My husband was very wary about going to a Club Med. But because I lived in Europe for years, I knew the French resort chain would be a fantastic choice for a Spring Break vacation. I managed to persuade my husband that it would be a perfect choice for my 87-year old dad, and my 10 year-old daughter, so we decided to throw caution to the winds and give it a whirl.
I chose Punta Cana, Dominican Republic because it was roughly halfway between my England, where my folks live, and Los Angeles. A handful of Club Med resorts have also been awarded either an Earth Check or a Green Globe certification.I wanted to make sure that we went to one that was taking care of the environment. That aside, I didn’t know what to expect.
Apparently Club Med has a knack of picking the best ever locations and in the case of Punta Cana, this is absolutely true. The resort is just five minutes from the tiny airport, and is set on a tropical plantation on the eastern tip of the island.
The huge airy lobby with its high plantation ceilings and marble floors overlooks the glittering turquoise ocean.
After checking in, we ran to the beach and dug our bare feet into the pink powdery sand and we knew we had arrived in tropical paradise.
Club Med is famous for it’s G.O’s (Gracious Organizers), who are always bright, energetic, trilingual, and very talented young people. The moment you arrive at any Club Med you’ll be greeted by a team of G.O’s. They want to make sure that you have the best vacation of your life and they jump hoops to make this possible. There is a G.O for everyone and everything: babies, kids, teens, dancers, water sports – you name it and they’ll be a ready, willing and able to help with whatever it is you want to do.
Not only was this like the best spring camp that my daughter has ever done in her life: She tried Trapeze, dancing, sailing, archery and much more, but it really is a summer camp for adults too. Something happens to you at a Club Med, that in ordinary life you’d be embarrassed about. I found myself not only trying sports that I’d hitherto thought were impossible, but I also found myself joining the crowd and dancing into the night (stone cold sober to boot). Before going to Club Med for this vacation, the thought of joining a happy/clappy group of whooping adults, was more than horrifying for my husband and I – but Club Med has a way of making you feel like a kid again. Every minute of every day, each member of my family was off doing some activity they’d never tried before: Mum tried Salsa and my 87-year old dad tried Zuumba! My daughter swung off a Cirque De Soleil-like trapeze and tried her hand at Archery, and I windsurfed and had a go sailing. I barely had time to sit and read the line-up of iBooks that I’d carefully downloaded the night before we left. Between activities, we’d meet up under the palm trees on the grassy lawn and ordered fruity smoothies to sip at before moving on the next fun activity.
Clud Med is a well-oiled machine as far as childcare goes. Virtually every five-star resort I’ve ever visited has some kind of “kid’s club”, but my daughter never wanted to spend more than ten minutes in any of them, and I can understand why. Different deal with Club Med! They have a special program for every single age group from a tiny baby to a teenager. This is not just “child-care” either – the children fall in love with their G.O’s who are like playmates, teachers, clowns and the most fun baby-sitter you’ve ever had in the world. Guilt is out for moms! I’m telling you, get ready to leave your kids in the hands of a group of expert young people who they’ll much prefer to be with than you! Even babies are taken off and wheeled around by G.O’s in little red buses or placed under a palapa in the shade, where as far as I could see, there was virtually one GO for every baby.
Whatever the age of your child, they’ll be a large group of friends for the picking. If your child is eleven or older, they join the cool teen group, where they have a lot more independence and love their G.0’s as much as the little ones. It’s the closest to good clean fun that I’ve ever seen in a group of teens. This is because the G.O’s keep them busy: If they’re not rehearsing for a hip-hop show that evening, they’ll be out on a Catarmaran or sail boat racing. Either way, it’s pretty likely that your children will make life- long friends at Club Med. My daughter who doesn’t have siblings, met a friend day one, and they were inseparable for the duration – phew!!!!!
Having been spoiled enough to stay at a plethora of 5-star resorts in the past few years (reviewing is a very tough job!), I wasn’t expecting anything great with the food. I knew that every meal was a huge buffet and I’m typically not a buffet fan, however, I was blown-away. Club Med tries to source as much of its food locally and so the cuisine always reflects the region you’re in. Being in the Dominican Republic, I imagined that we’d be eating primarily rice, beans and a lot of fried stuff, so I wasn’t holding my breath. How pleasantly surprised I was: Every night offers a different theme: International, Mexican, Dominican, French, Italian, etc. I quickly got used to this luxury. The chef are wonderful. If you take the time to talk to them, they are so full of information about the local delicacies, and passionate about their special dishes. At breakfast, I piled my plate high with fresh mango, papaya, coconut, plain yogurt, and granola. Then I’d move onto the breads that Club Med is so renowned for – my favorite being the crusty loaves of organic multi-grain bread, which I toasted and then slathered in honey. At lunch, I’d hit the salad bar, where I could just stand and point at what I wanted them to mix together in a giant bowl. I’d then move onto freshly grilled fish and then more fruit. Dinner was an extravaganza every night, culminating in “Gala” night where displays of shiny red lobsters awaited us. In true Club Med style, there is something for everyone food-wise. Kids can OD on pancakes, French toast, crepes and waffles, whereas the health-conscious can go nuts too.
The rooms at Club Med are always pretty basic, but clean and supply everything you need, including robes. I will say that with a large resort like this, you do need to do your homework in figuring out which room to pick. If you have elderly members in your party, or tiny babies, you may want to make sure you get a room near to the center of everything. The first room we had was on the ground floor and smelled a bit damp. We asked to be moved to the top floor, where the room was perfect. The intense humidity must make the upkeep of the rooms challenging, however, some of them do need a bit of work – so make sure you ask for a top floor! Some of the Club Med resorts now have a luxury “Trident” area, where you can pay a bit more for upscale rooms, private pools and all-round fancier everything.
The Green Globe certification that Puna Cana has been awarded means that this resort has shown a third party panel that they are engaged in sustainable practices. I did see this reflected around the resort, with reminders in the rooms to recycle and be very mindful of water conservation. I also love that many of the Club Med resorts now have “Foundation Corners” where guests can give back to the environment and local people. In the case of Punta Cana, you can encourage you kids, as I did, to take a bunch of appropriate school supplies for kids aged 3-10 yrs. You can drop them off at the excursion desk and they will be delivered to a local school. Speaking of excursions – there are some fantastic options at Punta Cana. I loved the paddleboard eco-excursion, which is tiring but so worthwhile.
The best thing about an all-inclusive vacation is that obviously, you don’t need to take out your wallet once you step foot inside. The only extras you’ll need to pay for are excursion and scuba-diving (both of which are well worth shelling out for.) My husband loved that the Scuba Diving was onsite, which isn’t always the case. His dives were amazing, as were the team who take you out. If you’re new to scuba, they also give scuba classes in the pool before taking you out into the ocean. You can get free instruction for all of the water sports, which is pretty awesome. So all told, Club Med Punta Cana is a pretty wonderful family vacation spot.
Things I would like to see:
I’m including this little section in all my travel reviews, as I think it’s useful to point out where I’d like to see the sustainable initiatives heading:
- I’d like to see more prominent recycling bins for the plastic water bottles, around the resort.
- It would be great if smaller plates could be provided in the buffet, as I think it might encourage less waste. Buffets encourage even the modest eater to pile a plate high with food that you might just take a bite of. “Taster” plates would be great!
- Don’t know if this is possible, however, I’d love to see a giant water filtration system for the entire resort so that they can do away with all plastic bottles.
- I’d like to see the Styrofoam cups in the cafeteria replaced with biodegradable paper.