Story by Danielle Yuthas
As a first timer to the Caribbean, I didn’t know what to expect. When our Sun Country flight of only three hours duration from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport landed in the Dominican Republic, the Punta Cana airport exterior looked ever-so-much like the Tiki Room in Disneyland. As I stepped off the plane into perfect 78-degree weather with a cool breeze, I was already in a tropical mood. Customs went quickly and before I knew it, our shuttle was pulling up to the five-star resort we’d call home for the next seven days.
The mission of this trip was for old college roommates to reconnect and relax. We packed light—an overnight bag but no baggage. No boyfriends, no children, no family, no drama. We didn’t want to spend any energy figuring out where to go or how to get around. Frankly, we didn’t even want to get out of the pool to find a cocktail. We chose all-inclusive so that not even our purses would weigh us down.
We may not have come away from blackjack at the onsite casino any richer, but we did strike it lucky. At check-in we learned the Hard Rock had sold out the level room we’d for. In words I didn’t understand (my Spanish vocabulary is limited to “cerveza, por favor”) accompanied by a wink, the front desk clerk upgraded us to a presidential suite just like that. As we settled into the room that cost as much per night as I paid for my entire trip, I could no longer even remember the stresses I had set out to escape.
Our days consisted of drifting from the white sand beach to the pools to the lazy river and back as we chatted, napped, read and laughed. The exception was our spa day luxuriating in the sauna, steam room and hydrotherapy pools followed by an 80-minute hot stone massage.
In the early evenings, armed with bug spray from the gift shop and lubricated with libations from our in-room liquor dispenser, we whiled away our time smoking cigarillos as we attempted to teach ourselves to blow smoke rings. It was then that I vowed to compensate for the wrinkles this indulgence would eventually cause, I would never drink from a straw again.
We’d then slip out of swimsuits and into sundresses for dinner at one of the many resort restaurants: a Brazilian steak house one night and an oceanfront lobster dinner the next. I’d give my hair a final spritz of hairspray to try to tame the curls caused by the climate and we were off to the evening’s entertainment. The Michael Jackson impersonator was so good I wondered if The King of Pop secretly lives in the Dominican Republic. We sipped cuba libres and bounced between the karaoke bar and outdoor lounges. The last night we were there we hit the casino and discotheque where Lil’ Jon was the DJ of the night. SHOTS ensued.
I couldn’t believe it had already been seven days without even stepping foot off of the resort. All I could talk about was how underrated and affordable the Dominican Republic is. I was beginning to realize a vacation of doing nothing could be one of the most memorable.
What to know if you go:
If you are going to another country for a cultural experience, this is not the destination. Everything is Americanized and you can get by without speaking Spanish. Snorkeling and cruise excursions are available; it’s just a matter of tearing yourself away from the beach long enough to book one.
Warning: overindulgence is encouraged. Ice cream, donuts, hamburgers and fries and beer and cocktails surround you and put your waistline in danger. But there is a gym and an abundance of fresh fruit for the overzealous health-conscious vacationer.
Insider tip: Cocktail service is not as accessible at the beach as it is at the pool. The best way to go is to buy a travel mug from the gift shop and tip the pool bartender generously at the beginning of the day and you will be remembered as you come back for refills.
How inclusive is all-inclusive? I was skeptical that ALL would really be included but was pleasantly surprised. Even with all of the wining, dining and entertainment, I only spent cash on gambling, gift shop amenities and souvenirs. But don’t forget your deodorant because it will cost you $15 in the hotel gift shop!
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