We just returned from Excellence Punta Cana yesterday, and I miss it so much! First of all, I want to say the resort itself is BEAUTIFUL! Very natural looking, it almost blends into the surroundings, unlike the other mega-resorts we saw. When you walk along the beach, the resort (which is all by itself along a very long stretch of beach), blends in quite well. It is very walkable, and though sometimes the walks can be long (take comfortable shoes, even just to walk to dinner!), it was nice to be able to navigate throughout the resort easily. Yes, the buildings are a bit 'dated', but there are people CONSTANTLY painting, working, etc...to keep things looking nice.
I'll try to make my review concise, including things that I wished I had known BEFORE I left for my trip. This was my first time doing all-inclusive, and my first time to the DR. So I don't have much to compare it to, other than the fact that I've traveled the world, and my husband is from Brazil, so I sort of know what to expect when visiting other countries, especially those with populations that live an unhurried, laid back sort of lifestyle.
FOOD - to my husband and me, the food was fantastic. We didn't have a bad meal. We are, however, the type of people who enjoy cooking daily with fresh ingredients. Again - husband is from Brazil, so we really liked the food that was Dominican that perhaps wouldn't necessarily appeal to Americans, such as grilled fish, rice & beans, and other dishes that aren't typical in the USA. But honestly, if you don't live solely on McDonald's and Applebee's in the USA, in my opinion, you probably will really enjoy the food. We ate at The Grill, Lobster House, Flavor Market (that place was amazing!), Agave, and Oregano. I enjoy salting my home cooked meals generously, and didn't feel that I needed to add much extra salt - but again, I rarely eat a lot of the overly salted, processed foods that are popular in America. I ate MUCH more than I normally would, enjoyed every meal I had, and gained about five pounds in six days - no joke! And I went to the gym several days when I was there! By the way, I felt that the restaurant dress code was a bit biased - men couldn't wear shorts to certain restaurants, but women could. My husband was turned away from Agave one night, even though he was wearing a very fashion-forward Italian ensemble, because he was wearing shorts - but there was a girl in there wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, and tennis shoes. Go figure. Another lady walked out from eating in shorts and Teva sandals. Didn't make sense to me - women can get away with dressing like slobs, but the men definitely need to bring long pants and either very nice sandals or dress shoes.
GYM - the gym was great! It was quite large, with a variety of machines including treadmills, bicycles, elliptical machines, stair machines, and tons of weights. They had water bottles and towels at every exercise machine, as well as next to the floor mats on the floor (there was a separate large room that must be for classes that had several floor mats laid out all the time for you to use. I did my ab work in there). I know, most people don't go on vacation to go to the gym, but I was eating five meals per day, so I needed the exercise!
WINE - this was very important to me, as I could hardly find any detailed info on the wine, other than people saying it was 'drinkable'. For the red, they had Gato Negro Merlot. You can buy this in the USA in either bottle or box form if you'd like to try it to see how you like it. It's a Chilean wine. House white was Gato Negro Chardonnay (again, able to be purchased in USA), and they also had two different Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends - one was called 'Astica', the other 'Vistana'. Both were from Argentina. I much preferred the Vistana over the Astica - I swear the Astica tasted kind of acidic and gave me heartburn, which I NEVER get.
OTHER DRINKS - you could get Corona in the Mexican restaurant, and other bars served various beers. Presidente was by far the resort favorite, though. As for liquor, they had nearly EVERYTHING. I rarely drink mixed drinks, but I LOVED the Pina Coladas and the Banana Mamas! You could choose whatever liquor you preferred; they had many top shelf varieties, which was nice. There is another drink that is taken in shot form called 'Mama Juana', which is a local drink that the bartenders are very proud of. Definitely give it a try! But be warned - it's dangerous stuff!
INSECTS - the insects were horrible. We brought bug spray with DEET in it, but still got bitten like crazy by the sand fleas, and also the mosquitoes in the evening. I highly recommend bringing the strongest bug spray you can get and use it daily. So many people had huge bug bites all over their legs, it's almost like it was in style!
BEACH - the beach was beautiful, but water was rough. If you have visions of yourself floating calmly in the sea, either select another resort, or walk about a mile in either direction down the beach to find calmer water. Seriously - it's a BEAUTIFUL beach - it's very remote, lined with coconut trees, and looks like something out of a movie. We absolutely LOVED it. But you do have to walk to get calm water. Also - guys from the little shops next door will try to get you to come buy things from their shops if you venture off the resort property. They're just doing their jobs, and they're rather friendly, so a simple 'no, gracias' usually gets them to move on. Also - as I said earlier - there are sand fleas on the beach right in front of the resort. They're tiny, but they pack a mean bite!
POOL - the pool was wonderful! I brought my own raft from home because people do hog rafts. I then just gifted it to another hotel guest when I was leaving. People also do get up very early to reserve beds and loungers without using them until much later in the day, which annoys me. Of course, my husband insisted upon doing the same thing (much to my dismay). But generally, chairs and loungers would become available during the day. If it was hard to find one, usually the bartenders could help you find a place to sit. The pool was HUGE and ran the entire length of the resort. It was much louder by all the restaurants and entertainment areas - we generally stuck around the other end, by buildings 10 & 11. That was right by a nice bar, and it was quieter. The awesome bartenders would also walk along the perimeter of the pool to take drink orders and deliver drinks. Paradise!!! Around 2pm or so, they walk around the pool handing out wood-fired pizzas; you can choose between cheese or pepperoni. Towels are extremely plentiful - take as many as you like!
