My boyfriend and I spent a week at the Vik Arena from September 27th to october 4, 2013. He had purchased the trip through Apple Vacations and neither of us had ever been to Punta Cana before. I read several reviews of the resort on tripadvisor prior to leaving home and found many of the tips helpful as mentioned below. Both of us had a really great time on this trip and felt that this resort was a very good value. Clearly there are many fancier places to stay and perhaps if we go back one day we will try another place for comparison, but we were very comfortable at this resort and met some great people that we really enjoyed spending time with. If I could have stayed another week (or more) I would have!
Some salient points:
1. The rooms are modest, but we were very comfortable. We had no issues with the beds (we had 2 doubles, shared one and used the other one for stuff. There is no iron and if you need one you have to ask at the desk and you get it for 2 hours on loan. So I never did iron anything. But since this place is pretty relaxed, that didn't seem to matter. Some women dress up but all in all the place had a very low-key relaxed feel and except for the requirement (kind of weird really) that men wear long pants in all but the buffet restaurant for dinner, anything was fine in terms of attire.
2. We were in building 4 in a renovated room on the 3rd floor. The steps were sometimes tiring but I figured it helped make up for the fact that I never made it to the gym (I know there is one but I never saw anyone else going there either). No incredible view but the grounds are quite lovely and there is a table and chairs on the balcony if you choose to sit out there. We did not have a problem with air conditioning. it is true it doesn't get freezing cold in the room, but it was comfortable and the high ceiling and strong fan was also quite nice. There are not many hangers so I had to double hang dresses but I took way too much clothing anyway.
3. Diet soda is very hard to come by. Fridge was stocked with water, 7 up and pepsi but you have to be somewhat persistent to be sure to get the soda refilled . We had to write notes to request diet pepsi and never got more than one bottle so I guess it is at a premium. The soda that is available around the resort is not a brand - it was fine but I liked the bottled stuff better even though it isn't the American kind - it is Petsi light or something - similar to what we got when we were in Mexico last year. This sounds picky but I'm an iced tea drinker and you can't get that at the resort (unless you want to brew strong tea at breakfast and add tons of ice which I resorted to at the end of the week). I actually took packets of crystal light with me and wished I had taken more. I mixed that up and drank it until it ran out during the days at the pool/beach. DO TAKE A LARGE CUP WITH A LID WITH YOU as others have mentioned. We took amusement park cups with attached straws and were so glad we had them since the bar cups are tiny and who wants to keep getting up every few minutes to refill? The bartenders (Felix at the beach bar was wonderful) were happy to fill them for us.
4. The beach is the nicest I've ever been to. The water is clear and beautiful and there is nothing bothersome like sharp shells or jellyfish or stinging/biting/pinching things or anything. I could have stayed out there swimming half the day. It was sunny and beautiful the whole time we were there. The pool renovations were completed mid-way through our week and it is lovely and the water is surprisingly and pleasantly cool. There were plenty of chairs at the pool and on the beach and we never had trouble finding an umbrella although the place was not full when we were there. One day at the pool we had fun listening to what sounded like a 1980 playlist of Air Supply and various other soft rock songs from our youth (this tells you we are fifty). Meanwhile down on the beach they had a tendency to play several what I assume to be regional songs over and over again, which we found kind of tedious in a funny way. But when one of our friend got up and asked them to change the music, they did. Lots of activities are always going on and the young men come around and try to get you to play if you are interested. Volleyball, bocci, water aerobics, dance classes. I mostly wanted to lay there reading my books and getting in the water now and then.
5. There are lots of people from various different countries at this resort, which we found fun and interesting but I gather some people find bothersome. Seems like if you only like your own sort it is better to stay home,but that is just my opinion. We did make friends with others who spoke English as it is nice to be able to easily converse, but it was also fun to try out a little Spanish and French (badly) here and there. I printed out a cheat sheet of simple travel phrases in spanish before I went to cover the basics since some of the people who work there do not have much English.
6. US dollars are accepted for everything down there. We never needed to change any money at all. Take lots of dollar bills for tipping because it isn't easy to get anyone to give you change (the money exchange counter is not allowed apparently). I also printed out this little conversion chart you can get online and cut it out and put it in my wallet. We consulted that a LOT throughout the week when we went shopping off the property and wanted to know how much something cost in US dollars.
7. We left the property for 3 things. We went on a shopping excursion that Apple booked for us which was free. A van came and took us to two shopping locations and we met some friends and had a great time. Saw cigars being made and learned about amber and got mamajuana samples (local drink - yum) and bought souvenirs. We also went on the Outback Safari excursion (also booked through Apple rep after we were there) which has great ratings on tripadvisor and was well worth the money. Had an incredible meal and got to see some of the countryside and learn about the people and culture of the Dominican Republic and sample some of the produce. It is a bumpy ride, but such a memorable experience! Lastly we went (twice) to the Hard Rock resort and casino - the first time to look around (someone offered us a free day all inclusive there if we came and sat through their 90 minute presentation which we would have done had we had a longer trip) and the next time with 2 other couples we met for a nice dinner (had great sushi) and some gambling (not so successful). The place is nice but you could be in Las Vegas or somewhere else in the U.S. - not exactly a Caribbean feel. We had fun. Taxi cost 25 each way so you would want to share if possible.
