I Spent A Week In An All-Inclusive Dominican Republic Resort & It’s Probably The Most Relaxed I’ve Ever Been
Incredible scenes at Playa Esmeralda
Recently I went for my first ever sunrise swim. Warm water lapped at my thighs and the sound of the waves eased me into the morning, as I watched the sun escape from the horizon and wondered how anything could feel this blissful.
I was also on a pristine beach in the Dominican Republic, so there was that.
When Club Med invited a member of the STELLAR team on a press trip to experience a week of their exclusive eco-resort, Michès Playa Esmeralda, I couldn’t say no. I had been to the Caribbean before but never the Dominican Republic, nor an all-inclusive resort like those on Club Med’s roster.
Part of Club Med’s Exclusive Collection, the all-inclusive resort is nothing short of paradise. White sandy beaches, cocktails on-call, and friendly, helpful staff, all nestled within the hidden, lush tropics of the Michès coastline.
The resort itself is about an hour and 20 minute drive from Punta Cana airport. Transfers are organised by Club Med when you book your trip, so there’s no need to worry about sorting your own transport or getting lost on your way.
There are four small villages inside Playa Esmeralda, each suited to whatever vibe each traveller is looking for.
I was staying in Caribbean Paradise, a collection of brightly styled apartments running between gorgeous tropical gardens, each with their own private balcony or garden. The apartment was only a few minutes walk from reception, the resort’s main restaurants and bar, and most importantly, the beach.
But if being right at the centre of the fun isn’t your bag, guests can also opt to stay in the family focused Explorer Cove, the adults-only Emerald Jungle, or the exclusive (and very glam) Archipelago – with sea views and infinity pools for days.
These villages are still only a few minutes walk from the resort’s main hub, but offer a more bespoke experience for those travelling with children, guests seeking an adults-only experience, and couples and honeymooners.
The five star eco-certified resort is, of course, stunning, but it’s also got sustainability at heart. There are no single-use plastics, solar panels generate a lot of energy around the resort, and refillable glass water bottles are provided in each room.
Since opening, the group has preserved or replanted over 2,000 trees to maintain the rich ecosystem in the area. There’s even an interactive family garden on site to encourage children to learn more about local greenery on their stay.
During our trip, we were treated to a cooking class where I had my first experience of ceviche (delicious), and a treatment of our choice in the Club Med Spa by Cinq Mondes. I opted for a full body scrub, which seemed like a great idea until I remembered that my skin was red raw from the Dominican Republic sun.
As it turns out, factor 50 SPF does very little if you’re constantly sweating it off in 30 degree Caribbean heat. By then it was too late to backtrack, but I did emerge soft and rejuvenated, if not a little sensitive.
Each morning we had breakfast in the buffet, an eclectic and impressive spread that I have yet to see rivalled anywhere else. I’m talking fried eggs, scrambled eggs, pancakes, crepes, hash browns, fruit bowls, yoghurts, meats, cheeses, and a dedicated coffee shop serving frappes and iced coffees all day long.
For lunch and dinner we dined in one of the resort’s speciality restaurants, or returned to the buffet – and although I was all for sampling the vegan meat the on-site steakhouse had to offer, there was something special about piling my plate (or bowl, or plate again, and again) with a myriad of different cuisines each night.
I ate until I could eat no more… and then I had dessert.
Our group took two excursions outside of the resort. The first was to the Los Haitises national park where we travelled by speed boat across the coast and explored an ancient cave, before retiring to a beautiful eco lodge where we ate fish and swam beneath a man-made waterfall.
On the second day we went to a local farm to sample some raw cacao, fresh aloe, and coconut water topped with rum (that’s Coco Loco, to the locals) before heading to Montana Redonda, an incredible spot high in the Michès hills boasting panoramic views of the beaches and valleys below.
Playa Esmeralda may be a hidden haven, but the experiences outside of the resort, learning about Dominican culture and enjoying local foods and drinks, were just as special.
The rest of the time we were invited to relax and enjoy the resort at our leisure – an invitation I took incredibly literally as I spent the majority of my free time lounging by the beach, lounging in the bar, and lounging in the swim up pool, cocktail in hand, not a care in the world.
Those less enticed by the idea of laying around in the sun for hours took advantage of the array of daily activities the resort hosted, including horse riding on the beach, sunset kayaking, treetop canopy yoga, water sports, beach volleyball and more. If you wanted to do nothing in paradise, you could do that. But if you wanted to fill your days with activities and not stop for a second, you could do that too.
Nighttimes were dominated by resort entertainment, which was predominantly family focused. But by the time 10pm rolled around most of the children had been taken to bed and the main bar area became a dancefloor overseen by the resident Club Med DJ, who rarely spun anything but 80s bangers the entire time we were there.
All-inclusive holidays are rarely my go-to when planning trips away, but the level of relaxation I experienced during my trip to the Dominican Republic was unmatched. There’s something truly tranquil about knowing everything you need is right there in the one place… and that that one place also happens to be situated on a 2,000 foot long untouched beach under the Caribbean sun.
The only hard part was deciding whether I wanted another Piña colada or an Aperol spritz.
You can find out more at clubmed.co.uk