PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- "Just pull the rope," the spa attendant said.
I was standing in the One Spa at Finest Punta Cana, the first all-ages resort from the Excellence Collection in the Dominican Republic. Finest is adjacent to the adults-only Excellence El Carmen, and on my early-November visit, I was sampling as many activities and restaurants at both as I could within a short time frame.
The rope in question was attached to a large, overhead bucket. I'd just emerged from a 30-minute sauna, part of the "stations" of what was billed as "an extensive hydrotherapy wellness circuit" that promised to "delight the spirit through an array of pressures and temperatures."
I pulled the rope. Ice water cascaded all over me. Next came a station with a huge basin of crushed ice. I was told to massage my arms and legs with the ice. I did the minimal time there and bolted for the steam room, a nice warm interlude but was followed by a plunge into the very cold pool.
The last 15 minutes of this circuit were the best, relaxing in the warm section of the pool.
The One Spa has an extensive menu of services and an array of holistic treatments for women, men, couples and kids. The breadth of facilities and options available on the property connects the Finest Club (all-ages) and the Excellence Club (adults-only) sections all within the same resort as Finest Punta Cana.
Room and suite categories
The Finest Punta Cana, a member of The Excellence Collection of all-inclusive properties in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico, is a new build that opened Oct. 1.
The 455 suites include two-story, rooftop terrace suites with private plunge pools, swim-up suites, family suites with a separate bedroom for kids and massive beachfront honeymoon suites.
My suite was in the Excellence Club section, set on its own side of the resort with elevated in-suite categories and access to exclusive lounges, pools and restaurants.
The suite, which opened onto a balcony overlooking the adults-only pool, had a secret panel where room service items were delivered without disturbing guests and a bathroom big enough to live in.
There are no wristbands worn to distinguish guests staying in the Finest Suites, Finest Club or the Excellence Club. The staff can determine where each guest is staying by their suite number, although no children are allowed to wander on the adults-only side.
Restaurants at Finest and Excellence
Of the 10 restaurants on site, three are adults-only. I dined at both the family and the grownup venues, including Shoji, a Japanese restaurant with a private room reminiscent of the Benihana style of live cooking show. The chef tapped out a fast rhythm with his carving knife as lamb, meat, chicken and shrimp sizzled on the grill in front of me.
All restaurants featured QR-coded menus; the Market Kitchen served buffet-style breakfast, although servers behind the buffet tables served the plates to guests.
At the family-style Melting Pot, guests cooked their own meat and fish portions on a smaller grill set in the center of the table.
Dominican coffee, pastries and ice cream were a hit in the cafe, as were the two food trucks parked at the entrance, serving tacos, rice and beans, snacks and smoothies during the day.
The beach and pool scene
The Imagine Kids Club at Finest Punta Cana offers slides, a mini wate rpark and a full activity schedule. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers
The long stretch of sand fronting both properties had plenty of chaises and space for everyone, as well as a well-positioned beach bar. Licensed vendors are allowed on the beach but are unobtrusive, and there's no hard sell.
The pool area for the Imagine Kids Club, one of several pools on the property, showcased a giant pink flamingo statue, and a mini water park featured a dome-shaped bubble in the kiddie pool called the Blob for kids to climb up and slide down.
One father told me that the combination of the Blob and the kids' club activities had kept his tots entertained all day and exhausted by bedtime.
"This is a great vacation," he told me.
The Finest Punta Cana joins the Finest Playa Mujeres in Cancun. In the vicinity of Finest Punta Cana are two properties from The Excellence Collection's adults-only brand, Excellence El Carmen and Excellence Punta Cana, while Excellence Oyster Bay is in Jamaica. Another brand for couples-only, Beloved Hotels, is in Mexico with Beloved Playa Mujeres.
Finest Punta Cana's Covid protocols
Staff was masked at all times; the required Covid test for departing U.S. visitors was complimentary and done on-site.
Occupancy was at 60% in early November, although "close to 90%" was booked for the Festive season, according to the destination manager.