Highlights from our adults-only all-inclusive vacation in the Dominican Republic

We just got back from a wonderful adults-only all-inclusive vacation in the Dominican Republic. Let’s talk about it …

Well, to be honest, things with this trip didn’t work out exactly as planned, but we still had an amazing time. Our best friends were supposed to be with us, and we planned this as a group trip (booked it back in January 2023), but when one of our friend’s passports didn’t make it in time, Dave and I decided to take the trip without them, sadly. Right before our trip, I had second thoughts/major mom-guilt about leaving Brady behind for four full nights, panicking about many things. And, when we were gone, Brady got sick (which rarely happens), and he ended up missing some of the camp I put him in and going to the doctor. Also, on the flight there, I broke a freshly done vacation nail on the airplane bathroom door when we experienced some turbulence, and I came back home with a stomach bug and a large and painful spider bite on my arm. None of that was fun, but it’s real life. And even when things aren’t perfect, we can always enjoy ourselves and be present with the good stuff. Dave and I did just that. We did our best to “be where our feet are” in the Dominican Republic from sun up to sun down. And honestly, it was fabulous.

Dominican Republic vacation

We stayed at Sanctuary Cap Cana, a luxury adults-only all-inclusive resort in the Cap Cana area of the Dominican Republic, and it was an absolutely gorgeous place to stay. We loved the resort grounds, the beautiful facilities, the scene, the food, the drinks, the entertainment and the all-inclusive nature, because we never had to leave the property, nor pull out our wallets to pay a restaurant check (and that’s a great feeling on vacation).

Dave did a ton of research on the best all-inclusive resorts we could get to within a 3-hour flight from Charlotte, and that’s how we ended up on an all-inclusive vacation in the Dominican Republic. This was our first time in the Dominican Republic, and it wasn’t quite the laid-back vibe of Jamaica, but it had a good energy all around. By the way, Dave is always our trip planner, and he never steers us wrong. Let’s get to some trip highlights …

(By the way, I made a little video about our trip, and you can see that video here.)

Highlights from our adults-only all-inclusive vacation in the Dominican Republic

Rather than do a play-by-play recap of the trip, today, I’m just going to detail the big stuff and share some pictures. Here are the highlights from our all-inclusive vacation in the Dominican Republic …

Sitting under an umbrella at the beach with the ocean breeze blowing

Spending time in the shade, on a nice lounge chair, with the waves crashing and the ocean breeze blowing will be a core memory for me on this trip. I don’t remember the last time I spent so many relaxing moments in a beach chair.

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

Dave and I each took daily naps on our beach chairs in the shade. We had drinks on our beach chairs in the shade. We read books on our beach chairs in the shade. We chatted on our beach chairs in the shade. And occasionally, we’d head out into the sun and water and end up back on our beach chairs in the shade. It was so darn pleasant. Yes, the pools were fine, and there was a nice infinity-edge pool as well as some more “fun” pools, but the shaded beach chairs were absolutely the best places to be, because that’s where you got the breeze.

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

(Here’s my swimsuit. And Dave was in a matching one.)

To be honest, the beach at Cap Cana is only okay though, and it’s not ranked on my list of best beaches. There’s some seaweed on the sand and a little bit of a murky-water situation right up by the coast (perhaps I’m a beach snob though, having grown up in Florida and experienced so many impeccable beaches). We went into the ocean each day, but I found that stepping on rocks, mushy sand and seaweed didn’t feel great on the feet and colored my experience. But sitting on the beach chair in the shade? That was perfection!

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

(Here’s my swimsuit, and here are my slides.)

Soaking up nightly entertainment in the resort’s disco

You know what’s cool about going to an all-inclusive resort? The resort often offers fun activities for you to do, in addition to eating and lounging. While we didn’t take part in bike tours, water aerobics or even dancing lessons (which I may have done, if the timing was different), we absolutely attended the nightly shows all four nights we were there. And we weren’t expecting much from these shows … but overall, they really delivered.

The first night was a magic show, which was so good. The second night was an international show, with dancers representing different countries, and that was good. Then the third night was a star show, with dancers recreating popular artist songs, and that one was totally amazing. The final night was a Dominican night, which was also pretty entertaining, but not my personal favorite.

There was plenty of other entertainment too, including a mariachi band that walked around the resort grounds in the evening serenading us. A violin and vocal soloist in the courtyards in the evenings and even some afternoon craft opportunities. One day, Dave and I made beaded bracelets by the beach. We each made ourselves a bracelet, and we each made matching ones for my mom and for Brady.

