Dominican Republic

April 15, 2011 - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

I was sent on my first trip to the Dominican by work as a reward for making my sales quotas this year. So this was also my first experience with the big, all-inclusive resorts. We were put up at Riu Palace Macao in beautiful Punta Cana and the gorgeous grounds and exquisite beaches didn't disappoint! And a perk of the arrangements was that we were also able to mingle and explore at the other neighboring resorts, which expanded our array of restaurants, pools, and bars to choose from.

Although our group opted to spend the bulk of our days lazing on the beach or poolside, there were plenty of activities on offer - beach volleyball, yoga, dance and exercise classes, daytime excursions outside of the hotel, shopping, as well as the free use of non-motorized water vehicles (kayaking in the Caribbean is such a joy!). The staff was completely lovely and there was so much food to sample! Buffets, restaurants, snacks, etc... Overall, the food was pretty decent. The restaurants, which were open evenings and which you had to make reservations for the morning of, offered up the tastiest fare but the buffets weren't bad either (although dinner was much better than lunch). But even at a five-star, it didn't completely wow. (I later found out that places like Club Med are where you go for food that's truly "Wow" - they're known for it because they import most of their ingredients as well as services.) What did wow, on the other hand, was the local concoction of Mama Juana - rum, red wine, and honey soaked with local tree bark and herbs, a rumored aphrodisiac and overall a good time in a glass!

At nights after dinner we'd hit up the bar and then maybe take in a show, and afterwards we'd always end up at Pacha (the nearby nightclub) for dancing with the tourists and locals alike. Some nights they'd try to organize things like karaoke but it was a little rough around the edges.

My impressions of resort life is that it's a lot like Pinocchio's Pleasure Island, where the lost children run amok. As it says in Wikipedia:

"The boys who are taken to the island go voluntarily with the promise of fun and unlimited freedom...While on the island, the boys are encouraged to commit acts of gluttony, vandalism, fight, drink beer, smoke cigars, and gamble - all things that good little boys are not supposed to do...They never have to do any work or learn anything..."

I often thought of this as I watched grown men and women become childlike again as they jazzercised (and one woman, after stepping out of her step class and with the frantic tone of a junkie looking for the next fix, exclaimed "Ping pong! I want to play ping pong!!"), glutted themselves on the afternoon soft serve ice-cream machine at the bar (and squealed with delight whenever the 4pm treat of coconuts filled with rum and juice would appear), smoked cigars in the pool, drunkenly participated in the merengue class in their tiny speedos, and degenerated into games of beer pong on the ping pong tables.

But this is also my humor and the way that I observe things...the up side is that the definition of a real vacation is truly to lose all sense of time, to not have to open a wallet once (even the mini bar is part of the all-inclusive), and to be freed from all responsibility for a spell. It was a treat to have our every need and whimsical desire tended to, total and utter decadence (but granted, not without the occasional pang of guilt as you couldn't help but remind yourself that Haiti is just on the other side of the same island, talk about your night and day contrasts). And the beaches here are truly some of the prettiest & pristine I've ever been to. I only wish I had more time to venture off of the resort and to really see how the other half lives, to gain an accurate understanding and appreciation of the Dominican culture. (Especially when you just know that behind all of the sunny smiles of the locals there exists some sort of a shadow side, so many of the men were approaching the women in our group and bluntly asking if they could be sponsored so that they could leave the island and relocate to Canada in order to have better opportunity.) But those explorations will be saved for a future visit!


Floating Market a
Floating Market b
Floating Market c
Floating Market d
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