4.4 out of 5 Stars
The Excellence El Carmen is another top-class offering from the Excellence chain of resorts. It opened its doors in 2016 and has been a firm favorite for all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean. This adults-only resort is the perfect place to have a relaxing break in the beautiful surroundings of the Dominican Republic.
With all Excellence offerings, they are typically priced on the premium side when you compare it to the average price of other resorts, but for that somewhat premium price you are definitely getting a premium experience. So, in our opinion, they are always worth that extra cost.
As soon as you enter the resort you really are put at ease. You are greeted with a glass of bubbly and a cold towel. Check-in is a breeze and you are whisked to your room where your holiday can really begin.
We stayed at the Excellence El Carmen in mid-2019 and our review is based on that experience.
- If you are booking a room with a swim-up suite make sure to request a room that is directly in the sun during the day or in the morning. The building that we were in had faced the sun in the late afternoon, so the swim-up suite wasn’t too much use. As these pools are not heated, they were very cold during the day.
- The resort is set on large grounds so some of the room locations are a bit of a walk from the beach and the main areas. When booking if you want to be close to the action we would advise requesting a room in buildings 4 and 6. If you want to be in a secluded spot and close to the beach then building 9 is your best bet.
- Make sure to make use of the room service, not only do they serve an extensive range of food, but if you fancy a midday cocktail they will also bring that to your room too. If you ask very nicely and you’re feeling lucky you can also get food delivered from the restaurants. We did this one night and got food from Chez Isabella.
- Each night in your turn down service the housekeeping staff leave an information sheet with the activities for the next day as well as the special offer for the spa for the next day. Once the info sheet is delivered try and book the treatment for the next day to grab a bargain. As they fill up quickly.
At all of the Excellence resorts, the check-in process is really an experience. You will be greeted at the main door with a glass of prosecco and a smile. Your bags will be taken by the staff and be delivered to your room.
As you walk through the doors there is an impressive view down to the main bar area and you really get the feeling of luxury and grandeur. The actual check-in process took less than 3 minutes.
We arrived in the morning and our room wasn’t ready yet, so we went and grabbed a cocktail at the main bar. Our wait was very short and we were guided to our room, where our bags were already waiting for us. Smooth as can be.
Located in the Uvero Alto area of the Dominican Republic. The Excellence El Carmen is just a 40-minute drive from Punta Cana international airport. This one of the Excellence chains has three offerings in the Dominican Republic. The Excellence Punta Cana is located a short 6-minute drive from the El Carmin offering, as well as the Finest Punta Cana which is their latest offering and is located a 5-minute drive from the El Carmen.
Is the Resort Child Friendly
This is an adults-only resort, if you’re looking for a quality resort that is on the same level as the Excellence El Carmen, but you can bring the kids then we suggest checking out the Finest Playa Mujeres which is a sister hotel to the Excellence.
If you have stayed in an Excellence resort before you know that the amenities on offer are always top class. From the Gym, tennis courts, beach volleyball, and water sports they have it all on offer. The beach is the real gem in this resort and we will delve into that in a bit.
The entertainment crew really does make a solid effort in keeping everyone entertained with a wide range of activities going on throughout the day. From fitness-based classes such as Yoga, tennis, and water aerobics. To cooking lessons where the chefs will teach you how to make local Dominican food and sushi. The staff really do put their best foot forward in making it an entertaining getaway for the guests.
After dinner, there was always something going on. From themed nights such as Casino night and Dominican night. To tribute acts and musical entertainment. Our favorite thing was definitely the casino night. Although there’s no money involved it was a great way to mingle with the other guests.
It’s listed on their website that they have 23 pools and 9 outdoor hot tubs on offer and while this is the case. A Lot of these are connected to the swim-up suites. In reality, there are really three main pool areas. The main pool is located quite close to the beach and then two additional pools are located near buildings 12-16. Don’t get us wrong, there is more than enough space at the pools to get a sun lounger and to chill out in peace and quiet. We also found that most people chill out on the beach, so the pools were never too busy.
The gym at this resort is very well stocked. With 8 treadmills, 6 ellipticals, a number of stationary exercise bikes, free weights, and a wide variety of machine weights it’s the perfect spot to work off the indulgence from the night before. The gym was never too busy, but we found that around 10 am was its peak hours, but even then you would have no issues getting a treadmill or a solid workout in. There are water and cold towels available in the gym and personal trainers on-site if you need motivation.