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

But back to the night-time activities: We really loved having a leisure dinner, then strolling over to the entertainment area and grabbing a seat. We sat in the same seats three nights in a row, then had to find a different spot on the last night. One of the nights, Dave even got called up for a fun pre-show activity with a few other male guests.

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

(Here’s my set, and here are my shoes.)

I love shows, and I loved these shows, because they were intimate. We weren’t in a big auditorium — instead, we were on a couch in a smaller venue, up close to the action. And this was such a highlight.

Relaxing and re-energizing with hydrotherapy treatments at the resort’s spa

Dave and I hadn’t booked any spa appointments before our trip, and once we got there, we still weren’t sure. But when I saw the spa had hydrotherapy, I thought that could be fun to do together, rather than splitting up for massages or other very pricey services.

Dominican Republic vacation 2023
We’d done a hydrotherapy pool experience before in Jamaica, and while that was cool, this particular hydrotherapy at Sanctuary Cap Cana was way better. It included the sauna, the steam room, a cold plunge, a hot tub, an ice-bucket drop and a dynamic pool — all of which together took about an hour to complete.

On our second full day, we walked down to the spa and were able to get in right away. We bought one-day hydrotherapy passes and did the whole experience in the morning and in the afternoon, and it was incredibly invigorating! I felt like a million bucks after both sessions, and during one of them, I told Dave we should invest in a real cold plunge at our own house to achieve the recovery benefits of the cold. The cold plunge was totally my favorite. It’s really hard to get into that frigid water, but when you get out — you have a rush of energy. It’s so healing, and now I’m craving that feeling again. To me, it feels better than cryotherapy, to be honest. 

Dominican Republic vacation

When you go from the sauna (where you sweat a lot in the heat), to the cold plunge (where you shiver in the cold), to the steam room (where you sweat in the moisture), to the hot tub (where you sit in the jetted warm water), your body relaxes and so does your mind. It’s “therapy” through water, and I’m a big fan.

Once we finished hydrotherapy, we sipped on cucumber water and sat in front of the quiet spa pool just chilling. Once again, this was a core memory. I felt so zen, and so did Dave. We needed it! And when I think about our trip, I will remember just how I felt in those moments. That is what vacations are all about!

Dressing up for dinner and drinks four nights in a row

No, dressing up was not a highlight of my vacation. But getting ready for a special “date” four nights in a row was a highlight of my vacation. On this trip, Dave and I had so much uninterrupted time to have real conversations, enjoy our meals and do as we pleased on nightly dates, which isn’t that easy to come by as working parents of a young son.

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

(Here’s my dress, and here are my shoes.)

Our normal routine at home is so packed on the weekdays and the weekends, and although we’re together a lot, we’re always on the go or accomplishing something. I loved that we weren’t “on the go” at all during this vacation. Our only big activity each evening was taking our time to get ready, going to a beautiful lounge for a pre-dinner drink, then heading to the restaurant of the night, eating a delicious meal and moving along to the nightly entertainment. That was not stressful at all.

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

(Here’s my dress and here are my shoes.)

I loved walking to dinner, trying different foods, being served (no dishes for me, no cooking for Dave), chatting, chilling and doing it all again the next night. One of the things we love about going to all-inclusive places is the ability to do this so easily. Once again … we really needed this on so many levels. Much like the hydrotherapy, it was restorative.

Dominican Republic vacation

(Here’s my dress, and here are my shoes.)

And those are the highlights from our adults-only all-inclusive vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Overall thoughts on the Sanctuary Cap Cana

The Sanctuary Cap Cana resort was really nice, and we loved mostly everything about it. In fact, I’d say it was the nicest all-inclusive resort we’ve ever stayed (and this was our fourth time on an all-inclusive vacation over the years, with two in Jamaica and one in Cabo). I thought the resort spaces (like the lobby and all the many, many lounge and sitting areas) were just incredibly well done.

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

By the way, all-inclusive resorts typically have a reputation for offering sub-par food and drinks, but the Sanctuary does a great job in that department — I liked almost all of my meals while there (the resort had four sit-down restaurants), and I really liked all of my drinks. Dave didn’t love the beer selection available, but he certainly made do. He did discover a Dominican rum that he enjoyed though. And we both had no problem enjoying the piña coladas poolside, that’s for sure.

