Our eight-night November honeymoon at the EPC was our first trip to the Dominican Republic. I researched the resorts like crazy, and I'm so happy we tried the EPC. The short of it is it is the nicest people you will ever meet at the most stunningly tropical property with the longest beach-front I've ever seen. The long version and minute details follow. Please note that Tropical Storm Otto joined us, so my review is based on an unusually rainy visit.
I was not prepared for how green and tropical the resort was. The photos don't do it justice. It was beautifully jungle-y with so much foliage and tropical plants. The attention to detail with the landscaping is amazing. The gardeners are like ninjas- you never see them, but there is not a leaf out of place, and every plant is perfectly manicured. For the reviewers that say Mexico has better food, or other resorts are newer, you will not find more fully developed, astonishingly tropical grounds anywhere else. The other thing about the grounds that is remarkable is that the entire resort is built along the beach. Every other beach resort I've stayed at had some beachfront with the majority of the hotel built back from the beach. At the EPC, we didn't have to choose between beach day and pool day, because the main pool runs all along the beach. You can see the ocean from...Our eight-night November honeymoon at the EPC was our first trip to the Dominican Republic. I researched the resorts like crazy, and I'm so happy we tried the EPC. The short of it is it is the nicest people you will ever meet at the most stunningly tropical property with the longest beach-front I've ever seen. The long version and minute details follow. Please note that Tropical Storm Otto joined us, so my review is based on an unusually rainy visit.
I was not prepared for how green and tropical the resort was. The photos don't do it justice. It was beautifully jungle-y with so much foliage and tropical plants. The attention to detail with the landscaping is amazing. The gardeners are like ninjas- you never see them, but there is not a leaf out of place, and every plant is perfectly manicured. For the reviewers that say Mexico has better food, or other resorts are newer, you will not find more fully developed, astonishingly tropical grounds anywhere else. The other thing about the grounds that is remarkable is that the entire resort is built along the beach. Every other beach resort I've stayed at had some beachfront with the majority of the hotel built back from the beach. At the EPC, we didn't have to choose between beach day and pool day, because the main pool runs all along the beach. You can see the ocean from 80% of the resort. You can sit at the beach and take a swim in the pool in just a few steps. Finally, I loved that the grounds felt very Latin or colonial. I don't want to fly all the way to the Caribbean to stay in an ultra modern resort that looks like it belongs at the Vegas strip.
The main pool at EPC is one of my all time favorite resort pools, which is saying a lot! I have never seen such a large pool that is so close to the ocean.You can see and hear the ocean from almost any place in the long, winding pool. I really liked the quiet end, near Building 14. It has a beach-style zero entry, and is the widest part of the pool. Sol Bar with the lovely Kendry is right there, and the servers will also bring you refills in the pool if you don't want to get out! This was great to learn, as at first I was surprised that such a huge pool only had one swim up bar. By having drink service but no swim-up, they have truly made a tranquil place to relax. At the end of the quiet end, there is a full barrier wall. So, you have to get out and back in to swim the entire pool. It'd be nice to swim the whole pool, but it does provide a barrier between the quiet end and the swim-up. The pool was nicely heated as well.
The other end of the main pool includes the activities team and the swim up bar. I've never been one to participate in pool activities, but the swim-up was a lot of fun. It's a long bar with tons of seats, and the thatched roof totally shields the sun (or the rain).
One big surprise at the pools is they don't have any floats. I've read so many reviews about the floats, and problems at times with float-hogging, but they simply don't have ANY any more. I bought a $7 super junkie one at the gift shop. So, if you like to lounge on a float, or use one as a cocktail table to push your drink around the pool, order a decent one from Amazon.
We liked the main pool so much we didn't take advantage of the Cascade pool. It does have a lovely, quiet ambiance with the two layers of water falls. If the main pool hadn't had an ocean view, we might have split up our pool time more.
The food is very palatable, with some really pleasant surprises. Manage your expectations, keep in mind it's an island and a developing country, and don't be afraid to branch out. I've had better all inclusive food, and I've had waaaay worse. If you eat seafood, stick to the fish as often as possible. We had some legitimate five star fish entrees. The beef is quite different than in the States. You'll see hundreds of cows on the drive to the resort, and they are just different. They almost look like water buffalo, and they are very lean. It appears they just eat grass, so I imagine the beef is actually far healthier than the fat, corn-fed cows we eat. But, most beef entrees we tried were pretty dry.
