RIU Palace Macao, Punta Cana
5th - 18th May 2015
So I may be ever so slightly biased about the beautiful Dominican Republic (DR). This was a particularly unforgettable holiday as Tom just so happened to propose the day before our flight out there!! So needless to say even the 9hr flight was absolutely incredible in my eyes, least because we had paid for extra leg room and mostly because I spent 99% of it staring in awe at my brand new sparkly engagement ring 😍💍 armed with Bridal magazines I'd picked up in duty free of course!
We arrived at the RIU Palace Macao mid afternoon and had already made our first holiday frieeeeends at the airport and transfer to the beautiful hotel. These were Chris, Sheila, Kelson and Vikki (we are still friends with Kelson and Vikki on Facebook - shout out to our friends down in Guernsey!) who we got to know loads more over the following 2 weeks, along with the rest of the 'Dominican Family' we made.
This was our second stay at a RIU hotel and they have never disappointed. The animation team here were the best I've ever experienced, they had so much energy all day and night while hosting the activities and we learnt a lot about life in DR for those that live and work there through them. As amazing as all the girls and guys in the in-house entertainment were, the RIU hotels also brought in professionals most nights for the evening entertainment. My personal favourite was the acrobatic performers, so many jaw dropping moments.
Throughout the day waiters were constantly making the rounds of the pool and beach area to ensure that your glass was never empty. Our room (a standard double) had a modern and clean decor which was one of the main things that attracted me to booking this particular hotel. Another key feature when deciding this hotel was that it was adults only. Sadly this has since been changed. By no means do I dislike kids but when you pay all that money and don't have children of your own it's just preferable to not hear whaling babies around the pool (sorry parents but I've got to be honest!). It was quite truly two weeks of non stop beach heaven and beautiful weather (we were very lucky, it rained just once and that was overnight).
For some reason Tom has always wanted to swim with sharks and it just so happens that you can do this in DR - typing about it now still strikes the fear of God in to me! After some gentle persuasion (he basically said I've just made you the happiest girl in the world, now come swim with sharks with me 😒) I agreed to do the excursion with them as they needed one more person to make up numbers on the boat. The excursion involved three stages, all reached to by speedboat which is SO much fun and made all the better when it's on the Caribbean ocean. The first activity was snorkelling at coral reefs. At this point you need to understand that the open sea is one of my biggest fears, I'm OK until about hip depth and then my legs start to go wobbly and I just freak out and panic that something's going to eat me. So when the boat stopped and everyone started diving straight in I was going in to full on freak out mode - this was definitely beyond hip depth. I slowly got in to the sea and clung to Tom for a few minutes before dipping my head under water to see what all the fuss was about...WOW. Just wow! It was stunning, the coral, the fish swimming nonchalantly around you. It felt magical, like stepping in to the set of Finding Nemo! It was so mesmerising, you get transfixed watching the stunning fish gliding around you and you just forget about the rest of the world. Not to mention the awesome photos you can capture.
After this we jetted over to sharks and stingrays (oh yes, this was left out to me until this point as well, not only did I have to get in a pool with sharks, there would be stingrays as well!!!!). We arrived at what I can only describe as a floating centre with two pools within the sea; one for the stingrays and one with the Sharks. We first got in to the pool with the Rays and was told lots of information about them, to be honest I really didn't take much in as I was too busy being utterly terrified. After this we then walked round to the shark pool. This contained around 15 Nurse Sharks, each 4m long. I had a complete melt down so at this point I will hand you over to Tom so he can tell you how "amazing" this experience was:
Hey! For the few moments that I didn't have Jenny clinging to me, this was an awesome experience. The sharks were huge, about 4m long and moved around exactly as you would expect, slowly but menacingly at the same time. It was hard to not have the Jaws theme tune running through your head! They always stayed quite low in the pool and didn't seem bothered by us at all. It was an incredible experience being able to see these amazing creatures so closely with no screen between, swimming in the same water just beneath your feet!
Jenny back! Now on to the best part of this excursion: the natural lagoon! We sped along for another 10mins in the speedboat to a natural pool just off a deserted beach. When I say natural pool I mean the clearest water you have ever seen and warm from the sun's rays. To make this experience even better the speedboat drivers joined us with large bottles of rum, coke and crisps! And they took holiday portions to the limit here, 3/4 rum 1/4 coke before moving on to pouring the rum straight in to your mouth! To this day that is one of my favourite holiday moments; in actual paradise, newly engaged with the love of my life and lots of rum.
Towards the end of the two weeks we took a trip to Saona island after the trip was highly recommended by everyone we spoke to. Saona island is a tropical island, part of a government protected nature reserve and you can certainly see why they want to reserve it's natural beauty. It is so stunning and untouched that it has been used by many film-makers and advertisers looking for a typical white sands and clear water beach. Most famously it has been used to film the Bounty advert and several scenes for the Pirates of the Caribbean.
While there we had time to wonder up and down the shore, soak in the clear water and enjoy a BBQ on the beach! I would definitely recommend visiting this small tropical paradise if you ever holiday in the Dominican Republic.
To get back to mainland DR we were treated to a catamaran ride while enjoying music and more rum and cokes with the sea breeze rolling over our sun kissed skin and sea salty hair *sighs at the memory of it all*
As part of the all-inclusive we had access to non-motorised water sports. We should have made far more use of this but I am partial to laying in the sun all day - sorry Tom! We did make use of the kayaks twice and even got out on a mini catamaran. You need training on the catamarans but one of our 'family' members had already done this and he was kind enough to be captain on our voyage! It was so much fun having a go at steering (a lot easier than it looks) and seeing the fish beneath us in the clear sea water. I would highly recommend looking out for free water sports within all-inclusive packages as it adds so much value and definitely keeps the boys happy.
As with all RIU's we have had the pleasure of staying at, the food was incredible and very varied. Our hotel in particular had 5 restaurants to choose from; the steakhouse, Japanese, Krystal (infusion), Italian and the standard buffet which hosted a range of themed nights. I ate and drank so much in the first week (it was all-inclusive after-all!) that I was skipping meals in the second week as I physically could not eat at that pace any more. Which was really quite annoying as I still wanted to! We tried all of the hotels restaurant, often with our Dominican Family and decided to re-visit the Steakhouse for our final meal of the holiday. Hotels with lots of restaurants is definitely a perk as you will have so much choice of styles of foods. The restaurants also have a more exclusive and sophisticated feel to them than the standard buffet restaurant that sometimes get quite loud. For a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, last night, etc.) they're a good option. Check what the policy is with your hotel as you often have to book your table a couple of days in advance, there may also be a dress code depending on how posh it is!