The Dominican Republic holds a prominent place in Club Med lore. In 1978, the company that pioneered the all-inclusive resort model opened the country's first such property, in Punta Cana. Five years later, it helped develop that city's international airport.
Now, about an 80-minute drive northwest of that airport, Club Med is penning what company president Henri Giscard d'Estaing calls "a new page" in its Dominican Republic saga with the opening of the Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda.
The 335-room resort occupies 93 acres, and none of its buildings is higher than two stories, in a bid to "blend into the surrounding foliage," as promotional literature puts it.
Club Med is billing the property as its first "Eco-Chic" resort, and according to a company statement, Miches is "the catalyst for Club Med's new environment-friendly positioning."
The resort sources coffee and other products locally, and efforts were made to preserve and replant trees that were uprooted during construction. Energy-saving initiatives include the use of LED bulbs and electric vehicles throughout the property, and solar panels will be employed beginning later this year.
A coconut with a paper straw served during the “sunset ritual” at the resort, Club Med’s first “Eco-Chic” property. Photo Credit: TW photo by Eric Moya
'Eco-Chic' and Exclusive
During my stay last month for the resort's grand opening, I didn't see one plastic straw on property, and glass bottles were used for in-room drinking water, all part of Club Med's Bye-Bye Plastic program to eliminate single-use plastics across all its properties.
Disposable cutlery in the resort's coffee/frozen yogurt shop is sourced from Biofase, a Mexican company that makes utensils from avocado seeds. The spoon I received was more flexible than a standard plastic spoon -- perhaps too bendy for heartier fare but more than sturdy enough to stir in your Splenda or to handle a few spoonfuls of froyo.
The Club Med Miches is the company's first property in North America to be part of its Exclusive Collection, a designation that positions the resort as Club Med's "answer to the new expectations of affluent, international clientele," as Giscard put it during his remarks at the grand opening ceremony.
To that end, rooms fall under one of four categories, which Club Med calls "boutique villages," each featuring "its own unique environment, activities and accommodations."
Caribbean Paradise, comprising 111 rooms, is closest to the resort's center and is home to the Coco Plum Beach Lounge restaurant, which specializes in seafood.
Emerald Jungle, at 48 rooms, is adults-only and features the Cinq Mondes Spa and El Limon bar, the first swim-up bar at a Club Med.
Each of the 18 rooms at the adults-only Archipelago village has a private plunge pool, another first for Club Med and the envy of many among our group of travel writers and social media influencers.
After check-in, I unlocked my door with a wave of my wristband and entered my accommodations within the all-ages Explorer Cove section. My suite had two bedrooms -- one with two twin beds, the other with a king-size bed -- and each room had its own full bathroom, with the king room also featuring a tub separate from its rainfall shower.
Each room had ample closet space, ideal for accommodating the weekslong bookings of many of Club Med's European clientele. The suite had a minirefrigerator (stocked with cans of soda and bottles of juice), iron and ironing board, and each bedroom had its own flat-screen TV.
Arguably the most compelling viewing wasn't to be found on screen but on the beach, during the resort's "sunset rituals." Bartenders poured cocktails and Champagne and a band provided a low-volume soundtrack of oldies and reggae one evening as cobalt skies gave way to ambers and crimsons across the Atlantic horizon.
The main bar at the Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda.
Activities and eats
Given that founder Gerard Blitz was an avid yoga practitioner and came from a family of Olympians, Club Med's ethos has always been about staying active. In that sense, for all the Miches property's innovations, many of Club Med's trademark activities remain intact: the trampoline and trapeze; tennis; archery; and several varieties of yoga, including family yoga, acro-yoga (yoga and acrobatics) and paddle yoga.
Guests can refuel at one of four spots. Besides the Coco Plum Beach Lounge, there's the main restaurant, Cayuco, an all-day venue. Reservations are required at the dinner-only, Argentinian-inspired Coal and Copper Steakhouse.
The family restaurant, Cacao & Co., also houses the resort's so-called Secret Chocolate Room. Young guests are given a special code that enables access to a space packed with chocolate fountains, candy shop-style bins and more.
Off-property excursion options aren't abundant in the immediate area, although Punta Cana attractions such as Macao Beach are an hour or so away. Perhaps the biggest attraction in Miches is Redonda Mountain, a 1,000-foot peak whose cliffside swings, seemingly tailor-made for the social media age, have featured prominently in the resort's promotional imagery.
Our group took the frequently bumpy, half-hour drive from the resort to the mountain and were rewarded with views of the Atlantic and the lush, rural landscape below.
Club Med expands in the Dominican Republic
'Everything you could ask for'
Other than selfies and such, there's not much to do atop Redonda, but I suspect that will change as Miches' room inventory grows. Tropicalia, a resort and residential complex with a 169-room Four Seasons at its center, is scheduled to open in Miches next year. AMResorts, meanwhile, has begun construction of the Secrets Playa Esmeralda Punta Cana and Dreams Playa Esmeralda Punta Cana, which will be part of a 1,500-room development in Miches set to open at the end of 2022.
So while big changes loom for tourism in Miches, Club Med is banking on the enduring appeal of the region — and indeed, of the country as a whole.
"The Dominican Republic has everything you could ask for in an exceptional destination: natural beauty, fantastic beaches, perfect year-round climate, security, political and economic stability," Giscard said. "But most importantly, welcoming and kind people."
Rates at the Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda start at $160 per night; visit www.clubmed.us.