>  Destination   >  Dominican Republic   >  Hotel Review: Cayo Levantado All-Inclusive Resort, Dominican Republic

Cayo Levantado is a beautiful resort situated on one of the most famous islands in the Dominican Republic. Our review will dive into every aspect of this all-inclusive resort, from its unique rooms and boho style to its diverse dining options and top-notch facilities, to provide you with a detailed insight into the Cayo Levantado experience.

Location: 5/5

Cayo Levantado is located on “Bacardi Island” in Samana bay, a famous spot on many tours thanks to its pristine beachfront and famous Bacardi ad that was filmed onsite. The island is split in two: a public side and the private resort side. The public side has the famous beach where the ad was filmed and the newly renovated Cayo Levantado sits on the eastern side of the island.

While most travelers will be familiar with Punta Cana and the long strip of beach resorts, Samana bay is a much less “discovered” area of the Dominican Republic and there aren’t many luxury resorts in the area. Guests will have the easiest time flying into Santo Domingo airport, instead of Punta Cana, and it’s a 2.5 hour drive from the airport to the resort. Samana is famous for its whale migration in the early spring and beautiful lush peninsula with thousands of palm trees. The location truly is unique and feels much more exclusive since the resort is the only one available on the island.

Tour groups do come to the island between 8am-6pm, but hotel guests can access the public side at any time, including after the tour groups have left. The resort has it’s own beach on the eastern side of the resort as well, but there is something extremely special about the public beach’s incredible white sand and crystal clear water.

Lobby & Check in experience: 5/5

The lobby & check in experience at Cayo Levantado are much more akin to an arrival in the Maldives, than the typical arrival in the Caribbean. Guests will arrive to the welcome pavilion on the mainland and be greeted by hotel staff while they wait for the boat to take them to the island. Your check in happens at the pavilion as they collect your ID’s and pre-check you in. When we arrived, we were seated in the pavilion and offered drinks right away. The all-inclusive experience begins the moment you step foot into the pavilion and while they did not have a drink menu, you can order anything you’d like.

The boat ride to the island is only about 10 minutes long and while we did end up waiting for about an hour, we were glad to have a couple mimosas while we sat there.

Once you board the boat, you are taken straight to the resort entrance and greeted by a buggy that will take you on a quick tour of the resort before dropping you in your room.

The lobby itself is a beautiful space meant to give you the vibes of Santo Domingo, the bustling metropolis, with dark woods, cool velvet furnishings and gorgeous decor throughout the space. There is a lobby bar with specialty cocktails that don’t exist in the rest of the property so be sure to check out the lobby bar for a sundowner during your stay and make sure to ask for the specialty cocktail menu, otherwise the bar tender will make you their own specialty but I love the designed cocktails they offer that are based on Dominican specialties like coffee.

Many of the standard rooms are located in this main building as well as one of the shops, the buffet restaurant and the specialty Dominican-based restaurant, Senda. There is also a coffee shop with pastries and treats next to the lobby.

Rooms: 4.5/5

There are ten different room types available at Cayo Levantado, starting with a Junior Suite. We were booked into 1 bedroom bay view villa, which is an 840 square foot room that includes a bedroom (with either a small juliet balcony or a large sitting area), bathroom with double vanity, shower, closet and separate toilet room, separate living room and patio overlooking the bay through the foliage with a small plunge pool, 2 chaise lounges and a dinette. We loved the room’s location as it was fairly central to everything you need on property as well as the layout. As I was working, it’s helpful to have the separate living room to enjoy the view while in the air conditioning. The plunge pool is a nice touch for the hot days, though it is covered and not heated so it can be very brisk.

All the rooms feature similar amenities, including a selection of Dominican rums, some juices and beers. The minibar did feel a bit lacking as there were no snacks and no mixers for the rums so we do hope they include some additional minibar items in the future.

