This past week I had the pleasure of traveling to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Being from New York, I know a lot of people and actually have family members who are Dominican, but I’ve never explored the island.
My fiancé and I decided that we needed a quick get-away and Punta Cana was our first choice. So how did I find the all-inclusive resort, Occidental? I did a lot of research. My first search term was “best all-inclusive in Punta Cana”. Several great resorts popped up but the prices were insane. So then my next search term was “inexpensive all-inclusive in Punta Cana”. Out of those resorts that popped up, I then selected the best rating out of the bunch.
Occidental’s pictures looked nice and I saw that they had a heavy influencer push last year. It was recently acquired by Barcelo and had the offer of if you signed up for VIP, you would receive a discount. So, of course, I did that and upgraded our room to the junior suite where we would be considered “first club” members. I’m so glad that I did that. As a First Club member, you enjoy access to the bars on the beach, a private members-only section and better seating in the buffet.
ROOM. Our Junior Suite was the size of a New York one bedroom apartment. We had a jacuzzi tub on our deck and a large king-sized bed. Our mini bar was only stocked with two beers, two cokes, two sprites, and a large water. I’ve been to other all inclusive with a larger variety of alcoholic beverages. They did leave a nice sized bottle of rum that we barely finished, so I guess from past guest experiences they decided to limit the items in the room. Also with the beach right outside of your window with a bar, you really shouldn’t be in your room.
FOOD. At Occidental, you have the option to make dinner reservations at the restaurants located on the resort or go to one of the buffets. The first night we missed the buffet and reservations so we ate by the pool and had fries and chicken which were delicious. We normally live a pescatarian lifestyle, but we were hungry lol! The next day we made a reservation at the Mexican restaurant but we’re way too tired from our excursion and opted for the buffet instead, which was delicious. The buffet had several different options from the Dominican Republic and a “taste” from other countries too. Since we were First Club members, we sat in a great section close to the buffet and had a waitress who served us wine and champagne. The third night we went to the seafood restaurant. The food was yummy but the portions were so small so we ended up back at the buffet. From that experience, we decided to do the buffet the remainder of the trip. Breakfast was my favorite meal of the day every day because I love omelets!
ONSITE ACTIVITIES. The resort has several pools and a beach. Every night at 8pm there is a show in their outdoor theater. During the day there is music and bars serving margaritas and literally any drink you can think of. One day there was a foam party, that we missed, we were again exhausted from the excursion, shame because I’m sure it was lit! The second day we enjoyed our time at the Spa. We did a couples massage. I enjoyed a facial too. The spa was a paid for activity. The pricing is similar (but cheaper) to Bliss Spa. The resort has a main lobby where all the men gathered for the NBA finals. It’s like all of the women were dragged there lol. I’m never booking a trip during the finals. “Despacito” played twice and it was ignored by fiancé because Lebron was losing.
EXCURSIONS. Disclaimer. Only purchase your excursions through the hotel. We met a nice Canadian couple who were scammed on the beach. They purchased an excursion and they never showed up. They complained to the hotel and received a complimentary excursion the next day.
We had no clue of what types of excursions we wanted to do so we let the resort team explain to us our options. We decided to go with the Soana Island day trip, the Sea Aquarium, and Coco Bongo.
The Soana Island is located two hours from Punta Cana and is on the side of the Caribbean Sea. Punta Cana is on the Atlantic Ocean side. On our way to the island, we stopped at Villa Hermosa which has a great amphitheater. According to our tour guide, the richest on the island live in this area. En route to Soana, we stopped at a natural pool in the middle of the ocean. The water only comes up midway on your body. We enjoyed an open bar and partied for about an hour. We finally made it to the island where we had a delicious buffet, open bar, and access to the gorgeous beach. I took a lovely nap on the beach. We then partied in a catamaran back to the bus. What a day! This was the day that we missed the foam party and our Mexican dinner reservation lol.
The Seaquarium was a very cool experience. They place a helmet on your head that provides oxygen while you are submerged 12 feet into the sea. We walked around fish (one bite me) and was able to see the coral reef. They had a bottle filled with food to draw the pool of fish near us. It was an amazing experience. We snorkeled next to the Seaquarium and we’re able to see the same fish. After that, they took us to the natural pool where we enjoyed another open bar. We were pretty lit at that point when they gathered us up and had us swim with the sharks. There was one shark at the bottom of the enclosed sea section where he looked like he was sleeping. The stingray was swimming around and a larger one was at the bottom not doing much. I’m wondering if they were given something to not attack us. We headed back to land on the boat where we had an open bar filled with Mama Juana and a ham & cheese sandwich.
Did you know that there are only three Coco Bongos? One in Cancun, Punta Cana, and Playa del Carmen. This Coco Bongo is a bit smaller than the Cancun one but has the same level of turn up. If you haven’t been to a Coco Bongo then I don’t want to spoil it for you. Just know that it’s a good time!
NOT A TIMESHARE. Okay with some good comes some bad. I had an amazing time, the only hiccup in the trip was a 90-minute session that we were told to sit through to receive $70 in resort credit and a free tote bag. The men who work on the grounds come up to you really personable in efforts to book this appointment. We both knew that this had timeshare written all over it, but like other guests, we wanted the resort credit and the tote bag. We arrived at the Vacation Club and had to bring our identification and a credit card so they can see if we had one. Side eye. We were then greeted by a woman who started to ask us about all of our business. “How many years have Y’all lived together? What is your combined monthly salary? How often do you travel? Do you have children? (To my fiancé) You look Dominican, are you?” Okay at that point I said ma’am these are too many questions. How much is this timeshare? She immediately yelled “Assistance”. So a British man walked over. He started asking the same questions. I said, sir, these questions are too invasive. He caught an attitude and said this is an exclusive club and you have to receive an invite to get in. That’s when my fiancé was like okay we’ve listened enough can I see the print material to read about your offering? He called “Assistance”. Another man walked over who claimed to be the overall manager. He said that this is their anniversary and like a happy hour we can only get this deal today. We both said okay what is the deal? They then proceeded to ask us more invasive questions. My fiancé said do you all have a website? They said no. Lies. My fiancé then said that we do not commit to anything if we cannot read and research about it. We all collectively agreed that we needed to go. That lasted for 30 minutes. We did not get the resort credit or tote bag. Moral of this story, don’t waste your time with the meeting unless you really are interested in a timeshare.
All in all, my time in Punta Cana was amazing. I felt relaxed and have memories that we last us a lifetime. I will give this resort 4 out of 5 stars. They lost a star because of the timeshare fiasco and the WiFi and water both went in and out the whole week. Not sure if it was a resort issue or an island one.