Although there is no golf course in the resort there are a few options within driving distance of the resort. Your best option is a 35-minute drive from the resort. The Cocotal Golf and Country Club. The course is well designed and challenging and the upkeep of the course was very good. Rounds here range from $100 – $150 depending on the time of day you play and the season.
Weddings at the Excellence El Carmen
Getting married here seems to be a very popular choice. Over the 7 days that we visited the Excellence, there were two weddings that we saw going on.
They have a lovely Gazebo overlooking the water which looks like the perfect spot to exchange vows. We also saw one of the wedding parties using the X-lounge for after the reception. It looked like they had drinks and a canopy thing going on there.
The beach at the El Carmen resort is truly stunning. It’s expansive with loads of loungers and areas to relax. You will never have an issue getting a spot at the beach. The beach does accumulate seaweed on the shoreline, but the staff works tirelessly to keep it off. The waters were pretty calm, so if you’re into ocean swimming this is the spot for you.
We got to give a shout-out to Adriano who served us every day at the beach. By the end of day one, he had our drinks orders ready before we even had to ask. There is a drinks service on the beach which makes spending a day sunning yourself so much more enjoyable. If beaches are a priority for you then Excellence El Carmen is the resort for you.
The Mile spa is located just off the main reception area. You will see it the second that you arrive. If you’re an Excellence club guest you will have a complimentary Hydrotherapy session during your stay. We highly recommend doing this as the pools they have for this are really nice.
If you fancy getting a treatment at the spa, we recommend that you check on the day as the Spa does daily specials on various treatments. It can be difficult at times to get a booking for treatments, so if you have your heart set on getting a massage we advise you to book before you travel. If you are willing to change it you might get a bargain.
The service here gets a 5-star rating from us, it was literally impeccable. From the housekeeping, service at the bars to the concierge. Every staff member that we dealt with was great. Before dinner every night we perched ourselves at the Martini bar for a few pre-dinner drinks. The bartender Emilio was great fun and served up the best Margaritas at the resort.
Throughout the resort there is a huge volume of staff, so no matter where you are there is always some close by that can offer you assistance. The staff was also super friendly which made us feel very welcome.
Although a lot of travel websites and places that you book will say that tips are included in your all-inclusive price, we highly recommend that you bring cash with you to tip the staff in person. The service here is really top-notch and the wages in the Dominican Republic for these roles are not high, so these tips can go a long way.
When we visited we brought US Dollars and tipped a dollar for each drink we ordered and then $10 dollars for waiters for any of the meals that we had.
We really can’t fault the Excellence EL Carmen for its cleanliness. This is obviously down to the staff who were so proactive in making sure the place looked tidy. Anytime we had finished a drink or a meal the staff were on hand to refill or clean away our empty glasses or plates.
Our rooms were cleaned twice a day and the housekeeping staff was great at staying consistent in regards to the timings they would clean our room. This was super convenient, as we could plan out our day for when our room was being cleaned. The cleaning in the morning was the main clean of the day and lasted about 15 minutes. The evening cleaning was more of a turndown service.
Booking During COVID
Although we stayed pre-COVID, as we mentioned the resort was exceptionally clean. From what we have read from the reviews the Excellence has really stepped up its game in creating a clean and safe environment in these uncertain times.
There are a range of precautions that the Excellence chain of resorts has put in place and if you would like to review these they can be found here.
Price Range + Packages
Excellence El Carmen is very competitively priced for the standard of the resort, food, and service that you get. It’s definitely on the premium side when you compare it against other resorts in the Punta Cana area, but for what you get it is definitely worth the additional cost. When we stayed in mid-2019 we paid $2,800 USD for 7 days. You definitely get better value for money in the Dominican Republic compared to the likes of Mexico.
What’s included in the all-inclusive package?
The all-inclusive package is very good here. All food, snacks, room service, fully stocked mini-bar drinks, and a variety of classes and amenities are included in the package.
There are also a number of liquor bottles that are in the room too. When we stayed there was a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka, Anejo Rum, Jose Cuervo Tequila, and a bottle of red wine. If you’re part of the Excellence club you will have the likes of Absolut Vodka, Johnny Walker Black Label, and Anejo Rum.
There is also a really nice Coffee shop where you can grab a pick me up and a sweet treat. We highly recommend the Irish coffee they serve for a great morning wakeup and hey, your own holidays, what better way to start the day than with alcohol and caffeine.
The room service here at the Excellence El Carmen is really good. It’s available 24/7 and the menu is very extensive.
