our honeymoon in punta cana

Eric and Jess Pendergrass

While our wedding day was unbelievably special, I have to be honest… my favorite part of the whole wedding process was definitely planning for and going on our honeymoon. After nine months of long-distance wedding planning, stressful professional changes, and personal health battles to deal with – we never needed a vacation more! Eric and I usually consider ourselves pretty adventurous travelers, but we knew we would be exhausted on this trip before we even arrived. We wanted an environment to unwind, relax, and soak in the fact that we were finally married – basically somewhere we could sleep, eat, swim, and have a lot of fun without worrying we about jet lag or being kidnapped. Eric volunteered to do the legwork on researching and booking the honeymoon (my hero!), and eventually chose the Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

After Eric picked the resort but before we booked it, we spent a few days trying to decide which room we wanted. Even though the resort is all-inclusive for all guests, the ‘Rock Star Royalty’ rooms came with added amenities for a little extra cost. We eventually decided to go for it (you only honeymoon once, right?) and it was the best decision we could have made! I’m a pretty private person and don’t necessarily like people waiting on me hand and foot, but it was the perfect time and setting for us to really recharge and allow other people to worry about the details for once. From the time we landed until the time we left, we really did feel like we were taken care of in every aspect and in every way. I’ve never been so pampered in all my life!

We had a limo drive us to our hotel suite in downtown Chattanooga the night of the wedding, which meant we were stranded without a car. My parents graciously came to pick us up before sunrise on Sunday and take us back to our car at the venue. I still hadn’t taken my wedding hair down (I was afraid the bobby pins would take an hour to remove and I didn’t have the time), so I just stood back in the shower and threw on a big sweater for the flight. Back at the venue, we snuck into our bridesmaids/groomsmen cabins to find things we left behind and were halfway to the Atlanta airport before any of our wedding party woke up.

When we landed in the Dominican Republic, we were driven directly to a VIP check-in area and handed drinks while our luggage was taken up to our room. We met our private “butler” for the week so he could find out what our first plans were. We told him how exhausted we were so he offered to make us early dinner reservations that night and a complementary couple’s massage in the morning. There was a grill restaurant just outside of the building we were staying in, so we walked up to the open-air bar at the front and made nice with the funny bartender, Evaristo, our new best friend for the week.

After a long shower and a quick change, we walked across the resort at dusk to the Asian restaurant for a hibachi grill dinner. Neither of us remembered what a full night’s sleep felt like at this point, so we only had the energy for a short walk around the resort before heading back to the room for a good night’s rest.

Path at Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Rooftops at Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

On our second day, we woke up and headed straight to our long couple’s massage that morning… and then went right back to our room for a long nap. We found our second wind in the afternoon so we grabbed drinks and took them out to one of the rooftop patios that was empty during the day, before getting ready for dinner. This time we had reservations at the Italian restaurant, and our butler made sure we got the best table in house which was really nice. We still had a ton of energy after sleeping most of the day, so we tried to walk around the entire casino and see all the unique Hard Rock celebrity memorabilia around the main lobbies. Eventually we found a smaller bar club with a live band playing and were happy to spend the last of our energy dancing our dinner off.

Jess and Eric Pendergrass

View from Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

We slept past breakfast again on the third day, but had a pool reservation thanks to our butler. We asked him to pick the best pool for us (there were like 26 to choose from), so he suggested a small one that is only accessible to our Rock Royalty level or whatnot. It wasn’t completely empty every time we went that week, but that first trip there… we had the pool to ourselves (plus the pool server, Diana!) for the entire day. It was heaven! We didn’t want to leave but the sun started to set and the lunch we ordered out at the pool was wearing off, so we left our private paradise to get ready for dinner at the Mexican restaurant. We spent a little more time in the casino that night and eventually made our way over to the huge nightclub located in the center for a little late-night dancing.

