You’re in luck. Because this Club Med Punta Cana review is the result of not one but TWO visits to this resort — first in 2014 and then in 2019. I’ve kept a lot of the original review of Club Med Punta Cana below as is since our experience was very similar both times (spoiler alert: we love it), but updated where I feel this Club Med property has improved or could use improvement.
Who remembers that Club Med commercial from the ’90s (or was it the ’80s and I’m in denial about how old I am)?
Hands up, baby, hands up!
I immediately think of it whenever that song happens to come on the radio, and if someone talks about Club Med, I inevitably start humming that tune. Good advertising works.
Whatever images you conjure in your mind when you think of Club Med, trust me: they’re all true. Having spent three glorious nights at Club Med Punta Cana in 2014 and another four nights in 2019, the picture of that carefree sarong floating in the wind is every bit the reality.
A huge thanks to Club Med for hosting us!
There is so, so, so much good to report…so get comfortable.
I have to start with the food, because having been to more than a dozen 4- and 5-star all-inclusive resorts throughout the Caribbean and Mexico to date, the food is always what varies most wildly in terms of the overall experience. And while food quality and diversity isn’t the most important aspect of a vacation for some people, for others (like me) it’s absolutely my number one consideration.
I’m a foodie; I love food. And if the food is mediocre or too repetitive, it’s gonna be a long week. So I can’t say enough about how excellent the food is at Club Med Punta Cana.
- The white chocolate bread. OMG. If you can even imagine the glorious combination of the freshest, doughiest ACE Bakery baguette you’ve ever eaten with melted white chocolate running through it, you might have the basic understanding of the deliciousness that is Club Med’s white chocolate bread. It was as glorious during our second visit as it was during our first, and it’s consistently good between Club Med resorts, too, as was evident during my Club Med Sandpiper Bay visit. My word, I wish I had the recipe!
- Grilled sardines. Even if you don’t like canned sardines, I challenge you to try the grilled beauties here. They were grilled to salty perfection and I ate them at every opportunity. There was Blue Marlin ceviche that melted in my mouth, along with every other kind of fish done to total perfection at every meal
- All-you-can-eat lobster during Friday night’s gala feast
- Plated entrees like pulled pork atop polenta mash or beef short rib wowed me every time
- The crepe station. The set-up is reminiscent of Marché‘s, with two crepes being cooked to golden-brown loveliness surrounded by fresh fruit and toppings like chocolate sauce and whipped cream
- Salad stations that aren’t just brimming with gorgeous fresh veg, but are staffed. What does this mean? You pick your salad ingredients and a Club Med “G.O.” (what the staffers who work here are called) will often be there to pit, peel, mix, dress and plate it all for you
- An entire area dedicated to healthier food choices
There are two buffet-style restaurants. There is also an a la carte restaurant now, right on the water, called Indigo, which was new since our last visit. I’d personally rather have phenomenal food that I get myself rather than good food that’s handed to me by a server so the lack of a la cartes is a non-issue for me. There’s still wait staff available to fetch beverages, cutlery and bus tables. Don’t worry. And if you’re in the ultra-exclusive Trident area, they have their own private restaurant as well.
Club Med Punta Cana is only 10 minutes from the airport! Wow. I’ve never stayed at a resort so close to the airport. It was brilliant because it felt like we landed, hopped in a cab, and arrived. Because we did. This is a frequent benefit of Club Med resorts because in so many cases, they were the first resorts in a given area, before they became tourist-friendly; Club Med has literally helped build airports. It’s the old “if you build it, they will come” adage at work.
The resort is right on the beach. In my experience up and down Punta Cana, it’s the best stretch of beach, too:
Check-in was outstanding during both of our visits. We pulled up in our minivan (which can be arranged through Club Med for $9 per passenger if you haven’t booked an all-inclusive package) and handed our resort voucher to staff who have a curbside kiosk. They took and labelled our bags and invited us to head into the lobby about 50 feet away.
We were greeted, showed us to a seating area and offered us non-alcoholic welcome cocktails (the first time, fresh passion fruit mocktails; the second, iced tea). This kind of relaxed check-in was ideal after a long journey with two little kids who were awoken at 3 a.m. to start travelling. Our room wasn’t quite ready either time, so we were immediately ushered to the nearest restaurant to eat lunch.
