Hotel Review: Westin Puntacana Resort, Dominican Republic
Max and I booked a two night stay at the Westin Punta Cana on a short trip to exchange a rental car back in October. We booked our stay using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points and got a great deal, thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 25% bonus when redeeming through their portal. Overall, the Westin is exactly what you would expect from a Westin hotel: clean, safe and quiet. Stay tuned for the end where we discuss our new COVID-19 Safety Rating — a score that does not impact the overall rating, but is a standalone score.
The Westin is located inside the Punta Cana Resort gated community. It’s literally located next to the airport, making it an incredibly convenient escape for travelers. The grounds are beautifully manicured and the beach is sparkling white. There is quite a current off the beach, so that’s one thing to keep in mind if you swim in the ocean. The water is spectacular and they do have a sargassum barrier that lines the Punta Cana Resort community (one of the advantages of staying in a hotel at one of the communities).
We booked a premium room with an ocean view and I can say I would probably not bother with the upgrade next time. The room was nice enough, but the standard rooms had the same view – so not worth it in our book. The Westin is part of the Punta Cana Resort & Club complex, allowing guests to explore a safe, lush complex with multiple hotels and restaurants.
The beachfront is spectacular, with limited sargassum thanks to the extensive barrier around the entire complex. The Westin has a nice pool area with ample seating as well as ample beach seating. Guests have free access to the lagoons and cave-like formations at a facility inside the complex, however, we did not get to try it due to some confusion around the opening and closing times. The spa is inside the greater complex as well, at the Six Senses Spa, and the hotel will drive you to the spa and pick you up.
The dining at the Westin was ok – not bad, but not great either. Their appetizers at dinner were good, but the entrees themselves were cold and not particularly great. The breakfast was, again, ok. Not great, not terrible. If you are on a breakfast plan, keep in mind that the “speciality” juice is an extra $7.20 USD.
The style was exactly what we were expected and what we wanted for the Westin. The rooms are clean, simple and thoughtfully considered for what guests need and want. The bedding is comfortable, fluffy and true to the Westin Heavenly Bed standard. The rooms are simple, but refreshed and have exactly what you need to work, relax and enjoy the property. The rest of the property felt very much the same: simple, clean and nicely refurbished. If you close the blinds, you could be anywhere and that’s exactly what makes the Westin consistent anywhere you go in the world. You won’t find avant-gard decor here, it’s just simple…the Westin.
Overall, the Westin was pretty much what we expected. A solid 4 stars. Nice rooms, nice facilities, ok service and ok food. It’s a great place if you’re looking to relax on a quiet beach and venture off the property for dinner. We appreciated their Mask requirements in public places and did find that the staff did an overall good job when it came to precautions.
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We are here today at the Westin Resort in Punta Cana. We booked this pretty last minute on Chase Ultimate Rewards Points and it was a great deal! We’re super excited to tell you all about our stay, what we love, and of course everything we love about this area here in the Dominican Republic!
Welcome back to the channel, if you’re new here, I’m Max, I’m Maren, and we’re Voyager Guru! We post weekly videos with travel tips, hotel reviews, and videos from some of our favorite destinations around the world; so if you don’t already, consider subscribing. And, if you like this video make sure to give it a thumbs up, it really means a lot! Before we get started with the review, one thing we do want to touch on is we are actually here during a pretty unique time. If you watch some of our other videos, we’re actually down in the Dominican Republic. We’ve been here for a couple months and it’s the summer of 2020. So yes, it is COVID and there are a lot of things that hotels are doing that are very unique for this particular time in order to make guests feel safe. In particular this hotel being a Westin is owned by the Marriott Group. They have passed a lot of different rules for their properties and so there’s a lot of interesting things that they’re doing specifically for COVID. We’ll talk about most of those at the end of this video. We’ll also do something which we’re doing new, for videos that we’re recording now, which is doing a “COVID Rating”, we’ll save that for the end so make sure you stay tuned! All right, let’s jump right into our Hotel Review!
