Sanctuary Cap Cana Review – The Points Guy

It had been a long time since I’d stayed at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, so last year, when a pair of friends announced their engagement — along with plans to get married at Sanctuary Cap Cana, the first-ever Marriott Luxury Collection all-inclusive resort — I jumped at the opportunity to attend. I was interested to see if the property would upend my impression of all-inclusive resorts as uninspired resorts with mediocre food and too much cheap alcohol.

Spoiler alert: It did just that, as we had a terrific (albeit too short) stay.

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Sanctuary Cap Cana.

Related: Best all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic

What is Sanctuary Cap Cana?

Sanctuary Cap Cana is an adults-only, all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, less than 20 minutes south of the Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ). Even though the property has been around for more than 15 years, it didn’t become a part of Marriott Bonvoy until the fall of 2022 — and it couldn’t open until early 2023 due to the impacts of Hurricane Fiona.

Related: 19 relaxing adults-only, all-inclusive resorts for a kid-free vacation

It’s now part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, allowing Marriott loyalists to earn and redeem points on their stays.

How to book Sanctuary Cap Cana

NICK EWEN/THE POINTS GUY

The resort has its own website, but as a Luxury Collection property, you can also book directly through Marriott’s standard channels — including marriott.com and the Marriott Bonvoy app. Doing so will ensure you earn Marriott points for your stay, though my experience shows that you may still earn points through other sites.

The couple getting married hired a travel adviser to help guests with their travel arrangements and hotel reservations, including a block of rooms at a discounted rate. Unfortunately, the group contract required a minimum of three nights, and work schedules meant that my wife and I would only be there for two. Thankfully, the resort was still able to offer a discount of about $80 per night compared with booking through Marriott, so we opted to utilize that option and forgo the points.

We wound up paying $540 per night for a Castle Junior Suite (more on the room below), which would’ve been $620 through Marriott.

At check-in, I was allowed to add my Marriott number to the reservation, and after the stay, I did earn 7,779 points (5,186 base points and 2,593 as a Platinum member). This meant that only one night of the stay was posted to my Bonvoy account — though since technically I wasn’t eligible to earn any points, I took those for the gift that they were and didn’t submit a claim for additional points.

If you’re looking to book Sanctuary Cap Cana, rates for two adults in 2024 start at $456 per night (mostly in July and August), but they can approach $1,000 per night in the winter. And despite Marriott’s 2022 implementation of dynamic award pricing, a free night is consistently 120,000 points (for one, two or three adults).

Note that rates are generally the same on the resort’s website and through Marriott — though if you don’t care about earning points, there are a few appealing reasons to book directly with Sanctuary: The property runs special promotions that can save you money, and booking directly includes savings on spa treatments and other add-ons during your stay.

Rooms and suites at Sanctuary Cap Cana

The luxury resort boasts 324 total rooms and villas spanning 19 different categories, but the smallest junior suite still spans 646 square feet, ensuring that all guests have plenty of space to relax. Unfortunately, 19 room types can create a lot of confusion when it comes to picking one.

The first thing to note is that the resort is technically divided into three areas. The main buildings are considered the “Colonial” section, while there’s a separate area called the “Castle” section that’s meant to be a more exclusive enclave within the resort. Castle rooms include a separate check-in area plus VIP services upon arrival, including a bottle of sparkling wine in the room, butler service and assistance with unpacking and packing your luggage. Some even include swim-out access to a pool that wraps around the Castle section.

Finally, there are roughly two dozen villas scattered across the property, offering even more space (they start at over 1,100 square feet).

Since the wedding and reception were happening in the Castle section, we opted to book the oceanfront Castle Junior Suite — and we were glad we did.

Our 840-square-foot room was on the ground floor and was split roughly in half between the living area and bedroom. Thankfully, though, there wasn’t a wall between the two portions — just a TV shelf that jutted out from the wall, a vertical support column on the opposite side and a dark wood horizontal beam (with recessed lighting) overhead.

I was immediately struck by the welcoming beach vibes of white and cream with blue accents — yet the dark wood trims added a touch of luxury that was striking yet understated at the same time.

We were grateful for the large sitting area, as we took our (complimentary) room service breakfast there on Saturday morning.

NICK EWEN/THE POINTS GUY

A chilled bottle of sparkling wine and a small box of chocolates were waiting for us — and the minifridge had also been stocked with water, sodas and Dominican beers ahead of our arrival.

The bathroom was a decent size, including his-and-her sinks, a soaking tub and a separate shower — which was stocked with toiletries (and replenished throughout our stay).

But the real treat of the room was what waiting just outside the sliding glass doors.

Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of ground-floor accommodations, preferring the views from rooms on higher floors. However, a ground-level junior suite in the Castle section of Sanctuary Cap Cana meant a large terrace complete with two chairs and a small table plus two comfortable chaise loungers.

From there, a wooden walkway effectively served as a bridge over some sandy water that would fill up at high tide, and beyond that, a wide grassy area gave way to sweeping eastern views of the Caribbean Sea.