8. Food. Ok, so the food at this resort is perfectly fine although not anything super special. I'm not sure what can be expected at an all-inclusive resort since I'm not a big traveler, but I am pretty easy to please and was not all that hungry on this trip since I spent so much time in the sun and probably drank a lot of my caloric intake. :) Personally I liked the buffet restaurant the best. We ate at two of the other places (Mexican and International) and they were ok but I preferred to just be able to choose what I wanted and if I didn't like something, try something else. There is so much at the buffet that I can't imagine anyone can't find something to eat. They are catering to many different nationalities and their preferences so there are lots of unfamiliar things. There is always something fresh being cooked around the perimeter of the buffet (omelets in the morning and usually chinese (great) or paella or italian (or all 3) in the evenings. You get to pick your ingredients and they cook it up for you on the spot. I probably could have just eaten those things for every meal all week. There is Presidente beer (no light beer at the resort by the way) available and a tap of wine (perfectly drinkable) and the no-name sodas and water available. Also juices I think. Fruit is fantastic - particularly pineapple and bananas. If you are picky about salad dressing you might want to bring some because there is basically oil and vinegar. Hard boiled eggs are hot, which was weird but ok with me. Yogurt was too liquidy for me to eat - I like the thick greek kind. This was more pourable. I think the milk is powdered. I kind of didn't eat much in the way of dairy while I was there. Lots of really good chicken. Other meats were sometimes a little chewy. Bacon is baked, apparently, and chewier than at home but I kind of liked it. Hamburgers and hotdogs and pizza at the snack bar were enjoyed but the buns are not the best - the bread is not particularly soft there. I took a bag of almonds with me and snacked on them during the day. If you have some kind of snack food you like you might want to do that since familiar items might not be easily available there.
9. Only went to one evening show - a magic type show. VERY good. My boyfriend got chosen to be an "assistant" and even he couldn't figure out how they did the illusions. I was impressed. The place was fairly quiet in terms of night life/social life. We went into the disco once and there were just a few people in there, but it was the off season. And the crowd at the resort was more middle-aged (like us) than 20-something, although there were some young couples around. There were some children and families, but probably overwhelmingly couples. We lamented that the pool closed at 7 and the pool bar wasn't open in the evenings except when they had the "beach party" night (maybe twice a week). The calypso bar is open late and is the only place you can get anything to eat after 9:30 or so. There are sandwiches in a case that you can put into a panini press and heat up. I didn't have one but my friends said they weren't bad. Some nights there was live music of one kind of another near the calypso bar and we danced a bit which was fun.
10. I did not have a problem with people trying to sell me things. There are people on the beach that go by selling cigars, but none of them approached me. We never did walk down to what our friends called the "cheapy cheapy" places down the beach. We heard that they do the hard sell there (come and kind of take you by the arm and lead you to their shop) but they said you just have to be firm and if you want to buy something, offer about a third of what they start at and make a bargain. There are some people on the resort property who try to stop you to sell you an excursion, but we just said no. They seemed to only talk to my boyfriend which was interesting but made it easy on me. My boyfriend felt that they learned quickly he wasn't buying and left us alone. There is a guy who comes down the beach with animals and a photographer if you want your picture with a monkey, lizard or snake. I'm not a snake fan so that kind of freaked me out the first time I saw him but I did the universal sign for "keep that snake away from me" and we were fine. By and large I spent my days in complete peace and relaxation on the beach with nothing to worry me one iota. Perfect comfort, nice people, plenty of drinks...what more could I want?
11. Everything at this resort is open-air - the lobby, the restaurants, the bars. No need to be concerned about having sweaters/jackets to combat cold air conditioning, which is usually an issue for me. The only time I was cold was at the Hard Rock (if you go there, DO take a sweater).
12. The all inclusive liquor is not top shelf by any means but certainly sufficed for us for the most part. My boyfriend did buy a couple bottles of better stuff at the duty free at the airport in Baltimore which we mixed some drinks with in our room and managed to kill just in time to return home. It was kind of nice to have the better vodka for bloody mary's (no bloody mary mix - just tomato juice, but the lobby bar still made pretty good ones).
13. I took bug stuff but was mostly not bothered by bugs on this trip. In fact I was surprised at how un-buggy it was there. At the end of the week I finally did get a few bites - not sure if it was mosquitos or what but it was kind of itchy. But for me, that was very mild. At home I get bit by everything. If you buy the off towelette things they are easy to transport and have with you if you need them.
14. Sun is obviously very hot. I am pale and used 65 spf all week and still got a little red here and there. Saw some pretty burned people so heed the advice of those who remind you not to drink so much you forget to coat yourself liberally and often.
Guess that is it. If you aren't a super high maintenance and picky negative person, I can't imagine you could go to this place and not have a great time. We appreciated having this wonderful romantic week and meeting great friends in this beautiful tropical setting for such a very modest price (which is the only way we could have afforded it). Good luck on your trip!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The VIK Hotel Arena Blanca is placed overlooking the incomparable beach of Bávaro, just 30 minutes away from the International Airport of Punta Cana. This hotel in Punta Cana was renovated in 2006 to be able to offer a wide variety of environments: ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Vik Hotel Punta Cana
- Lti Beach Resort Punta Cana
- Lti Punta Cana
- Lti Resort Punta Cana
- Lti Beach Punta Cana