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.

 

Sandals Negril Jamaica. Bliss for Couples.

Revised from original November 2014 article and posted again in October 2017.
I have been coming to Jamaica for 39 years but it has been 33 years since I last visited Negril. Ah, Negril, why did I wait so long? I am sitting on the spectacular seven mile beach with Bloody Bay just off to my right by less than a half mile, as I was writing this (in 2014).
I am at the all inclusive Sandals Negril resort. Does working get any better than this? As I write, a server is bringing me my drink from the bar which is only steps away. The dive boat and snorkeling boat go out four times daily to the azure waters of Negril.
The restaurants include a Japanese Teppanyaki, Italian, and Seafood restaurants. The food was quite good, and the service is up to the usual standards of Jamaica. Tourism is the number one business on this former British colony, and the Jamaicans keep us coming back with their friendly attitude.
What I like about all inclusives like Sandals is the complete lack of needing to fork over my money or credit card every moment.. Yes even the booze is free unless you want an expensive wine.
The specialty restaurants are not extra charge like they are on many cruise ships these days. That means no big surprise when you get your bill at the end of your vacation.
This adults only resort caters to the wedding and honeymoon crowd. There were several weddings on the beach while we were there. You can have a romantic dinner for two or massage for two right on the beach. And the top rooms come with your own butler service. The couples ranged in age fro the 20s to the 70s while we were there.
There are three Sandals on Jamaica. Negril, Montego Bay and just outside Ocho Rios. There are exchange privileges at the other resorts.
The owner, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, wanted to bring the Sandals experience to the families of kids, and hence Beaches was born. We visited Beaches Negril one of the days while we were here. Families with kids of any age will find there is plenty of fun at Beaches The Sandals residents have the privileges at any of the Beaches or Sandals properties on Jamaica if they so choose.

While Sandals is a great all-inclusive place to stay while in Jamaica, don’t spend all of your time there. Get out and see this wonderful Caribbean country. Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean and it is incredibly diverse. Negril is located on the western part of the island of Jamaica. Its about an hours drive from Montego Bay. Negril is home to the famous Rick’s Cafe, which is one of the best places to watch the sunset while drinking the local beer, Red Stripe. We chose to take a party catamaran trip over to Rick’s from Sandals, and swam in from the sailboat. Of course, you can take a taxi if you prefer to stay dry. There is a cliff here, and visitors take turns diving off the cliff into the Caribbean sea below. For the insanely adventurists, you can climb a pole and dive from an even greater height. Here is what that looks like … Diving at Ricks.

There is so much to do in Jamaica, you’ll have difficulty making that decision. My personal recommendations are: Rainforest Zip line at Mystic Mountain, The Blue Hole and Secret Falls, Rafting on the Martha Brae river, climbing Dunns River Falls, golfing at one of the 12 championship courses, beach activities, shopping in the craft markets and horseback riding.

Sandals continues to grow the number of resorts it has and the travelers it serves due to their unrelenting focus on delivering a great, upscale experience. They presently have 16 Sandals, and 3 Beaches properties located among seven Caribbean Islands. Under Adam Stewart, CEO and son of founder Butch Stewart, the company is the largest employer in the Caribbean with over 13,000 employees. For those who want an upscale all inclusive beach resort in the Caribbean, we heartily recommend any of the Sandal’s properties. Some even have OVER WATER accommodations! Those sell out early, so keep that in mind when booking.

Getting There: Connecting flights from MSP to Montego Bay, Jamaica are offered by Delta, Sun Country, United, Air Canada, and American. You can arrange for transport to the resort from the airport in advance. Best time to travel to Negril is December through May.

You may want to avoid the June to November time period when you could encounter a hurricane or tropical storm, but at that time you can get a great bargain on your vacation. Getting there from Minneapolis is easy. There are non stops from MSP and connecting flights via Atlanta, Miami and others to Montego Bay. Traveling from Montego Bay to Negril will take about 75 minutes by van. Although Kingston also has an international airport, but not recommended for travel to Montego Bay or Negril. There is a new tollway that opened recently and now traveling to Ocho Rios from Kingston is only 30 minutes longer than Montego Bay to Ocho Rios, making that airport an option for some. Tired of searching all the reviews and web sites to find your perfect vacation? Let the experts at Schilling travel help you. Call 612-332-1100, check out www.schillingtravel.com or email us at inquiry @ schillingtravel.com.