“Would you like to dance?” asked Patrick the sommelier. I met him earlier when he served the wine at dinner. He was now doubling as a GO (Gentle Organiser) at the night club. He was a good dancer and after a highly enjoyable 10-minute hip-shaking work-out to the grooves of Merengue music, he moved on to the next wallflower.
I was at the all-inclusive Club Med resort at Punta Cana, located in the palm-fringed coastal region of the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana, with its 21 miles of the whitest coral sand beaches, is simply the best eye-candy to be had. Families come in droves but so do couples who mingle in the adult-only areas courtesy of the Zen Oasis.
It’s family-friendly, but not noisy
Over seventy per cent of holiday-makers are families and the rest are couples. With so many kids around, you would expect bedlum. Instead the resort is filled with the happy hum of play around the pools, playgrounds and beach but mostly in the Mini Club Med – a large zone tucked neatly away in the heart of the huge resort leaving adults free to destress and relax.
The Mini Club Med is no ordinary daycare service – this is what makes Club Med the champion of family holidays. Kids activities are designed around different age groups and run by GO’s qualified in child care. For babies up to 23 months there’s Baby Club Med and it’s not unusual to see GO nannies walking babies around the resort in prams. Toddlers attend the Petit Club Med and the Mini Club Med keeps your 4 to 10 year olds pretty busy. The Club Med Pasworld is where teenagers can meet, enjoy sports, skateboarding and dance classes or simply chill together at the cinema or theatre.
Most parents drop them off after a leisurely breakfast at the nearby thatched roofed Hispaniola beach side restaurant and let the GO’s take over. You can spot them skipping away with joy as they head to their sun beds to top up their tans.
Or they head for what is probably the most relaxing place on the resort: the thoughtfully designed, enticingly scented Comfort Zone spa. It’s set on a higher elevation and slightly away from the rest of the resort. There are, of course, treatments to beautify and relax, but I opted for a simple Swedish massage. It took place in a curtained enclosure close to the beach with the front end open so I could see the sea and enjoy the coastal breeze while the masseuse undid the knots in my shoulders. Afterwards, clad only in a towelling robe, I lay on a comfy lounger to sip Indian tea and enjoy a quiet afternoon snooze.
Being active can be relaxing too, and the resort offers archery, basketball and roller blading. You can even run away with the circus for the afternoon and learn to be a trapeeze artist. Tempting, but the sway of the waves seemed to call out my name.
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Though the resort is indeed beautiful, it seemed wrong to spend all my time there. So, I opted for a day long excursion to see a little of the Dominican Republic. One in particular drives out for an hour or so by coach to the province of Higeuy where we mingled with the locals, saw how cigars are rolled and did a little shopping. Then a journey by truck led to a sugar plantation where we harvested some sugar cane followed by a boat trip over the protected river Chauon through lush vegetation. If the scenery looked familiar it was because this is where Hollywood blockbusters Apocalypse Now and Anaconda were filmed.
Wild Ranch, El Gato Village
The final destination was to the Wild Ranch in El Gato village, a conservation concern run by a charismatic Italian lady called Rossella Morella. The work encompasses reforestation, saving endangered species from extinction and offers a hospital for ill or mal-treated birds and animals.
A typically Dominican lunch of rice, beans, salad, pork and chicken was served with indigenous Arepo bread whose origins, we were told, predated Christ by 1800 years. Later we toured the ranch grounds and its canapy by foot though riding a bike was an option.
Wild Ranch relies entirely on tourism for its income but it’s a fair exchange – they get to continue their work and tourists get to tickle an iguana, stroke a snake and learn about the medical plants that make up the fauna and flora of the island.
A day out on the catamaran
There’s also a must-do catamaran trip on the excursion list that sails along the coastline while music permeates the air with international rythms. It finally stops at a beauty spot so that everyone can take a dip into safe, warm(ish) and shallow (waist high) waters. The crew wade in too with trays of rum tipples and nibbles, while the aromas of the BBQ waft into the air. This is simple, indulgent fun at its finest.
Back at the resort colonial style accommodation comprises flats and villas painted in typically Caribbean colours of orange, yellow and other bright pastels that seem to gleam in the sunshine. Floors are tiled, doors are dark wood, and the basic suite comprises a double bedroom, walk-in wardrobe, small sitting area, en suite shower with pizza sized shower heads and a terrace. Villas are plush, come with a luxury bath and have extra rooms for the kids.
Food and drink
Food in general is informal. There are BBQ’s on the beach of tasty steaks, salads and punches (and of course soft drinks), while the beach restaurant, Celeste, offers a little more choice of wraps and other snacks.
Dinner is buffet style at the Samana restaurant features international cuisine from curries, pizzas, pasta, fried chicken, seafood and salads galore with a decent range of veggie options. But you can go back for seconds as often as you like and wash it down with as much wine or soft drinks as you can manage. Lunch can be taken at the seafront at the Indigo Beach Lounge. For finer dining there the Hispaniola waterfront restaurant. Here good food can be enjoyed under shade of the palm trees, to the back drop of breath-taking views from the restaurant terrace.
GOs and Nightlife
Certainly part of the buzz of the place is created by the abundant presence of the GOs – Gentle Organisers. There’s one GO for every three guests and they spend a month each year in a school in France to learn the art of spreading a little happiness. You will see them everywhere with beaming smiles, saluting you by name at every turn.
Nightlife is basically at the stylish bar area or on the beach front or pool side dance floors and babysitters are on hand so that parents can come out to play. With the cocktails and champagne flowing throughout the evening into the early hours, everyone ends up strutting their stuff at some point, and if like me you find yourself in the shadows, you can be sure that the likes of Patrick will be on hand to help you jazz up your evening.
Airfrance flies from London to Paris, then from their direct to Punta Cana airport.
Club Med offers a seven night itinerary to Club Med Punta Cana the newly reopened four trident resort from £1466 per adult and £1076 per child
More information: www.clubmed.co.uk
Club Med’s all inclusive packages include:
- Return flights and transfers between the airport and the Club Med Resort
- Accommodation ranging from comfortable Club Rooms to lavish Suites
- Full board with fine cuisine, wine, beer and soft drinks
- Open bar and snacks
- Club Med Baby Welcome facilities and children’s clubs from 4 to 17 years where available
- Group classes for sports and leisure facilities