It was the perfect “home base” for our stay.

Food and drinks at Sanctuary Cap Cana

As an all-inclusive property, all of your food and drinks across the property are included (with a couple of minor exceptions), and there is a range of options from which to pick. The primary restaurant was Casa Bella, the buffet option in the heart of the Colonial section that served breakfast and lunch seven days a week (plus dinner on Fridays). I must admit that I’ve never been a big fan of buffets, but this one far exceeded expectations.

Our first meal there was lunch, which featured a huge variety of stations — including a salad bar, multiple types of ceviche, made-to-order Asian stir fry, an array of desserts and even a gelato case.

Needless to say, we did not leave hungry.

We went back to Casa Bella on Sunday morning for breakfast before leaving for the airport, and again, we were impressed by the selection. Beyond traditional items like eggs, hash browns and sausage, you could get made-to-order omelets, build your own salad or carb-load with a variety of breakfast pastries.

Just outside was a mimosa bar with six different juice selections.

The big thing to note about Casa Bella is that most of the food wasn’t help yourself; instead, it was behind a glass partition and served upon request by Sanctuary staff members. In the aftermath of the pandemic, that was a refreshing option.

Beyond Casa Bella, there are four specialty restaurants:

Unfortunately, we only were able to try Blue Marlin during our two-night stay, as the other dinner was served at the wedding reception. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our meal on the open-air deck over the water, including the fried calamari and grilled octopus — along with a serenade from the local band.

It’s worth noting that all four of these restaurants have a “Casual-Elegant” dress code; more on that below.

If you’re feeling snackish outside of normal meal times, there are several options:

We took advantage of room service our first morning, enjoying an omelet and a Dominican breakfast alongside tea and coffee, all from the comfort and privacy of our room.

Of course, one big appeal of all-inclusive properties is the fact that alcoholic beverages are included, and at Sanctuary Cap Cana, there’s no shortage of libations — whether swimming up to Freshco Bar at the main pool, ordering a frozen drink or smoothie at the beachside Destination bar or grabbing a pre-dinner cocktail at Love Bar, a piano bar in the main lobby.

Finally, if the above options (somehow) leave you wanting more, consider a jaunt to Sanctuary Town, the on-property village that features multiple additional dining outlets — including a burger joint, an Italian spot, a sushi restaurant and a candy shop. Only Rincon de Paco, the Spanish restaurant, requires an additional charge for guests.

These establishments are only open for dinner, and while we didn’t get a chance to try any of them, it’s great to have more casual options for those not seeking a formal, sit-down dinner.

Beyond the room and dining options, many other things stood out during our stay.

The property itself is stunning

If the look and feel of a resort is important to you, Sanctuary Cap Cana has you covered. We were amazed at how gorgeous the grounds were, and the staff clearly took pride in maintaining that beauty.

From the lobby to the pool areas to the walkways, just strolling around the resort put us in vacation mode — before we even changed into our bathing suits or put a cold beverage in our hands.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves here.

Beyond the decor, I loved the fact that there were six swimming pools — and despite what seemed to be relatively high occupancy, I never saw any of them even close to full.

We loved our time in the Castle section

Staying in the Castle section was a wonderful experience for us, starting from the moment we arrived and were whisked away in a golf cart to the private check-in area.

Don’t be fooled by the unassuming exterior. Just inside was a double-ceilinged lobby with greenery accents that added to the feel of being in a real-life castle.

NICK EWEN/THE POINTS GUY

After checking in, we were handed frozen coconut-and-lime drinks at Ocean Bar, which we enjoyed in the air conditioning.

The main pool in this area of the resort is elevated, providing sweeping views of the sea. We visited twice and found it to be a haven from the more party atmosphere of the main pool area.

NICK EWEN/THE POINTS GUY

Our assigned butler — Eric — showed us to our room, and he insisted that I program his number into WhatsApp, as that’s what we used throughout our stay for requests like additional bottles of water and picking up our bags before checkout.

And while we didn’t have a private plunge pool, the location of our Castle junior suite was spectacular, as it was separated enough from the rest of the resort to feel private — though also a short walk of just 5-7 minutes to reach the rest of the action.

Don’t skip the spa (and hydrotherapy circuit)

NICK EWEN/THE POINTS GUY

My wife loves a good spa, and I’m a willing partner in crime, so we booked the 90-minute “Better Together” package. This included an 80-minute massage for each of us but also gave us an hour to enjoy the hydrotherapy circuit.

This was a new experience for me, but the facility featured a sauna, hot tub, steam room, cold pool and dynamic pool, allowing you to energize your body by exposing it to different environments and temperatures.

I have no clue if I did them in the optimal order or even got to them all, but it was a great way to destress. It also helped that the entire spa facility was gorgeous.

You can stay as busy (or as laid back) as you want

Another great thing about Sanctuary Cap Cana is that you can pack your day full of things to do, lay around doing nothing or find a combination of the two. Besides indulging in delicious food and drinks during your stay, the property offers many activities as part of its all-inclusive package — including yoga classes, bike tours, beach volleyball, water aerobics and more. There was even nightly entertainment, though our wedding festivities prevented us from taking part in any of these.

