Club Med Opens New 5-Star Resort as Dominican Republic Attempts Tourism Turnaround

The resort will feature boutique "villages" with everything from adults-only oceanfront private suites with personal pools to wellness-centric treetop yoga.
December 26, 2019 12:00 PM UTC
Club Med Michés Playa Esmeralda
Club Med

With a population of just 20,800 residents, Michès is a quiet community, without much shopping or nightlife. For that, the locals will tell you to drive an hour to the livelier resort town of Punta Cana.

But since the opening of Club Med’s five-star hotel in the region—the first major resort to open in the area—Michès has come alive with excitement. And for Club Med itself, the all-inclusive Michès Playa Esmeralda resort is the group’s first five-star property to open in the Americas and its first luxury resort to open in North America in 25 years. Prices for the resort’s 335 rooms start at $227 per night per person for a 484-square-foot room with a balcony to roughly $400 per night per person for a 1,084-square-foot penthouse suite with an oceanfront view.

“For almost 10 years, our team searched for the perfect place in the Caribbean to introduce our very first Exclusive Collection resort in the Americas,” explains Carolyne Doyon, CEO of Club Med North America. “About an hour away from our Punta Cana resort, we found Michès to be the perfect fit—it was virtually untouched and had breathtaking scenery and excursion possibilities.” 

A buffet room at Club Med, Dominican Republic.
Club Med

To make the resort stand out further, Club Med arranged its rooms and suites into four boutique “villages,” each with its own distinct theme. The family-focused Explorer Cove, offers rooms with light yellows and shades of beige, close to the children’s playground and sports facilities, like a tennis court, flying trapeze venue, and archery court. The couples-oriented Archipelago is perched on the farther end of the resort, with private pools, and is meant for those seeking a quiet, more isolated experience.

Likewise, the Emerald Jungle, with its vibrant greens and light teak-hued woods. This village, emphasizing health and wellness, is closest to the fitness center, spa, adults-only pool, and yoga area.

Poolside seating at Club Med Dominican Republic.
JP Mangalindan/FORTUNE

With the Michès resort, Club Med says its goal was to create an “eco-chic haven” that blended into the surrounding flora and fauna. And while that’s largely achieved with the help of some stunning architectural flourishes—the two infinity pools in particular stand out, courtesy of Paris-based architecture and interior design firm D.L.2.A.—there are still some issues to address, partly because the resort opened so recently.

Some of the lighting in the resort’s rooms are motion-activated, particularly the toilet and closet areas, ostensibly as a way to save energy. That’s great in theory, but problematic in practice. In my room, the motion-activated light in the toilet area only stayed on for one to two seconds before shutting off—not nearly enough for anyone to conduct their business. And with no light switches to turn on, using the toilet was a dark affair, like navigating a cave, with only your iPhone’s flashlight to guide the way. Toward the end of my stay, the opposite problem occurred, with the toilet and closet area lights flickering on at night for no reason. (To its credit, Club Med says it will examine and resolve this issue for future guests.)

Inside the Coco Plum restaurant.
JP Mangalindan/FORTUNE

The resort’s so-called all-inclusive nature means largely that—with the exception of spa treatments and some excursions, which are handled by outside companies—all activities at the resort, such as yoga and surfing, are included with the reservation.

Likewise, eating at the resort’s three distinct restaurants is included as well, and while the food is plentiful, it can sometimes be a mixed bag. For every savory steak served a sizzling medium-rare at Coal & Copper, a perfectly grilled buttered lobster from the beach lounge Coco Plum, or gems like the buffet’s smoked salmon and caviar salad or white chocolate mousse cake, there were some misfires, also: pork tacos that lacked the spicier, dark nuance of a true carnitas brew or grilled chicken that simply could have used more seasoning. One could argue the pallid flavors of some entrées may be meant to appeal to the widest audience possible—many of Club Med’s guests come from all across America and Europe—but unfortunately for the Dominican Republic, which is known for its sweet and salty foods, something occasionally gets in lost in translation here.  

A white chocolate mousse cake served at Coco Plum.
JP Mangalindan/FORTUNE

As a tourism spot, the Dominican Republic has had a challenging year, following a spate of mysterious deaths of U.S. tourists—all of which were ultimately ruled death by natural causes by the Dominican authorities. In the weeks immediately following, the Dominican minister of tourism put in place several new safety measures, including the establishment of a National Committee of Tourism Security, to help repair its public image. Club Med, for its part, says it holds itself responsible for the safety and security of all its guests and staff.

“At Michès Playa Esmeralda, this policy is no different,” Doyon adds. “We have strict safety and security measures in place 24/7, with the ultimate goal of providing each and every person who visits our resort a high-quality, safe, and enjoyable vacation.” If Club Med’s ultimate goal is to provide an enjoyable vacation for unwinding, mission accomplished with its Michès resort—it just needs to work out the kinks.

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