For dinner, we got a lot of great tips from asking other guests while chilling in the pool what the best thing they had ordered was. Some of the best meals we had were off-menu. By befriending the servers and giving our favorites repeat business, towards the end of the week they were offering to prepare us specials for dinner. We had some amazing platters that way at the Grill and at Spice. If you aren't over the moon about what you ordered, try something new, and worst case scenario, the late night pizza near the disco is delicious. The room service is also prompt and hot for any midnight snacks. (You can also order champagne by the bottle from them).
One of the best things about dinner is no reservations! I will never go back to an all inclusive with reservations. It's great to decide on a lark where to eat that night. I don't care to schedule the time and place of all dinners upon check-in.
The breakfast buffet closes at 11 and starts breaking down at 10:30. As such, we weren't able to fully experience it, preferring to sleep in and hit the gym. The lunch buffet, however, was fantastic. A huge fresh salad bar with items I don't often see at home, like hearts of palm. It also had sushi, grilled-to-order meats, a wide variety of prepared dishes, self-serve champagne, and two flavors of sangria.
A la carte breakfast and lunch
Most days, we went to the Lobster House for breakfast. They offer a handful of egg-based breakfasts with different meats or starches. We enjoyed all of them. The service is attentive, and the open-air restaurant has a nice breeze and view of the ocean.
The Grill is also open air, built over the pool. We had lunch there several days. The special of the day and soup of the day were always very good. They offer three ceviches which were fresh and delicious. The grilled grouper there was one of my favorite things I ate. The Grill has its own bar, so drink service is very prompt.
Las Olas is outdoor grill right on the beach open from 12-4. They have a standing selection of pizza and burgers, and rotating items of the day. The unfamiliar Dominican dishes were uniformally better than the American ones, duh, so again, branch out! They had paella and spicy beef/black bean nachos that were delicious. Their pizza is wood-fired and amazing! We liked to pop into Las Olas for a snack about 3:30. They have to-go containers if you want to take it back to your lounge chair. The servers there, and the guys grilling, are super nice. In the afternoon, they will also walk around the pool with mini-pizzas, so you don't even have to get out of your chair to indulge!
The rooms look exactly like the 900 pictures of the rooms on TA. It baffles me when people have a TA account, get all the way to the hotel without knowing what the rooms look like, and then are displeased. I would not call our room "tired" or "dated." I didn't expect remote-controlled blackout shades or a TV inside the bathroom mirror. Its not Las Vegas. Our basic garden view room had ample space, plenty of storage for clothes, great air conditioning, and a lovely shower. The rain shower had great water pressure. (Yes, the in-shower window is not something we see at home. Look on the resort map and request a building near a pool bathroom or the Club house if you get the club for more bathroom privacy). The included Club toiletries were really nice. I asked for a mattress topper right off the bat because I don't like firm mattresses, and it was lovely. The linens and towels were very nice, and the housekeeping got the room spotless every day. The balcony was small, but nice to chill for a few minutes before we went to dinner. The mini-bar was much better equipped than any other place I've stayed. It came stocked with regular and lite beer, sauvignon blanc, Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Tonic, Club Soda (all in those glass bottles we don't get at home), cranberry, orange, and Clamatto juice. We left a note and a tip with our requests and it was always stocked with our favorites.
We had a top floor room, with a vaulted ceiling. We loved the ceiling and not having any guests above us. However, if you are not up for taking the stairs, get a first floor room. We took the stairs nearly exclusively, and appreciated a little exercise. When we finally took the elevator to check out (we had our own suitcases and had chosen not to ask for a bell hop), the elevator was cramped and about 105 degrees. I would have been uncomfortable to take it multiple times per day.
What a lovely surprise! It sounds strange that a gym is one of the highlights of a tropical vacation, but I absolutely loved this gym. The gym is huge, perfectly air conditioned, with a super high ceiling and wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows. It has a great view of the mountains and the eco park. Inside were all the weight machines of a real health club, new and in great condition, plus two sets of free weights. They are in kilometers, but there's a handy chart on the wall to convert. The cardio equipment was in great shape as well. They pump in a lovely scent and blast super fun Dominican hip-hop. They have fruit-infused and chlorophyll infused water. The other half of the gym is a functional fitness room with mats, kettlebells, jump ropes, medicine balls, push-up handles, etc. Best of all, an amazing employee named Andras takes great pride in caring for the gym. As soon as you finish using something, he cleans it. When you've finished your workout, he magically appears with a tray of iced, eucalyptus infused face towels! He was one of my very favorite employees at the resort, which is saying a lot! If you're even mildly into working out, don't pass up this gym.
