Travelling somewhere tropical with the whole family, (especially when it’s winter in Canada) makes for a great getaway. What makes it even better is grabbing a few of your besties and their family to get the best of both your world’s together – a girls weekend meets family vacation.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic is surrounded by white sandy beaches, stunning sunsets and spectacular views. Located in Bavaro, less than 18-miles from the Punta Cana Airport you’ll find everything you’ll need for a memorable vacation at the Occidental Punta Cana.
As soon as you arrive at the Occidental, you’ll be greeted by friendly staff and a Bienvenido (that mean’s welcome in Spanish) cocktail, and thus, your vacation begins.
The open space and urban chic lobby feature the main buffet restaurant, El Alcazar. Be sure to ask for Sauel; he’s the guy you’ll want to make friends with as he makes a mean crepe with your choice of toppings including hazelnut spread, banana, custard, peanut butter and more.
The property is shaped like a hexagon, so it’s very easy to get around and learn the lay of the land quite quickly. It features 10 bars and 11 restaurants, 7 of them a la carte including Italian-Via Veneto, La Hacienda-Mexican, and Las Caracolas for seafood. And don’t worry if you’re a late-night snacker, Las Canas and La Fontana Pizzeria offer 24-hour snacks, and from one Italian to another, that was some of the best pizza I’ve ever had.
You’ll also find an incredible spa on-site, perfect for grabbing the girls and enjoying a massage outdoors while listening to sounds of tropical birds and waves crashing against the shore. For the boys, hitting the tennis and basketball courts for a friendly game is a great way to bond. Oh, and for the whole family, make sure to try your hand at archery. It’s a unique feature activity the hotel offers. You’ll enjoy three large pools, one with a snack and wet bar, as well as free non-motorized sports such as kayaking. There’s also a Miniclub for kids. Between the hours of 9 am to 11 pm parents can drop off their kids (ages 4 to 11 years old). They’ll enjoy curated activities like decorating cookies, games on the beach, lunch, poolside activities and entertainment in the theatre such as watching The Lion King. It’s a chance for the kids to play while the adults can indulge in a getaway. All of this is included with your resort fee (now that’s what I call all-inclusive!)
Your nighttime entertainment will not disappoint as each evening features a different theme, all with professional dancers that Barceló Hotel Group brings in for your enjoyment.
Taking it up a Notch
If you really want to get up close and personal with royalty, I suggest splurging and booking the Royal Level. Featuring 52 elegant and spacious rooms with an outdoor soaker tub, perfect for some intimate after-hours stargazing. You’ll also have a private check-in and restaurant dining, with a special seating section at the main buffet. Other Royal Level Lounge perks include private beach area with premium bar service, Jacuzzis, free internet service, premium amenities and turndown service.
Now, you will want to go exploring so grab the kids and your friends and spend the day on an Adventure Boogies excursion – bookable via Vacaciones Barceló in advance of your trip or on-property. You’ll spend the day touring around rural areas driving over different terrains in an ATV vehicle with four-wheel-drive. You’ll hit several stops along the way including a jump into a refreshing cenote (natural pool) admiring the intricate details of the cave. Next, you’ll take an Indigenous tour and witness a traditional Taino ceremony and if you’re lucky, take part in it. The Taino tribe are the first people of the Dominican Republic. From here, learn about the island’s biggest exports: rum, cigars and cocoa. Coffee and cocoa beans are known to reduce your appetite and help weight loss, cardiovascular health, blood clotting, and aid in building strong bones. I hope you left some room in your luggage.
You can’t visit the DR without trying the island’s signature drink- Mamajuana. It’s made from wine, honey, rum and…wood chips. Next, you’ll visit a real Dominican home and see how the locals live. The house I visited was graciously hosted by Gladys, who was kind enough to show us her home and treat us with some cold beverages and snacks. Your last stop on tour is the beautifully stunning, turquoise coloured beach of Macao.
Once you’ve returned to the Occidental Punta Cana, there will be no shortage of places to eat and fill your belly after a long day filled with adventure. One last stop on the property that would be an excellent way to cheers a well-celebrated vacation among the adults is visiting the discotheque, Mangú. Open from 11 pm-2 am you’ll dance the night away to your favourite tunes while enjoying a mamajuana (or two).
It’s a trip to remember getting to explore this beautiful island with your family alongside your friends, where years from now you’ll be enjoying a nice glass of wine reciting the words, “remember when we…”
*The author was a guest of the Occidental Punta Canada and visited the resort and surrounding area in November 2019.