11 DEC 2018: Punta Cana’s beaches are among the most glorious I’ve seen - mostly calm water and hard packed sand lined with palm trees that beckon you to sun, swim or walk for hours. This area of the Dominican Republic, often called the Coconut Coast has been developed for tourism over the last 38 years from a mostly deserted stretch of empty beaches lined with coconut palms.  

There wasn’t even a town, when Canadians first started going, and if your clients haven’t gone for a while they should go back. The town of Punta Cana has a population of 50,000 (2014) and brags about grocery stores, restaurants, and even a shopping mall.

Today, the area’s all-inclusive resorts are hot beach destinations for people who want sun and sand.

The Punta Cana airport is a great gateway and has fast and efficient immigration officers to process the 7.6 million vacationers who came last year. I love the kid’s play area, and the second-floor outdoor bar overlooking the runways is a great asset as well.

Years ago, my late husband Cam Norton and I looked for some downtime and went to the 4-star Ocean Blue and Sand Resort, which had just opened. The resort is about 40 minutes from the airport and had only been open about 10 weeks when we arrived and like any brand-new property, it had a few minor hiccups to overcome.

The food in the buffet was delicious, and there were eight à la carte restaurants. Today, there are two buffets, and six à la carte restaurants. Back then you needed a seeing eye dog to get around the guest rooms. I ended up reading in the little hall. I told the manager about it and he assured me more lighting was on the way. Sure, enough after a couple of days he found me and said “Come see, the lights have arrived. We’re installing them!”

All of that has changed now, and the rooms are a light colour rather than dark green. The guest rooms have WiFi. It is free around the property as well, if a little weak in some places.

The beach of course is lovely, although right now like many destinations there is seaweed, so guests are in the huge pools with two swim-up bars. The pools have a dance club vibe according to one of the reviewers.

The resort, like most of the new ones, is built rather long and narrow, with a main promenade down the middle. Golf carts run continuously up and down to pick up lazy guests like us. My husband loved it. It also gave us a chance to chat with other guests. A few years later, I recommended it to friends of ours, one of whom used a wheelchair. They found the facilities perfect for someone with very limited mobility, and the staff was very helpful.

The first GM couldn’t have been more helpful and more eager to problem solve. We ran into him often, and he’d always ask if we had run into any problems and what people were saying about the resort. I’ve been back several times since and have found all the GM’s who followed Davide eager to help as well.

Yes, there is a spa, which features a thermal pool sauna and steam room.

This was the first all-in with a bowling alley, which is a huge draw, with teens. They also have a teen club, and the Daisy Club for little ones. too. The climbing wall on the beach provides hours of fun. This property welcomes 5 in a room, so parents with three kids don’t have to put one up for adoption.

The resort offers six diner a la carte restaurants, with no reservations, it is first come first serve except for the privilege guests who can make them.

Yes, there is a casino, and a golf course close by.

Yummy eats range from the all-American Route 66 diner to Blue Moon, serving French dishes to an eatery fashioned after the famous carnival.

I haven’t seen Mike’s Coffee shop in my more recent visits but it has specialty coffee, tea, pastries and snacks.

‘Privilege’ is an upgrade, and that includes a private check in, concierge service, access to a private beach and the Privilege Lounge with drinks and appetizers.

It has lots and lots of extras, including breakfast in bed, and reservations with priority seating in all “a la carte” restaurants.

Privilege Kids get a Welcome Daisy kit when they arrive, special drinks and meals for kids available in the privilege lounge. Bathing gowns for kids in their room, and VIK (Very Important Kid) There will be butler service to unpack and organize luggage in the room, iron, collect clothes from the laundry, and make reservations for spa services, restaurants, the tennis court, etc.

Nice to see an old favourite of mine evolve and do well. I may have to take my new husband to see it.

Sunwing, Transat and Air Canada offer the property, as does Westjet - flying out of Hamilton.

 

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Sam Ion

The expert on All Inclusives, Sam delivers up-to-date info on alternate Wednesdays in her column Not Just All Inclusives.

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