The two families seated in front of me, like many other passengers on my flight to the Dominican Republic, will soon be sharing an oceanfront condo near the north coast port of Puerto Plata.
Unlike the gold sands and gentle Caribbean surf of the island's very commercial resort of Punta Cana, the rugged north coast attracts active travelers looking for a more active and authentic Dominican scene. It's fun to see the broad mix of people loading into the resort vans: all ages and ethnicities, Canadian families escaping the snow, large groups of Latinos enjoying their former homeland, young honeymooners, Russian oil tycoons, West coast surfers, celebrities from Santo Domingo, guys out for a weekend away.
Our van heads west of Puerto Plata to Cofresi, the pretty beach cove dominated by the Lifestyle Holiday Vacation Club. This European-owned timeshare resort has packed an estimated 1,100 full-service units, more than a dozen restaurants and 30 bars into a compact all-inclusive village of golf carts and happy vacationers. Unlike other condo rental schemes, at LHVC the owners buy into a points system where they can become V.I.P.s or Shareholders among several other commitment levels. Club Memberships range in price from $14,000 to $120,000. High-rollers are able to request complimentary helicopter or limo pickups at the airport and may take advantage of "virtual butler" app to have champagne and cigars delivered to their poolside chaise longues.
Lifestyle Hotels' Variety of Accommodations & Activities
Club members can book accommodations that range from a room at the beachfront Tropical Hotel to the luxurious two-bedroom Presidential Suites complex or super haute Villas. These 3 to 7-bedroom villa homes with private pools are all white marble, glass and contemporary sculpture that is straight out of LORF: "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."
The dizzying variety of decor and fun options makes the place feel almost like a vacation mall. Among the seven distinct LHVC resorts there is access to tennis, several spas, scuba lessons at the pool, horseback riding and other progams, many of which require a fee depending on level of membership. Like many Caribbean resorts, there are nightly shows that range from pop cabarets to disco routines to family entertainment — what's different here is that they move from stage to stage around the property.
Sunday nights are reserved for a very fun, MTV-style Welcome Party held out under the stars. Hundreds if not thousands of guests roam between linen-skirted tables, beverage counters and a quarter-mile-long seafood buffet until the live music and dancing starts. A fireworks display kicks off the after-party.
By day, "club members" (as owners are called) who choose to leave the shaded, four-poster lounge beds along the beach take advantage of facilities based upon which level of membership they have purchased. More than 1,500 friendly staff are on hand, making it the type of place where kids can wander on their own and parents feel safe.
OK Kosher Certifies This Caribbean Resort with a Jewish Past
Perhaps because the dictator Trujillo welcomed 1,000 Jewish World War II refugees to the nearby port at Sosua, the LHVC Resort finds itself welcoming many Kosher guests throughout the year. To accommodate the observant villa owners who wanted to host children's Jewish weddings — as well as to explore a large new market — this LHVC complex has its own rabbi and Kosher chef on staff, preparing certified (and reputedly delicious) Kosher fare all year round.
At this time, the Kosher facilities and Kosher sanitized villa with double sinks and dishes are only available to Club Members, but this may soon change. Travel agents and tour operators serving the Jewish market have frequent traveling clients, and say that competing resorts and cruise ships only offer Kosher meals during the Jewish holidays. They are pressuring LHVC to make their Kosher beach vacation facilities available to non-members year round.
Joining the LHVC Club without Joining the Club
If it sounds exclusive, well, it is. With a few exceptions…. Through a partnership with RCI, owners in that vacation ownership network may use their shares towards a stay at LHVC by paying a premium for the all-inclusive meals and activities package.
The rest of us should note that The Tropical, one of the older hotels that runs like any other all-inclusive resort, as well as two others in the complex, are available to anyone on a nightly rental basis starting from just US$82 per person per night, all-inclusive. This is a great deal in the high season and if you don't care about access to certain perks, short stay guests can waive the property tour pitched to all visitors.
LHVC Tropical All-Inclusive Resort Family Amenities
Facilities at Tropical include three pools, a large buffet restaurant and Mexican and Asian a la carte places near the pools. Younger teens will like the Teen Club open evenings for ages 12+ with a ping pong table and lounge to hang out; teens 18 and up can hang out at the bars. Access to the Kids Art Club is next door at the Cofresi Palms Resort, where ages 4-12 have a full day's schedule of activities and play time.
They also make off-property outings to Ocean World, a really impressive marine park with dolphin encounter progams, and other local attractions three mornings a week. A nightly evening session allows adults to have a romantic dinner on their own. Babysitting is available by advance reservation through the Front Desk.
Rooms all have balconies with either a king-size bed with room for a crib, or two doubles; a simple bathroom with shower stall; A/C and ceiling fans, and nice touches like an ironing setup, mini-fridge stocked with bottled water and soft drinks, cable TV and coffeemaker. Be sure to ask for a renovated room as the pillow-top mattresses and fresh white tile floors add a noticeable level of comfort.
LHVC All-Inclusive Resorts Family Vacation Packages
Perks like access to the best a la carte restaurants and WiFi areas are reserved for V.I.P. level guests, a status only available to LHVC members. But anyone looking for a moderately priced family beach vacation in mid-winter (or any time of year as this promotion is valid through end of 2012) won't go wrong. At Lifestyle Holiday Vacation Club resorts, US$82 goes a long way to guaranteeing fun.
Families can book rooms sleeping four at the rate of $82/night per adult plus $41/night per child ages 3-12 years, all-inclusive. Children under 3 travel free with parents and single parents will be pleased to know there is no minimum here; a single parent and young child will pay just $123 per night.
The resort is located about a half hour from Puerto Plata International Airport, which is served several times daily from Miami and receives non-stop flights via JetBlue and American Airlines. For more information on this family beach vacation package and the seasonal variations, please visit Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Resorts online.
Links to more information on buying into your own V.I.P. lifestyle can be found there.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.