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The Grounds at Caribe

Melia Caribe/Melia Tropicale
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The Pool Bar at Caribe

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.

Arrival in 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.

Melia Caribe 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.

The grounds 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.

We decided 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!

In summary, 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!

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The beach from the beachfront breakfast buffet
Beach looking south/west
Beach looking north/west
Buffet Restaurant at Caribe
Fish "en croute" at the buffet
Food art at the buffet
More food art...
and more food art!
A friendly maintenance staff member
Spa entrance
Walkway to Caribe's lobby
Entrance to hotel rooms
Our hotel room
Shower area
Caribe's lobby
Amanda and the parrots
Pool at Caribe
Pool at Tropicale
The tram