My rule: It is better to book a standard room in an outstanding resort than to book the best room in a mid-market resort. And I’m always right—except when I’m not. Which brings us to the Melia Caribe Tropical in Bavaro, Dominican Republic.
This winter, the Melia, a four-star resort adjacent to a Melia property that’s viewed as a five-star (the recently opened Paradisus Palma Real), unveiled a new section called The Level. Not only does The Level offer upgraded accommodations, but it has its own swath of beach, restaurants, pools, and lobbies.
Why plural for “lobbies”? Because The Level, accounting for about half the Melia’s 1,139 rooms and suites, is further divided into family and adults-only areas, so they each get their own lobby/lounge. But regardless of which area guests are checking into, bellmen greet them with, “Are you ready for a new Level?” We sure were, but the devil on our shoulder had a question, too, so he whispered in our ear: “At what level would this new Level be?”
better than the rest
Some of the guest units at this resort used to offer enhanced perks called Royal Service, and it is these lodgings that Melia upgraded for The Level. However, we realized while staying there, The Levelis no longer just a bunch of rooms with better services; it’s virtually a separate resort. Why?
- As mentioned, the sense of privilege begins right at a VIP lounge where guests check-in and can also have continental breakfast, premium beverages, hors d’oeuvres, coffee and tea, and complimentary WiFi. The adults-only lounge says it all, sporting urbane black, beige, and white furnishings and sculptures that evoke a hipster’s library, but even The Level’s family lounge has a certain dignity, albeit with snacks and games (on handsome wooden boards) that delight children.
- The part of the beach for The Level guests is, admittedly, no whiter or wider than the rest of Bavaro Beach (how could it be?), but the lounges and daybeds are the best. Ditto, the beach butler service.
- The Level guests have access to Energy for Life activities (e.g. Body Balance, a mix of yoga and tai chi).
- The Level has its own (huge) swimming pools, one for all Levelers and one for adults only. I saw children playing with their parents in the pool by the Gabi Club, a restaurant and lounge solely for The Level (gotta love that glow-at-night furniture); while couples in the free-form adults-only pool gravitated to its nooks and curves and sipped dangerously good mojitos.
- Two reasons why The Level’s family pool is relatively quiet: Its size, and the fact that The Level’s families may put their children in the supervised kids’ programs.
- Levelers may enjoy all the other resorts’ amenities, too, including watersports, seven tennis courts, the fitness center, spas (yes, with an “s”), evening entertainment, and myriad bars and restaurants as well as The Level’s bars and restaurants.
About those Level-only restaurants: Melia has created an open-air complex called Quatro, whose four restaurants include Uno, a steakhouse; Dos, a gastro pub; Tres, for Peruvian, Japanese and Chinese dishes (did you know that 19th century Asian immigrants to Peru created ceviche and other now-Peruvian classics?); and Quatro, a daytime beachfront buffet. We were especially taken with Tres (aka Nikkei), where we had sublime fish chowder and breast of duck with chestnut puree, but they were all so good that—pay attention here, because this is why your clients should stay at The Level—between Quatro, the pools, and The Level’s peaceful stretch of beach, we had a hard time spending time at the rest of the resort, and other guests told us that it was the same for them.
Accommodations for The Level occupy yellow, 2-story villas, and they have a clean, sophisticated design featuring dark wood, plenty of marble, and white-and-taupe furnishings.
Off-season rates start at $258 for an adults-only suite. That’s all-inclusive per room, not per person, and it even includes taxes. No wonder Patricia Alvarez-Lebron, associate director of sales and marketing, can confidently say, “Guests at The Level get more value for their money.” FYI, encourage couples to spring for the 452-sq.-ft. Level Whirlpool Suite (from $285); they’ll thank you in the morning.
Families can get a child-friendly, 517-sq.-ft. Level Master Suite (from $368 with one child, $442 with two). If they’re used to a lot of space, look into the 818-sq.-ft. One-Bedroom Master Suite for as little as $415 with one child, $497 with two (maximum four per suite). In addition to its normal 10 percent commission, Melia offers a Cash Incentive program, seasonal promotions, CEU credits, and other incentives.
Melia Hotels International: U.S., (888) 956-3542; Canada, (855) 269-5374; melia.com/en/travelagents