My second visit
to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic was a five-day getaway for
myself and a college graduation gift for my daughter Amanda. Through
Apple Vacations, we embarked from Newark Airport on Canada 3000
Airways on a typical New Jersey winter day - rainy and cold. Given
the fact it was a charter flight, the in-flight service was excellent;
I highly recommend this airline. We were served a hot meal with
complimentary wine, and attendants were all friendly and gracious.
The flight itself was almost flawless. The flight was late in taking
off, but we still arrived only about 20 minutes later than scheduled,
about 5:00 p.m.
Punta Cana is thrilling - to see the thatched-roof of the terminal
and the brilliant foliage, disembarking to hear the music of the
island, the feel of the warm tropical sun, the arome of the tropical
flowers, and being greeted by friendly, smiling faces confirms the
fact of the multi-facted beauty of this nation. We had a short wait
to get through immigration, but once through, we were quickly on
our way to Melia Caribe, a twenty minute ride from the airport.
is the sister resort of Melia Tropicale. They are located immediately
adjacent to each other, and are almost mirror resorts in look and
in personality. As of January 2000, Caribe had been open only two
months, so extensive landscaping was still ongoing. Upon arrival
at Caribe, our registration was quick and efficient; we were in
our rooms within fifteen minutes, and luggage arrived shortly after.
I had requested an oceanfront room, but received oceanview, which
was actually better, as we were just behind the pool area and yet
just a few steps from the tram, which transports guests to the lobby/restaurant
at the front of the resort.
were beautiful in spite of the newness of the resort. A walk through
the lush Tropicale section gave us an idea of what the Caribe will
look like in six months or so - bougainvilla, jasmine, frangipangi,
assorted palms and other flora were everywhere! At the front of
the Tropicale, a large pool was home to a half dozen flamingos and
a few mallards. The decor of both lobby areas seemed to be an eclectic
mix of Caribbean, Spanish and Roman - large columns were adorned
with wrought iron sconces; high, beamed ceilings had beautiful,
huge wrought iron chandeliers; and floors were of polished marble.
The comfortable seating was rattan with comfortable, colorful cushions,
and numerous ponds were everywhere. The lobbies, as everywhere in
the resort, were impeccably clean.
Each of the
twenty-two buildings that made up the Caribe's hotel complex contained
twenty-four rooms. Our second-floor junior suite was large and immaculate.
The air conditioning was even on when we arrived! Our balcony overlooked
the romantically lit-up pool area and the beach just beyond. Beds
were comfortable and freshly made each day. The bathroom was marble,
with a large shower that included a hand-held spray, a strong hair
dryer, a telephone, and a bidet. Bath towels were oversized, thick
and fluffy. (The only disappointments were the in-room refrigerator
which, although stocked with bottled water, beer and soda, did not
work, and despite phone calls and personal requests, was not fixed
or replaced during our stay, and that the water and beverages were
not replaced. This was inconvenient, as we needed the water to brush
our teeth, etc. I was told that there would be a charge for in-room
replacement and we had to get our own from the bar each night.
There are five
restaurants in Caribe and five at Tropicale. We were free to eat
at any of the restaurants, although it took us a day to find all
of them, as there are no signs in the Caribe lobby yet! We opted
for the buffet at Caribe's Tupan the night we arrived, but also
ate at Los Panchos, a Mexican Restaurant at Caribe, Turey, the Caribe
beachfront buffet, Agora, Tropicale's beachfront buffet, La Gondola,
a smaller Italian buffet at Tropicale, and Los Atabales, the buffet
at Tropicale's lobby area. There are also Pagoda (Chinese), Gormet,
Capri (Mediterranean) and La Maison, all of which are by reservation
only, but we were told no reservations were available during our
stay at those four restaurants! Food was excellent at all the restaurants.
Pasta was always available, and each night a different meat and/or
seafood was available at the carving station, such as turkey, freshly
grilled calamari, whole fish en croute, London Broil, etc. I was
glad to see that goat was offered - it tastes much like lamb with
lots of bones, but was very tasty. Rabbit was also offered one night
but we passed on that! Fresh bread and cheeses are always on the
buffet, and a variety of vegetables from green beans to yucca, salads
and fruits. Drinks and wine are served with dinner. Coffee in the
DR is strong but excellent.
The bar offered
a variety of liquors besides rum, such Absolute vodka, Johnny Walker
scotch, a variety of liquers and even champagne. The beer was the
island's El Presidente. All of the service staff members were friendly
and smiling, although many did not speak English. Both my daughter
and I speak a little Spanish, so we got by alright, but had a few
laughs trying to find the right Spanish words for some things! The
Dominicans are very friendly and try to help however they can -
they laughed right along with us -NOT at us!
