When I arrived at the Meliá Punta Cana Beach Resort, wellness sales director Reyes Guzman greeted me with a saying: “tainotí,” which means “I wish you well” in the language of the Taino, a group of indigenous people who lived in the Caribbean, including what is now the Dominican Republic. This connection to culture and wellness perfectly captured what it’s like to stay at the resort.
In May, the Meliá Punta Cana Beach Resort announced a transformation. How does a resort distinguish itself among the many island retreats that tout weekly beachside yoga, a nice spa, and a smoothie bar? By curating experiences.
While I came in full workout gear to my first yoga session, ready to practice my warrior two pose I hadn’t stretched myself into in months, our wellness expert, Kira Montagu, instead instructed the group to sit or lay down in a comfortable position as she walked us through nadi shodhana, a traditional breathing exercise where you alternate between nostrils. Completing the simple exercise surprised me with how relaxed and centered I felt. It was through reflective moments like these that I realized that Meliá Punta Cana does wellness differently. The thought alone of spending an entire vacation at a retreat eating a vegan diet and meditating for endless hours per day can be exhausting. But this adults-only, all-inclusive resort makes taking care of your mind, body, and soul accessible for anyone looking for a balanced experience that leaves you feeling refreshed.
The Melia Punta Cana’s Wellbeing 360 experience works through five spaces — social, silent, personal, culinary, and sensory — that guests can hop in and out of as much as they want throughout their stay.
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When staying at an all-inclusive property, where the resort is supposed to have almost everything you need without having to leave, touches of luxury matter. The Meliá Punta Cana makes for a pretty picture. The look is timeless for anyone curating their Instagram feed with a color palette of whites, nudes, creams, and nature-fueled greens. The grounds are kept in pristine condition with lush lawns and gardens that surround the white two-story buildings that house the rooms.
It’s a large property on its own, and even larger considering it shares space with its sister property, the Meliá Caribe (an all-inclusive family resort), so you’ll need to use the shuttle service and trains to get around. I found myself wishing they ran on a stricter time schedule, but frankly, life runs on island time here. Head toward the sand, and you’ll first run into the main pool, which is always the perfect temperature and surrounded by plush lounge chairs. And the beach is, of course, gorgeous. Clear Caribbean water lapping against soft white sand never disappoints, even when there’s a bit of seaweed. However, what really makes the resort stand out is the curation of each guest’s personal space.
The deluxe room offers comfortable lodgings with natural accents that immerse you in paradise. For a next-level wellness experience, there’s the Level Wellness Suite by Stay Well. I arrived and was immediately ushered to the spa to check in and book my spa treatments. Guests who book the full wellness package get a complimentary 30-minute spa treatment every day of their trip.
From there, my personal wellness concierge drove me to my suite and went over the specialty accommodations. Inside, there’s an air purifier, aromatherapy diffuser, exercise ball, and a personal bicycle. The mini bar is complimentary and stocked with water and juices, as well as a few sodas and beer. If you have trouble waking up peacefully in the morning, the sunrise simulator alarm clock works great if you’re like me, who needs the blackout curtains shut to really fall asleep.
The bathroom was my favorite part. Some rooms include a deep-soaking tub, and the rainfall shower is just as relaxing and includes a vitamin C infuser that reduces chlorine. All of the bathroom products are organic. I also had access to the Cleveland Clinic wellness program and Deepak Chopra’s meditations on an app. And every night, guests receive a specialty dessert that’s based on the highlighted chakra.
Each guest gets to decide what kind of experience they want. In the resort’s pivot to be 100 percent about wellness, each month gets a focused theme that defines the stay. When I went in June, the resort was celebrating international yoga day with a four-day event that featured Chris Lukose, who has a pharmacy doctorate and is a certified hatha yoga trainer, as well as a volunteer from the spiritual Isha Foundation who led yoga classes designed by the foundation’s founder and yoga expert Sadhguru. The classes were held under the wellness palapa, a gorgeous tented area that features a flowery wall and overall zen vibes. The classes incorporated movements and practices that you could do almost anywhere — including multiple yoga techniques that I’d never been introduced to in Western yoga classes.