The bathrooms feature Perricone MD products for the shampoo, conditioner and body wash. The lotion is a local made coconut lotion that was lovely, though it was never replaced during our stay. That being said, we love the focus on incorporating local products into the room amenities to provide guests with a real sense of place.

The hotel is recently renovated so there are some finicky things that you may find. For example, they have a big focus on eco-friendliness and energy conservation so all the rooms run on a sensor. If you take a call for example, or are just watching TV, you may find yourself suddenly in the dark with no A/C when the power shuts off after 10 minutes. We inquired about setting this for a timer longer than 10 minutes, but the staff weren’t able to sort it out. It appears that the sensor in the bedroom is more sensitive and it did not turn off the air at night, but in the living room, it was almost impossible to keep the power on when working or simply sitting there. We hope this is something they can fine tune in the future, for the suites in particular.

If you are looking at deciding on a room type, I would rank them as follows:

  • Beachfront villa

If I were to book the property again, I would book a beachfront villa. These rooms feature a sunken living room with access to the patio and plunge pool, bed area connected to the bathroom as well as an exterior shower and interior shower. The layout and decor in this room is absolutely beautiful and the unobstructed views and access to the beach make this our favorite in terms of access and location.

  • Sea view junior suite with pool

These rooms have some of the best unobstructed views on property. The balconies are spacious and the addition of the plunge pool is a great treat. The location of these rooms are excellent as many sit near the beach area, making it very convenient for access to restaurants and the beach.

  • 1 bedroom bay view villa

If you are looking for extra space, then this is a great choice. Having a separate living room and bedroom is excellent, particularly if you are planning on working or just have a lot of luggage. The location of these villas is also fairly central

  1. Sea view junior suite

If you are on a budget and plan to spend most of your time exploring the property, I would book the sea view junior suite. These rooms are located primarily in the main tower and have gorgeous views and access to the lobby. They are more budget friendly than the higher categories but still afford the same amenities and facilities as the higher tier rooms.

Overall, the rooms are nicely refreshed and feature fantastic furnishings and amenities. With a more consistent minibar and focus on fine tuning the in-room technology, we have no doubt they will nail the guest experience.

As you can see, all the rooms feature a similar bohemian look and feel with different color tones and themes:

Service: 4/5

When we look at service, we typically review housekeeping, dining/activities service and overall staff interactions. Overall, the staff were eager to please and helpful across the board. The hotel is new and therefore you tend to find a mix of super experienced staff and some greener staff. In general, our experience with the weekday staff were a bit more elevated than the staff working Saturdays and Sundays.

An area we felt the property fell short was around housekeeping. Housekeeping did not refill the minibar, clean used glassware or replace items that were used. Crafting a perfect 5 star service experience starts with the fundamentals and it feels like much of housekeeping was just “sweeping things under the rug”, literally. Much like with the dining consistency, it feels like there is a lack of oversight to create a consistent experience.

An area we felt the property did a great job was around the activities and experiences. The trainers at the gym were excellent, providing skilled and challenging workouts and the yoga instructors were clearly very experienced in their field.

Another winning element of the service is the nightly gifts. Each night, guests receive a small token with a note indicating the meaning of the item during turndown. There are 5 gifts so if you stay longer you will receive one of the gifts you already received, but its a fun surprise to see what you get to come home to every night after dinner.

While you do not have a personal butler, the property uses a team of ambassadors that are essentially concierges that respond to Whatsapp messages from guests to assist with bookings, requests and needs. I would recommend downloading Whatsapp to help you manage your communications and be advised that different people do handle your requests depending on time of day and day of the week. They are overall very responsive and chatting via text is convenient and easy. You can message in whatever language is most comfortable for you as they translate the messages to Spanish, making it easy to get your point across.

Overall, the consistency issues we experienced are undoubtably something that the hotel will continue to work on as they get more experience. Going in with the right expectations will improve your overall experience. Be sure to communicate when you need something like minibar replacements or missing amenities as they are super quick to reply, just not always the most proactive.

