by Diana Lambdin Meyers
The Dreams Resort Punta Cana is one of three all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic that are a part of AMResorts, owned by Apple Vacations of Philadelphia. Opened in 2005, this property is located in the southeastern region of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Temperatures rarely dip below 70 degrees nor rarely exceed 90 degrees.
The resort was designed specifically as a family-friendly resort and few, if any, details or options have been overlooked. The beach is pristine, the pool inviting and there are numerous choices for families with children of all ages. The Core Zone should satisfy the grumpiest of teenagers who barely tolerate the concept of a family vacation.
To learn more about Dreams Resorts and Spas, please visit Dreams Resorts & Spas.
Our Editor Loves
- Child-size buffet
- The Core Zone teen center
- Overnight camp-outs on beach
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
This spacious property, complete with flamingo pond, has 620 deluxe rooms and 106 junior suites in 10 buildings of no more than three floors that follow the flow of the pool that meanders throughout the property. All rooms include a balcony or private patio. One child stays for free in each. Each room includes a mini-fridge stocked every day with bottled water, soft drinks and a few snacks, such as chips and candy bars free of charge. Flat-screen TVs are accompanied by DVD players.
The deluxe rooms offer a shower/tub combo in the bathroom and either one king or two double beds. Cribs are provided at no extra charge.
Neither is there a charge for cribs in the junior suites, which have delightful walk-in closets. Showers are the option in the suites. Plush bathrobes, slippers and evening turndown service are among the amenities in the suites. A limited number of suites have private hot tubs on the balconies.
The elite level of guests at Dreams are members of the Preferred Club. In addition to a private beach area and no waiting in line at any of the restaurants, the rooms include complimentary Wi-Fi and a selection of movies, video games and traditional board games provided in the private lounge. The lounge is staffed 24 hours with a concierge, private bartender, snacks and additional Internet access.
The Dreams Resorts are big on incense and the tray of bathroom amenities includes several sticks and a book of matches. Parents might want to tuck those away right away. Otherwise, the bath products are private label and of high quality. Just about everything you need is included, like toothpaste, an extra comb, sewing kit and sunscreen.
Kids of all ages are accommodated at this Dreams Resort. Starting as early as newborns and up to the time they are toilet trained, there's a small, enclosed area just off the beach simply called "The Kid's Club." One parent must stay with the children, but it's perfectly designed for those who may be breastfeeding or need a diaper changing station and hand washing facilities. There's a small sand box and the tiniest of little wading areas just a few inches deep. The area includes a few Little Tykes riding toys and several oversized lounge chairs for mom or dad to snuggle with the kids in hopes of both getting in a nap.
The Explorer's Club is designed for children who are toilet trained, up to about 12 years old, and is open daily from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. Upon check-in, parents are given walkie-talkies in order to check in with their children at any time, or for the staff to reach parents immediately, if such a situation develops. The Explorer's Club is also located directly across from the First Aid station and all employees here are fluent in at least two languages.
The focal point of this Explorer's Club is a huge pirate ship that kids play in, slide from and generally enjoy all day long. In addition to all of the expected children's activities, like building sand castles, painting, watching movies, scavenger hunts and the like, at least once each week the chef will do a children's cooking class. Another day of the week, a local concessionaire brings ponies to the Explorer's Club for pony rides at no extra charge. And at least one night a week, the staff coordinates a family camp-out on the beach, with tents and bonfires and S'mores.
Those hard to impress, moody teenagers will have to be excited about the Core Zone -- on the opposite end of the property from the Explorer's Club. This is supposed to be the teen center for those 13 to 17, but it's really a great family hangout, and to be sure, some of the parents were having as much or more fun than the kids. It's got a little bit of everything: a climbing wall, batting cage, Euro-bunge, a mechanical bull, basketball, volleyball, archery, darts, skeet shooting, Ping Pong, billiards, foosball, and a couple of X-Box 360s, Sony PlayStations and Wii.
There is also a teens-only Internet center, but it costs extra. The only place where people other than teenagers are not allowed is the teen disco at night. There are occasionally dance lessons, but otherwise, just great music and a great place for teens to hang out. And of course, the Core Zone has its own snack bar.
On the beach, families can go kayaking, snorkeling or sailing, jump on an ocean trampoline or ride one of those oversized fat tire bicycles in the water. There's also a playground with swings and slides, a jumbo size chess set and always something going on in the afternoon, such as beach Olympics or juggling lessons.
An indoor movie theater offers big screen family entertainment. The live theatre has a different show, and a pretty good one at that, every night for 12 nights.