IN-ROOM TOILETRIES - I wish I would have known this, but housekeeping will provide toothpaste, cotton balls & Q-tips, and relatively large bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion in your room daily. There was also a razor, tiny tube of shaving cream, toothbrush, comb, and sewing kit. We were in Excellence Club, so I don't know if the bottle sizes vary in other rooms, but I didn't even need to bring shampoo, conditioner, or toothpaste. If you need any extras, just ask!
EXCELLENCE CLUB - we paid extra for Excellence Club, and I don't think it was worth it. Yes, they had a great little buffet set up all day where you could pop in and get a snack or a wonderful cappuccino (no dress code, ever!), but you could do the same thing at the Toscana buffet. Maybe if each club member got their own guaranteed beach bed or pool bed daily, I would have thought it was worth the cost. But I still had to go through the hassle to get stuff I wanted, such as the upgraded room service menu or money exchange. Not that I'm complaining, but it was just annoying to pay for VIP service, and then not get it. If I return to Excellence, I wouldn't do the VIP club again. I must say that Amado, the server in the Excellence Club, was awesome! As for the 'private concierge', I think we saw him once, when he dropped off a bottle of room temperature champagne to our room. :)
NIGHTLIFE - we went to a few shows, which were so entertaining! We also went to the sports bar. It was the coolest sports bar I'd ever been to! It was all outside under several thatched roof huts, and they had pool and ping pong to play. You could get all sorts of drinks as well as ice cream and other snacks. We went to the casino a couple nights. I wasn't expecting much, as it was small and full of smoke, but it was really fun! There was one 'stone faced' girl working there who turned out to be really friendly the second night we went, but she was a tough nut to crack! We never went to the disco. Oregano is open until 2am if you've got the late night munchies and want to grab a pizza or pasta dish (room service is 24 hours, though).
ROOM SERVICE - we ordered room service three times in one evening (!). It was always to our room within about 30 minutes, and the service was phenomenal. The food wasn't the best at the resort, but it was good if you wanted to enjoy a lazy night in.
SERVICE - The Dominican people are SO AWESOME! The service was wonderfully friendly, and some of the people seemed to serve as though it was their sole delight. We really enjoyed Amilton at the Lobster House, but our favorite person by far was Edgar at the pool bar. He was just wonderful, and really made our experience so much more fun and relaxing. He and my husband really hit it off and became friends. I highly recommend taking a few hundred $1 bills to tip servers throughout your stay. Whether you tip or not, the service is fantastic, but I personally felt like these people deserve more.
LAUNDRY SERVICE - the hotel offers very inexpensive laundry service (I think it was $4 to dry clean and press a shirt?). I took Woolite, hoping to be able to wash some of my stuff, such as swim suits, but the sink is so large and flat, I couldn't fill it up to wash anything.
SPANISH LANGUAGE - I completely understand that the resort caters to foreigners, and I have no disrespect for people who don't try to speak Spanish, but it goes an EXTREMELY long way if you can try to learn even a few very basic words and phrases - the Dominicans appreciate it SO very much; if you can at least try to learn to say 'Hola' or 'Gracias', I guarantee your service will be MILES better. I speak beginner/intermediate Spanish, and the Dominicans went out of their way to talk to me, and kept commenting on how great my Spanish was (haha!). The staff absolutely LOVED my husband; being from Brazil, he has a good understanding of Spanish, and speaks it quite well - he was almost like a celebrity! One night we had a long wait to get into the Mexican restaurant, and the waiters were practically tripping over themselves to bring our group appetizers to enjoy outside while we waited for a table to open up; nobody else waiting was receiving that service. It really opens up a whole new world when you try just a little bit of the language - give it a try! :)
"LAID BACK" SERVICE - Some of the service was really funny. It is totally understandable if guests get annoyed with some requests taking forever to fulfill, since the USA is not like that, but this is the DR, and the pace of life moves more slowly. We had to request a few things more than once - towels for the room, the Excellence Club upgraded menu (never did get that, after four requests), porter to take our luggage when it was time to leave (we almost missed our bus)...etc...but honestly, it amused us more than anything. When we arrived to our room, the minibar wasn't set up properly (half drunk bottle of Jim Beam, open bottles of other stuff), but the guy showed up almost immediately to fix it. The TV was broken, and within five minutes, they showed up with a brand new TV. No matter how long it took, the service was ALWAYS with a smile. But sometimes it takes a LONG time! So if you can learn to just roll with it, you'll be fine.
In conclusion (if you've actually read this far), we had a WONDERFUL time at Excellence. I think it gets such high ratings because, though it's a large resort and has many offerings, it's small enough where you really feel comfortable and at home. It's also a beautiful resort that looks very natural, and it is CLEAN with absolutely wonderful food and really top notch service. I would return in a heartbeat and highly recommend EPC!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This quaint, colonial-style resort is the ideal destination for couples seeking secluded romantic getaways. Nestled among palms on a perfect white-sand beach on a remote stretch of Punta Cana's Caribbean shoreline, Excellence Punta Cana provides the perfect All-Inclusive playground for adults only and is also home to a world-class spa, state-of-the-art fitness center and an exceptional range of activities and services. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Secrets Excellence Punta Cana
- Excellence Resort Punta Cana
- Excellence Punta Cana Resort
- Secrets Punta Cana
- Excellence Punta Cana Dominican Republic
- Excellence Dominican Republic
- Punta Cana Excellence Hotel
- Excellence Punta Cana Hotel
- Secret Excellence Resort Punta Cana
- Punta Cana Secrets Excellence