Vacationing with children can be a dicey proposition.
Sure, you could head to Disney World or another theme park. And yes, you could cram a bunch of kid-pleasing attractions into a road trip. But what if you’d rather forego the hustle and bustle for your next family vacation? What if you crave a tropical getaway to a place filled with swaying palm trees, warm ocean breezes, and comfortable cabanas? If that describes you, and you’re already anticipating the sighs and eye-rolls you’d get from your brood if you suggested such a vacation, we’ve got four words for you: Nickelodeon Resort Punta Cana.
At this resort, swanky hospitality meets SpongeBob SquarePants. It’s where parents and kids can have their slime and eat it too. (Seriously. You can slather some green slime sauce onto your freshly grilled burger or imbibe in a refreshing, if gooey, slime drink.)
Kids could dine with Dora the Explorer, marvel at a magic show, and laze on the lazy river at the Aqua Nick water park. And let’s face it: The Nickelodeon cable channel and brand has been around for awhile. Many parents would get a kick out of hanging with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well.
But the Dominican Republic resort is much more than an ode to ‘toons and nostalgic, slime-filled game shows. Parents would get to enjoy a true luxury vacation alongside their children, including suites with direct pool access, stunning beaches and a spa with indoor and outdoor treatment areas.
The Nickelodeon Resort is part of the Karisma Hotels & Resorts chain. The resort is all-inclusive and features as much gourmet food as you'd like fitting in with the company's "gourmet inclusive" tag line. Four table-service restaurants feature menus with tasty and surprisingly sophisticated dishes. Three eateries offer all-you-can-eat buffets that rise well above the ordinary with plenty of cooked-to-order offerings. Even the four snack bars, dubbed “gourmet corners” here, include delicious fare such as ceviche and freshly prepared, brick-oven flatbreads.
“Gourmet inclusive” extends beyond the food and beverages. There are concierges dedicated to and stationed outside of each of the resort’s buildings. They assist guests with dining reservations and other activity planning. Poolside and beach cabanas with to-die-for Balinese beds are available at no additional charge. There are comfy robes, slippers, and large umbrellas in each room’s closet. A full range of activities, 24-hour room service, and live music and other entertainment are all part of the deal.
The Nickelodeon Resort Accommodations
The airy and comfortable suites and rooms come in a variety of configurations. They all have balconies with outdoor seating, marble bathrooms, and generous closet and storage space. Each room includes a refrigerator that is fully stocked every day with complimentary snacks and bottled water. (The bottled water is a must for non-natives who are strongly advised not to drink the tap water. The restaurants and lounges all use filtered water; we did not suffer any ill effects from the food or beverages.)
Nickelodeon-orange-colored electronic bracelets serve as room keys. Some of the suites have private master bedrooms or bedrooms with sliding doors, which allows for privacy if there are guests sleeping in the living areas. But some of the “suites” are really just one large room and offer no privacy. There are only four units, identified as "Super Villas,” that offer two bedrooms. For a resort geared to families, and one that would seem ideally suited for multiple generations as well as extended families to visit together, it would seem that more two- and even three-bedroom suites should be available.
Super splashy two-story villas are loaded with amenities such as an outdoor bathtub and shower (protected from prying eyes by landscaping and privacy walls), an infinity pool, and a courtyard with a garden. It's not located under the sea, but one of the villas is shaped like a pineapple in honor of a certain square-panted character. The whimsical suite includes plenty of Nickelodeon-branded decor. But the Nick theming is more subtle in all of the other rooms, which include a few splashes of the signature orange color and small accent pieces shaped like the brand’s airship.
Except for the Nickelodeon Place activity area, the branded theming is minimal or non-existent throughout most of the property.
The Nickelodeon Resort shares the property with Karisma’s Sensatori Resort. The adults-only resort is primarily marketed to UK and German vacationers (the majority of the Nick guests are from the U.S. and Canada). It has its own lobby, but otherwise uses the same restaurants, pools, spa, and other common areas as the Nick Resort. Since the Sensatori guests didn't sign up for Paw Patrol meet-and-greets, they aren’t bombarded with the branding.
What to Eat
The largest restaurant, Sugarcane, is open most of the day, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Multiple stations located throughout the buffet-style dining room offer a bounty of choices that is almost overwhelming. The presentation is inviting and artful, and virtually all of the dishes are delicious.
Chefs are on hand to prepare many items to order such as omelettes and breakfast sandwiches in the morning and pasta with a variety of fixings for dinner. A bakery station is overflowing with crusty, fresh-out-the-oven breads as well as sweet goodies. Custom smoothies and shakes can be ordered at the ice cream and yogurt station. Sugarcane offers many inspiring little touches, such as house-prepared preserves and dipping sauces.
There are plenty of proteins available, including a carving station and lots of native seafood. But the Dominican Republic’s local produce really takes center stage in the marketplace restaurant. There is an eye-popping array of fresh fruit including melons and pineapple (which is also available grilled to perfection), as well as more exotic (to folks from the States, anyhow) choices like soursop, guava, and starfruit. Fruits and vegetables, including watermelon and carrots, are freshly blended into juices.
All kinds of vegetables, including yucca and eggplant, are roasted to bring out their natural flavors.
Among the other restaurants are Verdello, which offers bountiful Southern Italian-inspired dishes, including a few featuring risotto, and tasty appetizers such as mini pizzas that are meant to be shared; Wok Wok, which features pan-Asian fare such as pad thai, coconut mahi mahi (with a nod to Caribbean influence), and especially delicious sushi; and BRGRS PH, which serves a variety of burgers out of a funky food truck (tucked inside the indoor restaurant). Try the humongous Machete, a kilo (2.2 pounds) of meat on a giant bun, if you and your gang dare.