As soon as your room is ready, you’ll either be whisked off to your building in a golf cart or escorted there on foot with your luggage being delivered shortly thereafter.
We stayed in the Mariposa block of buildings during our first stay where the basic Club Room Family awaited. It’s perfect for a family of four with kids who are comfortable in a day bed. I loved how the kids’ room was able to be hidden away by pocket doors, leaving Big B and I some privacy or the ability to lounge in bed and read or watch TV while the kids slept. The balcony was also a really good size. If you’re the kind of family who wants a lot of living space with a separate sitting area, though, book a bigger room. We are not that family. We’re in our room to sleep and shower. The walk-in closet was huge. Enough room to totally unpack and stow all of your luggage. This makes having a smaller amount of “living” space in the room totally manageable because you haven’t got your bags strewn all over the place.
Our second visit found us staying in the newly renovated Deluxe Family Rooms in the Ovando building, which was bigger than our room in the Mariposa but had a similar sleeping configuration with a master bedroom (featuring a king bed) curtained off from a kids’ room with two day beds. There’s one shared bathroom with a shower and bathtub, a massive foyer and more closet space than we could ever fill on vacation.
It’s beautifully decorated and oh-so-chic. The beds and bedding were exceptionally comfortable, which was a distinct improvement from our last stay, when we thought the bedding was fine but not noteworthy.
The view isn’t oceanfront, but that’s never something that bothers me as long as the view is pretty. And this one from Ovando is PRETTY:
The room key/credit card combo was a blessing and a curse. But mostly a blessing. There’s no cash transactions on the resort, so your credit card can be linked up to your room key (which looks and functions like a credit card). This made it far too easy to shop. (Convenience is KING!) For kids who are old enough to wander around the resort on their own, there are no keys to lose and they can come and go as they please.
Kids under four stay for free. Yes, free. And kids between the ages of four and 10 stay for 50 per cent off. This is true not only of Club Med Punta Cana but of Club Med as a whole. Across all 71 resorts around the world. This makes vacationing much more affordable for families. The catch is that the onsite kids’ club for the under-four set (either Baby Club Med or Petit Club Med) will set you back about $500 (per week) if you want to take advantage of child care.
I know some people don’t like it when properties exclude the locals from the beach zone, but if you prefer not to be bothered by peddlars hawking cheap sunglasses, beads and other wares while you’re trying to relax on the beach, you can rest easy here. But because there are no locals walking the beach, you’re going to pay top dollar for something like braids. Even though we paid about $30 for Miss Q’s half-head of braids (a must to tame ocean-and-sand-tangled little-girl hair), we felt in good, safe hands with a local woman from Higuey who Club Med has hired to weave braids in the lobby. And we still met plenty of other (wonderful) locals, too, working throughout the resort.
Evening entertainment is also really fun. Aside from the live or DJ’d music, there are also shows for kids, adults and families. There’s some definite cheese-factor to some of them, but I always appreciated the effort. The shows featuring performers with real skills (rather than just the entertainment staff who’ve been given choreography to follow best they can) definitely stood out:
Club Med Punta Cana has a really intimate feeling. With only 500 or so rooms to be had, allowing about 1,800 total guests at any given time, it makes sense. It was easy to find seats at every meal; it was easy to get drinks at every bar; it was easy to find sun loungers (even those with full shade) well into the morning every day (if you find a tiki hut you love, you’re still best to get out there and reserve it by about 9 a.m. Just don’t try to take over the big one on the beach or you’ll return after breakfast to find it occupied by the Petit Club Med members!). Nothing ever felt crowded, and we often saw the same couples and families day after day, breeding a lovely familiarity throughout our stay.
Everything, everywhere was clean and lush. And someone was always cleaning or manicuring something.
We love, love, LOVED the international feel at Club Med. We met G.O.s from Italy, France, Haiti, the States and Canada. It was awesome to hear about the journey that led each of them to Punta Cana, and talk to our kids about different parts of the world. Big B and I are pretty well-travelled and instilling a spirit of cultural curiosity in our children is really important. Clearly, it’s important to Club Med, too.
