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Dominican Republic: 'The time to be happy is now... the place to be happy is here'

David Conachy explores the Dominican Republic from his base in the country's newest Club Med resort - Miches Playa Esmeralda

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Life on an ocean wave... the newest Club Med luxury resort is in the Dominican Republic and has plenty to offer families

Life on an ocean wave... the newest Club Med luxury resort is in the Dominican Republic and has plenty to offer families

Life on an ocean wave... the newest Club Med luxury resort is in the Dominican Republic and has plenty to offer families

By the time you get to the top of the Montana Redonda - the round mountain - your heart is already pumping, and that's before you experience the spectacular panoramic views of this beautiful little corner of the Dominican Republic.

The journey to the summit, a thousand foot above, is a hair-raising affair on board a rickety old safari bus. But it's all part of the plan so there's nothing to worry about - it's just a rollercoaster really, albeit at a much slower speed.

Once at the top, and having recovered from the fun of the steep ascent with its heart-stopping moments, you quickly begin to absorb the unique views afforded by this round mountain top, a 360° look around from the Bay of Samana to the luscious green surroundings of the Montana Redonda.

If you want to relax, head for one of the hammocks or seats, or to the small cafe, but if you want something a little more memorable then head for one of the swings perched on the edge of the summit. Any of these swings take you right out over the edge of the mountain. You are strapped in so it's perfectly safe, but at that height and given the incredible vista before you, it is a thrilling experience - simple fun, but thrilling and memorable all the same.

The Montana Redonda is just half an hour from the newest Club Med luxury resort in the Dominican Republic - Miches Playa Esmeralda.

Club Med was founded 70 years ago by Gerard Blitz - an entrepreneur and yoga enthusiast, who believed in mixing activity and sport with relaxation as the basis of the perfect holiday. In other words, my kind of holiday. His mantra was simple: "The aim of life is to be happy. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now."

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And the newly-opened Miches Playa Esmeralda is already a jewel in the Club Med crown, an environmentally-friendly beachside hideaway tucked away on the north-eastern shore of the island, just a 75-minute transfer from the international airport in Punta Cana. It's a 93-acre resort with a 2,000ft beach front which is as close to paradise as it comes.

The Dominican Republic is famous for its beaches and beautiful scenery. It is home to more than 10 million people and the fact that it is the most visited destination in the Caribbean shows how much its successful economy is underpinned by tourism.

The new Club Med resort is located near the town of Miches, in an idyllic setting that has been thoughtfully transformed into a dream holiday spot.

The accommodation is themed, tailored to suit different needs into four boutique villages. Families with young children are likely to opt for Explorer Cove, near to the kids' clubs and sports facilities; for families with older children or young adults, Caribbean Paradise is at the heart of the resort, full of lush tropical gardens; the Emerald Jungle is an eco retreat, where the zen pool, spa and fitness centre are located, which will appeal to those in search of a peaceful atmosphere; and finally the Archipelago, which is aimed at couples in search of the ultimate luxury experience, has 18 adult-only suites and a private plunge pool.

I stayed in one of the junior suites, which was very comfortable, featuring a lovely living area, and then a double bed and two single beds, outdoor shower and a great view of the ocean. Everywhere on the resort was within easy reach, from the beach to the pools and to the sports and fitness areas. And also to the various restaurants (four in all), bars and wine bars and cafe.

There is a huge emphasis on families throughout the resort, but nowhere is that more typified than the kids' clubs, which really do go the extra mile. And rather than a one-size fits all approach, there are separate clubs to help keep children in their relative age groups, something I was really impressed with. There's a baby club, a petit club (for two and three-year-olds), a mini club for four to 10-year-olds and a teen club. Activities include a rope course, a pool and splash park, paddleboarding, indoor climbing and movie nights under the stars.

Club Med has also been working with the world famous circus performers, Cirque du Soleil, to enhance its resorts. One of the results of this coming together has been the creation of a circus-inspired playground and also a circus-themed family beach party with spectacular performances and displays.

