Learn how a resort in the Dominican Republic got one travel writer to truly disconnect and relax.
I’m not good at relaxing.
In fact, I never have been. That’s why I couldn’t quite believe where the time had gone when I left the spa at the Finest Punta Cana. I was so relaxed, I had spent more than three hours without even realizing it.
That’s the resort’s goal, of course, to lull you into a state of complete bliss — with hydrotherapy rituals, aromatherapy massages, and indulgence at every turn. But rarely does it actually work for me.
The all-inclusive resort opened in late 2021 as one of the newest properties in The Excellence Collection, welcoming both families and adults to the shores of the Dominican Republic. The hotel practically functions as three properties in one with both kid-friendly areas (including an impressive kids’ club complete with a mini water park) and adults-only pools and restaurants.
It was my first-ever stay at an all-inclusive hotel, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. But within moments of arriving, I was snacking on complimentary Oreos from the minibar, looking out at the pool and the ocean beyond, and deciding which restaurant to try first.
I was staying in the hotel’s adults-only side, the Excellence Club, which included its own check-in area, exclusive club-only restaurants, and a pool that tended to be quieter than the kid-friendly one on the other side.
On my first day there, I walked the length of the property in the way you’d explore a city if you had too little time. I checked out each pool, each food truck, and each beach palapa. I mapped out a plan in my head. By the second day, I had forgotten my plan existed.
Instead, I found myself lying at the beach as a gentle breeze washed over me, listening to the waves crest and crash. I took a dip in the warm water before lazily making my way back up the buttery sand to the plush beach chair and basking in the pleasantly warm sun.
Hours later, I traded in the beach for the pool, a long stretch of deep blue surrounded by rows of palm trees and white modern architecture with contrasting black trim. I was suddenly faced with the (not so hard) decision of what to get from the swim-up bar: coconut water or a strawberry daiquiri.
Of course, the beauty of an all-inclusive meant there wasn’t really a choice at all. And so I learned a crucial lesson: one of the best ways to relax was to simply indulge.
And one of the ultimate indulgences is a day at the Finest’s spa. The One Spa takes relaxation seriously — Domingo Aznar, the vice president of sales and marketing for The Excellence Collection, told me it was designed to deepen “our connection with the mind, body, and soul.”
They take it so seriously, in fact, there’s a multi-step hydrotherapy circuit. First, I stepped into the sauna, allowing the heat to settle into my skin, before alternating between hot and cold — drenching myself under an ice bucket, sitting in the intense heat of the steam room, plunging into frigid water.
One hydrotherapy session — complete with a relaxing scalp massage — is included in each Excellence Club and Finest Club room, and it’s worth every minute. Then, to really take it to the next level, I headed upstairs for a stop in the aromatherapy room and a citrus-scented massage.
That evening I got dressed up, swapping my flip flops for heels, and headed out to dinner at Le Petit Plaisir, the hotel’s adults-only French restaurant. I sampled a deconstructed potato salad with dijon sauce and dug into a rich chickpea cassoulet before ordering a slice of apple tarte tatin.
By my last day, I had the all-inclusive thing down: I ordered two breakfasts (the open-face molletes were too good not to) and then took full advantage of the gazpacho bar at lunch, topped off with some warm rice pudding and a few cookies for good measure.
I finally learned to relax and treat myself. And as I headed back to the hustle of New York, I hoped to take that lesson with me.
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