When it comes to all-inclusive resorts, two images come to mind: children running around while their parents struggle to corral them, and drunk frat bros stumbling into or out of elevators, confused about which floor their hotel room is on.
I can’t exactly say where these images come from. Perhaps from the way all-inclusive resorts are portrayed in television and film, or based on what I’ve heard from people who frequent these types of resorts.
My all-inclusive experience has exclusively been on cruises, which I gradually decided are not really for me. I’d much prefer to fly into a destination, do excursions on my own time, and not feel pressured to get back to the dock at least two hours early in case the ship leaves without me. Plus, I was annoyed that the “all-inclusive” part did not include soda or alcoholic beverages. A travesty!
I thought my cruise experience dampened any appreciation I had for all-inclusive anything—until I was invited to experience Marriott International’s first ever luxury all-inclusive resort, Sanctuary Cap Cana.
After a four-month setback due to Hurricane Fiona’s wrath in the Dominican Republic last September, Sanctuary has finally reopened. Here, everything really is included, from the alcoholic beverages to the food, but the luxury part genuinely stood out.
The adults-only resort (ahem, no screaming children) features 324 suites across 19 categories including a private island suite, colonial suites, oceanfront luxury villas, and private villas with furnished terraces overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also the latest selection for Room Key, Beast Travel’s series on exciting new hotels.
The plush resort offers a variety of food options at several eateries around the property that include Italian and Asian cuisine, a steakhouse, a buffet open for breakfast and lunch and seven bars. There’s also an oceanfront restaurant specializing in seafood.
The most unique place to eat is in Sanctuary Town, which is aptly named because it feels exactly like a little town. It houses a plethora of restaurants including a burger and sushi joint, a coffee shop, a Spanish restaurant that serves traditional Tapas and an ice cream and pastry shop. It is the only part of the resort that is accessible to the public as visitors are able to access it via the main street leading to Juanillo Beach. It is also the only area within the resort where families with children are welcome.
Right across from Sanctuary Town is the main lobby where the mix of Spanish Colonial and Caribbean architecture is most apparent as cobblestone and palm trees line the access road. The first thing I noticed when I checked in were six crystal pillars surrounding a large fountain—one of 10 around the entire resort. Aside from their regality, the pillars serve a purpose outside of aesthetics. The crystal is made from selenite which some people believe contains healing properties. “If you touch the selenite crystals, they’re going to absorb bad vibes and bad energy and replace them with good energy,” Sanctuary Cap Cana tour guide Frank said.
Luckily, I wasn’t harboring any bad vibes that day, but I rubbed on one of the pillars for some good vibes just in case.
Once my admiration for the crystal pillars wore off, I immediately gravitated toward the lobby’s flooring and general décor. Coralina stone, popular in the DR, coated the floors and stained glass covered the ceiling, giving off a palatial, opulent vibe. The comfy couches, chairs and cerulean blue hue on the walls were more modern touches but didn’t take away from the lobby’s grandeur.
Just when I thought the lobby couldn’t be topped, I stepped outside of it onto a terrace with breathtaking views of the ocean, and an overall view of some of the buildings that house many of the 324 suites. Structures painted baby blue, peach, tan, and yellow were the most recognizable because of those vibrant colors. Many of the colonial and luxury suites are located inside these buildings and range from junior-level to premium luxury. While junior suites include a king bed or two queen beds, a full bathroom, living room and terrace, premium luxury includes much of the same furnishings and layout, but takes it up a notch with its rain shower and private balcony.
During my three-night visit, I stayed in one of Sanctuary’s villas. Not only are they distinguishable from the other dwellings because of their private entrances and VIP butler service, they also have cana on top of the roofs. Cana, which essentially looks like dead palm tree leaves, is vital for keeping rainwater out and reflects what the roofs of traditional Dominican Republic houses look like.
Walking into the over 1,000-square-foot villa felt like I had stepped into a lovely beach house. With beige, orange and white furnishings, the color scheme added a warmth to the space, ultimately living up to the Sanctuary part of the resort’s name. The tall, wooden ceiling was reminiscent of a cabin in the woods, but it didn’t take away from the general beach-like ambiance. The one-bedroom villa included a king bed, full bathroom with jetted bathtub, walk-in shower and living room, which led to a terrace with an immediate garden view. Just beyond the greenery is a gorgeous panorama of the turquoise blue ocean waters.
While you can’t go wrong with any of the villas and suites at Sanctuary, the crown jewel of the property is the castle. Yes, there’s a castle and it is even more amazing in-person. Photos don’t do it justice.
Of the 324 rooms at the resort, 68 are in the castle and 10 of those are swim-out rooms, which allow guests to access a swimming pool directly from the patio. Unlike the six common area pools on the property, the water in the private swim-out pools comes straight from the ocean.
The most luxurious accommodation in the castle, however, is the castle island suite, a 5,500-square-foot, two-level suite on a private island with a master bedroom, secondary bedroom, two and a half bathrooms, living room, full dining room and three indoor plunge pools with floor to ceiling windows offering unlimited views of the Atlantic.
Much of the castle rooms’ decor is similar to the other suites and villas at Sanctuary with beige and white furnishings, but there’s something about being inside of the castle that elevates the experience. Maybe it’s because the castle also houses the 20,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, or maybe it’s the swim-out pools with fresh saltwater.
What I know for sure is that on my next trip to the DR, there’s a suite in the castle with my name on it.
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