We love Punta Cana for its beaches and all inclusive is the "way to go" because this area was developed for tourists - there is no quaint colonial town or small fishing village to spend your days shopping or evenings exploring.
Arrival in Punta Cana is great... lovely small airport with thatched huts; very Caribbean feeling, music playing, pay your $10 per person for the tourist card, quickly go through customs and immigration and your vacation has begun!
Apple Vacations is very efficient both at the airport and at the resort. Representatives speak English and are very friendly, knowledgeable, and also have 7 hours a day of presence in the lobby to help with tours, questions, or problems.
I've seen RIU Palaces and this one is typical, brand new, clean lines, large, and ornate as a "palace" should be. Check-in was pleasant - seated in a cocktail lounge, beverages available. Even with an early arrival - 10am - our rooms were ready and luggage promptly delivered.
Rooms... A king size bed, step down living area with pull out sofa - good sized bathroom - balcony with two padded chairs - a minibar area with very tiny glasses, fully stocked and replenished even with liquor dispensers - rum, vodka, brandy, and gin.
Onto the pools and beach... lots of fountains, a very large Jacuzzi, and a pool with swim-up bar. The water is too warm, so on to the beach... Oh my gosh - as beautiful as I remembered Punta Cana, but this one is "picture perfect" with a half sunken wreck in the distance, framed by the palm trees on the beach... just gorgeous! Sand is tan and soft as talcum. I love this "unstructured" beach - no line up of chairs and umbrellas and no palapas. Natural shade is provided by lots of palm trees of all sizes. Water... 84F - 88F degrees. There are a few waves, and at times strong enough that we both lost our sunglasses! But fun.
Lunch time at the beachside restaurant was our first disappointment. Dried out overcooked food on steam tables. We took a few mussels that seemed plump since they were soaking in broth. Two bites and we left - there must be an alternative. The buffet dining room was a bit better - roast chicken, salad bar, and air-conditioning.
Dinnertime - the five à la carte restaurants require reservations. We attempted to arrive at 8:30 for our 9pm reservation - no success. They clear everyone from the early seating - reset all the table and start a new at 9pm. Food again was only fair - service quite good - lights too bright. We liked the Italian best - Asian sounded good but the tempura was soggy (frialator probably not hot enough).
Entertainment - Bingo on the plaza at 8pm - a piano player in the lounge that was quite good and later a show with dancers from the resort - OK, if you care to walk to one of the other RIU (all adjoining) there is a casino but it was very quiet all week - no excitement.
The resort is brand new and quite European in style, that is large metal key for the door - deep step-in tub, hard bedding, stiff sheets. We were told it was built to cater to Americans, but I don't think they hired any Americans as consultants. Most of the guests were German or Spanish. All in all, a great location, beautiful beach, and friendly staff make for an enjoyable vacation, but we won't gain weight on the food.