Rockin’ the Dominican Republic

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Madonna's ride
Madonna’s ride

Caribbean beaches don’t usually bring to mind electric guitars and rock ‘n roll, but that’s what you’ll find at the new, all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. The 1,787-room mega-resort swapped traditional merengue melodies in the lobby for classic rock tunes like Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama and Elton John’s Rocket Man. Instead of tropical décor, Hard Rock lined the walls with nifty memorabilia, such as: Elvis Presley’s custom-made, navy blue suit; Madonna’s fluffy bathrobe; and pop art paintings of icons like John Lennon, Santana and Janis Joplin.

The rock star theme carries into the huge split-level suites, decorated with photos of classic rock ‘n rollers. They come with a big Jacuzzi at the foot of the bed and an enormous bathroom with a dual-head shower big enough to host a small event. Wicked fast WiFi and long distance calls to the US are complimentary, as well as the in-room minibar.

The resort was specifically designed with big conferences in mind, offering 65,000 sf of meeting space in the attached convention center, with 43 breakout rooms and 4,000-pax Fillmore Ballroom. There’s also an onsite amphitheatre in the making that will seat 1,500.

In addition to all that indoor meeting space, the resort is scattered around outdoor squares perfect for open-air functions. Then there’s the powdery beach. We flew in for the grand opening and a barefoot Wailers concert with a full-production stage, buffet, bar and banquet seating right on the sand.

“We have the capability to plan and execute basically anything a planner wants to do,” says Frank Maduro, VP of Marketing. “The Dominican Republic has a lot to offer both from a tourist and cultural standpoint, and all of that can be arranged for groups…. We can do cooking lessons, bring down the PGA pros and have clinics on our Jack Nicklaus Signature course, and do dance lessons in our body rock gym. Whatever the planner can think of, we can pull off.”

Because the resort is so massive, groups can feel secluded even at max capacity. Cute little golf cart buses are constantly circling the grounds, so guests can easily get around between the 14 pools, beach and full scale casino.

This is Hard Rock’s first all-inclusive, so they went out of their way to create F&B services that truly sing.

The resort has 14 restaurants, eight of which provide table service and a la carte menu selections. We like Ipanema, a Brazilian restaurant located right on the beach where a huge selection of steak is served rodizio style.

The aptly named Zen is the resort’s teppanyaki restaurant, serving fresh spicy tuna and tempura shrimp rolls as an appetizer while the chef prepares entrees on the sizzling tabletop. These guys are genuinely sweet, performing tricks with their utensils and making jokes that transcend language, like creating a broken heart out of a pile of freshly fried rice.

The resort’s headline amenity is the monster Rock Spa. The 60,000-sf facility houses 48 treatment rooms adjacent to the resort’s Body Rock fitness center. Each treatment is preceded by at least 30 minutes of hydrotherapy for some preliminary relaxation. Then a spa attendant guides each guest through several hydrotherapy rooms including a eucalyptus steam room, aromatherapy sauna, clay steam room and an ice room.

After the treatment, attendees continue to lounge languidly in the spa’s jacuzzis and pools while sipping on detoxifying liquids and chamomile tea. Just like Madonna would do.

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