Outstanding beach? Check.
Sleek, sexy rooms? Check (Zen Oasis!).
Healthy food options & variety? Check.
A Variety of Activities? Check.
I was surprised by how much Club Med Punta Cana had going on! I traveled to the Dominican Republic for one week of experiencing Club Med for the first time. I am do-er when I travel, and at the resort, it feels like there are endless activities! I tried to do as much as I could–waking up for sunset yoga, perfecting my mini-golf game, learning archery for the first time where I finally used a compound bow and even taking a sailing lesson! The days felt so long because I was able to do so much, all on the Club Med “campus” as the G.O.s called it. Here’s my Hotel Snob rundown
I stayed at their new “resort within a resort,” the Zen Oasis.The oversized lagoon pool was the centerpiece of this semi-private space, with in-water loungers, a hot tub could fit a party of 50, and the Hibiscus Bar which offered refreshments & tropical drinkst throughout the day. And you won’t hear any kids splashing around at this pool! The Zen Oasis is exclusive to adults so we could really relax and enjoy the Caribbean sunshine.
The rooms were sleek and minimalist, with amazing showers and very comfy beads. They each had their own outdoor space with day beds and if you had an upper room, you had lovely pool views.
There were several dining areas and options for each meal. I think my favorite was lunch out at Indigo Restaurant and Lounge. This open air space is located quite literally on the ocean, with waves splashing as you dine on the made to order menu.
The buffet dinner was very impressive at Samana Restaurant. They had a variety of ethnic cuisines, with chefs individually preparing plates at each station. The homemade ice cream definitely won me over.
“Gentil Organisateurs,” or GOs, are a Club Med signature. The GOs are basically the staff but they treat their jobs as more like friends of the guests. They lead activities, provide any help that you need and of course are cheery and friendly. I got to know Christelle, an experience GO at Tiara, the 5 Trident Luxury space at the resort (read: oceanview villas with a private bar and pool) and she was a wonderful host.
I loved all the activities, as I mentioned, and the options were for all types of travelers. Need an intense cardio class to work off those margaritas? They have it. Want to learn out to kitesurf? No problem. In need of a massage in a beach cabana? Of course. There’s really just about every activity you could want on a beach vacation. However, I was truly surprised, challenged and impressed by their CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil program. Ever wanted to learn how to do aerial silks, swing from trapeze or spin in a giant bungee? You can! Watch to see this incredible program:
Overall, I didn’t know if I’d like an all-inclusive resort that has a very heavy family focus. Well, I found that is not all that Club Med Punta Cana is! I was able to find experiences that fit my preferences–being active, healthy eating, beautiful landscape, new activities and luxurious rooms. Next time, I want to bring a group of friends to take advantage of this one-of-a-kind resort experience!
I had never experienced Club Med before so I had no idea about the GO’s, or Gentil Organisateurs. GO’s are basically there to help–whether it’s with a particular activity or experience, or just to say hello in the mornings. These friendly faces definitely made the Club Med Punta Cana experience warm and inviting.
I got to spend time with a particularly wonderful GO, Christelle, and she gave me a great tour of Tiara, the 5 Diamond Luxury Space which she manages. Impressive rooms each with an ocean view, this exclusive space has it’s own bar, beach and infinity pool. When she invited me over for their daily champagne sunset toast, I couldn’t say no!
At Club Med Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, there’s so much to do, see, experience and eat! However, not many know about the Zen Oasis. This is a resort within a resort, and the Zen Oasis was my favorite spot on the Club Med Punta Cana property. Lush, private and surrounding a magnificent swimming pool and the biggest hot tub I’ve ever seen, it was where I wanted to be for some real R&R. The villa style rooms are incredibly modern, sleek and comfortable. I’d definitely recommend staying here and watch my video to see why!
Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Japan, a country that has been on my bucket list ever since I could remember. I worked with CNN crew in Japan where we filmed a 60 second travel feature on an incredible region of Japan: Tohoku. Tohoku is located in the Northern part of Japan and consists of 6 prefectures: Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi & Yamagata.
We spent one week exploring the rugged landscape, tasting the traditional foods, admiring the local samurai culture at Kakunodate, and marveling at the cherry blossoms. We even had the chance to meet talented artisans perpetuating traditional Tohoku crafts such as Japanese ironware (Nanbu-Tekki) and Kokeshi Dolls.
This one minute video captures the spirit of the place, but know that it just touches the surface of all the beauty, history and culture in this “treasure land” of a region. I can’t wait to go back. Watch it now.
