Punta Cana: Comparing Luxury Travel With Budget Travel
How much does it cost to travel to Punta Cana, and is it only 5-star resorts?
That was the question we set out to answer upon making our way up to Punta Cana for several nights during our visit around the island of the Dominican Republic.
My friend Cristina and I wanted to experience both sides to Punta Cana: the all-inclusive resort side, and the budget-friendly side.
Sometimes it’s nice to experience some luxury and other times it’s fun to have more of an adventure!
What did I discover?
Well, that you get what you pay for, and that your experience is shaped by how YOU want to travel.
On one hand, I loved staying at a resort. It was comfortable, easy, and kind of felt like a fancy summer camp: What activities are going on today? Oh, there’s a painting class at noon? Or should we grab a fresh juice (included) and relax on a soft lounge chair at the beach?
On the other hand, the backpacker hotel offered an atmosphere that felt younger, cooler, and with people who were more well-traveled. We were still right on the beach and near a few shops and restaurants that weren’t connected to the hotel. However, the room was…a little dirtier than I expected.
I’ll break down the two experiences further so you can get a feel for both sides and decide what type of experience you’d like to have!
5-Star Luxury Resort in Punta Cana: What’s It Like?
First off, I’ll note that there are SO many amazing resorts to choose from in Punta Cana! The Punta Cana area is gorgeous and has miles upon miles of turquoise beaches, with grandiose resorts one after another.
If you’re looking to have a typical all-inclusive resort experience so you can fully relax and unplug, Punta Cana is your place. There are resorts in other parts of the country (like Bayahibe) too, but Punta Cana is literally meant for resorts - there isn’t much going on for tourism outside the resorts because most people just stay there.
Catalonia All-Inclusive Resort in Punta Cana
Catalonia was calm, relaxing, and enjoyable. There were families, young people, honeymooners, as well as a few token fratty Americans rounding up groups of whoever was nearby (and willing) to take shots of tequila.
It was fun to meet travelers from other parts of the world, chat with the staff (some who knew 3-4+ languages!), and have everything included.
I had never stayed in an all-inclusive, and can I just say…wow. I can definitely see the appeal to stay at a Punta Cana resort when you simply want to truly unplug, relax, and not think about anything!
Punta Cana is absolutely beautiful, and Catalonia was a wonderful place to stay. I’d love to be back there right now.
You can read my full review of Catalonia here.
Backpacker Style in Punta Cana: What’s It Like?
After Catalonia we went to Capri Beach House, a budget hotel in Punta Cana. It was refreshing to have a blend of luxury, all-inclusive resort status and then go somewhere that felt a little “cooler” and fresh.
If you’ve stayed at any of the Selina hotel/hostels around the world, Capri Beach House felt like a smaller Selina with just private rooms and no co-working space. They had a restaurant & bar that was open all day, wifi, and were located literally right on the beach.
I mean, look at this water *heart eyes*
The room we stayed in was pretty nice in terms of layout - it was small, had two twin beds, and a wardrobe space with a private bathroom.
The downside was the cleanliness in my opinion. Sheets had stains so I asked for a replacement (which they kindly accommodated) and I noticed when I grabbed a towel after taking a shower that it, too, was stained in multiple places as well. *shudder*
The other downside was that when they had DJs come to play, the music was almost as loud as if you were enjoying it downstairs instead of in your bedroom.
On the flip side, it’s fun to have DJs come in if you are there to party and would be partying anyways. I mean I like house music, but really needed some sleep haha! If this were 22-year-old Ally, you can bet I would have been downstairs chatting up people and enjoying the music.
To sum it up, here are the points I would consider for both the luxury side and budget side of Punta Cana:
Resorts in Punta Cana:
Perfect if it is within your budget and you want to relax, unplug, unwind, and have an easy vacation
All-inclusive means no limits on enjoying something like a fresh juice (or two), a glass of wine with dinner, or other included activities
The grounds were huge so it feels like your own little oasis
It’s easy to meet other people at the pool, bars, etc., or keep to yourself if that’s what you prefer
The staff will likely be very friendly and top-notch since “luxury resort” requires top hospitality
Can feel isolating if you want to go off-site since there isn’t much to do
Doesn’t have a lot of “culture” and you don’t get much of a local feel for the country
Backpacker/budget style hotel in Punta Cana:
Great for those on a budget that want to travel to a typical resort location, without the high prices
The smaller, more affordable hotels we saw were close to restaurants, a few boutiques or souvenir shops, and on the beach or close to it
Felt like there were more experienced travelers there or younger travelers (less kids, too)
In our experience our particular room wasn’t very clean but I wouldn’t say that’s the same for other hotels (check reviews!)
You can still find local tours, water activities (like snorkeling or boating), etc. “a la carte” from standalone companies
I really enjoyed our experience in Punta Cana, and I am glad I got to experience both “sides” to this small part of the Dominican Republic.
It goes to show that you can have an incredible resort experience if that’s what you’re looking for, but you can also still have a good time if you want your budget to stretch a little further too.