We recently returned from our very 1st All-Inclusive vacay as a family of six! Our destination – the glorious Punta Cana with a 7 day stay at the highly recommended, luxurious Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. We got back to Toronto with ice storms and slush, so you could say we’re missing the warmth and sunshine somethin’ fierce!
All Inclusive vacations for a family of our size are, admittedly, not at all cheap, but no matter your family size and resort selection, when you invest in travel, you hope you’ve made the right choice for your family’s ultimate enjoyment and needs.
We are so happy to say that Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana met and even exceeded our expectations in some areas. While we don’t have other hotels in Punta Cana to compare it to, I say why mess with what you already know is a REALLY good thing?
So, we want to share four reasons you should consider this resort for your next family vacation if planning to visit this stunning location!
1) The Accommodations & Atmosphere
The whole rock & roll vibe of the resort was right up our ally, and the fabulous accommodations make even the most modest feel like rock star royalty.
We’ll start with our review of the rooms since large family accommodation in the Caribbean is hard to find and we were pretty happy about the options and variety Hard Rock PC offered.
We were assigned the resort’s Signature Family Suite…1,700 sq. ft of awesomeness! The Suite was comprised of 2 spacious bedrooms (1 with a King bed, 1 with 2 double beds), 1 master ensuite, 1 small bathroom, family room, a dining area, kitchenette, Hydro Spa tub, large glass enclosed showers, and ENORMOUS balcony! They had an extra single bed sleeper already waiting for us too without asking to extend the sleeping possibilities. The Signature Family Suites have a garden view, which was lovely and quiet (which parents will appreciate once the littles finally settle for the day). We think families and large groups will love the variety of room options ranging from 1 – 3 bedrooms and 700- over 7000 sq. ft!
Upon arrival, there were waterplay toys waiting for the younger kids (buckets, shovels, water wings, beach balls) – such a nice gesture since we bypassed bringing our own to save room in our luggage. The kids enjoyed them all week!
A well-stocked mini bar with the entire family’s faves (juice, water, domestic beer, & more) was another perk, as were the two Large screen TVs, video gaming for kids and robes & slippers for both kids & adults. They really made us feel like we were living that Rockstar lifestyle!
We also had a lovely rose-petal and heart-towel arrangement waiting for us, as Andrew and I would be renewing our vows while on this vacation (will share that experience in another post). Later in the week came champagne & chocolate cake. Outside of weddings/vow renewals, we hear they do special surprises for birthdays too.
Note: the hotel opened in 2011. The rooms and hallways are showing signs of some dating. Want to put that out there for those who equate luxury with pristine conditions. However, the fact this hotel is one of the most sought after in the Caribbean, and arguably in Punta Cana, considering the high traffic and fact it usually operates near max capacity all year long, the buildings and surrounding lush grounds were impressively maintained.
Music lovers will appreciate the lyrics inscribed around the rooms (and prominently placed around the hotel) and put you in upbeat spirits. We may be parents now, but still love the high-vibe energy the entire resort emulates and seeing our favourite rock stars of past and present memorialized around the resort was pretty cool.
We stayed in section 3 B (Room 3209), which was a short walk to the main lobby and many of the best restaurants, in our opinion. The resort is MASSIVE, and the family suite area is set back from the ocean/pools, but we didn’t mind the 10-minute walk to get to the water, and on days the kids were pooped, we’d just hop on the trams that run all day around the resort with lots of convenient stops. We’d definitely be happy to stay in this section again.
The hotel was at full capacity when we were there and you really wouldn’t know it. There are 1790 rooms, but even at max capacity, we had no problem finding lounge chairs, being seated for meals, accessing the bar for drinks, etc.
Another bonus parents will appreciate – restrooms EVERYWHERE! The resort is HUGE, and you’d need to walk only a few minutes to find the next restroom.