Food + Restaurant Options
The biggest question when you’re considering an all-inclusive resort is the quality of the food. The Excellence chain of resorts is known to put out a very decent standard of food and the Excellence El Carmen is no different.
Overall the food here was a pretty good standard for an all-inclusive. Like all of these offerings, it can be hit and miss and there definitely was some inconsistency in terms of the dishes we were served.
If you have been to the Excellence chain of resorts you will be aware of the restaurants as they are the same across the resorts. There are a wide array of cuisines on offer in this resort with 12 restaurants and one additional restaurant that is available to Excellence club members only.
Ranking the Restaurants
This Asian eatery serves up the most famous dishes from Japan, Thailand, China, and Vietnam. The food here was the best we had in the resort and the minimalist Japanese decor really added to the experience. The sushi was actually really good and the ramen broth was packed with flavor.
There is also a Teppanyaki experience that is in Spice. There are only a few tables though, so you have to book the morning you want to eat to get a reservation. The food at Spice is the real star here, so if you have done Teppanyaki before we advise you to give it a miss.
This was very close to being our favorite as the food here was very authentic and delicious. Hats off to Chef Masood and his team that churns out some really top-quality cuisine. The Masala beef was the best we have ever had. The sauce was rich yet balanced and the beef literally melted in the mouth. This is a must-visit if you’re a fan of Indian food.
3. Las Olas – Mexican
This restaurant is a Mexican offering and we really enjoyed our night at Las Olas. The food was top quality and the atmosphere was great. Serving up all of the traditional dishes there are the classics and some dishes that you probably have never heard of before. When we ate there we went for the classics with a Burrito and a quesadilla and they were very tasty.
This is one of the more popular restaurants on the resort. We found this place the most difficult to get a booking for at peak times. When we eventually secured a table this place didn’t disappoint. The food here was top-notch. The butter chicken was really good. Couple that with some onion bhajis and you can’t go wrong.
5. The Flavour Market
This spot does Tapas really well. It almost feels like you have been whisked to the streets of Barcelona with the standard of food here. Oddly enough, it was never too busy when we went there and we put it down to people not loving Tapas as the food here was top-notch. Our top recommendations for dishes here are the patatas bravos and the Spanish meatballs.
6. Chez Isabelle
A French offering that is set in a beautifully designed spot. White linen table cloths and a wonderful aesthetic give Chez Isabelle a sense of class as you dine. The food here was very good. The seafood, in particular, was spectacular. We highly recommend the scallops and the Tuna steak.
You can get a bottle of the house wine included in your package. There is also an extensive wine on offer if you don’t fancy the house wine. These bottles do come at an additional cost, but you’re on holiday, treat yourself.
7. The Kitchen Table
The main eatery of the resort, this buffet is really impressive. There are too many food stations to even mention. It’s basically like a little bit of all of the restaurants on the resort in one. As well as the staple options such as an omelet station for breakfast and a burger station for lunch and dinner.
Another Mexican offering this spot serves up some really top-quality eats. Weirdly enough we found that the food here in the Dominican was way better than the Excellence offerings in their Mexican location.
9. The Lobster House
This is definitely the best restaurant location with stunning views of the ocean and a nice outdoor setting where you can feel the cool sea breeze. It’s a lovely experience. This was definitely the spot we frequented most for lunch. It was perfectly located to grab a bite in between tanning yourself. We went there for dinner and were a little disappointed with the food. We had the grilled lobster and the lobster ravioli and the lobster for both dishes was a little bit chewy.
An Italian offering that serves up all of the staple dishes you would expect from your local Italian. Wood-Fired pizzas, rich and creamy pasta dishes, and some really nice seafood options too. The food here was good, but nothing to write home about.
11. The Grill
A steakhouse in an all-inclusive is not normally a good pairing and sadly the Grill at the Excellence El Carmen was no different. Don’t get us wrong, the steaks were well prepared and the burger we tried too was pretty good. What let the side down here was the quality of the meat. I ordered a rib-eye steak and to be honest there was way too much fat compared to the ribeyes I usually eat.
12. The Sports Bar
The perfect spot to sink a few beers and watch some sports. This bar is also a great place to go after dinner. The atmosphere is always buzzing. They serve food here too, but we never ate there. The menu has your typical bar food favorites such as nachos, burgers, and Pizzas. We have to give a shout-out to Felix the bartender here. This man was hilarious and was really entertaining.
Excellence Club Lounge
Available only to guests that are staying in Excellence club rooms, this bar and restaurant snack area is another place to relax and grab a drink or some food. This and the Cielo bar are the only areas that you can get the Top tier liquor on offer to the Excellence club members other than your room.
