Our honeymoon to Excellence El Carmen was incredible. Although it probably would have been amazing anywhere since it meant one week away from it all with just us two, but this Excellence Resort made it all the better. Excellence El Carmen is part of the Excellence Resorts chain located in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, about 40 minutes north of the Punta Cana airport. We chose to go to an all-inclusive so that we controlled our finances and didn’t have to stress about money each time we swiped the credit card.
The service at Excellence El Carmen was amazing. Growing up, we only stayed at Hilton resorts which, in my opinion, have excellent service. Excellence El Carmen was right on that level. The staff was so courteous, friendly and always trying to make our day better. They were very easy going and often times would give you more than you’d ask for. For example, I asked for an extra Coke to re-fill the mini bar and the bar attendant said “Just one? I’ll give you four.” When we would go out to eat, we’d order one appetizer, two entrees and a dessert. Often the waiter would suggest we order more and would bring his recommendations out along with what we ordered. I really loved this. We are not high maintenance people when it comes to service, so it made us feel like we were being spoiled.
Excellence El Carmen has 12 different restaurants, many different bars and the most delicious coffee shop. We pretty much ate at The Kitchen Table each morning for breakfast and lunch. It was a buffet so we were able to get a little something different each day in a casual environment. For breakfast, I especially liked the crepes, hashbrowns, scrambled eggs and bacon. Don’t forget the mimosa! For lunch, we liked the slices of calzone, pasta, sushi and I loved the Japanese grill where they stir fry whatever you want to order! Also, don’t forget the mimosa at lunch again. 😉
For dinner we tried a different restaurant each night. Our favorites were Agave and The Grill, hands down. We could have eaten at those two restaurants the entire time we were there! Agave was the first restaurant we visited and we ate at The Grill on our last night, sadly, or it would have been on repeat. We also ordered room service pizza and pasta one late night which was very good and convenient to have delivered to us right on our couch!
The Room /
Our room was really one of the best parts of the stay. More specifically it was all about our private pool. There are many different room options at this resort and we went back and forth on whether we should do a swim-up, a private pool or the two-story suite. I’m so glad we went with the private pool – especially for our honeymoon! We had an end-unit so only one person was next to us, but it was still very private. It was surrounded by trees and foliage, so it really felt like we were secluded in the jungle which is just what I wanted. The sun was out at 8am so we would immediately lay out by our pool (we had an East facing room) and once lunch came around, we’d eat on our way to the beach for more sun.
Inside, the room was very nice and pretty standard for a luxury international resort. The bathroom was pretty awesome with an overhead rain shower and there was a jet tub overlooking the pool on the other side of the room which we never used (sadly). The room also had a huge closet with an easy to use safe, a huge king bed, sectional sofa and a big TV with lots of movie channels.
Next time, we would book either the private pool or the swim-up rooms overlooking the ocean. Both of these room types are similar in price.
Beach +Pool /
Because we had the private pool, we never made it to the public pools. But we did walk past them a few times and it looked super fun (just not our scene). There were swim-up bars, hosted events throughout the day (like water aerobics and bingo) and really nice water lounge chairs. Plus, they were right by the beach.
We did end up going to the beach every day in the afternoon when the sun wasn’t on our pool. The beach sand was so nice and a warm light brown color (people care about that I know!) with plenty of chairs, each with a tiki-type umbrella for shade. It was easy to pull out chairs to be in the sun when you wanted to. I found that the beach was actually a lot less busy than the pools. Staff members served drinks on the beach so it was an awesome spot to be in. The only thing that bothered me about the ocean was that there was so much seaweed in the water. You really had to walk out about 40 feet to get away from it. The seaweed on the shore didn’t bother me at all, but the staff was constantly picking it up.
Things to Do /
We didn’t do much besides lay in the sun, eat and relax. I really wanted to visit the spa, but didn’t want to go alone so we didn’t end up doing that this time. (There were daily specials which made spa services very, very affordable!) We played a lot of outdoor ping pong. I’m talking at least an hour every day. We also played pool, went to the gym and watched shows at the theatre. These shows were pretty impressive; we watched the Michael Jackson and the circus show. I highly suggest doing this at night since there isn’t a nearby village to go into. We didn’t choose to go on any excursions because we just wanted to be in the sun all day and we were unsure of safety once you leave the resort. (I’m sure it was fine, but I had more interest in getting tan during this trip!)
The Dominican Republic is about a 4 hour direct flight from Atlanta. I had read a lot about the Punta Cana airport and about how there are lots of “sales” people in the airport trying to get you to book excursions, travel and timeshares, so I was a little bit nervous about that. Fortunately, we got in around 9pm on a Sunday so the airport was practically empty. When you arrive in customs, you’ll need to show a Dominican Republic Tourist Card which is basically just a $20 (per person) fee to get into the country. You can buy it at a kiosk in the airport or you can pre-purchase it online and print it out to go through a much quicker line, so definitely buy that before you go.
The airport isn’t large, but it is hectic. There are a lot of people going in and out at one time and most of the people working in the airport (besides at the gate) do not speak very fluent English. This was a stressful moment for me but it all worked out well in the end!
We also booked our airport transportation ahead of time using the website transfers.do because you could specify the exact pick-up and drop-off locations by hotel name and airport. They also monitor flight times and changes and let you know exactly what time you should be picked up from your hotel in order to make it to your flight. Our first driver was 20 minutes late picking us up to take us to the resort, but everything else was great!
All in all, if you’re considering going to Excellence El Carmen in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, I highly suggest it! We had such a great experience with Excellence Resorts and will definitely travel to another of their resorts in the near future. We’re actually already planning for their new Jamaican resort next year!