As an early arrival in Punta Cana—the Club opened in 1980—this Club Med was able to snag one of the great pieces of property on the eastern end of the Dominican Republic. The 75-acre resort fronts a boulevard of soft sand nearly 2,000 feet long, 165 feet deep, and protected by an offshore reef. It's beaches like this, and the 80 degree temperatures, that lure vacationers to the Caribbean.
To that extraordinary venue, Club Med added it own enhancements, including 13 hard tennis courts (6 with lights), 8 pickleball courts, circus apparatus and workshops, and a Mini Club. Lodging at he oceanfront complex includes upscale two-bedroom family suites dubbed Tiara and expanded the children's programs to handle everyone from age four months to teens. It is a very different and much more appealing Club than the one I visited in the late 1980s, made easier now by an airport a mere 10 minutes' drive from the reception center.
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Tennis Programs. The adult programs are minimal, consisting of daily clinics, private lessons, and free use of the courts, and although it also has 8 pickleball courts available for play, there are no organized pickleball programs. Children 4-10 have mini tennis as part of their daily activities program. Those age 11 or more can join the adult program.Court Complex. There are hard 13 courts, 6 of them with lights, and 8 pickleball courts.
Beach. The Club fronts its own stretch of a beach at the eastern end of the Dominican Republic. The deep, sandy strand, nearly 2,000 feet long, seems to have three sections: a lounging section with a roped-off shallow area for families behind which extend several lines of blue and white lounge chairs beginning near the water and extending back into a glade of palm trees and anchored by an open-air bar and lunch spot called Celeste; a watersports section just beyond Celeste, and then a much quieter section, with a less-dense population of lounge chairs and more adult, to judge from the topless sunbathers.
Swimming Pools. The main pool is a kind of multiple figure 8 with a very shallow section for families at one end and lounge chairs all around it. There is also a plunge pool at the spa (see below), a kiddy pool with lots of water features at the Mini Club, and a private infinity pool for exclusive use of those who rent the family suites.
Golf Courses. The Club has no golf course of its own but will arrange for guests to play at as many as 15 local courses for an added fee.
Spa & Fitness Center. The spa by Occitane lies at the northern end of the property. It has an open-air covered waiting area and adjacent infinity plunge pool looking out at the beach and ocean. There are three cabanas below where you have the option of a treatment open to sea breezes (the slatted windows let in air while affording privacy. The other rooms—nine in all—wrap around the reception and waiting areas. There's a boutique with Occitane products.
The air-conditioned fitness center, not far from the central reception area, contains about 10 cardio and nine workout stations as well as free weights and dumbbells.
And ... Long known for its circus workshops, the club teaches kids juggling, lets smaller ones bounce on a trampoline, and older ones learn tricks on the flying trapeze. There are adult trapeze lessons as well. Otherwise, the choices of activity are extensive, including windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling, scuba (for certified divers), football (soccer), aerobics and yoga in an open-air thatched roof palapa on the beach, inline skating, softball, and archery. There are also numerous off-property excursions to a rain forest, river cruises and tours of the historic city of Santo Domingo
The Mini Club at its core is one of the largest in Club Med system worldwide, with separate sections for Baby (ages 4 to 23 months), Petit (ages 2-3 years), and Mini Clubs (ages 4-10 years) grouped around a fenced-in array of recreation areas, playgrounds, and a shallow water park. Those ages 11 to 17, meanwhile, get their own set of activities and programs and opportunities to hang out together.
For kids Punta Cana is one giant summer camp. Their days are filled with a variety of diversions, most of them outdoors and focused on learning skills, whether its circus tricks, mini tennis, cooking lessons, inline skating, sailing, or any number of other sports and activities. Kids get shunted indoors only during inclement weatherâ€”or in the case of younger kids to take naps. Unlike most summer camps, however, this one goes on year-round and is multilingual, so your English-speaking child will be exposed to French, Spanish—the language of the Dominican Republic—and possibly a smattering of other languages as well.
There are three classes of accommodations: standard and deluxe rooms and suites—with ocean views or poolside settings—capable of sleeping up to five.
Of the two main restaurants, the open-air Hispaniola stands out for its location overlooking the ocean, but it's upstaged by Samana, next to the reception center. Loosely designed as a marketplace, Samana has concentric rings of food stations, many with chefs preparing dishes as needed and specializing in a particular dish or international cuisine. Kids gravitate to the pizza, pasta, burgers, chicken nuggets, hot dogs while adults may opt for more sophisticated entrées like rack of lamb, lobster, sushi, or local fish with ginger. On any evening there are dozens of choices, including a vast array of salads, breads, and cheeses. Desserts, too, are abundant, though the one that drew the longest lines was the creperie. You could watch your crepe being made by a machine that spread batter on a griddle and then choose the toppings or fillings you liked, among them hot fudge and various fruit compotes.
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Club Med-Punta Cana
APT Postal 106
Travel Instructions. The nearest airport is Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ), roughly 10 minutes from the Club. It's also possible to fly into Santo Domingo Airport (SDQ); however, it is a 3-hour drive away.
General Tourist Information. For general tourist information, visit the Dominican Republic Tourism website.