After all of that activity, snuggle up as a family on a covered Bali bed, located at the beach and around the pool. Also at the shallow end of the pool that meanders throughout the property, you'll find climbing toys anchored in the pool. We loved the numerous little splash pools for toddlers, about 3 feet across and about 18 inches deep with a few little sprays. Each one is just big enough for a couple of kids and one adult -- a private pool for little ones.
Spa services are available for kids 6 to 16, as long as one parent accompanies them through the entire service. There are moms and daughter packages, sunny teens facials and hair braiding as well.
If you want a little more adventure, such as zip lining or surfing, ask the concierge to set you up with an excursion to Samoa Island. There, you can also go snorkeling or take a glass bottom boat tour. Other off-property and nearby tours include go-cart rides and 4-Wheel Drive outings, opportunities to swim with dolphins and manta rays and tour sugar and coffee plantations. Simply ask the concierge about all of the options.
All around the Dreams Punta Cana property are big bowls of apples -- green and red in a variety of sizes and flavors. These are not for decoration but as they should be: for eating. Feel free to stuff a couple in your beach bag for in-between meal snacks for the kids and yourself.
Also, each afternoon, a "fruit boat" opens up on the beach. Most of the time, this will simply look like a wrecked fishing boat, but all of a sudden in mid-afternoon, a couple of people will appear with big baskets of fresh fruit and a chopping board. They'll cut fresh slices of watermelon, pineapple, bananas, star fruit and other Caribbean treats until they run out.
Otherwise there are six dining options for families at the Dreams Punta Cana.
The World Cafe
The buffet option is open for all three meals. At least two staff members greet you at the door: one to find you a table and help with high chairs or booster seats if need. The other is armed with a squeeze bottle of hand-sanitizer and he or she makes sure that everyone who comes through this door, and thus handling all of the utensils that you and your children will be using, will have clean hands before they do so.
The World Cafe includes a child-sized buffet table, colorfully decorated and about 3 feet high so kids can help themselves or at least see what parents are putting on their plates. The choices include typical burgers, chicken nuggets and the like, but always one vegetable or fruit dish. Of course, plenty of healthy options are also available on the adult buffet, but here, kids can feel in charge of their own nutrition.
The Oceana Restaurant
This a la carte restaurant specializes in seafood, and in high season, it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Pan Asian restaurant is Himitsu, which includes three hibachi cooking areas and nine sushi demonstration areas. For safety reasons, children under 6 are not allowed here.
The Italian Restaurant and the largest on property.
The Seaside Grill
An American-style steakhouse, the grill features a huge salad bar and strolling musicians.
The Barefoot Grill
A picnic-style setting right on the beach, the Barefoot Grill offers burgers, hot dogs, nachos and the like for those families who don't want to leave the sun for even a second.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Ola! Spanish lessons are offered on the beach every day for people of all ages.
An English-speaking doctor or nurse is on duty 24 hours a day in a small onsite clinic. More than just a First Aid station, the clinic can perform minor medical procedures like stitches, and injections. Sunscreen is provided for all guests at the towel cabana.
A full-service gym that includes water aerobics classes and more is open 24 hours to any guest over age 15.
In-room babysitting services are available at an additional charge, however, the Explorer's Club, for kids 4-12 years old, is open until 10 p.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
When the snow starts falling up north, the sun is shining brightly and warmly in the Caribbean. Therefore, December through March is the busiest time of the year here, and certainly when prices are their peak as well. The off-season offers some real bargains, but the risk is that it coincides with hurricane season, which is typically September through November. In the off-season, some of the a la carte restaurants are not open every night.
The Punta Cana Airport (PUJ) is about a 30-minute taxi ride away, which will cost a family of four about $40, unless your travel agent makes other arrangements for you.
The resort is easy to walk around but for a smaller children, a stroller may be a good idea. Depending where your room is located you may have a few minutes walk to the beach or pool.
For Mom and Dad
The adults-only restaurant is Bordeaux, located on the second level above The Oceana. The menu is French and the view of the ocean is spectacular. Reservations are not mandatory, but certainly helpful during the high season.
Follow that up with a moonlight massage on the beach that includes a bottle of champagne, fruits and chocolates, and it will be the highlight of your family vacation. The moonlight massages are offered usually on Tuesday and Thursday nights, so plan accordingly.
An adults-only disco opens at 10:30 p.m. and keeps the music going until 4 a.m., if you can stay awake that late. There are also slot machines just outside the disco, for a little adult gaming