My family loves this Nickelodeon Hotel so much that we keep going back. Fair warning, adults might even enjoy it more than their kids.

My family loves this Nickelodeon Hotel so much that we keep going back. Fair warning, adults might even enjoy it more than their kids.
The 11-year-old son of Jane Ridley, the writer of the review, standing in front of the sign welcoming guests to the Nickelodeon Hotel in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Eleven-year-old Bobby got into vacation mode as soon as our family returned to Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.Jane Ridley
  • My family loved the Nickelodeon Hotel in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic so much, we've visited twice.

  • I think it caters as much to adults as kids, and guests can hang out with characters like SpongeBob.

  • I've found the food at all-inclusive hotels to be disappointing in the past, but not at this resort.

Some say the sequel is never as good as the original. In the case of my family vacation to Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana, a five-star resort in the Dominican Republic, which we had visited once before, that was hardly true.

We previously visited in 2017, on a comped press trip for a previous publication.

So when my family decided to follow up on one of our most beloved vacations and return to the hotel that pays homage to all things SpongeBob, I was concerned it might not be as fun as our first visit, mainly because our children are five years older than they were during our last stay. These days, my 13-year-old is glued to her phone. And impressing her younger brother takes a lot more effort. Would they still want to frolic in the mini-water park or high-five Leonardo from "Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles?"

In short, yes. The success of our six-night trip over the week of Presidents Day this year, which we paid for in full, means we're already planning the same vacation again next year. Here's what it was like, why we can't wait to go back, and why adults might even love it more than their little ones.

We booked a swim-up room that didn't feel too small for our family of two adults, a teen, and a tween

The Nickelodeon's nest swim-up suite accommodated out family of two adults, a teen and a tween.
The nest swim-up suite where we stayed accommodated our family of two adults, a teen, and a tween.Karisma Hotels & Resorts

We booked a nest swim-up suite, the same type of accommodation we had before. As noted, this time we paid for our room in full. Rates currently start at around $480 per person, per night. It came with a king-size bed and pull-out sofa.

My daughter Daisy wanted her own place to sleep, so a supplementary twin bed was provided when we arrived. The room — which measured 602 square feet — didn't feel cramped for two adults and two kids, especially since we'd often relax outside on the private terrace. The marble bathroom had twin sinks, a spacious rain shower, and plenty of fluffy white towels.

Our private terrace led to a long, narrow pool that winds around the buildings and features swim-up bars

A girl sits on the terrace of a swim-up suite at The Nickelodeon Hotel.
Daisy, 13, relaxes on the terrace of our swim-up suite at Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana.Jane Ridley

Our terrace led directly into a pool. It was designed to be shared with neighboring guests, but we barely saw anyone swim past our room. The 4-foot deep pool runs alongside the hotel's buildings like a moat, but you have to get out of the water, cross a path, and then plunge into the water again. At the end of our particular stretch, we came across a swim-up bar serving beer, wine, premium liquor, fruit-flavored waters, cocktails, and mocktails. The drinks, along with the food, were part of the all-inclusive deal.

Daisy, our teen, developed a taste for virgin mojitos, while 11-year-old Bobby guzzled piña coladas — sans rum, of course.

I found it tempting to permanently hang out in the pool and terrace outside our room. But I knew we'd be missing out on the giant Lighthouse pool, one of the resort's main hubs, encircled by Balinese beds (they're bagged on the basis of first-come, first-served) and no shortage of loungers and umbrellas.

Our favorite hotel amenities were the beach and water park — all included in the rate

A boy at the AquaNick waterpark with a statue of SpongeBob
Bobby has fun at the AquaNick waterpark.Jane Ridley

We skipped the water aerobics classes to spend time at the beach instead. The waves were rough during our stay, so the kids didn't really swim in the ocean. Instead, they jumped the surf under the watchful eye of the lifeguards.

Our vacation package, booked through a travel agency, included the daily rental (typically $40) of a beach cabana. Every afternoon, my husband and I would snooze inside the luxurious shack before we all hopped a golf cart ride to AquaNick, the on-site water complex inspired by SpongeBob's Glove World theme park.

I noticed that the lazy river at the water park was popular with adults (as well as teens like Daisy) but younger ones, like Bobby, couldn't get enough of the multi-platform play structure topped by Nickelodeon's signature orange blimp. Bobby whizzed down the water slides and mischievously directed spray cannons at newfound friends. I couldn't believe my earlier reservations.

Five years ago, he chickened out of our "private slime" (offered at an additional fee), which mimics the wacky stunts at Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards. Guests sit gingerly on a bench before torrents of green goo are dumped on their heads.

But, this February, Bobby was center stage at the free "mass sliming" that took place at 3 p.m. every day. Kids like Bobby stood under a giant, swinging bucket and, after a countdown, were drenched in the sludge.

Guests at the Nickelodeon Hotel are drenched by slime
The daily "mass sliming" sessions are a hit with guests at the mini water park.Jane Ridley

It wasn't long before we established a routine of relaxing by the Lighthouse pool, going to the beach before AquaNick, and having early evening drinks at our "local" swim-up bar.

Every restaurant at the hotel — some à la carte and some buffet — offers imaginative menus and gourmet food

A Pina Colada is served on the beach at the Nickelodeon Hotel.
Virgin or spiked piña coladas are popular with guests on the beach or by the pool.Jane Ridley

We breakfasted daily at The Sugarcane — an expansive "marketplace" buffet with everything from freshly-made omelets to fruits and smoothies.

Fresco was our favorite lunch spot — a cute outdoor restaurant slightly off the beaten track, with lighter fare like ceviche.

A lot of guests maintain the amenities at the resort is what sets it apart. But, for me, it was the quality of the food. We've stayed at way too many all-inclusives where the meals have, at best, been disappointing.

By contrast, Nickelodeon's à la carte eateries, including a toney Italian bistro and a chic Asian restaurant, offered gourmet meals. We particularly liked the spectacular "Inner Core" dessert at the space-themed Skywalker joint where our server poured a jug of hot chocolate sauce over a white chocolate ball.

A dessert served at The Skywalker restaurant at The Nickelodeon Hotel
The spectacular "Inner Core" dessert at The Skywalker restaurant.Jane Ridley

The heat made the treat unfurl like a lotus flower with a passion fruit parfait inside. Rapt by the entire performance, Daisy declared: "That's dope!"

We took a sneak peek at the Pineapple Villa, the resort's swankiest digs, which resembles SpongeBob's famous underwater home

A boy inside the private patio of The Pineapple Villa
Bobby revels in the luxury of the Pineapple Villa with its private patio and swimming pool.Jane Ridley

As for Bobby, he was blown away by the prime piece of real estate on the property. The Pineapple Villa, the most exclusive lodging, is a stylish take on SpongeBob's spiky home in Bikini Bottom. A housekeeper allowed us to peek inside the unoccupied 2,292 square foot enclave. It boasts a private courtyard, an infinity pool, and dedicated 24/7 butler service.

We couldn't resist snapping photos of SpongeBob's rusty TV, the armchair with its lifebuoy seat, and Gary, his adorable pet snail.

A boy stands outside the Pineapple Villa at The Nickelodeon Hotel
Bobby tries to lay claim to the swanky Pineapple Villa at The Nickelodeon Hotel.Jane Ridley

But we're now facing a dilemma. Bobby has set his heart on The Pineapple Villa for our stay in 2023. The current nightly rate is $6,356. Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? If it's ever going to be Bobby, he better start saving now.

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