Planning a romantic weekend for Valentine's Day? (Hadn't thought of it? Don't worry, we'll give you all the credit.) While it's still winter in the northern parts of the world on Feb. 14, the Dominican Republic boasts warm weather year-round, making it perfect for couples who prefer swimsuits and beaches to ski slopes and down jackets.
Although language can be a barrier for non-Spanish speakers and the tap water is not potable, people are extremely friendly and the landscape is stunning. The nation has six international airports, many with daily, direct flights to the U.S., so escaping for even just two or three days is very doable. Here are 10 hotels in the DR that have elegant rooms, relaxing spas, and serene beaches that make for a lovely, love-filled getaway.
-- Lara Grant, Oyster.com
Designed by Oscar de la Renta, the 30-room Tortuga Bay offers amazing service (including preferential treatment at Punta Cana Airport), an on-site nature reserve, several superb restaurants, and three world-class golf courses. Those willing to fork over a very pretty penny for the chance to stay at this luxe resort will be treated to amazing views, beautiful rooms, and plenty of cozy corners for rekindling the flame.
Offering eco-friendly bungalows in a lush, friendly setting, Natura Cabanas is a taste of serene, northern coast luxury for a remarkably fair price. Guests enjoy delicious, fresh food, a clean, crowd-less private beach, yoga classes, and a fabulous spa. It's quiet, and a bit rustic without TV or AC in rooms, but that's the point. Lying on the gorgeous, tranquil beach tends to be top priority, but the resort also helps arrange excursions to nearby waterfalls and horseback riding trails.
Excellence Punta Cana
This upscale, adults-only all-inclusive property has a spacious beach and chic guest rooms. Swimming can be a challenge due to rough waves, but this surfer's paradise has a more secluded feel, even with 464 rooms on the property. The meandering pool is never too crowded, and at night, adults -- mostly honeymooners, couples, and wedding groups -- can choose from a number of high-end restaurants before hitting the theater or lively casino. There's a stand-out fitness center, yoga room, and luxurious two-floor spa on-site as well. Excellence knows how to give excellent service, starting with the welcome glass of champagne received immediately upon arrival.
Zoetry Agua Punta Cana
The Zoetry Agua is one of the most luxurious and tranquil all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic. Catering towards couples, the resort boasts an uncrowded white-sand beach, sleek, spacious suites, a pristine pool, and one of the Dominican Republic's top spas. The property also features a walking path, yoga, biking, snorkeling, kayaking, and many other watersports activities. Each guest can go on a 45-minute horseback riding tour and receive a 20-minute massage for no additional fee. Guests have free access to the gorgeous spa's sauna, steam room, whirlpool, sensation shower, and small fitness center.
Sivory Punta Cana
One of the few boutique hotels in Punta Cana, the quiet, 55-room Sivory lures mostly couples to its secluded location -- about an hour ride from the airport. Service is impressive, as is the natural setting, but the beach doesn't compare to those further south. Because of this, most guests spend their time at the spa; it consists of an open-air room with a hot tub and a plunge pool, as well as both steam and dry saunas. There are also multiple massage rooms (hydro) and a beauty salon with a fitness center attached.
Eden Roc at Cap Cana
The Eden Roc, opened in 2012, is one of the most high-tech properties in the Dominican Republic, and is located in the gated Cap Cana community -- which has a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, marina, and beach club. The 34 colorful suites are clustered around a small, man-made lagoon and feature elegant decor (picture four-poster beds, intricate floor tiling, and spacious bathrooms). Up-to-date amenities include iPad-controlled lights, sound systems, and TVs with numerous channels in Spanish and English. Suites also come with small pools and golf carts for getting around the property.
The 176-room Sanctuary Cap Cana looks like a small Spanish village perched on a cliff by the ocean -- note the breathtaking views. Its beautifully decorated pools, spa, golf course, and restaurants are all among the D.R.'s best. The spa has flower-laden treatment rooms, fantastic hot tubs, and a private island with stunning views. Guest rooms are modern and relaxed, with gorgeous views -- views really do abound here! Although children are allowed in the Caribbean and Colonial sections of the resort, the hotel is generally quiet and romantic.
Opened in November 2013, the Breathless is one of the newest, most luxurious all-inclusive options in Punta Cana. The 750-suite, adults-only property is massive, so guests rarely feel overwhelmed by crowds, whether they are in one of the restaurants, at one of the pools, or relaxing on the gorgeous white-sand beach. Rates include everything from the food and alcohol to the water sports and themed pool parties, but some guests complain that the food and service at the restaurants lag. Rooms are spacious and gorgeously decorated with modern amenities.
Despite its kid-friendly mantra, this upscale boutique resort is a relaxing, appealing pick for both families and couples. The Reserve is pricier than its larger sister property next door, the Paradisus Punta Cana, but for good reason. The 132 classic one-bedroom units here have separate living/dining areas, pull-out sofas, and spacious bathrooms with jetted tubs for two. Reserve guests can access the amenities and restaurants next door (minus Royal Services), so they don't lose out on features by staying here. The beach area is a good hike away, but the tangerine bikes are useful for getting around, and it's not too far to walk to the large pool complex, fitness center, yoga studio, and Asian-themed spa.
The D.R.'s only luxury resort set on its own island, the Luxury Bahia Cayo Levantado offers a relaxing atmosphere for couples and families. There are scenic beaches, beautiful pools, and some of the best rooms in the country (each with private whirlpool tubs). The beauty is incredible, but the dining and service lag behind even less expensive resorts. All of the bars shut down by midnight, so this spot is best for couples who want to turn in early.