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Two major resorts timed their grand openings for the last week of March so they would coincide with DATE, the Dominican Annual Trade Exchange. In addition, two other important properties that had debuted or reopened just a couple of months before DATE invited the media to have a look. Miss all of this, and I’d have missed enhancements in the Caribbean’s leading tourism destination. (For more about that, click here.)

The Escape Experience
The official opening of Luxury Bahia Principe Ambar adds an innovative adults-only all-inclusive to the Punta Cana neighborhood. Grupo Pinero has invested more than $26 million to renovate this 528-room beachfront hotel, adding swim-up suites and revamped restaurants as well as a sports bar and fitness center (both of which are open to guests of Grand Bahia Principe Aquamarine, a second adults-only property within the brand’s seven-hotel Bavaro complex). Ambar’s Escape Experience is so mesmerizing that it makes Ambar unique, what with entertainment ranging from burlesque shows to silent disco.

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Grand Sirenis Punta Cana Resort threw a party that was not on the DATE schedule, but again, it’s no coincidence that they scheduled it for DATE week. Home to one of Punta Cana’s largest water parks, this family-friendly AI on Uvero Alto Beach has received a $30 million renovation that has upgraded the guestooms, lobby, and restaurants. Two new buildings now house a 7,000-sq.-ft. spa, fitness center, medical center, crafts shops, and kids club (yes, children get a Lego section). A new stage offers live music, and new restaurants include a health bar and ice cream and coffee shop.

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dominican republic
Views of the beach at Paradisus Palma Real. (Photo credit: Ed Wetschler.

The Olive Oil Says It All
The Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, where I stayed, threw a grand opening party for both itself and DATE. Located behind Paradisus at Palma Real Golf & Spa Resort, this circle-shaped complex is built around a 260-ft. pool framed by parenthesis-shaped swim-out pools. Because it’s not directly on the beach, Paradisus has put a lot into making this a premium resort. The smallest of the 288 accommodations is 800 sq. ft., and the kids water park, the spa and the glass-walled fitness center are state of the art. The octopus at Mangu Restaurant (one of 14) was deliciously tender, and vegetables in the buffet (olives, capers, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, sprouts) were marinated in astoundingly flavorful olive oil, which says a lot about this place. Also unique: The one-mile shuttle to The Grand Reserve’s private section of beautiful Bavaro Beach really does run every 10 minutes.

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Finally, it was a pleasure to revisit Sanctuary Cap Cana, which Playa Hotels & Resorts has operated since late 2017. In January this singular adults-only property officially unveiled a $44 million renovation that includes a more contemporary look to the lobby (e.g. a new fountain in the lobby and a crystal chandelier instead of the old Renaissance one), an upgrade to the restaurants and other public spaces, a new tapas bar and a coffee shop with java that would instantly seduce any tea drinker, private plunge pools for the villa accommodations, and—oh, yeah—two new towers that add 140 keys to the previous 183. Now, I’ll always love the suites in the Castle, which is unlike any other hotel building in the region, but the towers provide a new look for Sanctuary guests: Junior Suites with white furnishings accented with cobalt blue and gold touches for a happy marriage of contemporary design with this resort’s traditional Spanish elegance.

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