The sexy swim-up villas at Margaritaville are definitely worthy of your attention — and your next ... [+] vacation.
When I walked into my swim-up villa at Margaritaville, I fell in love with my surroundings faster than you can say, “Flip-Flop.” (**FOOTnote: Indeed, images of the little rubber sandals are ubiquitous throughout the resort.) Facial Mask Machine
And that’s pretty much how I felt about my recent stay at the new, all-inclusive Margaritaville Island Reserve Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic. A new five-star resort, it’s only been open for a little more than a year, and it’s received rave reviews on Trip Advisor, and it’s also part of the award-winning Karisma brand. Clearly, management is doing something right – already, the ritzy resort has an impressive return-guest-rate of 25-32%. Most of the guests I talked to during our stay loved their experience here, telling me they would find it very hard to leave. A few had some minor complaints – they same ones we had, which I will point out at the end of this article. But don’t get me wrong – Margaritaville is a luxury, laid-back resort that will definitely get you into island vibe, in high style. (The Margaritaville brand as well as the destinations, hotels, and resorts are inspired by the iconic music, lyrics, and life of singer Jimmy Buffett. )
The resort is located in Cap Cana — kind of a “country within a country” within the exclusive area of Punta Cana, according to General Manager, Daniel Cazarin. It is a very safe place, evidenced by the fact that you need a security code to even enter Cap Cana. This exclusive area of Punta Cana is a mere 15 minutes from the airport, with acclaimed golf courses, a marina, and riding stables nearby. But “we are not just a flip-flop hotel,” Mr. Cazarin told me. ‘We are serious about luxury.”
Let’s get back to my swim-up villa in the adults-only Hammock section of the resort. All of them are cream-of-the-crop accommodations, with butlers who receive up to six months of special training from the International Institute of Modern Butlers based in Florida. Our villa, No. 4202, which welcomed us to the “limelife,” featured a lazy river-lagoon right outside its doors (Heaven). Note: Make sure to bring your inflatable tube from home – when you step immediately outside and park your posterior in the water, it’s the very definition of laid-back luxury.
Each villa features a king-sized bed, walk-in closet, outdoor shower (along with an indoor shower), a large sofa, Nespresso machine, lime-slicer and cutting board (what would a resort named Margaritaville be without these?), ironing board and iron, and a wet bar. Two separate, oversized high-def TV screens – one in the bedroom, one in the living room area, make movie-watching a delightful option.
And here’s an unusual – and we found beneficial – twist: There is no minibar in the guest rooms – instead, you receive 2,000 points every day of your stay, which you can use at the resort’s convenience venue called “Joe Merchant.” This small, inviting venue is a combination of a patisserie featuring all-included fine coffees, teas, sandwiches and desserts on one side of the venue – all free of charge - coupled with a ‘general store’ concept on the other side, where you can purchase a variety of everyday products, including locally made flavored honey (the ginger is terrific especially when you glaze it on salmon), artisanal Chin-Chin chocolate bars made in the DR, as well as sodas, beers, potato chips and other treats.
Joe Merchant’s little café side features a wealth of complimentary coffee drinks – cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, and frappes – to mention a few – along with fresh fruit and hummus, and fresh-made ice creams, to mention just a few items. We went there every night after dinner to have something sweet. I especially loved the chocolate mousse dark-chocolate-shell ice cream treat – it was foreplay on a popsicle stick.
And don’t expect chocolate on your pillow at night – “That’s too predictable,” Mr. Cazarin told me.
Indeed, there are some great upscale touches at this property. The 400-thread-count sheets have little parrots embossed into them — a tribute to “Margaritaville” singer Jimmy Buffet. The steakhouse does not cook with skillets – instead it uses state-of-the-art Josper ovens that are only made to be used on meat, offering a superior entrée. The resort’s hashtag is “#gourmetallinclusive,” as it wants to be known for its cuisine – and fine cuisine it is.
Executive Chef Frankely Castillo prides himself on the very large portions – we were very impressed with that, as at some other all-inclusive resorts, the portions of meat or fish are so tiny, we frequently need to order two. A specialty gin bar, Compass, features the finest gin, along with numerous other bars (there are a total of 10 food-and-beverage concepts on the property). There is a brewery on site at the Landshark restaurant (Jimmy Buffet’s brewery brand) where it is made every week, along with other options such as IPA, chocolate porter and stout.
We are not drinkers, so we didn’t partake of these plentiful, all-inclusive options – but the number of bars, and the premium spirits available are sure to suit your taste. All of the included red and white wines are from Vina Maipo in Chile.
