Never mind the jetboards, when will I find anything at all? Since strolling past the westernmost beach chair of the brand new Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda, my search for these intriguing electric amenities has turned up little but white sand, swaying palms and surreal driftwood.
A faint buzzing sound mingles with the hiss of the surf as I approach a bend in the deserted beach. Then I hear several squeals of delight and, seconds later, spot the jetboard dock bobbing on the glassy surface of Samana Bay.
Playa Esmeralda’s isolated setting is even more unusual and enjoyable than the jetboards turn out to be. Unlike most all-inclusive beach resorts, which tend to be bookended by rivals of varying descriptions, the first new Club Med to open in the Caribbean in a quarter-century lets guests escape the madding crowds while still accessing endless luxurious amenities, upscale accommodations, gourmet dining galore and under-the-radar excursions that visitors to busier destinations might easily overlook.
Playa Esmeralda isn’t alone in offering this idyllic mix of seclusion and high living. Across the Caribbean and Mexico, tourism-fuelled infrastructure expansion is paving the way for travellers to have it all, while getting away from it all, at these six new and upcoming resorts.
Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda, Dominican Republic
Getting there tends to be considerably less than half the fun when it comes to all-inclusive resorts and Club Med’s newest property is no exception. This is not to say that the journey is unpleasant. While the 80-minute transfer from Punta Cana International Airport does take about an hour longer than rides to many of the resorts lining the Dominican Republic’s eastern coast, it is both smooth and direct thanks to recent highway improvements.
Rolling into the 37.6-hectare property silences any impatient murmurings. Club Med spent US$100-million on the place, after all, with the stylishly thatched entrance hall and reception area setting the eco-chic tone.
The resort is divided into four fetchingly landscaped boutique villages: the adults-only Archipelago, where 18 oceanfront suites include private pools and outdoor showers; the 111-room Caribbean Paradise, set between the Coco Plum Beach Lounge – one of four restaurants – and the main swimming pool; Explorer Cove, a 158-room family-oriented area near the waterslide-equipped children’s club; and Emerald Jungle, the 48-room adults-only enclave where I bed down in airy and spacious digs after a sublime soak in the nearby Zen Pool and a massage at the serene Cinq Mondes spa.
Once on site, much fun is to be had. In addition to the electric jetboards – birthday wish-list sorted, by the way – the property offers more than 25 different sports and activities ranging from tennis and pickleball on a dozen floodlit courts to yoga in a scenic Treetop Wellness Canopy. There’s even some culinary fun to be had beyond the four lounges and three wine cellars, courtesy of a secret chocolate room staffed by a grinning Dominicano version of Willy Wonka. Outside the resort, excursions include all-terrain bus trips up the 304-metre Montana Redonda, where wooden swing sets ring the summit in Instagram-friendly fashion.
Iberostar Selection Esmeralda, Cuba
An hour’s drive from Cayo Coco’s international airport via a new road and causeway, 25-kilometre-long Cayo Cruz is the outermost island in the beach-blessed Jardines del Rey archipelago. Currently home to just two all-inclusive resorts – the 546-room adults-only Valentin Cayo Cruz and the boutique La Marina Plaza and Spa, both of which opened their doors in 2019 – the island will add a third if and when the all-inclusive Iberostar Selection Esmeralda opens as scheduled in February.
Designed to evoke 19th-century Cuba, the Iberostar will be divided into 450-room and 120-room sections, with the latter, dubbed the “Coral Level,” offering butler service and a cigar lounge among its next-level indulgences. As the northernmost resort on Cayo Cruz, the Iberostar will offer one big advantage to serenity-seekers: Turn left at the white sands and there’s five undeveloped kilometres of beachfront in front of them.
Excellence Oyster Bay, Jamaica
Think sandy seclusion always has to mean longer-than-usual airport transfers? Think again. This Victorian-style adults-only property opened in 2018 on a private peninsula 30 minutes by car from Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport.
The 315 suites range from stylish juniors to an imperial suite with a plunge pool and rooftop terrace overlooking the three kms of pristine beach lining the peninsula’s north shore. Dining options are similarly diverse, with everything from classic French cuisine to casual sports bar fare served across eight eateries.
Villas at Silver Cove, the Bahamas
Moving from private peninsulas to private islands, Norwegian Cruise Line recently unveiled a 38-villa resort on Great Stirrup Cay. Part of the Norwegian Edge program, a US$400-million upgrade of ships and onshore amenities, the Silver Cove villas range from studios to two-bedroom units, two of which come with extra-large ensuite master bedrooms and private dining and entertainment spaces.
As well as including access to a private beach and the Silver Cove Restaurant and Bar, all villas are within easy walking distance of the 110-hectare island’s extensive beachfront, zip-lines, nature trails and plentiful dining and lounging options. The Fate of the Fancy snorkel trail, meanwhile, explores nautical artifacts such as cannons and treasure chests carefully arranged amid the coral reefs in Bertram’s Cove. There’s even a sunken piano, which may or may not have been played aboard the Fancy, a derelict schooner that is the trail’s centerpiece.
Conrad Punta de Mita, Mexico
One of the advantages of having an oceanside golf course as a neighbour is that the beach next to the fairways is difficult to develop. Such is the case with Hilton Hotels & Resorts’ new Conrad Punta de Mita, which is slated to open in May in Riviera Nayarit.
A two-minute golf cart ride from the Greg Norman-designed Litibu Golf Course, the Conrad’s 324 suites will offer large patios, plunge pools, freestanding soaking tubs and outdoor showers. Amenities will include three pools – one each for adults, serious swimmers and families – a games room and children’s club. The four restaurants and three bars will include a mezcal and tequila barrel-tasting room, with the 10,000-square-foot Conrad Spa featuring seven treatment cabanas connected by flower-lined pathways. Turn west, and those paths will lead to a beach that runs uninterrupted along the Pacific Ocean for more than a kilometre.
One&Only Mandarina, Mexico
A 40-minute drive north of the Conrad, this 104-unit luxury resort is slated to open about a month later on June 1. Set on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the resort’s free-standing “treehouse hotel rooms” will be perched more than nine metres above the ground in the forest canopy. As with the one- and two-bedroom villas, all lodgings will feature private pools, roomy terraces and butler service.
The six-treatment-room One&Only Spa will also be integrated into its arboreal surroundings, with an outdoor gym and yoga palapa carved into the landscape.
Down on the previously undeveloped Playa Canalan, the resort’s Jetty Beach Club will serve casual fare and cocktails to guests lounging on day beds and soaking in infinity pools. Two more eateries, Alma and Carau, will offer Mediterranean and Mexican fare, respectively, in scenic settings overlooking the sands.
The writer was a guest of Club Med. It did not review or approve this article.
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