I’m lounging on a Balinese day bed sipping something potent from a coconut, watching the creamy surf slap against the shore. Funky lounge music is playing in the background as sun kissed couples sashay from the bar to the beach. As the warm Caribbean breeze carries the sound of several international languages, my friend, the IBMer, whispers, “I feel like I’m in a Bond movie.”
Sadly, we’re not. Our girl’s only escapade is taking place at an all-inclusive in the Dominican Republic. But Paradisus Punta Cana is a resort unlike any other. This swish property feels more like a boutique hotel than all-you-can-eat package holiday. The decor is that good, the scenery that stunning, and the influx of Europeans (particularly Russians) give the hotel a glamorous touch.
Even on the beach where the colour scheme is stark white and Veuve Cliquot orange, it feels like we’re at an exclusive club. There’s too many daybeds to count, rows of hammocks lining the beach and tables topped with buckets of Moët.
“It’s jaw dropping gorgeous,” confirms the IBMer.
All of the oversized guest suites (ranging from 504 to over 1,000 sq. ft.) are bright, light, and tastefully decorated with contemporary art. It’s a refreshing change from the heavy wood, colonial decor we’re so used to seeing in the Caribbean.
Couples who don’t want to be bothered by kids, do well staying in the adult-only Royal Service section, where they’re guaranteed access to premium, padded beachfront loungers and their own pool area.
Families can stay in the main area, but are recommended to opt for one of the 172 Reserve rooms that flank a private pool and offer a family concierge service – which is basically like having another wife to do all the running around and organizing for you.
Dining at Paradisus Punta Cana
We were shocked to discover that crap buffet isn’t synonymous with all-inclusive. Seriously, the best tiramisu I’ve had in my life was at Vento their Mediterranean restaurant. It was so good we trotted back the next night and ordered two to go! (And since you’re probably wondering, it’s true, I couldn’t fit into my jeans for the plane ride home.)
With open kitchens and again, great decor, it feels like you’re dining at a chic restaurant. Dotted throughout the property, restaurants are paired beside each other and separated by an upscale lounge, so folks can nibble on complimentary appetizers or sip exotic cocktails whilst waiting for their table – which can be a bit dangerous, but that’s another blog post.
Adventurous foodies can splurge at Fuego, a tapas inspired restaurant by Martin Berasategui, a Spanish chef with 7 Michelin stars under his apron. Dining here isn’t included in the resort package, but when a nine course tasting menu is only $90, you’ll regret not indulging.
Kid’s Club at Paradisus Punta Cana
Clean, modern and huge, the Kid’s Club was so fantastic we almost wished we brought along our little ones – almost. Taking in tots four months to 12 years, there’s a massive play structure in the gated outdoor area and the coolest ever spa for kids. That’s right, no need to feel guilty about sneaking off to get pampered yourself, not when kids can get a massage, mani-pedi, make-up application or chill out with a 30 minute yoga class. Included in the childcare facility is a dining area as meals come to them.
The Spa at Paradisus Punta Cana
Despite being in the tropics, we managed to spend quite a bit of time indoors at the YHI spa. The IMBer was again, besotted by the ambiance, but I was taken in by how skilled their therapists were. Massages here aren’t the substandard back rub you might be used to from your spouse. With rates starting at $85 for 50 minutes, it’s excellent value.
Close by was a well equipped gym that offered spin classes and personal training, but since we managed to run on the beach every morning, we gave organized activities a miss. There were just too many cocktails to sample, people to watch and appetizers to scarf down. You know how it is….
Is Punta Cana better than Varadero?
I would. The beach strip in Punta Cana rivals Varadero, but you’re going to get much better food here than in Cuba. I’ve never seen a Kids Club so tricked out, and the separation of families at the Reserve and couples in Royal Service was brilliant.
The downside? The resort is sprawling. We didn’t mind walking five minutes to the beach, but some people might. There’s a golf cart shuttle service that came regularly to whisk you wherever you want to go, but sometimes (especially with kids) you just want to be back in your room immediately.
Paradisus nailed the food, the decor and the spa. At times I felt guilty not sharing the experience with my family, but then I had another cocktail, and was cured.
Have you ever been to Punta Cana? What did you think of it?