We kept seeing a lot of families with the same kind of stroller, so I finally stopped one of them and asked them about it. Turns out, any family who books a room at Club Med Punta Cana and has a member of the family who is two or under arrives to find their room equipped with both a pack ‘n play and a stroller. This will be very welcome news for any parent who was planning to pack up a playpen and a stroller for vacation.
While we read several reviews before we left complaining that the resort is predominantly French-speaking, we didn’t find it an issue at all during either visit. And, trust me, despite being Canadians we are not French speakers (beyond simple counting and some basics like “Where’s the toilet?”).
It did seem that one of the most common languages spoken among the G.O.s was French, they all speak at least one extra language (and often more) and ALWAYS English, so between gestures and trial and error with our broken French and Spanish (thanks, Dora and Diego!), we always managed to communicate. You may need to make an effort depending on who you’re speaking to and what you need, but for us that’s a fun challenge. The kids learned some extra French and Spanish as a result, and that was such a great bonus for us.
The beach is a great size for little legs. Kids will be able to run from one end to the other and still be well within eye-shot. And the water was very, very calm both times we visited (once in winter and once in late-spring). So calm that for kids who are comfortable in the water, you won’t feel like you need to have them in life jackets. The water does get deep-ish fairly quickly, though, so be sure to be within arm’s reach. Miss Q, for example, at 8 years old, could make it about 20 to 30 feet out before she couldn’t touch, but then she really couldn’t touch.
I’ve heard reports of crazy waves and seaweed in this area of Punta Cana, but all I can tell you is what I saw with my own two eyes in 2014 and 2019, which was super-clear, seaweed-free, exceptionally calm water and pristine beachfront.
Speaking of recent reports about Punta Cana… there’s also a lot going on in the area right now that’s raising serious safety concerns. While I do think you always need to be vigilant and never forget that you’re in a foreign country, I can say that even travelling solo with my young daughter, I never once felt unsafe at Club Med. Never. And we walked around frequently after dark.
There was always something to do at Club Med Punta Cana, all day long and well into the night. No matter how old you are. In between meals (which I again must stress were always something to look forward to), we found ourselves doing archery; trying out the circus school where we tested gravity on the flying trapeze; swimming in the enormous pool that goes from mere inches of water at one end to about six feet at the other a few hundred feet away; and we danced well into the night to DJs or live bands (with the kids!) every night of our stay. You could also try a SCUBA lesson in the pool, play tennis, go windsurfing and sailing and so much more. We even did aquafit classes that were really fun (kids welcome!).
The gym is huge and has really nice equipment. I peeked in. But then I went for dessert.
Since our first visit, Club Med Punta Cana expanded its circus area and has created CREACTIVE, which is a partnership with Cirque du Soleil and brings all kinds of circus arts (trapeze, trampoline, etc.) to this resort. There are times each day just for adults and just for kids, plus a few slots on the schedule each week where the whole family can go together.
CREACTIVE isn’t just about trying something new — and totally unique to any other family resort — but it’s also about getting progressively better. Both kids and adults who visit CREACTIVE every day and progress during their vacations may be invited to be part of the Saturday night circus shows in front of the whole resort! I met another mom as I waited to trapeze who brings her own leather hand protectors because she trapezes at every Club Med they go to. And I get why… IT. IS. AWESOME.
And jumping on the trampoline:
And as a busy mom who’s often the one BEHIND the lens, I really appreciated the roaming Club Med photographers. Much like Disney, they snap you and your fam all week long and link the photos to your bracelet. At the end of the week, you can visit the Photo Studio and look through every shot and buy the ones you want. One photo is about US$16 and then there are packages that bring the cost down from there.
You can also book a FREE family photo shoot — and just pay for a photo package that makes sense for you based on the number of photos you want. Warning: there will be many! I’ve sprinkled a few examples throughout this post and here’s another:
If you’re a runner, bring your sneakers. There are numerous paved pathways that wind through Club Med Punta Cana’s beautiful property and I saw organized group runs, too. I can only imagine that those paths are suitable for runners. I can only imagine it because, alas, I did not run once. Not even a little jog. I was busy eating.