The 5 O'Clock Bar is filled with luxurious libations that are all part of the all-inclusive ... [+] structure at the resort,
No luxury resort would be compete without a spa, and I loved Margaritaville’s St. Somewhere Spa, with one of the most adorably described treatment menus I have ever seen. It was so well-written I wanted to try every posh pampering, from the Rum Punch scrub to the Banana-And-Watermelon facial. I opted for the two-hour Morir Sonando Retreat, consisting of a scrub, coconut milk body mask, three-milk facial, warm bath, and massage. It was extremely indulgent and its Spanish name is loosely translated to mean, “I died and went to Heaven.” I agree. That was certainly the case.
Like a luxury cruise ship, there are tons of activities all throughout the day to keep yourself occupied. My husband Bill and I were more than content to visit Margaritaville’s beautiful beach: Name: Juanillo Beach, one of the world’s top shores (even though it was rocky). There is live entertainment every night at Punch bar & lounge, so there is definitely fun after dinner.
The food in general was very good. Breakfast at the self-serve Boathouse restaurant offers every selection under the rainbow, including a terrific juice bar. (The carrot-ginger juice was excellent). The Boathouse offers a superb buffet, with breads and pastries made from scratch from the in-house team who work with the pastry chef. At lunch in this venue, on any given day, and sometimes in the evening, there are numerous stations offering everything from pasta, ceviche, caviar, charcuterie, cheese, pizza, fresh seafood, meat and steaks, stir-fry, King crab, and even a vegan station. You’re sure to find entrees and side dishes that you will love – I especially liked the pasta station, where the shrimp in pomodoro sauce and fresh Parmesan was excellent. I ate it practically every day, I found it so yummy.
Frank & Lola's offers inspired Italian cuisine.
Aside from the all-inclusive dining options, for those who want to splurge, the property offers a posh specialty dining option at their A-Lam-Bik Restaurant. There is an upcharge of $100 per person for this specialty restaurant and it offers a gastronomic tasting menu. Even though we’re very fussy eaters, we enjoyed this venue, and it’s truffle croquettes, rice paper with shrimp, Chilean sea bass, and guava gel and ice cream, to name just a few of the luxurious little bites. The décor is a beautiful black-and-gold motif, and it definitely works for a special-occasion dinner, or when you wish to try something truly different.
Also at added cost is the floating taco bar with a wealth of options and condiments – it is so popular that the resort serves about seven of them per day, at a cost of about $85 for two-to-four people. I tried it at the swim-up bar and loved it.
Our stay here was excellent, with just two minor glitches.
The first problem I encountered – throughout our stay — is that there is definitely a language barrier. Only about 50% of the staff speaks fluent English. The translation is that attempts to communicate your questions, mostly to wait staff, can lead to frustration. For example, when I spoke to more than one staffer and explained that I wished to order a diet limeade – made with just water, Splenda, and fresh-squeezed lime juice – I was often brought a diet Coke. Of course, I mentioned this to Mr. Cazarin, and I’m pleased to report that he told me that English instruction classes for the staff are being accelerated. That’s a constructive response to an understandable problem, when opening an English-speaking luxury resort in a country that speaks predominantly Spanish.
A well-treated, happy staff makes for well-treated, happy guests, and Margaritaville Island Resort also stands out in this regard: There is a state-of-the-art area for the staff, complete with dining room, gym, maternity area for breastfeeding, and even a salon. A great idea.
The one other point I’d make is that I found the waiter service could be inconsistent. For example, one night we ate at Frank & Lola’s, the Italian restaurant, and I was served a bitter arugula salad and shrimp, and I was not especially wowed. The second time I ate there, I was served a gorgeous green salad with lots of vegetables, topped with a delicious balsamic reduction that I had specifically asked for. Then I received a pasta dish with lots of tomato sauce and shrimp and Parmesan – it was excellent. We walked away very impressed. The third time we ate at this restaurant, I kept asking for balsamic reduction for my salad – I was brought regular balsamic vinegar – which I didn’t want – and then was assured a balsamic reduction was on its way. Eventually, I was brought lemon juice with salt. Disappointing. Mr. Cazarin agreed with me that service is an ongoing issue, and that management takes this very seriously, offering the staff constant training. That’s a responsive – and admirable – attitude. I’m sure it will yield improvements. (Overall, I must say, however, that I truly enjoyed myself “tasting away again in Margaritaville….)
To work off all of those delicious calories, there is an excellent, roomy gym (“Fins Up” is its name, reflecting the standard expression at Margaritaville). This gym is chock-a-block with Matrix equipment – everything treadmills and a punching bag to the squat-inducing Smith machine – along with a yoga studio. I loved going in there every day and watching YouTube videos as I worked out on one of the many treadmills, before stretching and taking in my special surroundings, and practicing some meditation and mindfulness.
All in all, I had an extremely positive experience. As I took in all of the laid-back luxury of Margaritaville, I realized in my breathwork that I had discovered a new mantra for myself: Breathe in, “Flip.” Breathe out, “Flop.” And prepare yourself to rest and relax in sybaritic style.
And that’s no mere footnote!
The Island Reserve swim-up villas are about $2,210 per night in high season.
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