If you live anywhere in the Northeast United States, you already know that February is the perfect month to escape bone chilling winter temperatures and live in the tropics for at least a week. My wife and I received our first passports back in 2005 and it's been exactly 10 years since the last time we used them to visit another part of this world. Flying to the Dominican Republic in mid-February couldn't have come at a better time.
We flew into Punta Cana on Sunday, February 8th at 4:30pm. Before landing, the flight attendant passed out immigration sheets that needed to be completed for customs. One for each individual and one for the entire family (in our case, just the two of us). Every person entering Punta Cana DR must purchase a tourist card, which cost $10 USD as of 2-8-2015, before entering customs. Be sure to bring a lot of singles (dollar bills). I recommend bringing about $100 in USD dollar bills for tipping throughout your stay. I always tipped a dollar every time I ordered a drink, food, or any type of service that the resort staff delivered. The staff at Excellence is absolutely phenomenal and they deserve every dollar they earn. The native language in the Dominican Republic is Spanish and I advise learning a few Spanish words before planning your first trip. A good amount of resort employees do speak English (some really broken) but knowing a little of the Spanish language is very helpful for all.
Shortly after exiting customs we were greeted by our taxi driver who was holding a sign with our names on it. I never got the taxi drivers name but he was extremely nice, talked very little English, and most likely drove on some type of NASCAR circuit at some point in his lifetime. In other words, we arrived to our destination, which happens to be the furthest resort from the airport, in a little under thirty minutes. Warp speed!
We entered the Excellence Resort through a security guard station and drove down a long driveway that passed a few resort shops located on the right as well as a large garden on the left side that hosted flamingos, parrots, egrets, a green heron, and a few other birds. Upon exiting our taxi, the resort host gave us a warm greeting, helped us with our bags, and had glasses of champagne ready for my wife and I. This is when we realized, WE'RE ON VACATION!
We stayed in a junior ocean view suite that was located on the far north end of the resort. If you're on the beach looking at the resort, this would be on your right side. The view wasn't quite ocean view as you can see in the photo (which was taken from our balcony) but needless to say, it was still an excellent view. You can see the ocean through the palm trees and pool huts.
Hungry from our trip, Jennifer and I had our first resort meal at The Grill. We did not just choose this one of ten restaurants on the resort due to proximity, we choose it because we wanted to dine outside. After recently escaping Ohio temperatures hovering in the low teens, there was no way I was going to dine indoors after enjoying the feeling of pleasant tropic temperatures warming our northern blood. This was also the first place where I had the pleasure to experience my first coco loco drink. I highly recommend sipping on a coco loco during your visit.
Dining dress code: be sure to bring something more than just shorts, t-shirts, and swimming attire. Some of the restaurants, mostly for dinner, require pants and a casual/dress shirt. I brought a pair of black dress pants and a couple of button shirts but I also got away with jeans and a nice polo. Just keep this in mind as you pack for your trip.
Entertainment was excellent! Every night, at 9pm, a performance show of very talented entertainers occurs near the main lobby (under an open outdoor pavilion with a stage). The first night of our vacation we watched a fire show followed by a burlesque performance. Listed below is just a few photos from our first night.
Now for the REALLY GOOD ADVICE. Be sure to bring sunscreen and bug spray. Sunscreen, which is more the obvious recommendation, is good to bring because it'll cost you over $30 USD if you purchase it from the resort. The same goes for deodorant and bug spray. Mosquitoes are a real problem if you're a freak like me and decide to take a walk with your camera before sunrise. During day hours, the sun and breeze keeps those little pest away. The resort does spray for mosquitoes every night and other than one time eating at the Lobster house, I did not experience any pesky bug bites. So what's the big deal? Well, those little pest can carry dengue and chikungunya virus. In other words, travel wisely and be sure to have bug spray. By the way, I did not bring bug spray and I had no choice other than to buy it on the resort. A basic can of OFF bug spray will set you back $14USD.
Listed below are some random daytime photos taken throughout the resort. Be sure to check out the early morning photos following the daytime set.
Early morning photos (most before sunrise) listed below:
Night time photos at the Excellence Resort, Punta Cana:
Wildlife and gardens:
Every night my wife and I enjoyed the daily entertainment that Excellence provided. The slideshow listed below is a mix of photos that include a Michael Jackson tribute performance, a Brazil night, a 70/80's disco night, and a Cirque du Soleil performance.
Excellence Punta Cana Review in Summary
Would I visit Excellence Resort in Punta Cana again? Absolutely yes! The beaches are extremely nice, the service is exceptional, and the weather feels like it's out of this world when you're coming from a climate that barely achieves temperatures above 30 during the winter months. Like any resort, the food was pretty good. I am by no means a picky eater and I'm probably the worst person to ask for a food review. With that being said, for those that expect 5 star top quality food from an all inclusive resort... you might be disappointed. With all things considered, it is really hard to find an all-inclusive resort that excels with outstanding marks in the area of food. Let's put it this way, unless you are extremely picky, you'll be perfectly fine. The quality and selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks definitely hits on very high marks. All in all, you'll love Punta Cana.
You can view the entire collection of photos from our vacation (almost 500 images), please go to http://photos.dalemcdonaldphotographer.com/Travel/Domincan-Republic/2015-Punta-Cana/. If you are interested in prints, I have removed all markup and you can order prints at the wholesale price. If you are a photographer and you would like to see the EXIF data (meta data) of any photograph, click the "i" for info button to see the camera settings used for the shot.