The Caribbean’s Best Affordable All-Inclusive Resort
By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor
Sun, sea, sand. It’s the tropical trifecta every Caribbean visitor craves. But as travelers’ tastes have become more discerning and resorts have raised the bar to meet them, the simple pleasures of an affordable all-inclusive beach holiday have given way to lemongrass-scented cold towels, white-gloved butlers, fancy hotel restaurants that serve molecular cuisine, and a credit card bill that takes more than a few months to pay off. And as much as these perks can add value to your vacay, sometimes all you really need is a cold drink on a patch of warm sand beneath the hot sun to make you happy. And that’s where I believe resorts such as RIU Republica come in.
The newest hotel from the Mallorca, Spain-based all-inclusive resort company, Riu Republica is the chain’s sixth in Punta Cana and 38th in the Caribbean. On Arena Gorda beach, about 20 minutes’ drive from PUJ, it’s a “classic” RIU, which means that it’s the lower of the company’s two resort hotel categories (the other, Palace, offers more bells and whistles). However, it’s the first classic that’s exclusively for adults (girlfriend getaway/bachelor party alert!), and despite its entry-level positioning, it feels more chic than cheap. And with daily rates that average $90 per person all-inclusive, a night here costs less than dinner for two in most cities!
Republica’s 1,000 rooms, in a U-shaped arrangement of five-story buildings, are light-filled, modern and spacious (if a bit spare). They’re spotlessly clean and decorated in a turquoise-and-white color scheme; if IKEA owned a Caribbean resort, they’d likely look a lot like this. Features include a flat-screen TV; liquor dispenser and fridge stocked with soft drinks, water and beer; and a large walk-in shower separated from the sleeping area with a wall of frosted glass.
There’s free wi-fi en suite (and throughout the resort), and I particularly appreciated the USB ports on the bedside for easy nighttime charging. There’s no room service or nightly turndown but daily fresh flowers in the bathroom were an unexpected nicety.
Of course, when you come to Punta Cana, it’s all about being on the beach and in the water, and RIU Republica doesn’t disappoint. A pair of large pools, (one with a swim-up bar and adjacent al fresco restaurant) are literal hot spots during the day, packed with tanning hordes lying on in-water chaises and waders clutching plastic cups filled with fruity frozen margaritas.
While the hotel is beachfront, it should be noted that it’s not ocean-view; a six-foot-high natural sand dune obscures the sightline from the pool deck to the sea. But simply take the path cut through it and in less than a minute you’re on the wide white-sand scallop, bordered by a string of palapas and plastic chaises three rows deep.
For dining, options include the usual buffet and an Asian (Kaori), steakhouse (Quisqueya) and Italian (Krystal) restaurant. While it won’t knock your socks off, the food is decent and plentiful, with enough variety that you’re sure to find something you like.
To work off your indulgences, there’s a well-equipped fitness center on site, as well as the Renova Spa. Treatments are at an additional cost but use of the sauna and steam rooms is complimentary, as is use of the hot and cold plunge pools in the elegant open-air sanctuary.
Your fellow guests will be mostly Americans, but the chain says that 15 percent of its clientele comes from Latin American and another 15 from Canada, so the atmosphere is definitely cosmopolitan. During my stay I heard lots of English accents and Spanish-speaking guests were plentiful.
The buffet La Altagracia restaurant at Riu Republica.
While RIU Republica isn’t a five-star hotel by North American standards (the hotel is noted as Riu Republic 5* on its website) it is an excellent option for the right guest. The bottom line: If a beautiful beach, plentiful (and premium) booze, and sticking to a budget are your priorities, you won’t find a better bargain in Punta Cana.
That’s what makes it the best Affordable All-Inclusive in the Caribbean right now.