It’s not just yoga and movements. One of my favorite activities was the mud cleanse led by Montagu, which used red mud collected from the mountainous regions of the Dominican Republic that purportedly has anti-inflammatory properties. The trick was the mud was only working its magic while it’s wet, so after three coats, we rushed into the ocean to rinse.
There are, of course, regularly held yoga classes on the schedule, but there are also group bike rides, meditations, and lots of workshops. If you’re looking for nighttime entertainment, you might find a silent disco right outside the lobby or live music. Level Members have access to the Quimera rooftop bar, which overlooks the beach and is a great spot for cocktails and meeting new people. If you’re looking to party, Carolina Valentín, the regional marketing manager, fondly described the Replay Bar as Meliá’s “disco.” On the last night of our trip, the bar played a mix of nostalgic club hits and popular Latin songs.
Just outside my suite was one of the designated quiet spaces. Ponds with lily pads bloom between green grass. Hammocks are available for relaxing and taking in the sun. Even though just a short walk in the opposite direction would take me to the major pool and beach with lots of people, the Level Wellness Suites are located so close to the quiet section that it feels like a completely different world.
Popular activities that allow you to take in your surroundings include sound healings, which, if you’ve never had the opportunity to participate in a sound bath, is extremely soothing. There are other silent spaces scattered throughout the property, including a labyrinth, where there are sometimes painting and other rituals. But whether you decide to take part in activities in quiet areas or simply use the time to just be alone with your thoughts, these spaces make room for clarity.
The YHI spa is a marvel to experience. Its open-air layout lets indoors meet outdoor in an organic way. It’s a great introduction to a space that takes cues from native culture and nature with rich wooden accents and thriving greenery. As you walk over decks to treatment rooms, natural ponds float below. The ambiance also adds a little oomph to the water circuit you find in a lot of spas these days. The sauna and steam room are inside, while the jacuzzi, the vitality pool and its giant fountains, and the various shower types are outdoors.
Over my four days, I booked a facial, a massage, and a body treatment — all of which were included in my all-inclusive package. The body treatment is meant to help anyone suffering from sunburn, and natural ingredients like yogurt, fresh aloe, oat, and a menthol cream made from moringa left my skin soft and cool. Time at the spa is the perfect excursion to jumpstart your day or as a cooldown after your activities if you can make it before the spa closes at 6 PM.
The property has 14 restaurants if you count the restaurants on the Caribe side, which guests also have access to with the all-inclusive package. The food at all-inclusive resorts always makes me nervous. I’ve found that when a property tries to juggle too many cuisines, the result is often lackluster, and buffets tend to suffer the most. While the buffets did leave me uninspired, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the al-a-carte options I had across both properties.
For The Level guests, Quimera is an exclusive perk that’s the best place for breakfast and lunch if you want to avoid buffet-style eating. I found myself ordering the Spanish-style breakfast often, which came with tostada con tomate, aceite, y jamón; tasty cheeses; and a side of eggs by themselves. For lunch, the perfectly seasoned ceviche is a must-try.
For dinner, Muoi, the Vietnamese restaurant, serves traditional pho and family-style dishes like summer rolls, crispy honey chicken, and fried rice. At Capri, the Mediterranean restaurant, I ordered kabobs with hummus, tzatziki, and tabouleh that was gone in minutes after working up an appetite from all of the activities — despite the fact that I am admittedly a Mediterranean cuisines snob. Alma, the Spanish restaurant, dishes up yummy octopus and a delicious steak. The staff at all of the restaurants can meet dietary restrictions. At the end of the day, every dinner is an event that’ll have you ready for whatever nightlife you decide to explore.