The pool was
the largest I have ever seen. It consisted of five "bays",
and took almost ten minutes to circumnavigate! The individual bays
(one of which was sectioned off for kids) gave a feeling of intimacy
in spite of the size of the pool. A pool bar was on one end, but
the winter afternoon sun was behind it, so it was a bit cool to
sit there too long. One afternoon brought a brief but heavy shower,
so we sat in the "dry" part of the bar, under the thatched
roof, and drank strange concoctions offered us, one of which another
visitor, from Ohio, said were called "Die Kitties" (the
next day we figured out these were daquiris!) and a Brazillian drink
made with lime, sugar and rum - wow! Service here was a little slow,
but it was probably a good thing! There are plenty of comfortable
mesh beach chairs, and the beach towels were very large and thick.
Many thatched-roof huts were available to those wanting shade.
The beach was
beautiful - hundreds of palms, powdery, white sand, and green-blue
water as far as the eye could see. Here too, beach chairs abounded,
and one could choose to be either in the middle of the constant
beach activities such as aerobics, volleyball, and other sports,
or pick a secluded spot further up the beach. Security was always
around, but the guards were friendly and happy to chat. Kayaks,
water bikes, and wind surfing were available for free, and motorized
water activities such as jet-skiing and para-sailing, were available
for a fee.
to take a walk towards Natura Park, a few resorts down, but never
made it quite that far. There is, however, a large vendor area called
"Mercado Artesanal" two resorts down. There are about
twenty booths under tarps, most of which have similar items, from
tee shirts to wood and stone carvings, rum to cigars, and even the
island's rendition of Viagra! Bargaining is a must! We purchased
a number of items, while a great guy named Frank (booth #11) watched
us pay, and then asked us to visit his booth on our way out. We
followed him there out of curiousity, and he proceeded to put necklaces
on both our necks, saying, "This is a gift from me." I
didn't quite believe him at first, but he insisted. We graciously
thanked him and walked away, once again amazed at the hospitality
of these wonderful people! Another day, I bought a beautiful hand-made
palm hat for $5.00, which I thought was a bargain, from a beach
vendor, although he was one of only a few who were on our beach
at the Caribe.
We also walked
north/east from the resort and saw a little cafe with local melodies
pouring out the doors, which might have been fun to try if we had
male escorts, but decided not to go in on our own.
The wind was
constantly blowing about 15-20 mph during our stay, and made the
water somewhat choppy, and the beach too windy for sunning one day.
It was cloudy at least part of the day as well, with a few brief
downpours. Our Prieto tour guide, Robert, said this was the worst
he's seen January in the eight years he's been in Punta Cana, but
we still managed to get sufficient sun!
Our third night,
we had dinner then headed for the little casino in the Caribe lobby(no
cameras allowed.) Living near Atlantic City, it was not a big deal
for us, but it was fun to see the different slots, and I actually
came out ahead. A group of people from Ohio got talking to my daughter,
and we all ended up going over to the Tropicale where a small disco
called the "Fun Pub" offered dancing 'til 3:00 a.m. We
had a great time dancing our version of the merengue! Champagne,
beer and assorted other beverages flowed freely until closing, when
we all managed to somehow find our way back to our rooms (thankfully,
the tram was still running!) We never did get to see a show - there
is one at each hotel, and it changes nightly, but were told they
were very entertaining.
Our final day
ended early, as we had a 2:00 flight back to Newark. Checkout was
easy and staff once again was courteous. Our tour guide Robert was
on the Prieto bus with us and chatted with guests about the island.
Customs was no problem at all. Our flight was again delayed, but
we spent the time in the duty-free shop where some real bargains
can be had. The Canada 3000 flight and was once again great - our
pilot, Captain Pollock, told us there was turbulance ahead, but
he managed to stay out of most of it, even in our landing during
gusty winds. We returned to 22 degrees with 25 mph winds - I still
had shorts and my palm hat on, but that hat, along with the tropical
memories I knew I'd keep forever, kept me warm while we were outside
waiting for our taxi!
we thoroughly enjoyed our short stay at Caribe. Having previously
visited Natura Park, I was afraid I would be disappointed, but I
was certainly not! During and after my visit to Natura Park,I had
some minor intestinal trouble for a few weeks, but never even opened
my box of Immodium AD while at Caribe! The staff is wonderful, the
accommodations were superb and the overall experience is one I can't
wait to return to! Even Robert, our tour guide, was more than helpful
when we tried to extend our stay (which didn't work out, since we
had a "package deal"). He even called our room to see
if he could be of more help. All the guests we met or encountered
were friendly and always smiling, as well. We are both already longing
to return to the tropical paradise called Punta Cana!
If you have
any questions about Melia Caribe/Tropicale, please
e-mail me and I will try to answer your questions. If you're
going down soon, tell Raymond that Amanda said hello! Above all,
have a wonderful trip - we did!