More than 30 years ago, the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic was mostly thick jungle with very few roads. Club Med, the original all-inclusive resort company, saw the tourism potential of the Caribbean gem’s sugar-sand beaches and turquoise waters and snapped up 75 acres of prime beachfront. Other resorts followed suit, transforming the region, and today more than two million tourists a year flock to the area now known as Punta Cana. A sign of Club Med’s commitment to the area is a recent investment of $40 million to renovate and relaunch its resort.
On average, families make up about 70 percent of the guests at Club Med Punta Cana, and that informs the feel of the entire resort. It’s relaxed, with plenty of kids, so there’s no stuffy vibe (plus, it’s a beach resort, which takes things down a notch anyway). With so much space to roam, and so many things to do, kids are on cloud nine. Since the resort is all-inclusive, there’s no need to carry money—and there’s no nickel-and-diming. Food can be had at just about any time of day at one of three buffet-style restaurants, and there are plenty of self-serve beverage stations throughout the beach and pool area.
Club Med’s legendary kids’ clubs welcome children with age-designated groups from newborn to age 17, in dedicated areas in the center of the village. There is Baby Club Med for babies and toddlers ages 4 to 23 months; Petit Club Med for preschoolers ages 2 to 3; Mini Club Med for ages 4 to 10. Tweens and teens ages 11 to 17 can attend Passworld, with contemporary spaces specially designed for them.
Club Med is known for its enthusiastic and hands-on “GOs” (Gentils Organisateurs), integral to every Club Med village, are especially valuable in the kids’ clubs. The hours of the programs—from early morning through late evening—mean parents can take advantage of timing that works best for their family’s schedule. (In need of a little pampering? Check out the new L’Occitane Spa.) The club has its own pool, mini-water park, and ample indoor space for when little ones need to spend some time in the shade. Programming is age-specific, so teens won’t be rolling their eyes at finger painting.
The resort’s main pool has plenty of room, and plenty of seating along the length of it. The 5 Trident/Tiara section has its own infinity pool, and the new adults-only enclave, Zen Oasis, has a pool that’s open to all resort guests 18 years and older. Dotted with palm tress and stretching nearly a half-mile, the resort’s stunning beach is popular with sunbathers and swimmers alike. Younger kids tend to stick to the pool, though, as the beach can be a bit uneven and the water sometimes rough.
It’s nearly impossible to be bored at the resort, with activities ranging from bocce ball and horseshoes to a fully-outfitted nautical center offering snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, kite-surfing and more. Resort staff lead fitness classes, dance competitions, tennis lessons and serve as social directors at the resort’s evening functions. One of Club Med’s signature activities, circus school, has been re-launched here as CREACTIVE, an interactive playground experience (think acrobatic bungee jumping, trampolines and flying trapeze) that’s led by Cirque du Soleil-trained instructors.
Best rooms: Club Med Punta Cana boasts more than 500 rooms, ranging from standard club rooms and suites, to the super-swank 5 Trident/Tiara lodging option, a “resort within a resort” concept with 32 oceanfront family suites. There’s an option for just about every family type, and the best part is that no matter which room category you’re in, resort amenities are available to all guests.
Rates at the resort range from around $4,500 for a seven-night stay in high season (January-March) for a family of two adults and two children in a standard 365-square-foot club room. That same stay can cost roughly $1,000 less in July. (Rates for 5 Trident are about double those of a club room.)
As an all-inclusive resort, the price includes accommodations, food and beverages, most activities (including kids’ clubs and CREACTIVE), use of the fitness center and fitness classes; golf and tennis lessons. It’s important to note that the rate does not include a Club Med Membership fee of $90 per person, nor a fee for Wi-Fi. Be sure to check the resort's web site for special offers, which are run just about year-round and can shave a substantial amount off the price.
Best season: The best time to visit Punta Cana is from March to May, after winter's peak season crowds have faded away. The Dominican Republic's temperate climate means that the weather is fairly consistent year-round, with daytime high temperatures generally in the mid 80s, though the summer months can see highs in the 90s.
Keep in mind, though, that, the Dominican Republic can experience some of the effects of the Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts from June through November. (Concerned? Read our essential tips for traveling during hurricane season.)
Getting there: A valid passport is required for entry to the Dominican Republic, and you’ll also need to purchase a tourist card for US$10 per person. (Tip: save time at customs and buy it online before your trip.) Fly into privately-owned Punta Cana International Airport and you’re just a five-minute car ride from Club Med.
Visited: December 2015
Disclaimer: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.
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