Dining: 4/5

Cayo Levantado features 5 dining outlets across the resort including 1 buffet restaurant and 4 a la cartes. Overall, the food is quite good and there is a variety of choices. One thing we absolutely loved is that there are multiple breakfast options available outside the buffet. Both Santa Yuca and Carey offer breakfast that is a la carte.

Palma Real is the main food display restaurant located next to the lobby. This restaurant was open one of the evenings of our stay and featured a large variety of choices including meat, pasta, seafood, salad and an extensive desert section. The desert was definitely the winner at this outlet. While it is a buffet, they do have servers for beverages as well as a specialty beverage cart that comes around and offers a specialty cocktail.

Carey is the beachfront restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast was good overall and the lunch was somewhat inconsistent. While there were certainly dishes that were good day to day, it is very clear that there were different chefs on different days using different ingredients. The setting is idyllic and the food for the most part tasted very fresh and light.

Senda is a specialty outlet that is a set menu where guests can choose either the sea or the land as their menu. They describe it as a journey through the Dominican Republic countryside and is an interesting concept. On arrival, you are greeted with a beverage and walked to the first station where you are provided a soup and told a story about the stock. From there you move through two additional stations before being seated on either the land or the sea side of the restaurant. The set menu features a large selection of food and you can order the standard alcoholic drinks from the all inclusive menu. To elevate the experience, we hope they offer a wine pairing in the future as it would pair nicely. Dessert is served outside on the patio and guests can choose from a variety of cakes and pastries to enjoy. Overall, we really enjoyed the experience, though untraditional and would recommend it for a special occasion with one tip: come hungry!

Santa Yuca is located next to the inland pool and is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their breakfast is focused on wellness and features the best coffee on the island, fresh juices and smoothies as well as a nice selection of vegan and gluten free items. We enjoyed having breakfast here thanks to the fresh juice and coffee. This is also a very convenient location if you are attending any of the wellness or fitness classes in the morning as it’s located right next to the gym.

Manaya is the steakhouse on property and has a very cool vibe. They use only wood fire to cook the food and they offer a (limited) selection of steaks as well as chicken and seafood included on the all-inclusive plan. The ribeye was by far the favorite of the two options and I can highly recommend it. We were given a tour of the meat fridge on the way to our table but we noticed no one else was offered this tour so we recommend asking when you check in as it’s a cool experience to see the options available. They do have a selection of steaks available to upgrade to if you would like a t-bone or similar.

Room service is also available on property, though there are no menus in the room. You can ask the ambassador team for options if you would like to order room service. I had a Caesar salad sent to the room during my workday and it was delivered promptly and it was very good.

We did have the chance to experience their new romantic dinner paid option. They set up a beautiful table circled with tiki torches right in view of the sunset. The dinner was a surf and turf style dinner catered primarily by Manaya, including a delicious beef tartar, delicious breads, pasta and a lobster & steak entree. We also received the most elegant cake I’ve seen at a romantic dinner that was exceptional. I highly recommend booking this on an evening where they have the sunset DJ as it provided a very nice ambience as we were seated for dinner.

Overall, the dining was good. While there were a number of inconsistencies when it comes to the quality and recipes of dishes, there was a lot of choice on property. They are clearly still fine tuning some of their processes and we’ll be very excited to come back in a year or so to see how they’ve been able to uplevel their consistency and experiences in the F&B department.

Facilities: 5/5

Cayo Levantado has leaned into the wellness focus for their property. Most of the facilities have this focus on wellness and several are designed with wellness as the primary goal.

One of the areas we felt they really excelled was around the activities. They property features an extensive collection of fitness and wellness focused classes. Not only can you take the standard yoga and meditation classes, but they have a selection of very personalized and difficult fitness classes with their training staff. Most of the classes were not super busy and we felt like we got really personalized support. Some of the classes we took that we absolutely loved were the Bootcamp, TRX and the sound healing classes. We did take the floating meditation but would probably skip that next time. The fitness classes were super tough in the best way, which really made it feel like a true workout and I would highly recommend it.