If your kids are happy to enjoy the Kids’ Club or you have grandparents in tow who are willing to babysit for a few hours, I’d strongly recommend you check out Zen Oasis — Club Med Punta Cana’s adults-only area. You can stay there in some lovely casitas, too, if your kids are 16+. But even if your accommodations aren’t in Zen Oasis, adult guests are still free to enjoy the bar and lounge area, the killer pool and the adult-only beach zone.
And while you’re over here being the best version of yourself, splurging on a massage at the resident L’Occitane Spa is never a bad idea. I may have spent more than my fair share of time post-massage in the relaxation area.
So, after two visits — despite a couple of new gaffes noted below — I still count Club Med Punta Cana as one of our favourite family resorts, especially in the all-inclusive space. We cherish the memories we continue to make here…
But because of all those paved pathways, your little runners’ knees might take a beating. Miss Q’s were a complete mess by day three. Take Band-Aids! (Or use the onsite nurse at the Wellness Centre.)
While the food quality is still over-the-top good, we did miss the morning smoothie bar from our first visit. A lot. And breakfast in Hispaniola pales in comparison to breakfast in Samana.
We felt the food in Indigo (the a la carte) was fine but in no way compared to the excellence found in the buffets. Breakfast had a couple of solid options but nowhere near the variety you could find at Samana; however, if only Hispaniola is open, I’d opt for Indigo. Dinner at Indigo has amazing ambiance but the food doesn’t live up to the environment. While our apps were delicious, mains were small and forgettable. Dessert was just OK.
I wish the CREACTIVE area offered chalk for my hands or something protective. While my daughter’s palms are full of calluses thanks to the monkey bars, mine are more delicate and I ended up with a couple of minor blood blisters after my stint on the trapeze. (Was it worth it? HELL TO THE YES.)
We arrived for archery during our second visit (since we had so much fun the first time) to find it totally unstaffed. It was on the schedule, but no one was there. We waited 15-20 minutes and left. I’m sure it’s a rare oversight but it was disappointing.
Although I *LOVED* my massage in the little hut by the beach, it was a bit strange by North American standards to disrobe in front of translucent curtains blowing in the wind with the adults-only beach area directly in front of it. I’m pretty comfortable with my nakedosity, but this was something everyone in our Canadian group mentioned so I thought I should note it here.
Bring water-friendly shoes for your kids if they typically have sensitive feet. The beach can be a bit rocky in spots along parts of the shore and even a few feet in here and there. Nothing an adult or older child can’t handle barefoot but smaller kids who aren’t accustomed to that bumpy feeling may be bothered. We didn’t take any our second time around and it wasn’t a big deal at all.
Remember everything, lest ye need to shop at the onsite shops. And, oh, how they’ll call to you! Some of the stuff Club Med sells in the boutiques is just beautiful. We were totally in shopping heaven and paid for it! A pair of Roxy flip-flops for Miss Q ran $45 (less than $20 at home); a pair of tropical-looking swim trunks for The K Man? Add $55 to our tab. I bought a beautiful beaded cotton cover-up for another $50. Mentos were $7. Yikes.
I wish we’d known more about what was happening at the resort in advance, particularly when we went to one of the after-dinner parties to find 90 per cent of the crowd dressed in all white. It was, lo and behold, a “white party.” Yes, it would have been listed in the daily itinerary but even if we’d noticed that earlier in the day, we didn’t have enough white clothing with us to fully participate. So be proactive and reach out before you make your packing list to find out what each night’s optional theme is. (Note that the White Party is also optional but, like, everyone dresses in white.)
Do some of the exteriors look a bit dated? Sure. But I think Mariposa is the last building to be refreshed so that should change soon enough. Does that impact the quality of your vacation? Only if you’re a gecko living on the exterior walls of the buildings. All of the important things that make a great vacation (food, beach, service, cleanliness) are totally present. If you want perfection down to the stucco, then you probably aren’t looking for a family getaway like Club Med.