Simran Sidhu, 36, executive director of YouthBuild Philadelphia, recently took her third holiday in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, with her banker husband Ravi, daughter Iman and son Vir. They stayed at Riu Taino on Arena Gorda beach, in the Dominican Republic in the West Indies.
You’ve been to Punta Cana three times. Why the same place every year?
The convenience is unbelievable. And I like the fact that the clientele is so international. We have been to the Bahamas and other places, but nothing matches the friendliness of the Dominican Republic. Everything is made so easy. You can turn your brain off and hang out at the poolside. You don’t have to think about what you would like to order to eat, and there’s always so much to choose from at the huge buffet spreads. And the convenience of having everything, including alcohol and wind and water sports, all paid up and unlimited, in advance, makes it super simple. There is no signing for each thing you do or consume. And, once you are a regular, the staff know you, your preferences, and pamper you even more.
Doesn’t it get boring hanging out at the poolside?
Not at all. We usually grab a shady spot near the pool early in the morning and stick around until 3pm. We even take our naps there. The pool has a swim-up bar in the centre, where you can hang out sipping potent and aphrodisiacal Mama Juanas (rum, red wine and honey steeped in tree bark and herbs), which are served by the nicest staff. From your barstool, you can keep an eye on your kids playing in the pool. Plus, there’re so many organized activities going on through the day, from water polo and water aerobics to dart competitions and meringue classes. There are also universal games like Bingo played at night with announcements in five languages.
Any private couple time possible?
Of course. There’s a Kid’s Club where the staff will take care of your kids; then, there’s a babysitting service; and, at night your kid can go to the supervised kiddie disco where they will teach her dance steps, while you head off for a romantic dinner at a beachfront restaurant at one of the adjoining Riu hotels (no extra cost) or wherever else you want.
How do you pamper yourself?
There’s a spa in the hotel, but I prefer getting my daily massage from local women on the beach (Rs1,800/hour), which is just 200 metres from the pool. These women are professionals. They do a gentle, yet relaxing, aromatherapy massage on the beach while you lie on your deck chair. If you want a massage in privacy, you can get it in a curtained area right there.
Anything to worry about when travelling with kids?
We took our two kids, which included our four-month-old baby. It’s perfectly fine to do that, especially at Riu Taino as it is so kid-friendly and full of children from all over the world. Our five-year-old just loves the food, which has everything from pizzas, burgers, fries and unlimited ice cream, to healthy salads, yogurt buffets, fresh fruits and juices and local Dominican food (which is quite similar to Indian curries and bean dishes). It’s not gourmet food, but it’s interesting and varied.
Have you made any friends among the international crowd you meet there?
We’ve made good friends with a family from Warsaw—a Polish woman, her Danish husband and their two kids. In fact, this year we are coordinating via email to be at Riu Taino at the same time, the fourth time for us and the sixth for them.
A seven-day, all-inclusive vacation at Riu Taino, in a double room with balcony for a couple with two kids (aged 2-12) costs Rs1,03,000 during April/May. Return airfare Mumbai/Delhi to New York in economy class is approximately Rs50,000; return airfare from New York to Punta Cana starts at Rs15,000.
As told to Niloufer Venkatraman. Share your last holiday with us at firstname.lastname@example.org