Our first category is “Location.” Location we rate 5 stars. The Westin is located inside something called the “Punta Cana Resort Complex.” It’s literally right next to the airport, and if you’re one of the lucky ones who flies through a private jet, it’s actually inside this complex. Yeah it’s actually kind of crazy, when you get out of the Punta Cana Airport (PUJ), there’s a roundabout just as you pull out, you go around the roundabout and basically the entrance to this gated community is directly on the other side. So it’s about as close as you could possibly get to any airport, anywhere, and so for that reason we find that it’s a super convenient location. It’s located inside the Punta Cana Resort Complex with a number of other hotels, residences, and other things and because of this we actually have a huge advantage over the Sargassum Seaweed that does take over this area. There’s a gigantic floating barrier surrounding all of the complex, so it keeps a lot of that seaweed out, which I cannot say for a lot of the other resorts in the area. Now, what we will say about the Punta Cana area, if you have watched some of our other videos there are a few of these gated communities. The other major one is Cap Cana. A number of our other resorts, which you can check up here in the top corner we’ve linked, are in the Cap Cana area. Similar to that, they also have managed to unify together as a community and be able to keep out that Sargassum Seaweed; at least significantly more than some of the areas that are outside of any of those communities. And so it is definitely something to consider if you’re booking a trip down here, what area you’re gonna be in and being part of one of those gated communities is actually really important. Yeah, and you get the white sand beaches, the beautiful flat water, it’s absolutely a dream! One of the things a lot of people don’t realize about the Dominican Republic is how diverse it is, and down here in Punta Cana they have those perfect white sand beaches, just like you’d find in the Maldives or Virgin Gorda, with that insanely blue water! It is really truly picturesque and it’s exactly what a lot of people are looking for when they’re looking to book these types of tropical vacations.
Our second category is “Lobbying & Check-in”. Lobby and check-in we rate 4 stars. The Westin is a beachfront hotel and the lobby is beautiful. It overlooks the property and you can see the sea in the background. Very open air and it has a really beautifully designed tropical feel to it. In addition, for COVID-19 precautions, they’ve put plexiglass around the check-in stand, so it does give you a nice safe feeling when talking to the person on the other side. We checked in really early and the hotel is not very full right now, so we were able to get our room early. The bar that’s located inside the lobby was kind enough to make us some delicious juice beverages while we were waiting for the room keys, so it was a really nice experience. One thing that they did cover at check-in, that’s super cool about this area, inside this grouping of hotels in the complex of the Punta Cana Resort you have this amazing ecological park where they have natural pools and hikes and you can walk all throughout. We actually didn’t have the opportunity to do it while we were here because we’re only here for two days, we’re actually working while working down here as well, so it was kind of in and out. We’re super excited to come back down here to check that out.
Our third category is “Rooms.” Rooms we rate 4 stars. We’re in a premium room with an ocean view and due to COVID-19, they are trying not to accommodate people on the higher floors. So we are located on the first floor, which is typically not my preference because you do have a less of an ocean view than you would on a higher floor, however, these rooms are very nice! They’re quite a bit more spacious than the traditional rooms, they have a walk-in closet, a much larger bathroom, and a beautiful king bed with a Heavenly Bed. I will say about the ground floor units as well, they do have a chaise lounge on the balcony, which other rooms on the higher floors do not because you naturally have a slightly larger patio area. Overall, your room is pretty nice. It’s what you get with a standard Westin, so if you stayed in a Westin before and that’s why you’re looking at this video, which chances are it is. It’s a very comfortable bed, they’ve got a nice big closet, a big comfortable bathroom. I will say one thing that was interesting, the bathroom, I think the lighting could have been improved. Where the shower was, it feels like there might be some lighting that’s missing. I don’t know if that’s just unique to our room but it was definitely on the darker side. And, as with all Westins, you get the heavenly bed you get the White Tea Aloe products, it’s all the same across most Westins around the world and this one’s no different. They do have some pretty cool decor that’s in the room that does make it a little bit more unique. They’ve put some coral up on the wall, they’ve used a lot of blue accents and that matches the blue accents they put on the outside of the building, so that does tie it together back to some of the beachy feeling. Not quite the same thing as some of these corporate hotels where it does feel like if you draw the blinds you could really be anywhere. They have brought some of that unique beach style here and we do really appreciate that.
