Dominican Republic Continues to Shine Despite Recent Headlines

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Story by Erin Davis. Photos courtesy of TRS Turquesa Facebook and TRS Cap Cana Facebook.

It had been years – nearly two decades – since I last vacationed in the Dominican Republic. So, when I had the chance to hit the island’s picturesque region of Punta Cana on a press trip courtesy of Palladium Hotel Group, I eagerly accepted – a move that was admittedly questioned by a few friends and family members.

It’s no secret that the Caribbean island has made headlines as of late – and, sadly, not necessarily for its famously beautiful beaches and top-quality hospitality. The Dominican Republic has been plagued with a handful of North American tourist deaths after travelers have fallen ill at some of the country’s resorts. Some of these travelers have been the victims of natural causes, while other deaths have remained somewhat unexplainable.

If tourism to the Dominican Republic has taken a hit as a result (which, apparently, it actually has), it definitely wasn’t evident from the packed flight to Punta Cana from Toronto – and in the middle of August, no less.

Upon arrival at the pristine TRS Turquesa Hotel in Playa Bávaro– one of four adjoining DR hotels operated by Palladium Hotel Group; a luxury all-inclusive, adults-only property on a stunning white-sand beach lapped with turquoise waters – it was quickly apparent that there was nothing to be nervous about. (To be clear, none of the deaths occurred at any Grand Palladium property). Not only did the Palladium Hotel Group have exceptionally strict food and beverage handling policies in place beforehand, the string of deaths at other resorts have meant that “now there are six sets of eyes on everything instead of five,” as one food and beverage employee told me. I immediately felt at ease, something that certainly helped with my wellness-focused agenda.

For many travelers, gone are the days of returning home from a weeklong-stay at an all-inclusive resort feeling heavier and more sluggish than before they left, and many luxury resorts, such as TRS Turquesa, have taken the cue and incorporated a slew of wellness-focused elements. Health conscious travellers will find no shortage of nutrient-rich food and drink options to choose from – from an assortment of fresh-pressed juices and fruits, to vegan dishes and healthy snacks.

The food at TRS Turquesa is definitely above and beyond what I recalled of the fare in the Dominican Republic many years ago. Guests can enjoy fresh Japanese fare, a Brazilian grill, a jam-packed buffet and more. The thoughtfully-plated dishes rival those at some of North America’s best restaurants, as does the editorial-worthy decor.

The dreamy spa at the TRS Turquesa is one of the nicest I have experienced at a Caribbean all-inclusive and is definitely worth dropping extra dollars on (you’re on vacation, after all). In addition to a peaceful lounge area and full array of services, the best thing about this spa is the sprawling yet tranquil multi-pool outdoor water therapies section. Other wellness activities at the resort include a large gym, pool biking, stretching sessions, beach and pool volleyball, salsa dancing lessons, tennis, yoga and more.

The appreciated perk for those seeking variety is that TRS Hotel guests also have access to the amenities at the other three Grand Palladium Hotels & Resorts’ properties (Grand Palladium Bávaro Suites Resort & Spa, Grand Palladium Palace Resort Spa & Casino, and Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & Spa), and can travel between these three TRS Hotels resorts to experience the best of all worlds – from relaxing to recharging. If you’re in the mood to simply stay put and avoid over-active children, you can do so at TRS Turquesa’s “secret” adults-only pool.

The TRS Turquesa suites are airy and thoughtfully decorated, and some come complete with swim-up access. A personal butler is an added bonus.

After two days at TRS Turquesa, we hit the road for the nearby Cap Cana to the adults-only TRS Cap Cana Hotel. Offering a distinctively different vibe than the TRS Turquesa, this hotel caters to those who prefer a quieter, more intimate hotel stay than that offered at a sprawling, multi-resort complex.

Talking points of the TRS Cap Cana Hotel include two à la carte restaurants specializing in Argentinian and Japanese cuisine, a restaurant serving international food and an Ibizan-style beach club. A 24-hour personal assistant helps your “vacation mode” cause. While seaweed had rendered the beach an undesirable (to say the least) spot to swim or sunbathe this past August, the hotel offers stunning views of the never-ending sea to make up for it (well, almost).

While the resort may be relatively small, wellness is not overlooked, and a visit to the Zentropia Palladium Spa & Wellness centre for a massage or treatment should be part of your stay at this property. For the golfers, TRS Cap Cana Hotel is located just a short distance from the famous Punta Espada Golf Club designed by professional golfer Jack Nicklaus. Those who prefer to unwind via horseback can do so at the nearby Los Establos horse riding centre.

The rooms and suites at Cap Cana range in scope and frills, from relatively simple to over-the-top. Some feature a swim-up semi-private pool just outside their door, complete with full food and drink service.

Not only did I return home from the Dominican Republic relaxed and rejuvenated, I gained a newfound love for the county, its hues of turquoise and its people. And no, I didn’t get sick.

In the month since my stay, The Dominican Republic’s tourism ministry has introduced a new commission aimed at reassuring potential visitors. According to the National Committee of Tourism Security, the initiative combines public agencies and private enterprises to focus on food and beverage safety, as well as heightened inspection capacities in tourist areas.

When I polled my Instagram followers while in the country, 76 percent said they would still travel to the Dominican Republic despite the headlines. Frankly, I recommend that they do.

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Erin Davis is the Social Media Manager for Travel to Wellness and a regular contributor whose trip was sponsored by the Palladium Hotel Group. Follow her adventures here.