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Sun, Sand, Beaches and No Hassles
Breezes Punta Cana: An Easy Vacation for Everyone

by Jane Ammeson

Punta Cana, beach; photo by J. Ammeson The negotiations began as soon as the door to our hotel room closed. Our children, who had been hesitant about leaving their friends behind over spring vacation, were suddenly complaining about having to go home next Sunday.

"We could change our reservations and fly out early Monday morning," my 11 year old daughter said trying to sound very reasonable and grown up. "If we leave early enough we can drive straight from the airport to school."

We had just arrived at the Breezes Punta Cana Resort Spa & Casino located on Arena Gorda Beach in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Outside the temperature was 84 degrees, about 40 degrees warmer than the Chicago climate we had left just five hours earlier. A strong breeze helped keep us cool. Palm trees swayed in the breeze. Laughter and splashing came from the pool area ("the largest in Punta Cana," our bell boy had told us) and overhead in the mid day sun, parasailors were floating languidly back to the sea.

Traveling with our children now that our son is 17 and daughter 11 can be difficult. He wants action and though she is still content with beaches and sand, she too is feeling the pull of wanting to be social-and not have to hang with her parents. We are, after all, at times very embarrassing.

Punta Cana, braids; photo by J. Ammeson And so we'd decided to try Breezes which advertises itself as a SuperClub and an all-inclusive. The later was important because it seems no matter how much we try to contain vacation expenses, eating out on the road and ordering pool side always gives us sticker shock when the final bill arrives. Here, after wrist bands were clipped into place, we were assured that there would be no other expenses. All food, drinks including alcoholic beverages and water sports were included. And, except for a photo taken on the beach of my daughter with a monkey sitting on her shoulder, my horseback riding (more about that later) and her hair braiding (a must when she goes south), we didn't pay for anything else. But that was a pleasure we wouldn't even know about until check out time.

In the meantime, our fears on how to keep our kids from becoming bored were quickly allayed. There were masses of pre-teens and teenagers at the pool, on the beach and in between. And the in-between, we were pleased to find out consisted of pool tables, variety shows, a teen age discothèque , a chance to sail, go snorkeling and learning how to fly through the air on a trapeze.

But the best thing is that once my husband and I saw that our children were content, we were able to pick out a palapa (a thatched roof) covered beach cabana and relax, catching up on naps, reading and an occasional splash in the surf.

Punta Cana, trapeze; photo by J. Ammeson As with many resorts, there were set ups selling excursions and I immediately signed up for horse back riding on the beach. The woman next to me was signing up for golfing (the golfing on the island is supposed to be spectacular) and some trips even include a ride to the course in a helicopter which given the state of the roads in the Dominican might justify the expense. I was lucky as Breezes has a horse ranch on site which is just a mile down the road. So boarding an open air truck I rode with several others from the hotel to Ranch Pat where 30 horses were already saddled up and waiting for us.

When we returned to the stable, I saw a new twist on the old tourist trick of snapping photos. Usually, it's a chance to buy a photo of yourself on your horse. At El Pat, it was a photo of yourself on the horse plastered on a bottle of wine.

Back at the resort, it was the usual dilemma of which of the six restaurants to dine in that night-the gamut ran from Japanese steak house, to Tex Mex to an endless buffet. Each night we tried something different, but our favorite was El Marlin, an open air restaurant where we dined on lobster while listening to the sounds of the waves.

It was while dining on French food on the second to last night that my daughter again tried to re-negotiate our return home.

We would return, I promised her, knowing that even if she didn't keep her part of the bargain, we would definitely be back. See for more info on Punta Cana.

...... Jane Ammeson writes about travel, food and personalities. Her work has appeared in Home & Away, Northwest Airlines World Traveler Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, The Times of Northwest Indiana, the Grand Rapids Press, the Courier Journal, Fifty Plus and Chicago Life Magazine. Arcadia Publisihng recently released her book St. Joseph County's Historic River Country.

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