Our fourth category is “Service”. Service we rate 3 stars. As much as we’d love to give them 5 stars and as much as we’ve been pretty kind across the board during the COVID times, service has been on the more mediocre side to be honest. Yeah, certainly the biggest issue in service that we found was with food and beverage. They are incredibly slow, not very well trained, and I think it really comes down to an issue with management. We’re not sure whether there’s been a lot of turnover for the Westin in particular during COVID-19, so we are giving a little bit of leeway there. But, it is certainly something that we think in general this property needs to work on. Particularly when they’re running at such a low occupancy! It should be something that like some of the other hotels, which you can check right here in the upper corner, have had amazing service while we’ve been down here, because there’s so few people in the hotel. So, that was something that was a little bit disappointing. Yeah, and we called the front desk to ask for a couple of items, they came so fast and we’re really excited about that high level of service from the front desk, particularly when you’re calling or using the WhatsApp texting line. However, when it came to food and beverage, it just really went downhill very fast. The good news is, you don’t have to eat at the property. There are a number of restaurants within the complex so it is possible that dinner service elsewhere is a bit better. Yeah, and we’ll talk about it later in facilities, but you can also take out a bike for free, ride around the complex area and go to some of those other restaurants at night. Housekeeping does come during your stay, even during COVID, they send you an email before arrival, which I really appreciate. It was very detailed! You could also request items in the room, that are typically in the room outside of COVID, like a coffee machine and robes. And, they do ask that you request those things in advance so they can clean them and put them in your room before your stay. One of those things was requesting housekeeping. You can request it every day, every other day, but after four days they do require a housekeeper in the room, so keep that in mind if you’re coming for a week and you prefer not to have anyone in the room.
Our fifth category is “Dining.” Dining we rate 3.5 stars. The food was good for a Westin hotel, it was fairly consistent, it just wasn’t five stars. Yeah, and honestly some of that came down to the same issues that we talked about in service. On one of our meals in particular, the food was decently good but it did come out cold. And so, I think that that’s one of those things that they just need to work on. It took a very long time to actually get the food, and so by the time we did get it, it wasn’t great. Also, breakfast was, okay. There are certain things on the menu, but it is kind of a “hit or miss” type thing. One thing that does make the Westin pretty unique in terms of food and beverage. is that it is one of the few resorts in the area that is NOT all-inclusive. And so because of that, you do have the option though to eat wherever you’d like. There are other restaurants, you can hire a taxI to take you outside of the complex, you can also obviously rent a car, and there are a couple restaurants that are in walking distance; including down the beach at Playa Blanca as well as at the golf course where they have a steak and seafood house. The prices are in line with the room rates at the Westin, cocktails are about $8 USD appetizers range from $12-$15 USD and entrees go for around $20 USD or so. However the food, I did not feel really matched the prices, considering the all-inclusives in the area have significantly better value. With that said, the cocktails were fabulous! Yeah, and that is something that is definitely one of their strong suits.
Our sixth category is “Facilities.” Facilities we rate 4.5 stars. The Westin has everything, and the complex really does have everything. As well, there’s a Sixth Senses Spa. If you’re familiar with that brand, they do have a spa inside the complex and the prices are actually very reasonable for that type of spa. They have a beautiful pool area, beach service where they serve you lunch and cocktails, and they really have everything you need for a great vacation. Yeah, and there’s also a lot of cool unique features of being in this area. Like we mentioned before, they have the ecological preserve, where you’re able to go on nature hikes and swim in the natural pools. They also have bikes which you’re able to take out, bikes are free and there’s a lot of really nice things on this property. There’s obviously also your standard nice things that you’re going to get at a Westin; they have a nice gym, they have a beautiful big pool, and they also do have some water activities. The water activities are for a charge, so taking out a paddle board costs about $25 USD an hour, so do keep that in mind if you’re budgeting for your trip. If you are interested in windsurfing or kite-surfing this is actually an area that you can do it. Now, the winds are far less consistent than other places in the Dominican, like Cabarete, but one unique thing about this area is you have perfectly flat crystal blue water. So, if you do have wind, which we didn’t, it is an awesome place to be.
