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Planet Paradise

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

You wouldn’t think that the huge vacation destination of Punta Cana on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic was actually in the same solar system as the domestic, humdrum world that most of us are used to. Although the journey from New York takes less than four hours, you might as well have jumped about a Saturn V rocket and been blasted to another world.

Punta Cana is home to many resorts, but probably the biggest is the Punta Cana Resort and Club. It is entirely self-contained: one huge resort containing a variety of hotels and attractions – a little in the style of Disneyland, although the atmosphere is rather calmer and the emphasis is very much on relaxation for grown-ups rather than just crazy fun for the kids.

Punta Cana Resort: Beach The resort is currently celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary as one of the top vacation destinations in the Caribbean, and is concurrently making a big effort to attract new clients. It’s telling that of all the big resorts in the Caribbean the Punta Cana Resort and Club probably has the highest percentage of repeat business – it is rumored that there are some vacationers who have visited the resort every year of its existence since 1970. It was also one of the pioneers of the now-fashionable practice of making vacation resort pricing as “all-inclusive” as possible.

Punta Cana Resort: Room The resort has over 420 rooms spread between a number of buildings. If you’re prepared to pay for a little extra privacy there’s also the opportunity to rent out a private beachside villa for the duration of your stay.

There’s stuff to do on planet paradise, too. If you want to do something more with your well-earned vacation than simply lounge on the beach you could spend some time sharpening up your golf a little. The pristine P.B. Dye-designed course is brand new and sits right alongside the ocean. Four of the holes are just feet away from the sea. So watch you don’t slice – taking a shot at a submerged ball while standing up to your knees in the briny is a challenge that would frustrate the greatest golf professionals in the world! If you do find yourself regularly depositing balls in the Caribbean, you can take advantage of the on-site instructional facilities. The Punta Cana Resort and Club prides itself on being the most environmentally-friendly of resorts, and this is reflected in the approach taken to golf green management: the whole course has been sown with a special grass which can be irrigated with sea water – thereby protecting the underground aquifers that service the resort itself and other local communities from being overused.

The Punta Cana Ecological Foundation, which is closely associated with the resort, has been established almost as long as the resort itself. The businesses that run the resort donated 1500 acres of land to the Foundation early in the resort’s history, with the aim of promoting eco-friendly tourism, preserving the local wildlife habitats and encouraging environmental sustainability on a local level. You are free to wander the trails of the ecological reserve, admiring the local flora and fauna – you might, if you’re lucky, get a chance to see the Hispaniolan rhinoceros iguana, a species of giant lizard native to the island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern half.

The reserve is a mixture of wild and managed habitats, and some of it comes very close to being carefully cultivated garden. One of the most popular areas is Indian Eyes Park – a collection of a dozen or so ponds and pools that is oddly reminiscent of Monet’s famous water lilies garden in Normandy, France.

Punta Cana Resort: Restaurant After a balmy afternoon of wandering among the wildlife, you’ll probably have worked up an appetite. Unsurprisingly for a resort of its caliber, The Punta Cana Resort and Club has a number of excellent cafés, bars and restaurants. Informal lunches and snacks can be taken at The Grill, located conveniently close to the golf course clubhouse. If you like a faux-Italian flavor, Mamma Venezia is probably the place for you: classic pizza, pasta and tiramisu are served on check tablecloths with guitarists doing the rounds – it feels like the set from an early 1960s movie, and you half expect Sophia Loren to walk through the door every time you look up. More formal dining arrangements can be found at Anani. The formality doesn’t preclude a romantic atmosphere of course; every night at Anani you can be entertained by a pianist on a huge white grand piano.

The Punta Cana Resort and Club is in many ways the ultimate holiday destination. This article has really only touched on the many activities available to the vacationer there – it’s the sort of place that you really have to sample to understand fully. If you visit, however, you will very quickly come to understand exactly why the resort has such a formidable reputation and such a large band of dedicated repeat visitors. If, in a galaxy far, far away there really is a planet paradise, it probably looks very like Punta Cana.

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