Family Friendly Hard Rock Punta Cana


A pool at Hard Rock Punta Cana
Hard Rock Resort Punta Cana

You may have eaten at a Hard Rock Café, but have you stayed at one of the Hard Rock Hotel properties? There are several of them ranging from Cancun to Las Vegas. The one I visited with my family is in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, a 2016 World Travel Award Winner. This is an exceptionally well-run and well-managed resort “all inclusive” , with an almost endless supply of pools (there are 11, all with varying themes), with very good food and, more importantly, a never-ending stream of activities that mean there’s never a dull moment. Our room offered the suite life with a large balcony and a hot tub in the middle of the room. Bathrooms were large and well laid out.

With the dozen pools, you are sure to find one that is to your liking. For the younger kids, there was the family pool with water slides. For the very young, a wading pool next to it. There was a pool that played loud rock music, and another playing Mexican music. My wife and I hung out at the all adults pool called Eden.

One of the most active pools was directed at the teens and young adults. They always had some rock music blaring and were doing the typical games and prizes you might find at other resorts. The picture at the head of this blog was taken from that pool, the largest one on the property.

There are 9 restaurants at the property, so you can have dinner with a different menu each night. Some of the restaurants included Italian, Caribbean, Brazilian, Steakhouse, Mexican, and Tepanyaki. You are bound to find more than one that that you love. The food was good and varied, but we were surprised that there was no traditional Hard Rock Cafe on the property.

Many all inclusive resorts are not really ALL inclusive. This one does include alcohol beverages. When you arrive, they place a colored wristband on you that indicates the tourist status and also whether old enough to drink alcohol. Then your kids can go to any bar and get served if they are old enough. There are beverages in the room refrigerator, including beer. And there is a drink station in each room that pours vodka, gin, and rum. All this is at no extra charge. Resort guest VIP’s get a wristband that allows them in to one exclusive pool and restaurant that the other guests cannot use.

This property is huge. There are many different locations of pools, restaurants, activities and the long distances can mean a time consuming walk. If you prefer not to walk, there are shuttles that will take you from area to area.

They have a big concert arena location and bring in major rock acts from time to time. We did not have a concert while we were there, but all of the Hard Rock resorts bring in famous rock acts from time to time.

As in other locations, this resort houses a great rock and roll museum. The collection rotates so you never know what you are going to see when you are there. In the lobby of the resort, there was a Lincoln limo used by Madonna and adorned in silver tiles. This was the centerpiece of the collection there with attire and musical instruments from top rock musicians.

The resort offers promotions to draw in tourists. One of the most common is the “Resort Credit” promotion. The resort credit can seem to be substantial. For our visit of one week, the resort credit was $1800. However the credit can not be used in the Casino, for external tours, or for most of the shops at the resort. Rather, the credit must be used for Spa, water sports, Hard Rock Store, etc. These prices are often marked up substantially. And in using the credit, you had to pay a 20% service fee. So for a 50 minute massage, priced at $160, you had to pay $32. Now this does not mean that the credits are worthless, but that their true value is less than the amount you are getting for credit. So don’t consider the price of the trip as being the amount you paid, less the credit they give you. Many other all inclusives have the resort credit promotion, and most run similar to the one at this property, so get and read the fine print before you make your final decision.

Our family had a wonderful time at the Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana. I do highly recommend this property to families. The Hard Rock Punta Cana was damaged during Hurricane Maria in September 2017, but the property was able to recover fully for their guests within weeks.

Traveling to Punta Cana from Minnesota. Delta and Sun Country  have a five hour non stop from Minneapolis. American and United connect through their hubs. There is a short 30 minute ride from the airport to the Hard Rock Resort.


Can You Travel to Cuba? Yes, But …

Travel agencies like ours have been sending US travelers to Cuba for years under the people to people program. This program, run by the US Office of Foreign Assets requires at least 8 hours of approved interaction with the Cuban people per day. This is not a tourist program. There is no allowance for beach time or shopping. In fact, there is still a ban on most Cuban goods. And there is a ban on doing any business with an entity connected to the Cuban Military, which includes many hotels, shops and other tourism companies.

It is true that the icy relationship between the two countries had  been thawing. We have an embassy in Havana, and President Obama visited in 2016. The Trump administration has made significant reversals to the previous administration’s policy to restrict flow of money to Cuba, but still allows US travelers to visit Cuba under restrictions. The executive branch can make changes. But it will take an act of Congress to determine when and how far we normalize relations. Prior to the Obama changes, you had to be part of a group of approved travelers, with guides that kept you on a strict agenda. Under Obama’s changes, you could travel as an individual for the people to people program. Under the Trump changes, you cannot travel as an individual. You can travel with a group. We can arrange to get you setup with a group, but you still have to deal with the restrictions, which will be audited for compliance. And there are specific rules and record keeping requirements. Therefore, for the near future, you will need to arrange travel through a network of experts in Cuban travel. There are several cruise companies that provide tours of Cuba, and we recommend those as many of the hotels on the island are not allowed for US citizens to use, and the remaining hotels are full or not recommended by us.

Demand for Cuban travel is up. However the tourist infrastructure within Cuba has not kept pace with the ramp up in demand. Therefore, expect that many of the accommodations are already booked up months ahead. Prices are high because of limited supply. Flights into Cuba are still limited. And ground services and guides are similarly limited. And for US citizens, as mentioned above, there will be many hotels and tour companies that you cannot use, based on rules from the Trump administration.

If you want to do a tour under the people to people program this year or next, be flexible with your dates, expect to pay much more than you would for a typical Caribbean trip, and expect that your activities will be extremely limited.

The Trump administration may make additional policy changes after the ones they did in June and November 2017, and if so, we will update this. Please do not book independent air travel to Cuba without first arranging your group plans and documentation and understanding what you can and can not do in Cuba. There are currently 12 activities approved by the US Government for travel to Cuba, and entering as a tourist is not approved at this time and is not likely to change anytime soon. Our recommendation, for travel to Cuba under the people to people group program is to travel on a cruise ship. We have details on all those ships and itineraries. The travel policies for Cuba are likely to evolve over time and travelers must keep up with any updates. The US Embassy website in Cuba will have the latest details.

Best time to travel to Cuba is December to May when you are most likely to see sunny skies. You want to avoid the hurricane season from June to November. As mentioned above, travel to Cuba is restricted, but we can give you the options and pricing. Just call us. 612-332-1100.