Thanks to Japan National Tourist Organization and the CNN crew for such an incredible shoot & video!
I grew up in a small town in Vermont where there were limited restaurants and definitely very limited “exotic” cuisines. I remember the first time that I went to a Japanese restaurant in New York City with my family. Eating with chopsticks? Fish that wasn’t cooked? Small, fuzzy green beans that were salty and delicious? I was completely enamored by this exciting new cuisine! I have to say I felt that same excitement when I had the chance to experience Japanese food in it’s home country.
- Bento Box
My first real Japanese meal didn’t come until I was on the bullet train, speeding from Tokyo up to a region in Northern Japan called Tohoku. My crew and I all got pre-packaged bento boxes, which is a totally normal lunch on the go in Japan. Yet to me, it was totally new and much different than my usual lunch of a salad or sandwich. I had a vegetarian bento box, neatly compartmentalized into sections of different types of veggies along with a healthy portion of rice. Each bite was completely unexpected–and most of the time, I wasn’t quite sure what vegetables I was eating, but it didn’t matter. I devoured the whole thing, enjoying each unique flavor as the Japanese countryside sped by my windows.
A typical social Japanese dinner out is had at the izakaya, or what was explained to me as a “Japaense gastropub.” We took off our shoes, sat around sunken tables and ordered what seemed to be an endless amount of small plates. These were all shared amongst the group. After our “kan pai,” the Japanese “cheers,” it was a free-for-all, everyone snagging little tastes from all the plates. I tried sausage and cheesy oysters, as well as chicken skewers and sashimi. Some dishes I had to come back to for more! Overall, this style of restaurant was a great introduction to the foods typical of Japan and the region of Tohoku.
At almost every meal, sashimi was included and this made me extremely happy as I’d never had sashimi that was more fresh. The tuna literally melted in my mouth. No matter where we were, if sashimi was on the menu, and being Japan, it often was, I had to order it.
Kiritanpo is a dish that is popular in Tohoku, particularly in the Akita prefecture. It definitely was the most memorable meal that I had in Japan. Kiritanpo is actually rice that is kneaded together to form a tube shape, then it is toasted by an open flame on a skewer. The rice sticks are then chopped and added to a hotpot, that’s been stewing with seasoning and vegetables. Just the sitting area was amazing–we sat on pillows surrounding this sandy pit that houses the hotpot, the toasting kiritanpo, roasting fish on sticks as well as a flat hot plate for searing vegetables, meats and fish. It was a very hands-on meal with everyone basically cooking for themselves. The kiritanpo was very satisfying, especially after it soaked up some of the juices from the broth, but it was very filling! With so much to try here, I left extremely full. Bring your appetite when you try it!
I already liked soba but I found a new appreciation for it in Tohoku. Soba was EVERYWHERE. In ice cream, in tea and even in competitive eating (wanko-soba). However, I liked it too much to want to slurp it down so fast at every meal. Soba is a thin buckwheat noodle that is served in a variety of ways. I often ordered it hot commonly served with a savory broth and scallions. Additions like fish cakes or pork can be added as well. It is also served cold on a bamboo tray with a variety of dipping sauces. My favorite soba dish was in the hot spring town of Ginzan-Onsen, where I had soba with roasted Japanese eggplant.
Of course, sake is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in Japan and this rice wine is one of my personal favorites. I prefer the crisp and slightly flowery varieties. At a seafood restaurant in the Tohoku region, I was introduced to the custom of overflowing your sake cup. I ordered one cup of sake and it was served in a glass inside a small box. The waitress then poured the sake to the brim and kept pouring! I asked my Japanese crew members and they said it was the polite way to serve sake, as a gesture of generosity. My one cup of sake actually turned into two, and I wasn’t complaining. 🙂
- Salmon Roe
I had never seen so much roe in my life. This was a delicacy and the Japanese crew that I was with were SO excited to dig in. I figured I might as well try it, even though it looked a little bizarre to me. Guess what? It wasn’t bad! This generous serving was over a mound of rice and the little orange orbs popped with saltiness. It certainly wasn’t my favorite bite in Japan but it certainly wasn’t bad either. I think I need to give it another shot sometime.
To learn more about the Tohoku region of Japan, check out this informational guide on CNN. The culinary delights of this region are just a small piece of what makes Tohoku so unique and magical. Watch a teaser of my journey in Tohoku right here: