Three’s the Charm: Meliá Hotels’ Upgraded Punta Cana Properties

Visit any one of Meliá Hotels International’s Punta Cana properties, and there’s no doubt that management planned for the return of international luxury travel. The travel lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 were put to good use in how the resort experience at each distinct property could be made as relevant and environmentally sound as they are glamorous. This vision was channeled into refinements at Paradisus Palma Real Golf & Spa Resort and Paradisus Grand Cana, its top Bávaro Beach/Punta Cana resorts. It also launched the transformation of the once party-centric Meliá Punta Cana Beach Resort into a four-star wellness-focused property.

The adults-only Meliá Punta Cana Beach Resort reopened with the introduction of its “Wellbeing 360 Experience.” Activities are focused precisely on nutrition and fitness, from cooking, yoga,  sound bath sessions, and meditation classes to bike tours, botanical garden, and conservation-focused workshops. Even with a lot of familiar South and East Asian motifs and modalities, the most impressive thing about the program is that it has a Dominican soul with Caribbean ingredients and influences figured in.

The concept is also woven into guest rooms in “The Level” area. Premium rooms feature modern, pared-down décor and sustainability features such as an air-purification system. Self-care amenities include a sunrise simulator, yoga mat, weights, day bed, shower with Vitamin C infuser, thermal mattress, complimentary bicycle rental, and a junk-food and liquor-free minibar. Guests opting for the higher-tier “Stay Well” rooms at the resort’s YHI Spa have daily use of its “Atabeira Water Emotion” hydrotherapy circuit, along with a sauna, steam room, and vitality pool. Meliá The Level guests will find plenty of satisfying hot-weather friendly dishes at Vietnamese à-la-carte restaurant Muoi as well as eateries Quimera and Calathea.

YHI Spa Lobby

The YHI Spa layout and décor are a feast for the eyes, and the aromas are heavenly, revealing that the resort’s most decadent indulgences can be found on the spa menu with treatments sorted into “detoxification,” “calm,” and “pain relief.” The truly special “Dominican Cacao Therapy,” uses cacao fruits and other edible and non-edible ingredients to hydrate and polish the skin. Being wrapped in foil, like a chocolate bar, is part of the fun. Other skin-loving “desserts” include “Coffee with Sugar, Please,” a body exfoliation and a coffee body wrap combo, and “Herbal Essential” facial, described as, “a cocktail of Organic Ylang-Ylang, Rose, Geranium & Night Blooming Jasmin Essential Oils.”

An example of a cooking class offered here is the preparation of Hawaiian lunch standby poke, made Dominican with market fresh fruits, vegetables, and sushi-grade tuna or shrimp. The chefs add useful information on how to customize and modify the recipe at home for specific health goals, needs, or food sensitivities.

In the wake of a 40 million dollar renovation, Paradisus Palma Real Golf & Spa Resort re-emerged in December 2022 with 596 newly designed dwellings, including 152 spacious suites—including 58 swim-up suites–set aside for its new “The Reserve” tier. Other things shored up include 11 swimming pools, a world-class spa and fitness center, and restaurants and bars perfectly aligned with current culinary trends. Alvaro Sans, the chief architect for all Meliá Hotels International properties, interprets Colonial-Caribbean-influenced architecture with native organic materials such as raw coral and hardwoods for a look that communicates a tropical form of quiet luxury. The aesthetic is best described as modern Caribbean minimalism, with furnishing and accessories that are relatively simple, but polished and plush.

A new and immersive Destination Inclusive® program provides guests staying in “The Reserve” and “Nikté” suites a true sense of place with off- and on-property activities connecting them to local communities, its natural surroundings, and Dominican art and culture. One example is a private catamaran ride to a rustic beach for a tranquil oceanside yoga class. Interesting on-property activities include an informative lecture on chocolate, jewelry-making, tennis, volleyball, beach soccer, and mixology and cooking classes. Golf reservations at the 27-hole/par-72 Cocotal golf course, designed by Jose Gancédo, can also be made for elite-tier guests.

A sizzling salmon option at Paradisus Palma Real’s Mina Steakhouse.

Although Paradisus Palma Real is not promoted as a wellness resort, its spa integrates Dominican-made skincare into its treatments. Furthermore, restaurants open to “The Reserve” guests have a surprisingly large selection of “healthy” options that are more sophisticated than traditional spa fare. Between the beach-facing Mediterranean-Caribbean Santé and Flora’s “Dominican Farm-to-Table” presentation, there is an abundance of imaginative recipes for chilled ceviche, gazpacho, salads, and grilled seafood dishes. Argentine-style steakhouse Mina, in contrast, emphasizes grilled steaks, flavorful sauces, and rich side dishes. The Winery presents as more of a traditional big-city wine bar with its impressive list and beautifully prepared charcuterie and cheese plates. Although there is nothing specifically Dominican about this outlet, it does provide a quiet respite from the buzzing restaurants around the property.

Paradisus Grand Cana, which officially made its debut in January 2024, is made up of 432 expansive suites decked out in neutral hues amplified by Miami-bright color accents in its artwork and accessories. Among them, 108 superior swim-up suites will be part of the upgraded Katmandu™ Experience, with upgraded amenities, services, and complimentary access to the innovative high-tech/low environmental footprint Katmandu Park | Punta Cana. While the family-friendly appeal of the Katmandu™ Experience packages is apparent, they can be just as appealing an attraction for “bleisure”-oriented business and conference gatherings. Within the confines of the resort, five-star resort amenities are blended with innovative, high-tech entertainment elements that keep the conversation-starting theme park’s concept going.

Guests can opt for the “Katmandu Experience,” providing upgraded rooms with added benefits, such as a personalized Beyond Concierge, priority reservations for activities and restaurants, customized turn-down, one dinner experience around the Beyond Pool, and a multi-day pass to Katmandu Park. The 58 swim-up suites are appointed with floor-to-ceiling windows that beckon the guest outside for a swim or a soak in the patio’s jacuzzi. Back-facing suites are particularly appealing as they offer more privacy away from the general guest population enjoying the main pool.

Things heat up after dark at Karnica Steakhouse.

Paradisus Grand Cana’s nine restaurants include Asian, South American, Mediterranean, and Caribbean concepts, each with menus that infuse Dominican ingredients and flavors into popular global cuisines. Casual dining patio Mangú serves several zesty grilled dishes as well as hearty Caribbean appetizers, while Peruvian-Asian eatery Machu excels with creative chilled dishes such as Tradita Nikkei, Amazon Ceviche, and Shrimp and Octopus Ceviche with Chiles. Karnica, whose name is inspired by methods of curing meat with salt, is the most indulgent restaurant, with perfectly executed steaks and decadent sides and appetizers. Not surprisingly, reservations are always required and fill up quickly.

The property’s MAIA Signature Spa by Natura Bissé (a Spanish prestige skincare line), combines up-to-the-minute massage and facial techniques with technological innovation and traditional therapies. The “Bali Beds” package, one of its most enjoyable offerings, is set up poolside. The ultimate “chill-out” features spa attendants who cater to participants with a hand or foot massage improved with a cold compress towel and cucumber slices for the eyes, headphones, fresh mojitos or lemon-coconut cinnamon zero proof drink, and a travel set of products used at the spa.