up bar, and non-motorized water sports at the wide sandy beach are free. There are 11 restaurants to choose from as part of the all-inclusive plan. Bars are scattered throughout the resort, though previous guests have found the all-inclusive drink selections underwhelming. From $142/night.
Located inside the gated Playa Dorada complex, this family-friendly, 425-room resort has a relatively quiet atmosphere and one of the best beaches on the north coast (a water-sports facility helps guests make the most of it). In addition to an above-average buffet, Grand Paradise has two a la cartes and a late-night snack bar. It’s a great value — if you ignore the cheap booze, the minor maintenance issues in the rooms, and the main pool that’s far less flashy than the massive pools at the nearby Iberostar or Grand Oasis Marien resorts. From $91/night.
Set on an appealing stretch of Playa Dorada beach, Be Live Collection Marien is a cheerful mid-range resort where families and couples will feel equally at home. (A zero-entry pool, a kids’ club, and a mini buffet are big pluses for families with little ones, while bars, a late-night disco, and age restrictions in the a la carte restaurants are good for grown-ups.) The resort’s 584 guest rooms are dated but welcoming — the newer Superior Deluxe Rooms are significantly more polished — and all come with coffeemakers and daily-refreshed minibars with free water, beer, and soda. Be wary that surcharges for in-room Wi-Fi, use of a personal safe, and some a la carte dining can add up. From $88/night.
As part of a large, three-resort complex, the 355-room Be Live Experience Hamaca Garden offers all the expected amenities of a beachy all-inclusive resort and a boisterous atmosphere. The resort is serviced by five full restaurants — four a la cartes and one buffet, plus a snack bar — and has three well-maintained outdoor pools (one with a swim-up bar) and a hot tub. While Be Live Experience Hamaca Garden offers no beach of its own, its guests are welcome to use the private beach across the street at the adjacent sister property, Be Live Collection Hamaca. Unfortunately, there is no free Wi-Fi available anywhere on the property. Guests can purchase in-room Wi-Fi, however, but the rate is pricey and per-day. Somewhat surprisingly, the resort also charges an additional fee for use of its in-room safes — an all-but-necessary security feature given the dicey surrounding area. From $89/night.
Hotel Riu Naiboa has the cheapest rates of the five resorts within the Riu complex. Yes, those low rates come at the cost of varied and high-quality food and liquor, but most guests can live with that. They’re here for the gorgeous white-sand beach with water sports and volleyball, the well-maintained pool (with a nice adjacent bar and children’s pool), and family-friendly features like a kids’ club and game room. All 362 rooms have breezy balconies or patios and taps dispensing bottom-shelf booze. Fun perk: guests get free admission to Splash Water World. From $134/night.