Finest Punta Cana, the newest all-inclusive Caribbean resort from The Excellence Collection, takes a “clean slate” approach through architecture and design, inviting the guest to craft a fully personalized luxury vacation.
With many all-inclusive Caribbean resorts, what you see is what you get. Recognizing this, the Excellence Collection has approached its Caribbean properties with the goal of giving different travelers the exact luxury resort experience they want with minimal effort on their end. In the Dominican Republic, Finest Punta Cana surrounds its guests with breezy, laid back Caribbean village charm, while sister property Excellence El Carmen is bolder, more colorful and steered toward younger adults.
When multigenerational travel emerged as a major trend a few years ago, the Excellence Collection had to contemplate altering its successful adults-only formula. Rather than create a theme park-like vibe, the design and organization of the newest Caribbean resort is designed for two distinctive groups—sophisticated, well-traveled adults looking for an exclusive setting, and parents traveling with kids, teens and other relatives requiring a perfect mix of features and amenities allowing for quality family time and some well-deserved date nights and days.
The first Finest property in Playa Mujeres, Mexico opened in 2015, wowing guests with an architectural and interior design that provided full-on acknowledgement that multigenerational travel was and continues to be hotter than ever. Couples on a romantic getaway, business groups, and adults traveling with kids all get the no-fuss/high luxury vacation they desire, without compromise or getting in one another’s way.
Rather than create a theme park-like vibe, the design and organization of the newest Caribbean resort is designed for two distinctive groups—sophisticated, well-traveled adults looking for an exclusive setting, and parents traveling with kids, teens and other relatives requiring a perfect mix of features and amenities allowing for quality family time and some well-deserved date nights and days.
The resulting resort—consisting of 455 all-suite rooms, 13 restaurants, 16 bars, a beautifully conceived spa and a very pristine and well maintained beach—was completed on time to open on the eve of Excellence Punta Cana’s 20th anniversary in late 2021. Its initial impression reads visually as a collection of empty frames that couples and families traveling with children can fill with their own custom-designed Caribbean escape.
These clean, symmetrical white lines also set off beautifully manicured courtyards and ocean views. While there is continuity running through both sides of the property, in terms of the architecture and interior design, the “threshold” in the lobby connecting the family-friendly and adults-only sections shows how masterfully planned the resort is as a whole.
While the Finest Club is dedicated to families and the Excellence Club is engineered for adults 18 and up, it’s a property that truly multi-tasks for travelers with different agendas—even within the same group (think multi-generational family groups, or a business retreat with participants having different domestic arrangements). It can even be seen as three resorts in one, with upgraded “Finest Club” and “Excellence Club” options that encompass decadent build-outs ranging from walk-in pools or in-room jacuzzis, to Bulgari bath products and top-shelf liquor.
With sustainability now figuring into a traveler’s decision process, the team took some extra time to anticipate the needs of their mixed clientele moving forward. During the Finest Punta Cana’s construction, the Excellence Collection’s team of architects and interior designers fine tuned and improved the small details that made its predecessor a big hit. Paper menus for all of the restaurant and spa menus are now consolidated and accessible on the Excellence app, while plastic straws and other non-sustainable items used in “grab-and-go” service have been removed or replaced with reusable or recyclable options.
Inside the guest rooms, subtle but clever sustainability features add to the breezy, effortless feel of a Finest Resort stay, on both sides of the property. Each Mid-Century modern attired dwelling has a fully digitized system controlling lights, air conditioning and “do not disturb” and housekeeping signage, as well as a handy cabinet where guests can stash dishes and glasses after finishing room service meals so they are out of the way and easier for housekeeping staff to grab without entering the guest’s private space.
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Upgraded “Excellence Club” rooms that can be up to 2,500-square feet are outfitted with indulgent, romantic amenities such as private lounge, two pools, two pool bars and a private beach. Most of the time, it is an island of calm in the morning and evening, save for a touch of smooth jazz wafting through the P.A. system and a trio of live flamingoes frolicking in a landscaped lagoon.
At midday, guests over 18 can enjoy outdoor activities with an island vibe that steer clear of the “spring break” vibe. During the streamlined but friendly “Excellence Club” check-in process, the staff takes its time to explain the extra perks in the upgraded package as well as how to use the app to get the most out of each resort feature and restaurant during the stay.
The family friendly “Finest Club” is a touch splashier, although the service here is equally efficient and friendly. One will never trip over pool toys, and the kids on property during my visit tended to stay close to their families, either in the vibrant tropical rainforest-inspired playgrounds or waterpark features both kids and kids-at-heart can enjoy. While room options for families include 800-square foot junior suites with different configurations and 950-square foot at the basic level, families opting for “Finest Club” packages can select suite options such as swim-up suites, private pool suites and 1750-square-foot family suites with an extra bedroom for the kids.