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

Dominican Republic vacation

A benefit of staying at the Sanctuary Cap Cana — outside of the resort itself — is that the Cap Cana area is only a 15-minute ride from the Punta Cana airport, which is convenient. However, I don’t think we’d return to the Sanctuary, and instead, we’d want to go somewhere different.

Dominican Republic vacation

(Here’s my swimsuit.)

I didn’t love that the beach wasn’t as scenic as we’d like on an island vacation (if it had been, we may have done some water sports). And I think we saw and did all there was to do on the property. If we had stayed any longer, we may have ventured off for an excursion — apparently there was a zip-line park not too far, which could have been fun. But what we really needed on this particular trip was a break from doing all the things. So we chose to do very little.

On this trip, we didn’t open our computers. We didn’t wear our Apple watches. We didn’t work out. We just … chilled.

Dominican Republic vacation 2023

Overall, if you’re looking for a relaxing vacation where you don’t have to plan much of anything and can just sit back and enjoy your resort, then this is a great choice. But if you’re looking to try new things every day and be more adventurous, I’d go somewhere else.

Dominican Republic vacation

(Here’s my coverup.)

Dave and I hadn’t gone on a trip, just the two of us without anyone else, since before Brady was born, and we really enjoyed our time together. We’re grateful we had the opportunity to make this trip (big thanks to my mom for taking care of things at home), even if it didn’t end up how we originally planned it. But as much as we loved our time away, we were happy to get back to Brady and Rudy, because we missed them a whole lot.

Dominican Republic vacation

On the final night, I felt like our time had definitely come to an end, and I was excited to get back home to our little family together. That’s the beauty of traveling as a parent … you’re always okay with heading back home when you’ve got little creatures to be reunited with.

I’m also glad to be back here on the blog with you today, and I appreciate you reading about our trip. 

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Questions of the day for you 

What’s the last vacation you went on? Where to and how was it?

Have you ever been on an all-inclusive vacation in the Dominican Republic?

What’s your favorite thing about going on vacation?



  1. I enjoyed reading your recap! I love all inclusive resorts and it has been a few years since I’ve been to one. Sounds like it was a lovely relaxing time for you and your husband even with all the “hiccups”.

    1. Hi Rebekah! Thanks so much for reading! It’s definitely a different kind of experience doing all-inclusive, and we were totally in the mood for it. Have a wonderful day! 🙂 xoxo

  2. I go to PV every year, usually a few times a year and I am usually filled with a ton of activities and leave the hotel constantly, rarely even eat there unless it’s poolside.

    This last trip we did nothing. I read two books(in 5 years thanks to you). I swam, I sat in the pool, I slept, I ate, I drank. I did nothing and it was GLORIOUS. Sometimes I forget that I need time to just chill

    I am glad you both got what you needed and to come home to your family. Hope Rudy is back to normal and Brady has recovered!

    1. Yessss, Sabrina! A chill vacation is a worthy endeavor. I love that you had one too. And I’m also glad you read “In Five Years” — you know I loved that book! 🙂

      1. I am very happy you and Dave enjoyed your vacation time in DR since I am Dominican too and know hiw nice is to be there.keep posting guys like you did about what you did not like alot so resorts owner can fix

  3. It sounds like you two had a fabulous and well deserved vacation. We’re going to Punta Cana next month and staying at an all-inclusive resort on Bavaro Beach. Reading about your experiences has made me even more excited about our trip. Thanks for your great review!

  4. We always take a girls trip every year,the 3 of us all nurses work hard and play hard.This year was alittle different our friend Kelly couldn’t go at last minute her husband had surgery day we were to leave so Lyn and I went on out 4 day trip to Dominican which ended up 8 days due to Delta canceled our flight out.All inclusive resort Cap Cana Zilara.Beautiful ,food outstanding and beaches gorgeous. Only downside not enough night life but we got plenty of sun and relaxing.

  5. I appreciate the time you put in to review the resort and write this review but for over 99% of the people who read this will never truly have the opportunity experience this type of resort. I just checked rates. $2700…. A night!!!!
    What a waste of time reading this review. Good for you that you had the opportunity to attend!

    1. Hello, James. I’m not sure what type of room you looked up at this resort, but the amount you mention is more like the total of our trip, not one night. Perhaps you should dig a bit deeper before writing it off. And thanks for reading!

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