And the beach? Breathtaking and probably the nicest we’ve ever laid our bare feet on! The stretch of sand before you even hit the ocean is vast and wide. Even at full capacity, there was TONS of space to layout. The small palapas did get taken quite quickly, so if you need shade for your gang, you might want to do the whole drop your towels early in the mornings on the chairs thing many people did. We hit the beach around 11 a.m. most days, and after a bit of a search, always found one, so I say, don’t stress. There’s also the option of paying for a Cabana (I get to that a bit further below).
2) The Food
We have a few very picky eaters in our bunch and not a day passed without each of our hunger pangs more than satisfied with the selection and variety offered of the resort.
We dined at Ciao every morning for their buffet breakfast (endless options including your typical American breakfast offerings, but also a beautiful variety of cheeses, fruits, yogurts, bread [including gluten free for those interested). Our gang loved the smoothie bar too, and if you’re so inclined, mimosas were a daily offering! Andrew and I appreciated the omelet bar and the large variety of healthy options for the whole family. Other options include in-room dining or buffet brekkie at The Market. We found Ciao a bit quieter than The Market so favoured it each morning.
During the day, we needn’t go further than a few steps from the kids’ pool to grab quick grub – burgers, fries, hotdogs, chicken nuggets, and my daily staple – nachos & guac! They also had a self-serve ice cream machine with soft-serve chocolate, vanilla or mix options. Guess what our kids had on repeat ALL DAY LONG?! All good…somethin’ about stepping away from the daily grind and vacation mommy & daddy comes out…”eat whatever you want kiddos!”
Near what I’ll call the “party pool” (where #IROCKHARDROCK sign is), BBQ meats, pizza and other quick eats could be enjoyed also.
Our top picks for dinner – Ciao (Italian), Isla (for surf & turf) Los Gallos and Zen (for a fun, interactive Teppanyaki experience). Highly recommend the Beet Salad and Chicken Parm dinner from Ciao, the Lobster from Isla, and the Fajitas from Los Gallos. The teppanyaki experience of Zen offers rice, a medley of vegetables and chicken, steak and/or shrimp all prepped before your eyes, and delicious to taste. Our chef made the interactive experience highly entertaining.
Note: While there are no food allergies in our crew, we did see families with allergy concerns being accommodated, which is always a really great thing to see. I would suggest contacting the hotel ahead of time because with food allergies in our extended family who recently visited, we do know a few restaurants were suggested to avoid to ensure no cross-contamination.
As a family who loves some good zah, don’t underestimate the smaller eateries. We found the stone-oven pizza from Pizzeto phenomenal and enjoyed it in-room on our last night while we packed up (le sigh).
And one of our most favourite good-eats perks – 24-hour room service! This option came in quite handy with our late arrival our first night and hangry everybody! Burgers, fries & drinks for the save!
3) The People
In our opinion, the Dominican people are wonderful, and the staff at this resort were incredible, friendly and always happy to accommodate our every need (which wasn’t much, since they seem to be one step ahead in most areas). We found the staff super tolerant of children and always willing to make sure our entire family was taken care of.
4) The Amenities
Hardrock attracts tons of multi-generational groups, and it’s no wonder why. The menu of amenities and activities is one of the best in the entire Caribbean: 13 pools, a kids waterpark, the Casino, the spa, the arcade, the daily activities, the nightlife, the kids club, the Nicklaus designed golf course – there’s truly something for everyone. And apparently for 2018, the addition of Woodward Punta Cana which will offer a chance to snowboard and snow ski, along with a skate and BMX park, hip-hop dance program, trampoline, a Digital Media Camp and more. Our kids are pretty pumped about those additions!
Also, for parents looking for some adults-only time in paradise, the resort has a pretty rockin’ Kids Club for kids ages 4-12 years old. A dance studio, construction zone, themed activities and singing/dancing/dress up for the littlest rock starts. We didn’t take advantage during our stay since our youngest was just 2.5 years old, and the kids were happy to all hang together with us during our stay. We had no trouble keeping the kids entertained without it. We did check out the facility (which has a sign in/out process) and would consider it for a future stay. They’re also opening up the Hard Rock Roxcity Kids Club soon, which looks full of exciting stuff for the kiddos.