The oddest table-service restaurant is Spacewalker. Its design looks lifted from a cheesy 1960s sci-fi movie. There are astronaut helmets available for kids (and adults) to don. “Interstellar cuisine” includes Indian, Italian and Spanish choices. There is no need to choose appetizers; Spacewalker brings all of them, family-style, to each table. As you might expect at the family-friendly resort, children’s menus are available here and at all of the restaurants.
In addition to the restaurants, the resort presents special outdoor food events, such as a weekly Taste of the World with multiple food stations. Each day, it also sets up outdoor beverage stations with a variety of featured drinks.
A word on beverages: The alcohol flows freely at the Nickelodeon Punta Cana — as it should for an all-inclusive property. In fact, Sugarcane has self-service mimosa and Bloody Mary stations available each day for brunch. But the drinks and the drinkers seem to peacefully co-exist with the many children and young families at the resort.
Things to Do at Nickelodeon Place
Set apart from the rest of the resort, Nickelodeon Place is like a mini theme park. It is where the characters get to do their thing, and the brand is on full display. Guests enter and exit Nickelodeon Place through the wonderfully-named Nick Knacks gift shop (naturally).
The highlight of Nickelodeon Place is Aqua Nick, a waterpark that is bigger than the ones found at most resorts that offer them but smaller than a typical standalone park. At its center is an interactive water play center with some small slides, a bunch of sprayers, rope bridges, and a large tipping bucket that dislodges a cascade of water every few minutes. The park also offers a long lazy river, splash pads, and a few longer water slides that are enclosed. Kids will love the outdoor showers at Aqua Nick, which shoot water out of the nostrils of a giant nose.
The Just Kidding kids’ club, which is included in the room rates, offers supervised activities for children ages 4 to 12. There are toys, games, computers, and other things to do for impromptu play as well as organized group activities such as cooking classes and science projects. Kids will want to check out the club’s Thinking Chair, which is inspired by "Blue’s Clues."
At Character Central, guests can meet and take photos with some of the Nick stars. Cast members invite kids to participate in Nickelodeon-themed game shows at Plaza Orange.
Another great way to meet Nick celebs is at a character breakfast. The extra-charge meal, which is presented at the restaurant, Zest, offers great food (if less bountiful than at Sugarcane) served buffet style, followed by an energetic show and photo-ops with the characters.
Of course, the lovely beach and the pools are huge draws at the resort. But there are plenty of other things to do for both kids and adults.
There are nightly shows geared to families in the resort‘s theater as well as live music performed in the courtyard outside of the restaurants in the Gourmet Village. Musicians also perform indoors each evening in the Vino Vino lounge. On some evenings, the resort presents kid-friendly movies screened outdoors.
At the Sports Hub, guests can test their skills at archery, tennis, ping pong, and other games. There are also group soccer and other games scheduled. At the resort’s dance studio, classes in salsa, merengue and other styles are offered. Each morning, there is a yoga class available. Lively Aqua Aerobics classes, set to pulsing music, are also offered daily.
There are some activities that require additional charges. The most popular is the Slimalator, which douses brave guests with Nick’s trademark slime. (Unlike the viscous goo sprayed on television, the slime is more forgiving green liquid here.) Located at the water park, the Slimalator draws a huge crowd as cast members officiate the proceedings and lead a big countdown before unleashing the slime.
Extra fees are charged at the Vassa Spa as well. In addition to massages, a beauty salon, and other services offered to adults, the spa welcomes kids with packages such as “Princess for a Day.” There is also a dedicated bridal suite at the spa, and programs are available to pamper brides and bridesmaids.
Some Tips for Your Nickelodeon Resort Visit
- For $35, guests can purchase a day pass and enjoy the Vassa Spa. With an enormous hot tub, steam and sauna rooms, and other amenities, all offered in a wonderfully tranquil setting, a visit could be especially welcome should it rain during your stay.
- Got infants and young toddlers? Leave all your gear at home. The Nick Resort has you covered with complimentary cribs, baby monitors, strollers, bottle heaters, and more. All of the restaurants (as well as room service) have baby food available as well.
- The cabanas are complimentary, but they are limited, and reservations are necessary. On the first day of your visit, send a member of your party to wait in the queue at the towel hut near The Lighthouse restaurant by 7:45 a.m. to secure a reservation.
- There is an odd looking plastic contraption attached to the wall on each room’s patio. Pull it open, and you’ll discover a great drying rack for your clothes that cleverly collapses.
- If you'd prefer not to pay for a private sliming, Aqua Nick offers a free group slime every afternoon.
- There is a hut at the far end of the beach that offers complimentary boogie boards, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, snorkeling gear, and other equipment for Nick Resort guests.
- Somewhat off the beaten path (it’s located behind Zest), Fresco Bar and Grill is worth discovering. The outdoor eatery features seafood dishes such as fish tacos, and offers a swim-up bar featuring frozen concoctions such as a Slime Green Mojito Smoothie. No shirts or shoes are required at Fresco. (And bathing suits are strongly advised to access the swim-up bar.)
- Between the resort’s buildings 3 and 4, there is an innocent looking sewer cover located next to the walking path. Jump on it, and you will get a surprise. (Let’s just say you might be a bit “shell” shocked.)
- You have to try the Inner Core dessert at Spacewalker. It is a white chocolate orb over which servers pour “molten” chocolate. The sphere magically and dramatically opens to reveal passion fruit cake inside.