As sheets of rain and gusts of wind pounded Punta Cana, I found an unexpected calming sensation from the tropical storm muscling through the region. They say you shouldn’t travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season, but even the unfortunate event of a storm doesn’t detract from a resort’s amenities.
Right off the lobby at Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe, an all-inclusive with nearly 2,000 rooms, is U-Spa. Much of the spa’s space faces the ocean. This is important because the resort’s 2-kilometer-long private beach is among the best in the Dominican Republic. Think white sands and towering palm trees. That the property opened many years ago—but is fresh off a major facelift completed two years ago—meant it was able to snap up the region’s best piece of beachfront. Still not convinced? It’s often ranked among the world’s ten best beaches.
Before treatments, guests are encouraged to unwind with hydrotherapy offerings. This includes two hammans, four specialized showers (bithermal, essences, contrast and Scottish), a cool plunge pool and a whirlpool (the last two flaunting shimmery cobalt-blue tiles and rimmed by flat, polished white stones).
All of the above are indoors, but on the other side of a wall of glass—reachable through a door—is a more intimate pool area than at the rest of the resort. In other words, no splashing kids, loud music or throwing back of shots. A row of tiled chaises partially submerged near the pool’s edge provides for a little bit of yin and yang: you can feel the sun kiss your skin but also cool off in the water. Beneath a thatched-roof hut is a whirlpool, and a series of six mini waterfalls are underneath another.
Inside, the spa boasts potted orchids and warm colors like creamy-beige and chocolate-brown, along with music that features flutes, birds, classic guitar, and other noises linked with nature. Post-treatment, guests are ushered to a rotunda marked by a boulder in the middle on top of which reeds diffuse calming scents. A chandelier of amber rectangles suspends above it. With a warmed herbal wrap around my neck and a cup of mint tea on a silver tray beside me, it was the perfect anecdote for a rainy day in the Caribbean.
Treatment rooms sport equal doses of chic. In mine, a conch shell rested on a side table and a chandelier appeared to be made of paper-like white cranes. Just before a 50-minute aromatherapy massage (using lavender oil), I was treated to a foot soak, exfoliation and massage via a hammered-copper basin. Also on the treatment menu is a chocolate wrap and a firming wrap using green coffee — both are agricultural crops grown in the Dominican Republic.
Oils, butters and other body products used throughout most of the treatments are from Caribbean Labs, a company based in the Dominican Republic that sources all ingredients locally. Resort guests are welcome to use the attached fitness center as well as sign up for classes like pilates, aerobics, spinning and yoga.
Outside of the spa, guests have access to 13 restaurants, including Chez Gourmet, in the adults-only area of the resort. Its all-white interior and art on the walls contribute to a sense of calm, miles away from the buffet or poolside bar. Another dining option is La Comedie, where French cuisine is served in a dining space featuring puppets inspired by the famed 18th Century Guignol puppet sets in Lyon, France.
Before turning into bed one night, I test-drove the resort’s new in-room aromatherapy offering. Simply choose from four scents (I chose “tropical fruits”) and staff arrives with an aroma-oil infuser and tealight-candle burner. As rain fell outside and winds swirled the tropical plants into a dizzy mess, I reveled in the interior comforts—paired with a fruit-infused aroma that reminded me of my surroundings without even looking out the window.
By Kristine Hansen