And our final, and seventh category is “Style”. Style we rate 3 stars. It’s a pretty standard Westin with some nice decor that they’ve added for the area that we’re in, but you’re getting exactly what you would expect from a Westin hotel. Yeah, when we booked this hotel on our points, we knew exactly what we were getting into, and that’s honestly one of the reasons that we did it during COVID times. Everything’s a little bit uncertain and so for us we really liked the certainty of knowing that we were going to have a beautiful comfortable room, with a nice clean property, and a beautiful beach, and have that kind of standard Westin experience. I wish they put some cushions on the chairs, and the restaurants and on the patio in the room, they are a little bit hard, but maybe that’s something they do in regular times.
Overall we rate this property 3.9 stars. It’s exactly what we needed and what we wanted for our quick getaway for these two days. As we mentioned at the beginning of the video we did book this on our Chase Sapphire Reserve Points, so if you’d like to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it is NOT sponsored, we do not work in any capacity with chase, or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but as Travel Bloggers, it is one of our number one cards and so in the link in the description below we’ve added we’ve added a couple articles specifically about that card and why we like it so much for travel, because there’s really no other card that’s going to get you the same amount of points and the same amount of return on travel spend, or to be able to use for travel as that card.
And, as we mentioned we have our brand new “COVID-19 Safety Rating,” it does not impact the hotel’s overall score in fairness to the other hotels that we’ve worked with, but we do think it’s so important to share with you our thoughts about their COVID process, how they protect guests and staff alike, and the changes that they’ve made across the board during these bizarre times. And we rate this hotel for COVID-19 safety, 4.5 stars. Yeah, which is honestly one of the highest ratings that we’ve given because they really have done a great job! Marriott has instituted, as we mentioned before, a lot of brand protocols across all of their different flagship brands, where they’re insisting that people wear masks on property. They’ve taken cleaning precautions when you go to the restaurants, they’re wiping down the tables when you check-in, they’ve got plexiglass, they insist that you have your mask on in public spaces, etc. So they’re really, really doing a good job of making sure that guests are following those, that employees are following those, and they’ve done a great job on very short notice, of training the employees to be able to institute all of these new rules and regulations for COVID-19. There are only a few minor things that were inconsistent, but it just comes down to, I think, training around these brand new protocols across the hotel. But overall they’ve done a really great job! They sanitize your luggage when you come in, there’s clear entry and exit pathways so that guests don’t run into each other, and the hotel is at a very low occupancy. And, if you’re wondering, is that something that we’re just saying because we’re being nice, we’re NOT working with Marriott, We’re NOT working with the Westin. We did book this on points and we have also stayed at a couple hotels down here, one of which we stayed for less than a night. We actually checked in and checked immediately out because we were just too afraid to stay there. So, we are coming from a place of understanding exactly what travelers are looking for during these trips and if you’re looking to travel during COVID-19, we do think that this is a very safe option. And while Marriott does require masks in public spaces, one thing we will please urge you to do is always wear a mask in public spaces regardless of the hotel that you choose on your trip. It is so important to keep the staff and other guests safe, as well as protect yourself from others.
All right, that wraps up our video! If you like this video, make sure to give it a thumbs up! It really means a lot! And of course, if you haven’t hit that “Subscribe” button yet, it’s right there! Hit that subscribe button! It’s not that hard, look, it’s like…it’s…just.. And of course, check out our photos on Instagram from our entire trip, from the Dominican Republic, @voyagerguru. Go check out our blog at voyagerguru.com, there we have full destination guides for the Dominican Republic, all of the written reviews of our hotels, and of course, links to all the other things that we’ve been working on, all the places that we’re traveling, and all of our upcoming plans!
So as always, I’m Maren and I’m Max, and we’re Voyager Guru! See you out there!