Depending on your length of stay, you’ll receive a resort credit to use for heavily discounted activities during your stay. To be honest, we chose to go at a slower, but still enjoyable pace this time around and didn’t take advantage of the plethora of off-site excursions & onsite activities, so didn’t use much of this option. You should also know there’s a 20% out-of-pocket service fee to any amount you redeem from your resort credit, so be aware of this before redeeming your limit (For instance, our credit was $1800, so had we spent the full amount, we would have paid $360 USD extra upon checkout). But on the plus side, if excursions are your thing, you’d definitely be saving some loot exchanging your credit for the experience.
And no worries if you need a break from livin’ like a Rockstar – so many opportunities for relaxation. The beach is stunning, wide and quiet, and you can use your resort credit to rent a cabana for the day (approx.. $200 USD). The Rock Spa has an alluring menu, and some services can be enjoyed in-room (at a surcharge) if a more intimate setting is favoured.
Also, if loud music and all-day hype by the pool isn’t your thing, there are many options to lay poolside in quieter surroundings. We spent most days by the kids’ pool & waterpark and found it a nice mix of music and chill. There are private pools for members only – which we aren’t, but would definitely consider since we’d love to return to this resort again.
Families will also love the easy access to hygiene and everyday essentials from shops scattered throughout the resort. Don’t expect bargain prices, though – you can expect your typical gouging from the option of convenience (an extra bottle of sunscreen cost $20 USD…ouch!).
And, of course…what about the WiFi? Totally reliable, consistent access all throughout the resort! I know, vacations are a good time to disconnect, but having internet access to plan our days while lounging by the pool and staying connected with our wedding planner and family back home proved advantageous.
Tips & Good To Know Facts:
1) This hotel is popular and pricey! But, with a lot of price monitoring, we were able to book our trip thousands of dollars less by avoiding peak periods (like Christmas & March Break), and staying the 2nd week in April (just after the American Spring Break). We took advantage of post-Christmas price drops and booked online the first week of January. As a large family, I will admit this resort would have been out of reach for us without waiting for a price dips. They do come! Be patient!
2) Bring lifejackets! Despite it being designated as a family resort, we were surprised there were no life jackets and so thankful we read up ahead of time and took the advice to bring our own. If you love the ocean like we do, the water was an unpredictable force of nature – red or yellow flag each day. A bit of a scare in the ocean one day when the water turned quick and our 10-year-old and strong swimmer got caught in a relentless series of waves. There are lifeguards on duty, but trust having them will offer added peace of mind. Having the little ones suited up in their PFDs all day by the pool offered us parents more opportunity to relax and they loved not having us crowd their fun all day.
3) Ciao & Zen restaurants are the only 2 of the nine restaurants on site that require dinner reservations, so if they are on your radar to try, book them shortly after you arrive.
4) This could probably be said for most Caribbean destinations, but seriously pack more sunscreen & UV-safe clothing for the kids than you think you’ll need. The sun is uber-strong, and despite the cute swimsuits I bought all the kids for the trip, they lived in full-sleeve rush guards, waterproof hats and were slathered in sunscreen all day after learning the hard way the first day how mighty the rays are there. We had to stock up on sunscreen & buy an extra rush guard during our stay ($20-25 USD each…yikes!).
5) Mosquitos are an area of concern for travelers to this region, but with the exception of our last few days, we really didn’t notice any and none of us experienced bites. The staff works hard to spray the resort to keep the lil’ buggers away, and they also offer bug spray in your hotel room in case you forget to bring your own.
So, would we return to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana again? It’s a resounding heck-ya and then some! Next time we hope to go with a group of friends and extended family. So many guests at the resort during our stay were repeat vacationers and many became “members”. Repeat business is a really good sign of a great resort, and we hope to be back next year ourselves.
Have you been to this resort? What were your favourite/least favourite things? Is there a question you have about the resort we didn’t cover here? Share below and we’ll address it asap!