The jewel of the Finest Club is the thoughtfully designed Imagine Kids Club that reads as a resort-within-a-resort. The fully-staffed and fully-equipped section is part summer camp, part STEM-school room and part arcade. Daily activity programs keep kids engaged with science, art and Dominican culture days that provide them a sense of place. It also has its own “restaurant,” though the parents get to have some say in what their kids can order. There are also a few rooms offering babysitting services and playroom amenities for the youngest visitors that can be booked by parents in advance so they can enjoy a date night in one of the more grown-up restaurants.
The Caribbean resort’s unique take on “something for everyone” at the luxury level is inventively built into ONE Spa, which sits within the “threshold” of the lobby connecting the resort’s two halves. There are several artistic elements which set it apart from other resort spas, including a playful kids’ spa with its own special treatment and manicure menu, a deliciously girly set of plush pink rooms for bridal parties, and a spa kitchen area where one can mix and match ingredients based on her (or his) preferred treatments. There are nine treatment rooms as well as a couples spa suite with hydrotherapy features.
ONE Spa’s marquee experience (complimentary for those purchasing the “club” packages) is its hydrotherapy circuit, which proceeds a treatment or can be enjoyed on its own. This sensory immersion packs in dry and wet saunas, stations with different water features designed to massage and relax different parts of the body, hot and cold pools, and its own built-in “ice bucket challenge” which feels amazing after the prescribed amount of time in the saunas. And like the Caribbean resort’s rooms and suites, small details make the spa experience memorable. For example, each treatment room’s entry is adorned with a set of mandalas. As you enter, the practitioner has you choose one that speaks to you, and the message appearing on the flip side of the picture becomes what you focus on during the treatment.
The design running through the food and beverage program, meanwhile, is a sort of Venn diagram that allows club guests to mix and match meals and snacks among the adults-only and all-ages dining options. The person assisting me at the Excellence Club check-in describes it as part of its “innovative curation,” where the program as a whole offers different dining experiences where, “every detail of your preferences has been taken into account” when Excellence Club-only dining options are factored in with the extra investment.
Dommo stands as the pinnacle of the Excellence Club and adults-only restaurants, with a culinary approach at dinner that’s best described as creative contemporary continental. By day, it offers made-to-order breakfasts in a quiet setting and a sleek cocktail lounge operating in the afternoons and evenings. Le Petit Plaisir, via its Art Deco-inspired décor, timeless jazz soundtrack and beautifully executed fare (simple but on-point steaks, roasts and fish, rich soups, decadent sauces), epitomizes the universal definition of French chic. Steakhouse Brass, meanwhile, carves out a classic New York steakhouse experience, and Insieme Trattoria captures the spirit of Tuscany with its menu and surroundings.
Shoji, meanwhile, begins on a foundation of a Japanese teppanyaki (show cooking on a large grilling table) foundation and aesthetics, but has undeniable Caribbean flair running through it thanks to Dominican chefs trained in the art of Japanese technique and a rather abundant use of fresh tropical fruit. Although it is not always the case at large resorts, sushi and sashimi served at “Finest” makes the grade in terms of freshness and plating. And speaking of well-prepared seafood, the highlights of Duke’s Lobster & Seafood’s lunch service are the chilled spicy octopus, shrimp and ocean fish ceviches from the appetizer menu and a light-as-air key lime cake.
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While Finest Punta Cana is intended to be customizable and international in tone, rather than a dive into Dominican culture, The Market Kitchen (the main buffet restaurant) and La Playita (a pool food truck slinging snacks throughout the afternoon) serve up several dishes that are staples in the local diet. The La Playita food truck offers treats such as the Dominican Patty, fried puff pastry filled with beef, egg, raisins and spices, while the Market Kitchen regularly offers traditional Dominican breakfast bites as well as locally sourced coffee. There is also a weekly “Dominican Night” where the buffet is packed with stews, sides and other comfort foods.
The beverage selections, meanwhile, runs the gamut from fresh in-the-shell coconut water—with or without rum—to whimsical, frothy pool drinks to sophisticated, intentionally crafted cocktails blending top shelf spirits (and even more so for those with an Excellence Club package) with fresh ingredients at the main (and very opulent) Golden Bar, club package-only Dommo and the other premium over-18 restaurants. Of course, the fresh brewed Dominican coffee served throughout the Caribbean resort is a luxury most on both sides (of the resort) can agree on when it comes to getting energy required to choose one’s vacation destiny every day.
In summing up the experience, another member of management informs me that, “The spacious design and open spaces make our resort an ideal place to enjoy with your partner, family, or friends, providing the expected privacy for a luxury escape,” he says. “However, the best luxury we offer our guests is the certainty that we take care of every detail for their well-being and comfort with both tangible and intangible amenities, including health and safety protocols that guarantee a peaceful and safe stay.