When you close your eyes and dream of your happy place, where is it? Who are you with? And what are you doing (or not doing)? For me, I’m near the ocean soaking in the sunshine, spending time with the people I love. I’m laughing, having fun and chilling out to the max amount possible. That’s why it was a no-brainer when Gracie and I decided to book a trip down south with Sunwing Vacations for 5 relaxing days at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Oh heck to the yes.
With so many destinations to choose from, it was a tough decision to make (because my life is so hard, apparently). Being that Sunwing is North America’s largest vertically integrated travel company, they have more flights down south than any other leisure carrier company. With direct service from over 34 airports across Canada, they offer travel to over 50 popular destinations with the best deals and exclusive offers at all of the top-rated resorts across the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.
Our trip started out pretty great before we even got to the airport. By downloading the Sunwing app, we were able to check our flight times and even check in early. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the friendly staff at the check-in counter who were able to answer any questions we had (because sometimes travel can be pretty stressful) and get us all set to drop off our bags and make a bee-line towards the sunshine.
Flying with Sunwing allows you to book your excursions in advance, while you’re on board the plane, enjoying a delicious menu of food items inspired by Food Network Celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford. The in-flight service even offers a complimentary glass of sparkling wine (umm yes, please), tea and coffee and non-alcoholic beverage service. Upon arrival to the Dominican Republic, we were met by Sunwing reps at the airport who guided us to our shuttle headed straight to the resort. When you lead a busy lifestyle, it’s actually such a pleasure to have everything already organized and sorted out for you, just by purchasing your trip package.
When we got to the resort, the beautiful AlSol Del Mar Cap Cana, we were immediately handed glasses of fresh papaya juice along with lots of friendly smiles. Upon checking in, the lovely team at the front desk informed us that our room had been upgraded from a double room to a 2-bedroom deluxe suite. Obviously, this was such a treat and another great way to kick-off our trip!
When we got to the room, we were floored by how gorgeous and spacious it was! There were 2 bedrooms with an ocean view, a full kitchen, a dining area and living room, 3 bathrooms, 2 balconies (with a hot tub on one of them), an outdoor shower and a stunning modern soaker tub inside. It’s hilarious to think about how big this place is compared to my tiny bachelor apartment in Toronto. But I guess that’s resort-living, right?
I don’t think we could have dumped our bags in the room faster if we tried! We quickly changed into our swimsuits and headed right to the pool, which overlooked the ocean. I had never been to a swim up bar before, but I can tell you that this one is absolutely amazing (and not just because it had free-flowing rum).
We ordered drinks, sitting on built-in stools in the refreshing water, with the sun shining on us and the breeze blowing through our hair. Am I painting a relaxing picture for you yet? Because it sure was, my friends.
It’s almost like my body just let go of my daily stress and embraced this new normal – the pampered life. I’m not usually one to go for the all-inclusive resorts, but this experience changed my perspective completely. We also had originally planned to book in at an adults-only resort, but although there were some kids around, it was such a pleasant experience (and hey – I’m not saying that kids aren’t pleasant, but sometimes when I think about relaxing by the pool, I actually just wanna relax by the pool). The resort was quiet, but still had a lot going on at the same time. It was such a fantastic balance!
We slipped into a relaxed daily routine quite easily. Every morning we would get up early and head down for a breakfast buffet in our bathing suits with something thrown over top – even though I debated just going shoe-less and pant-less many times (because I’m classy like that). We would then go hang out by the pool and wait until 11am to grab some of what we called our “coconut smoothies”… which were basically just coconut milk, ice and rum.
After more swimming, tanning and drinking, it would then be time for lunch (I mean, we worked really hard and deserved another break). Because the staff was so incredible, they were always open to modifying a few of the menu items to support our “healthy balance”, while we drank all day long. Our favourite was the grilled chicken breast with salad, which had fresh veggies like tomatoes, beets, carrots and avocados. And yeah, sometimes we would order a side of fries. Because, vacation.
It felt a lot like we were spending time planning out what our next meal would be. But that’s mostly because Gracie and I revolve our whole lives around our love of food. But luckily, the food at the resort was all pretty amazing. Each night, the dinner menu at the restaurant would change. For example, one of the nights was a traditional Dominican menu, featuring foods like rice and beans, friend plantains, yucca root, fish and pork tenderloin.
You can even head over to one of the although AlSol Resorts in the area if you are looking to switch things up. But the best part of dinner was the staff. Every night, they would come over to us to chat with us and laugh. We sparked a bit of a friendship with some of them and are even planning on keeping in touch!
Although there were a lot of options for excursions, we opted to only head out on one of the days. Sometimes you just need to do a whole heck of a lot of nothing – and that’s okay! So, we hopped in the shuttle to one of the local shopping markets one afternoon to experience some of the local culture – plus I heard there was gonna be chocolate. When we arrived, we were taken through a tour of how Dominican cigars are made and were even offered some to try. I’m not really a fan, so I skipped out on the taste-testing.
We then did a quick cheers with some Mama Juana, which is what they like to call “Dominican Viagra”, and headed into the main shopping area of the complex. It was a bit touristy for our liking, but we managed to score a couple of items and even got to try some chocolate (which is always a highlight in my mind).
So I’m back in the snowy winter that is Toronto and I can’t help but reflect on how fantastic it was to just get away from it all for a couple of days. Now, I do lead a life that I truly love – one that I don’t believe I need to escape from. But there’s nothing wrong with a bit of a reset every now and then. So, thank you Sunwing for reminding me that I do deserve a break sometimes… one that involves some sunshine and a lot of rum.
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Catherine Sugrue, CNP
Photos by Catherine Sugrue
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