Shortly before our stay, we were sent a QR code to download the resort’s digital concierge, which, when added to your mobile phone’s home screen, essentially functions as an app to review everything the resort has to offer.

The QR code to access Sanctuary Cap Cana’s digital concierge. SANCTUARY CAP CANA

If you have an upcoming stay, feel free to explore what’s on tap before your arrival.

Bring decent attire for dinner

As noted previously, the upscale restaurants all have a “Casual-Elegant” dress code. This means slacks, a collared shirt and closed-toed shoes for men. Women have some added flexibility, though the property still requires dress sandals or closed shoes.

Unfortunately, we didn’t know this ahead of time. As a result, when the Friday night beach reception wrapped up, many wedding guests were hungry and headed toward Blue Marlin (the property’s seafood restaurant). However, given our attire, we were told they couldn’t accommodate us. Thankfully, the staff ultimately acquiesced and allowed us to sit, but it was admittedly quite frustrating to have to fight that battle at all.

The property does a great job with weddings

Beyond just visiting the property for vacation, I’d highly recommend Sanctuary Cap Cana as a destination wedding spot based on our experience.

Friday night was a welcome reception on the beach — no shoes allowed. The drinks flowed freely, and the resort had even set up a personalized “canoe” of beers for the grooms.

NICK EWEN/THE POINTS GUY

It was so peaceful to connect with friends while the gentle Caribbean waves crashed on the beach behind us.

NICK EWEN/THE POINTS GUY

The ceremony on Saturday was held in a foyer in the Castle section, making for a special backdrop as Tyler and Bradon tied the knot.

NICK EWEN/THE POINTS GUY

Cocktail hour was upstairs at the Ocean Bar, which offered phenomenal views over the water.

NICK EWEN/THE POINTS GUY

Then the main event was back downstairs in a large ballroom, complete with a buffet that rivaled any wedding we’d been to.

Throughout it all, the staff took great care of not just the grooms and the wedding party but all of the guests, making for a memorable celebration.

Only burn your Marriott points in specific situations

As noted previously, free nights at Sanctuary Cap Cana are consistently 120,000 points per night. And this price holds whether you have one adult, two adults or three adults in the room (anything more and you’re forced into a larger room that’s not available as a redemption). With paid rates that typically hover in the $500-700 range, this isn’t a great use of points.

However, paid rates at Sanctuary Cap Cana increase as you add a second and then a third adult to the room — so this can make it a better option. And when you layer in Marriott’s fifth-night-free benefit on award stays, you may come out ahead.

For example, a five-night stay from Sunday, March 31, through Friday, April 5, would set you back $4,479 for three adults in an oceanview junior suite.

MARRIOTT.COM

That same room would be 480,000 points — giving you a redemption value of 0.93 cents per point.

MARRIOTT.COM

Not only is this above our valuation of Marriott points; but you’re also getting all of your food, drinks and many activities included.

I’d only recommend using Marriott points when the paid rates are high, and you have at least two adults in the room. Otherwise, I’d strongly consider booking the room as a paid stay and banking your Marriott points for a future redemption.

You need more than two nights

In case it wasn’t clear, we missed out on a lot during our stay. We only got to try one of the specialty restaurants, and we didn’t partake in any of the on-property activities. I walked through Sanctuary Town but didn’t sample any of the food. Part of this was because of the wedding festivities, but we were also on the resort grounds for less than 48 hours.

Simply put, it wasn’t enough time.

If you’re considering a trip to Sanctuary Cap Cana, I’d suggest an absolute minimum of three nights, but four or five would be even better. The vast majority of the wedding guests had carved out more time for their trips, but due to work commitments and childcare limitations, we couldn’t. And we regret it.

Accessibility

From an accessibility standpoint, we were quite impressed with Sanctuary Cap Cana. The ground floor of the Castle building led out to a stone walkway (no stairs involved) that took you right to the main area of the resort, including Casa Bella, Blue Marlin, the beach and the main pool area. Two of the pools were also zero entry, and there were extensive wheelchair-friendly elevators across the property — though they were smaller in the Castle area.

The property offers multiple ground-floor suites that are fully equipped for guests with special physical needs. Features include bathtub grab-rails, roll-in showers, alarm clock and telephone ring signalers, lowered door deadbolts and lowered outlets. Service animals are welcome at Sanctuary Cap Cana.

Checking out of Sanctuary Cap Cana

Our time at Sanctuary Cap Cana came to an end way too soon, and like our arrival, we had arranged for shared transportation back to the airport through the grooms’ travel advisor. The friendly resort staff picked up our luggage at 10:15 a.m. ahead of our 10:30 departure, and after settling our bill (for the spa treatment), we were on our way.

As we pulled out of the resort, we tried not to think of the other guests, many of whom were just starting their days and looking forward to hours of relaxation. But that just means we’ll need to plan a return trip — this time for much longer.

Related reading:

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content