I had the pleasure of checking out several resorts while I was visiting the Dominican Republic. About half of the resorts in the Punta Cana area are currently open, with many other resorts planning to re-open late November or early December. I honestly feel like now is the time to visit. Punta Cana can be very crowded, but during my visit, occupancy levels were around 10-40% of capacity. Some resorts were very, very quiet and others had quite a bit of their normal entertainment up and running with capacity controls in place. So, something for everyone :)
Sanctuary Cap Cana
Sanctuary is an adult-only resort in the beautiful Cap Cana area. This area is only a 15 minute or so drive from the airport and the main entrance to Cap Cana (which has several resorts) is gated. Sanctuary has several different areas within the resort (including a building that looks like a castle), so it is easy to feel like you have been to more than 1 resort during your stay. The resort is still small enough to be walkable though. The photo above is of one of the suite "balconies". Talk about oceanfront--I would never leave if that was part of my room :) All of the rooms have ocean views and even the lowest category of room is very nice. Sanctuary also has stand alone villas for people who want extra space--they are very popular at the moment and are sold out for the next few months. Sanctuary is doing a very good job with COVID precautions---the restaurant seating has been adjusted to give guests extra room and several options have outdoor seating. Upon arrival, luggage is sanitized and your temperature is taken. Hand sanitizer is offered frequently and plexi glass dividers are in place at reception and concierge desks. The beach is more of a cove than a long stretch of beach and is located on the Caribbean side of the island. This resort is gorgeous very sophisticated, but the vibe is more chill than some other options (this can be a positive or a negative) Some resort photos are below.
Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara
This property is divided into 2 sections---Ziva is the family friendly side and Zilara is the adult-only. If you are staying staying at Zilara, you have access to everything (restaurants, pool, beach, etc) on the Ziva side and adults also have the option of visiting the Zilara side (but children are not allowed to visit Zilara). These resorts are also in Cap Cana. I think one of the main reasons to choose Hyatt is the excellent food choices. All of my clients that stay here love the food. The buffet options (one on each side) are currently open, but staff have to serve you the options you request. The al la carte restaurants are capacity controlled, but with the lower occupancy levels, it is easy to get in to the restaurant of your choice. The pools at Hyatt are large with plenty of room to spread out. There are fire pit areas on both sides that are popular at night...with bars very close. The beach is a long and on the Caribbean side. Hyatt is taking COVID seriously and are giving people plenty of space at their entertainment venues. I am not a gym person, but if you are, Hyatt is your place! This gym area is HUGE. There are several rooms with equipment and weights, a section dedicated to CrossFit, space for yoga as well as spinning. The hours are reduced because of COVID (used to be 24/7), but the gym is still open longer than other resorts. They also have a water park--some of the larger slides are even for adults (or older kids)...and they have food trucks so you don't have to walk back to the main part of the resort if you get hungry or thirsty (no alcohol here).
Secrets Cap Cana
This is the 3rd resort I saw in the Punta Cana area---they are all within about a 5 minute drive of one another. Secrets is an adult-only resort that is part of a chain. You can find Secrets resorts throughout the Caribbean and Mexico. Some people like that they are a chain as the restaurants and bars are all the same across properties. There are local specialties at each resort (like the best fresh passion fruit juice I've ever tasted!). Secrets was the busiest resort I visited and they were at about 40% of capacity. They are taking all of the COVID precautions. Secrets is broken down into the regular resort and a preferred club. The preferred club has been selling out because the rooms have more space than regular rooms....and we all want as much space as we can get at the moment. The wedding program is up and running again and they have adjusted some locations to make sure there is plenty of social distancing. There are several pools and a gorgeous long stretch of beach. This was the one resort where I saw plexi glass at all bars...so it is safer to go get drinks and chat with the bar staff.
Iberostar Bavaro Beach
This resort has several resorts in one...so this really isn't the resort name, but it helps decipher the location. I was able to visit Iberostar Selection Bavaro and the Coral Level at Selection Bavaro. Iberostar Punta Cana, Dominicana and Grand Bavaro were all still closed. The resorts at this location vary from 3 star to 5 star---Punta Cana is the lowest option and you are only able to use the amenities at that resort. However, if you stay somewhere like the Coral Level, you can use the amenities at that resort as well as resorts lower than that category (so everything except Grand Bavaro...at Grand Bavaro you can visit all of the resorts). Iberostar has the strictest COVID entry requirements of my visit --- the driver and I had to have our temperature taken in the vehicle at the entrance and then again in the lobby. The machine in the lobby required you to be close to have your temperature taken (no thermal cameras here--that is what most other resorts have so you don't even know they are taking your temperature). This resort is quite large and most people use golf carts to get around. They require you to use hand sanitizer before getting in the cart and they have capacity controls in place. The grounds are very nice and very green. They also have a golf course on site---it is about a 5 to 10 minute golf cart ride from the reception desk (depending on which resort you are staying). Golf is not included for most of the resorts (it is included for some rooms at Grand Bavaro). The beach is wide open and has plenty of space. I was a little surprised about the dining options---Iberostar typically is all or mostly all buffet restaurants---and now even with COVID, they are continuing. Guests have to wear a mask in the buffet area and social distance. The portions are all grab and go or prepared at a station. The tables are all set up with social distancing in mind and during my lunch time visit, there were plenty of tables to space out.
Hard Rock Punta Cana
This resort is one of the largest in Punta Cana with 1,775 rooms. I have never visited a resort this large before and it certainly is immense...and they are expanding to include a water park scheduled to open Summer 2021. The resort has a huge array of things to do---from a casino to recording studios, as well as a huge shopping area. Many options are included in the all inclusive package, but some are available at an extra cost. Like Hard Rock Cafes, the theme is all music related and there is music memorabilia throughout the resort. I noticed Hard Rock didn't have as many COVID precautions in place as the other resorts I saw, but they are requiring social distancing. I don't have as many photos because my tour was by golf cart and we didn't stop---drive by photos never turn out all that well. The beach is beautiful and is a long white sand one where you could walk for some distance. There are many pools, so you have plenty of options. While you could walk the property, it would likely be a 15 to 20 minute walk from reception to the ocean. Most people take the shuttle golf cart or you can rent your own private golf cart if you don't want to have to wait (or to share with others). There are lots of restaurants and bars here to give you plenty of variety. There is more of a party-vibe here than the other resorts I saw (can be a positive or negative).
Please message me when you are ready to plan your trip to the Dominican Republic. I am a Certified Dominican Republic specialist and have exclusive perks at many of these resorts.
Tracey is the owner of Unraveled Travel and has traveled to every continent except Antarctica.