At the other Excellence guest-only eatery, we were pretty disappointed with the restaurant. The service wasn’t particularly good the day we went as it took over an hour for us to get our main courses. This was pretty much the only time that we had any issues with the service throughout our stay.
The menu for the room service was very extensive. It’s a really nice option if you don’t feel like getting into your evening clothes and instead just chilling out in the room.
We ordered room service twice, once for dinner in the evening and once for breakfast. On both occasions, the food came within 20 minutes and arrived hot, which is always the worry with room service. We heard from a few of our fellow guests that if you ask very nicely that you can potentially order some of the dishes from the restaurants to be delivered to your room. Honestly, though the room service menu is so large that you probably won’t need to do this.
Revive Juice Bar
We hit up this spot every single day. After one or two many drinks the night before we liked nothing more than getting up and getting some fresh fruit into our bodies. They have a large menu with all of the smoothies combinations under the sun. This is also the place you can get fresh coconuts. They typically start serving these from around 11 am onwards and are so refreshing.
For all your caffeine needs, Aroma is a coffee shop where you can pick up your morning pick me up. They also have a range of pastries and sandwiches on offer. As well as a nice selection of ice creams for your midday treat.
We did two excursions when we visited. We always find it’s good to get out of the resort a few times during your trip and try to see a bit of the country you’re visiting. We went to Sanoa Island and Hoyo Azul.
Hoyo Azul & Scape Park Cap Cana
The Dominican Republic has a really beautiful landscape and the Hoyo Azul at Scape Park is a spectacular sight. The marquee element of the park is the Hoyo Azul. The park has a number of sinkholes and caves that can be explored.
The Hoyo Azul is also known as the blue hole and is their most famous one. It is the perfect spot for a refreshing dip in a really cool location. The park also boasts a range of other activities including ziplines, animal parks, and the impressive surrounding forest.
Bars and Drinks Offering
One of the best elements of the Excellence chain of resorts is their extensive drinks selection. They have it all from the top-shelf liquor options to local beers and spirits. The wide and varied selection continues in your room with a packed mini-bar and a number of premium liquor bottles available. If you stay in an Excellence Club room those bottles are upgraded.
There are tons of bars throughout the resort. With 16 different bars in the resort, you are never too far away from a drink. Our two favorite spots were the Martini bar which is the main lobby bar and the X Lounge. The Martini bar is a great place to grab a cocktail and watch the world go by. There is a great bustling atmosphere and the bartender Jordy served up some of the best concoctions at the resort.
The X lounge was our other most frequented spot. Located right above one of the pools and overlooking the beach, this is the perfect spot for some pre-dinner drinks while you listen to the lapping waves.
There is lots of choice at the Excellence El Carmen and if you have stayed in the Excellence chain of resorts before you will be familiar with their room offering.
- Junior Suite
- Honeymoon Suite
- Terrace Suite with Plunge Pool
- Imperial Suite
All of these rooms come with the option of having an ocean view.
The room we stayed in when we visited was a junior swim-up suite. Let’s start off by saying all of the rooms at this resort are massive, so space will never be an issue. The rooms are choicely designed with a great aesthetic. We really got the feeling of 5-Star luxury once we walked in. There is a massive king-sized bed which is super comfortable. A nice L-shaped couch that made the perfect midday lounging area. A terrace lay just outside the sliding doors with your own entrance to a pool that runs alongside the back of the building.
Excellence El Carmen is very competitively priced. If you are looking for the quality of an Excellence resort and are looking for a cheaper option compared to their Cancun and Jamaica offerings then the El Carmen is the resort for you.
The food, the staff, and the feel you get as you walk through the resort are 5-star. It really is a top option for an all-inclusive. The only area that we felt a little let down on was the
The location of the resort is also pretty secluded, so it’s not the best if you want to get out and about to explore local towns and things to do.
Q. Does the Excellence El Carmen offer a shuttle service from the Airport
A. Yes, a shuttle service from the airport can be requested. They do advise that you ring before your trip to check availability.
Q. Is parking available at the resort
A. Yes, parking is available for guests and it is complimentary
Q. Is Wi-Fi included
A. Yes, Wi-Fi is included in your package. We found the signal to be very good throughout the resort. We even had a decent signal on the beach.
Q. What local attractions are there?
A. There are lots of things to see and do locally, for a comprehensive list we suggest checking out this really great article by PuntaCanaTravelBlog.com