The Eco Park
Don't miss this! The birds are crazy beautiful, including the pinkest flamingos you'll ever see. It's a very peaceful area to walk around and check out all the wildlife.
The EPC staff are among the nicest, hardest working people you will ever meet. The language barrier might be greater than places I've stayed in Mexico, but I've never seen people work harder to make the guests happy. I want to make a disclaimer here that none of the stand-out staff I am about to acknowledge asked me to mention them on Trip Advisor. I wouldn't do it if they'd asked. The practice by select staff (aka the entertainment team) of helping people start a TA account to leave a 3-sentence review with their names is incredibly off-putting. It clogs up the hotel's TA page and does nothing to help people decide the EPC is for them. The management needs to put a stop to this practice. That said, we had two particularly wonderful bartenders that stood out among the excellent crowd. Kendry at the Sol Bar and Yerlin at the swim-up. They remembered our regulars, made excellent drinks, refilled them before we even had to ask, and were just smiley, friendly guys, all through their crazy long shifts. At night they moved inside to the lobby bars and ultimately worked at least 12-hour shifts. We also met two incredibly sweet young waiters who went above and beyond to deliver great service. Francisco (Grill/Spice) and Joel (Las Olas/ Chez Isabelle). We scheduled our last couple of meals around where they were working. Seek these awesome guys out! And, as discussed above, the gym attendant Andras was so pleasant and took so much pride in his job. These staff are all reflections of the manager, Yeifred, who went out of his way to meet his guests, remember them by name, and make sure they were having an amazing time.
One experience really sums up the above-beyond service we enjoyed. Due to the sub-optimal weather, we spent a lot of time in the hot- tub. It's a lovely infinity hot-tub that overlooks the ocean. We were relaxing in there in between downpours, and Kendry showed up with cocktails IN coconuts! We hadn't even ordered them; he just thought we might enjoy. Just when we thought it didn't get much more decadent or relaxing than a drink in a coconut in a beach-front hot tub, one of they guys from Las Olas showed up and gave us each a personal pizza. Now THAT is service!
Regarding service, I know tipping can be a hot button on Trip Advisor, but we tipped. We always tip at all inclusives, and these employees deserved it above all others. These guys work insanely hard, for weeks on end, away from their families, and have an amazing attitude about it. I never saw any server cop any attitude toward a guest who did not tip, so it's not implicitly expected; I just think it's the right thing to do.
You cannot walk for more than three minutes without coming across a bar. Cafe Kafe is the most central bar, so it gets a little crowded/ backed up. Branch out and give some of the other bartenders your business! The sports bar is hard to find- we had to actually carry our resort map. But it's lovely with an indoor/outdoor vibe and super nice bartenders. There are four different TV's and seating areas, and the guys will work to find whatever sporting event you want to watch. It also has ping pong, pool and darts, and the widest beer selection on the property. (Next to the sports bar are also the raquet sports courts, shooting, etc. Again, it rained too much for us to take advantage of those. The Sol Bar had the best location (quiet end of the main pool and just feet from the hot-tub), and one of our favorite bar tenders. We preferred the vibe at the main pool to the Cascade Pool, but we did swing by the Cielo bar a few times on the way back from the gym for a drink. Their bartenders are super nice too. One suggestion I would make to the management is when it rains, put some bar stools at the Sol and Cielo. Both are covered with a thatch roof, but no stools. If it's sunny, I'm sure most people prefer to take their drink to a lounge chair. But on the rainy days, it would've been nice to sit at either bar. Instead, the ones with covered seating, Cafe Kafe and the indoor bars, got crowded. We braved the rain to venture to both Cielo and Sol to give the bartenders some business; we felt bad they had to stand there all day in the rain. Finally, as discussed above, the swim up bar was awesome. We spent a LOT of time there in the pouring rain! Every day after gym and brunch, we ventured out there in the rain, and soon enough other guests started joining us and it was a fun way to make the best of the rain. It usually had two bartenders and played great Latin music. (Who wants to go to the tropics and hear American hip-hop?). The bartenders, especially Yerlin, surprised us with fun drinks and specialty shots.