Rock Royalty Pool Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Parrots at Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Jess and Eric Pendergrass

Nightclub at Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Careful not to oversleep again, our butler gave us a wake-up call the next morning so we could make our way to one of the breakfast buffets. We had reservations at the spa again, where Eric got a long deep-tissue massage on his neck and I tried out some fun facial and body wraps. We spent a while in the specialty spa pools and showers before we walked over to the pizza place for lunch. Since our butler took care of everything while we were there, our servers already knew it was our honeymoon and always had little surprises to make every moment special – like baking the pizzas we ordered into hearts. He also pointed out to us that we kept making plans right around sundown every evening, causing us miss sunset on the beach. He reserved us a couple chairs for the afternoon and we took some time to swim in the ocean.

heart-shaped pizza

When the sun finally started to set, we walked down the beach alone until it turned into tropical forest and watched the sky turn from powder blue to cotton candy pink to bright orange. I ran out to a giant bolder that was swaying in the waves and yelled out towards the horizon, and then I cried at how beautiful it was… It was really one of the most poetically happy moments of my life. By the time we made it back to the resort beach entrance we came from, it was getting dark and we could hear music coming from further on down the shoreline. We found a resort tiki bar on the sand and decided to have a quick drink before heading back to our room. We walked to the far side of the resort for dinner at the steakhouse and walked through the casino again before bed.

Jess Pendergrass on a rock in the ocean

Sunset beach Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Eric and Jess Pendergrass

Sunset beach Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Tiki bar Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Jess and Eric Pendergrass

Following another great suggestion from our butler, he sent us a breakfast trolly the next morning for a huge breakfast-in-bed. Eric and I were both really enjoying the spa on the resort and had quick massages again before lunch. We went back to the Rock Royalty pool (or as we called it, “our private pool”) for the afternoon and crashed on one of the big sunbeds hidden in the palm trees. We spent the whole afternoon reading and swimming before stopping by our favorite bar and back to our room to get ready for dinner.

Room service breakfast at Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Eric Pendergrass eating breakfast

Rock Royalty Pool Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Since we were honeymooners, the resort gave us a dinner romance package where we got to enjoy a private, poolside, candlelight steak and lobster dinner. The ocean breeze and the music from the live cellist softly playing floated across the pool towards us. Honestly, the mood was so painfully romantic at times that we were giggling to ourselves like teenagers. So fancy. Four courses and one of the top five steaks of my life later, we were stuffed to the brim and needed another long walk before calling it a night. We drifted over to the casino again for a drink and a couple minutes on the slot machines – where I actually won $100 from $5! It was the perfect funny nightcap to our sweet evening.

Romantic honeymoon dinner Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

As our week was coming to an end, we knew we wanted to take full advantage of the sunset again and asked our butler to reserve us a Bali bed on the beach this time, instead of just chairs. This experience was really fun for us, since the server at the beach had no one else to wait on and kept bringing us surprises because she said she was bored. In a few hours we were served fresh fruit, cold waters and juices, pizza and nachos from restaurants way across the resort, coconuts cut down and chopped open with machetes, and so, so many colorful drinks. We read for a long time and took a couple short naps before we sadly left our new beach friend and headed inside to shower.

Bali bed view from Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Coconut waters in a beach Bali bed

That night we had dinner reservations for the last restaurant on resort we hadn’t tried yet, the Brazilian steakhouse. Our bartender friend Evaristo told us he was bartending there with the head resort bartender that night, so we went early to watch them prepare speciality drinks and had some of the best flaming B-52s of my life. Our butler had told us to swing by the room after dinner, where he had one last surprise waiting on us. We walked in to find a hot bubble bath, a cake and champagne, and dozens of rose petals decorating the room – so sweet!

bartender makes flaming B-52 shots

romance package Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

It was late, but we were finally getting used to the whole vacationing thing and wanted to soak up every last minute before heading home. We ran over to the ice cream parlor for a midnight snack and went back to the casino. Since it was Friday night, the nightclub was packed with resort guests and people specifically coming only for the casino and club that evening. With our VIP wristbands, we were immediately ushered past the line and ended up dancing until the early hours of the morning. Sometime after the confetti cannons blew, we stumbled back to our room for one last sleep in paradise.

Eric and Jess Pendergrass

Eric and Jess Pendergrass

The last morning was a struggle, but we quickly ate one last buffet breakfast and stopped by a few of the resort stores for souvenirs before we had to pack up our bags and shuttle back to the airport/reality. We were so sad to leave but happy to see our buddy when we got back.

Punta Cana was definitely the best honeymoon we could have dreamt of, and I’m so happy my husband (!! MY HUSBAND!) picked it for us as our first married travel experience. We met several couples on the resort who were celebrating their anniversaries and come back every year, and it’s easy to see why. We will absolutely be back and take more time to get off-resort and meet more people of this beautiful country.

Sunset beach Punta Cana, Dominican Republic