I hate starting this blog on a negative note, but as you probably have seen on the news…the Dominican Republic has recently gotten a bad rap. News stories of crimes and even death from mysterious respiratory failures and mini bar poisoning. Truly unfortunate events. And while, I have no idea why these things are happening, I do know they aren’t the only vacation destination to have travelers experience events like these. The number one thing to remember when traveling is be smart! Things can happen anywhere, so just because you’re on vacation and footloose and fancy free…still use common sense. No matter where my family and I travel, I always do my due diligence before we book. I research and make sure I understand the location and any alerts of the area that might impact us (weather, crime, news stories, etc.). This was my second trip to DR and I can honestly say, both times I visited I felt nothing but safe and would go back again. I can’t say that for all the places I have visited either.
Now that’s outta the way, I wanted to share our first experience booking an all-inclusive vacation with kids. We had a memorable and enjoyable experience and best part is…we came back rested (this never happens!). My parents were able to join us and I think they would agree.
Want to see more? View our Punta Cana travel photos here!
Where we stayed
John and I stayed at a RIU property in Cabo San Lucas for our honeymoon and had a great experience so we were pleased when we saw Punta Cana had so many Riu properties. Bambu was our choice because not only was it 5 star, it was listed as an all-inclusive family hotel. Reviewers raved about the amentias for children (RIULAND kid’s club, water park, etc.), that they do not allow Student Groups/Spring Breakers, and also that kids were FREE. We booked their Deluxe Family room for the more space and the extra bed. It was plenty of room for the four of us with a huge king size bed and pull out bed. We arranged a shuttle from our travel agent through Amstar and as soon as we got off the plane, we got our luggage and they had a representative waiting for us (in their easy to spot tropical shirts). It was so smooth. They set up a quick appointment for us the next morning with their representative to ensure our pick-up shuttle was scheduled for our departure day. The next morning when we met with them, they were beyond helpful! They said they would be onsite every day if we had questions and we were even able to book an excursion through them and showed up the morning we booked it for to make sure our shuttle picked us up.
You know a parent had to come up with the great idea to have a kid’s club option at a resorts. It’s genius and seriously makes parents’ vacation with kids, actually a vacation.
Honestly, I wasn’t going to send them as I assumed, they wouldn’t want to go (strangers watching them) and I was nervous (strangers watching them). But they got sucked in one day at the pool when the staff was walking around promoting their mini golf tournament. They popped out and followed the staff without even a worry. Of course, we stopped her and inquired about the details and learned it was two times a day for 2.5 hours each. They had contests and activities inside and outside, as well as a really fun kids pool.
Every other night, they had it in the evening for Movie Night so parents could go to the adult-only pool party or do date night. After that first day, my kids begged to go to kid’s club every day! Their favorite part was they would compete in activities and then that evening on stage would be presented with certificates as well as participate in their Mini Disco. They really got to know the other kids and staff, and even learned Spanish words and songs.
What we did
Excursions and Amenities
With our stay at the RIU, we received free admission to RIU Splash Water World park It is only about a 10-minute walk or they run shuttles every 15 minutes. It was perfect for both our boys because it had a younger kid area (even Sawyer loved it) but also slides of varying intensity. My dad and John loved it too. We got their about 10:30 a.m. and stayed for a good 3-4 hours. If my kids hadn’t fallen in love with kid’s club we would have went back another day.
Since we had some time to ourselves, John and I booked an aromatherapy massage on the beach through their Renova Spa. It was under a cabana and was one of the most relaxing experiences I have had in a long time, we both fell sound asleep. After, they sent us with a bottle of rose to enjoy on the beach while we were kid free. Money well spent!
The majority of our time was spent at the pool. Besides the kid’s club pools, they had five pools and swim-up bars.
We also spent a few days at the beach that was directly attached to the resort. The beautiful Playa Arena Gorda beach had plenty of seating and activities and local vendors walking around but not overbearing. The boys got to take pictures with iguanas and parrots and they even sold fresh cut coconuts to drink from. You could parasail or banana boats and they also rented out sail boats and kayaks.
Because it was all inclusive, we didn’t have to spend a dime on food or drinks. We had drinks and a mini-bar in our room and many food options including Spanish, Italian, Asian and Mexican restaurants, and a steakhouse. Plus, it had a sports bar for snacks 24 hours a day (my parents got to watch the St. Louis Blues game one night there). It made it easy for the kids to have so much variety and they LOVED the endless desserts. Reservations were never needed (except at the steak house), but we did make them for two nights when we surprised Scout with a birthday celebration. This was very impressive! They decorated our table away from everyone else and even did a performance for him. They presented him with his own cake that might be the best cake I have ever had, super rich with fluffy buttercream icing.
We decided to book one excursion and we choose the Marinarium Marine Park because it seemed like something the boy would enjoy (boat, ocean, animals).
It was a half-day excursion cruise where you get to stop and snorkel with stingrays and nurse sharks. After snorkeling they take you on a sightseeing cruise along the coast of Cabeza de Toro and Bávaro all while performing dances and showing you how to make the best CocoLoco I have ever tasted. After that they take stop and you get to get off in the waist deep waters of Bávaro’s natural pool, almost like a party cove! They even serve you drinks while you are in the water.We really enjoyed it, I would say however that your kids need to be good swimmers because they have to swim a lot into the marine park where the stingrays and sharks are. Sawyer went with me, but hated it…was totally scared so we swam back. Scout loved every minute. They got to drive the boat and they made kiddie cocktails for them too. On the boat they served snacks and sandwiches too.
I really don’t have any complaints from our trips and felt like everything went very smooth. The weather was fantastic, every day was in the mid to high 80s and it never got below low 80s. By the last day, I was sick of the buffet lines but that was about my only complaint. The staff was excellent and everyone was very friendly. Can’t wait to book our next all-inclusive trip!!