This is not one of those all inclusives where they water down the booze- those drinks are legit! I deem this a positive, but if you are a light weight, sip slowly or ask to them to taper it back. The alcohol selection was very good, just under the very top shelf. Just ask by name if you want a particular spirit and you'll get it- if you just say rum or vodka you will get the well. Naturally, the rum selection was the largest, and we really enjoyed trying new local rums. My husband liked the Presidente, but there are more beers at the sports bar. Their mojitos and margaritas were excellent, and they made them not-sweet per my request. Regarding dinner drinks, at times the language barrier presented when trying to order from the waiter. A few times we had to write down Cosmopolitan and Gin & Tonic, but the proper drinks got to us.
Our honeymoon package included the hydro therapy, which I highly recommend! A spa attendant takes you around as a couple through several steam room/ sauna/ shower treatments, and you finish up in an open air room with a huge jacuzzi. After your final jacuzzi, you relax in a lounge chair for a short neck massage.
This was the first all-inclusive trip that I have partaken in shows. Other resorts, it seemed like work to keep track of the time and get to the theater. At the EPC, the open air theater is central to the resort, right in the lobby. It was easy from the bars or restaurants to keep an eye on when things were getting started, and get a seat before they were full. I'm so glad we did- these shows were awesome! The Circus show was absolutely amazing. The acrobatic rivaled any Cirque de Soleil show in the States. The drink service is great during the shows. After you order once, they magically keep appearing when you're ready for another.
One's neighbors make a big difference in the all inclusive experience, and the crowd at EPC was perfect for us. We are mid thirties and were younger than over half the guests. It was at least 80% couples, with a few friends' trips and some families traveling with adult children. The crowd was laid back and just the right amount of rowdy. The booze was flowing, but it did not have a loud, frat party atmosphere. I think being one of the older resorts among the super hip new ones helps. We didn't see any of the usual offending behaviors, like blasting personal music at the pool, or excessive seat saving.
The Excellence Club
We paid for the Club for two reasons. 1) My husband thought he'd have to do some work, and TA reviews said the club house had the best wifi. 2) I hate seat-saving and wanted a guaranteed seat at the beach. To be honest, I don't think I'd pay for the Club on the next visit. First, the club house. Its wi-fi was great, but our room and balcony also had fine wi-fi. So we didn't use the club house too much except waiting for it to be 11:00 and the lunch restaurants to open a few mornings, when it was pouring and thus we couldn't hang out at the pool or beach. I didn't really understand how the cocktails worked. There is no actual bar and no bar tender. They have a ton of variety of high-end spirits just sitting out. They have an ice bucket and just one or two mixers. So, I was unclear if you were supposed to order a mixer and make your own drink, or ask a staff member to make you a drink. The vibe in the club house is a little strange and stiff- like an airline club lounge. It was well air conditioned, which I'm sure is welcoming at hotter times. The TV is set to CNN non-stop. We didn't particularly want to watch politics on our honeymoon. Finally, they go overboard with the pumped-in perfume. It was so flowery and so strong it gave me a headache. The downstairs concierges in the club house couldn't have been nicer the few times we needed something, so it was nice to have them to go to.
The other alleged club perk was the beach seating. It rained 90% of our trip, so we didn't really sit on the beach. The few days we did, I was underwhelmed. Sadly, the "beach concierges" for the club were the only rude employees we encountered. They all acted like it was a major inconvenience to hand us a towel and escort us to a chair. I'd rather have sat myself. Also, the prime seating was taken by the same couples every day. They'd put their stuff down in the morning and leave, and the concierges would be like no you can't save that all day, and they'd say they were coming back, but never did. Finally, the beach drink service was weak. I just got up and got our own at Sol Bar.
I hate to deter ANY one from this beloved property, but if you are really into ocean swimming, you might be pool-bound here. We were there during a tropical storm, so I hope my experience was fluke. I had read all the red-flag reviews and thought meh, I can do it. I am a really strong swimmer and didn't last more than two minutes in the ocean. I went underwater for a second and was immediately about a football field away from where I had entered the water. But the waves made for lovely scenery and background noise, so if you prefer to just look at the ocean you'll love this beach.
We had no issues with the location. The 45 minute drive was no big deal- I live farther from the airport than that at home. We enjoyed seeing a little bit of Punta Cana on the way. We had private transportation, and the highway drive was very smooth.
Overall, we absolutely loved the EPC. Thank you manager Yeifried for a wonderful honeymoon. I would put the EPC in the regular rotation if we had a direct flight to Punta Cana, but we will definitely be back every few years. They have set the bar for customer service. The fact that we randomly had an absolutely ridiculous amount of rain and STILL loved our trip speaks volumes. No matter the weather, there is too much to do and too great of service to get crabby about it. I am always happy to answer any questions via TA messaging as well.More
- Free parking