One of the real treats for, kids is the secret caramel room in the family restaurant, which only opens for a short time each evening (once you know the secret knock for the door) and which is packed with all sorts of chocolate and candy treats for the, em, kids. Adults just wouldn't be interested in a whole room given over to that kind of thing, would they?

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David Conachy gets into the swing of things during a visit to Montana Redonda

David Conachy gets into the swing of things during a visit to Montana Redonda

David Conachy gets into the swing of things during a visit to Montana Redonda

There's also a big emphasis on family time in these clubs, so parents are encouraged to get involved in special projects to work together. The one that caught my eye involved learning about the environment and then putting what you learn into practice by planting in the area around what's known as the Little Gardener's House. This is just another element of the many ways in which the resort is more than eco-aware, it is practising what it preaches, with reduced plastic usage and other innovations like the zen pool being free of chemicals and being cleaned by natural plants all around it.

On reflection, I feel I got a really good balance between exercise and relaxation. I was in training for the London Marathon while I was there and was a little worried before travelling that I would lose ground on holiday. The opposite was the case - so if you are into your fitness this is really a little gem.

I began each morning with 'Sunrise Yoga'. What a way to ease your mind and body into the day, in a beautiful outdoor setting in a quiet part of the resort. The yoga classes are three times a day so don't worry if you miss the early start. I quickly fell into a routine that worked for me, following yoga with a class and then a run - mixing the treadmill in the state-of-the-art gym with an outdoor run. There are also various fitness programmes and classes to choose from, depending on what your particular interest is.

As an early riser, I got my exercise and yoga over with early in the day and that freed up the rest of the time to either relax by the pool or beach, or to explore a little and try out some of the recommended activities. There are numerous spa treatments on offer on site and believe me it would be a shame to miss out on having at least one while you are there. (A 50-minute treatment typically costs about €140.)

Obviously, the experience on Montana Redondo was a real thrill, a real memory maker, but I also thoroughly enjoyed a beach horse riding session and a few very relaxing hours on board a catamaran, sailing along the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic.

There's a great full day trip to explore some of the hidden wonders of the Los Haitises National Park, a popular ecotourism destination. We were brought on a guided trek through part of the forest, leading to a group of caves and to parts of the location where the hit TV show Lost was filmed. Our trip included lunch on the beach (fresh shrimp) and a boat trip to and from this remote area.

Other excursions in the resort and in the Miches area include indoor climbing, scuba diving, snorkelling, a speed boat trip, a half-day e-bike tour, paddleboarding, kitesurfing, kayaking, archery... you get the idea. You simply won't run out of things to do if you want activity, whether they be new experiences for you or rekindling an old interest.

Overall, I was really taken by the Club Med experience and its approach to holidaying, the philosophy of true relaxation and recuperation which drives its thinking and the ease with which it can cater for so many, and even wildly different, expectations. My time in the Miches sun was memorable.

I came back refreshed and energised, and with a real sense of gratitude.

Two top attractions

Sail away with me...

It’s hard to beat a relaxing morning at sea, a gentle few hours on board a catamaran meandering its way along the coast, with a beautiful chicken and seafood lunch and a very enjoyable swim.

Food, glorious food

I was spoilt for choice — there are four restaurants in the resort (and the main one has three different dining rooms) — but my favourite was the steakhouse.

Get there

Miches is an eco-chic Exclusive Collection resort immersed in a tropical forest. It is the first resort on the preserved northeast coast of Dominican Republic. Attractions include:

  • Four boutique villages with their own environment and activities.
  • Refined gastronomy all-included with four restaurants, bars, wine cellars, a coffee shop and a first-of-its-kind children’s speakeasy
  • More than 25 sports and activities, including flying trapeze, tennis, electric jet-boarding and various yoga and meditation classes.
  • Four pools including a natural Zen pool and dedicated family pool and a spa by Cinq Mondes®.
  • Family programming with kids’ clubs from four months to 17 years.
  • Only 75 mins from Punta Cana airport.

For more information visit www.clubmed.co.uk/r/Michès-Playa-Esmeralda/y or phone + 44 8453 676 767

NB: This feature originally appeared in The Sunday Independent.

Sunday Independent