Resorts in the Caribbean tend to fall into two categories when it comes to decor. There’s the bright, colorful, traditional approach: floral print fabrics, local paintings of oceans or flamboyant trees, and bamboo furnishings. Then there’s the modern approach: white buildings accented by white flowing curtains and white marble floors, the only touch of color being dark mahogany furnishings. Resort properties come and go, debuting new amenities here and innovative attractions there, but where the aesthetics are concerned, there’s seemingly nothing new under the Caribbean sun.
So imagine our shock when we walked into the lobby of the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Punta Cana, a former Moon Palace property that’s still operated by Palace Resorts. Palace’s Le Blanc resort in Cancun is the best example of the modern approach to Caribbean design—all white, all the time. But here in Punta Cana, there’s no white to be found, and few bright, tropical colors, as well. What you’ll find here are plush, fuzzy couches and chairs sectioned off by velvet ropes, surrounded by walls in deep, rich purples and reds, all adorned with pop art paintings of iconic musicians. Aside from a few small hints (the remaining thatched roof, for example), we felt transported directly to Las Vegas.
As we further explored the resort, we discovered the decor at the Hard Rock is just one of the many ways in which this property is reinventing the Caribbean all-inclusive experience. With sexy amenities in its rooms, a forward-thinking approach to entertainment and a casino that does Vegas proud, this Caribbean resort—the first all-inclusive under the Hard Rock brand—is truly in a category all its own.
Paradise City With 1,790 rooms spread out across an enormous plot of land, the Hard Rock really does feel like a small metropolis. But unlike your typical urban accommodations, these are both spacious and intimate. Measuring 800 sq. ft., the standard Caribbean suites include private balconies and a 2-person jacuzzi tub set in a sunken living room area just below a king-size bed fitted with 300-count sheets. Bathrooms are also among the most spacious we’ve seen in standard accommodations. The shower area alone—fitted with two showerheads and a bench—is as big as some bathrooms we’ve seen. Clients with mobility issues can upgrade to Islander suites to ensure that they’re closer to the lobby, while families can request rooms near the children’s pool for convenient access to the amenities they’ll use the most.
Not that any guest at the Hard Rock is stuck in one place. Its expansive grounds encompass 11 swimming pools, including the Eden pool for European-style bathing, a family pool with waterslides and kid-appropriate music, and pools guests can choose based on their musical tastes: the Isla pool for Latin beats, or the Woodstock pool for classic rock. There’s also a pool with no music called, appropriately, The Library. Restaurants and bars—both on land and swim-up—are also peppered throughout the property, ensuring no one has to go on a trek just to find a frozen drink. Or to get active, for that matter. Guests here also have access to mini-golf, basketball courts, rollerblading and skateboarding—all included.
A Material World Outside the resort, its size and variety are what set it apart from the rest. But head inside, and you’ll find plenty more to pique your interest. The central hub of the Hard Rock is one long hallway, extending from its mammoth convention space at one end, to its equally impressive casino at the other—with an impressive lineup of shops, restaurants, cafes and more along the way. At press time, the shops along this corridor were still being planned, but the few we did see—designer clothing and sunglass shops alongside more traditional souvenir stores—looked to be the perfect blend of comfortable and upscale. There’s also a Rock Shop, the Hard Rock’s signature store. Even if you’re not a shopper, a stroll through this section is a must, or you’ll miss catching a glimpse of rock memorabilia including cars owned by Madonna and Sammy Hagar, guitars played by Gene Simmons, and clothing worn by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Gwen Stefani.