Yubarta is the wellness area of the resort that hosts classes including yoga, meditation, sound healing and some private experiences like the ice bath experience. It’s a open pagoda style location that is set amongst the trees and it’s a very relaxing place. I would recommend bringing some bug spray, but definitely try some classes in Yubarta if you are interested in wellness activities.

Apart of fitness and wellness focused activities, they also host a variety of evening entertainment. There are often sunset DJ sessions, live bands at dinner and fire shows at night. Be sure to ask the the staff if you are not sure what the activities are because they do all have the traditional Taino names attached to them so they may not always be very obvious. If you are into partying on vacation, they do have a dance party with a DJ after 10pm on the public beach that goes until pretty late. While the occupancy was low during our stay, the DJ was amazing and I can picture this being a very popular event in busier times. One of the most considered decisions the hotel made was hosting this after party on the public side because you cannot hear the music from most of the hotel property, which is typically a huge issue at these types of resorts.

There are two pool areas on property. There is a pool at the top of the hill next to Santa Yuca and it’s a great place to spend the day if you are looking to get out of the wind and be in the less crowded zone. There is ample seating, great shade structures and a bar located at this pool.

The second pool area is at the beach club and features a large pool next to the restaurant as well as the beachfront with pergolas, chaise loungers and access to the water. While the cabanas get taken much faster than at the hilltop pool, this was our preferred hangout area. They do serve food and drinks at the beach as well. We found the service at the pool to be much more lacking, but the beach servers were excellent.

They do have a spa that we were not able to try this time. The spa facilities do look nice and prices are fairly standard American prices with 60-minute massages coming in around $180 and access to the hydrotherapy circuit costing $40.

Overall, the facilities are exactly what you would expect for a 5 star wellness-focused resort. One thing I loved about the experience was that while there was an emphasis on wellness, you also did not have to partake in any of it. If your vacation style is to drink on a beach all day – that is available. If you want to take every activity and focus more on your wellness- that is available. There are many options to craft the ideal experience, which makes Cayo Levantado a great choice for a relaxing, all-inclusive vacation.

Style: 5/5

Cayo Levantado was renovated recently to transform the hotel from an aging 4 star all-inclusive to a wellness-focused, updated experience with a bohemian vibe. Throughout the property, the theme and style are incredibly thorough and considered. There are seemingly hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of decor on tables, shelves and in the rooms. Regardless of the room type you book, it still looks and feels very complete. In the post-COVID world where many hotels have abandoned the small touches in rooms and general areas, Cayo Levantado has leaned into these touches to complete the look and we absolutely love it. Different buildings and blocks of rooms have different color schemes that represent the natural elements of the surroundings which give the appearance of uniqueness across the room types.

The restaurants are incredibly well decorated and designed to reflect the style of the cuisine and the dining experience. Every dining outlet features a different energy reflecting the different cuisines. Seating areas are comfortable, plush and very clean. There are so many different spaces to hang out and relax without being too crowded, with the exception of the beach chairs.

One feature of the style we really appreciated is that the hotel was designed and decorated by Dominican designers, giving it a true sense of place and appreciation of the culture. Overall, the style is exceptional and they did an excellent job renovating the resort.

Overall: 4.6/5

Overall, we are delighted to say we have found a true luxury all-inclusive property in the Dominican Republic. It’s really one of the most unique vacation destinations in the country thanks to the incredible location and 5-star facilities. I would not hesitate to recommend the resort to anyone looking for a great vacation that is relaxing, as active as you want it to be and a truly inclusive experience.

Disclaimer: We were hosted by Cayo Levantado on a media stay. Please know the opinions expressed are all our own and may not reflect the hotel’s own views.

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