The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real Resort

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On the east coast of the Dominican Republic, the Punta Cana corridor has become a juggernaut for FIT and group travel due to the massive all-inclusive resorts lining the 40 miles of stark white beaches. The values are unrivalled and the advance of stellar new golf courses is only fueling demand. Most are over 500 rooms, however, so clients looking for a little intimacy can sometimes feel scattered among the crowds.

Last year, The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real Resort opened. The larger Paradisus parent hotel is a relatively new 554-room beachfront property, designed in the traditional Dominican mold with a multitude of restaurants, bars, pools and nightlife options. The Reserve, meanwhile, is something we haven’t seen before. The 190-room property is a resort-within-a-resort concept that sits behind the Paradisus away from the beach. The draws here for high-end FITs and wedding groups are numerous. The most apparent are the exclusivity and residential vibe, and the cozy communal layout that affords couples and families the sense of having the place to themselves.

There’s also a restrained elegance and quiet atmosphere deviating from the typical Spanish colonial decor and pumped-up atmosphere prevalent in the region’s resorts. Someone who’s visited Punta Cana before is immediately aware there’s no merengue blasting from speakers with hyped staff leading guests through dance contests. No late night productions of “The Lion King” or 2 a.m. conga lines.

Instead, The Reserve is like a self-contained sanctuary. Guests have access to the Paradisus (not vice versa), but you might not even feel like taking advantage of the privilege. If you do, shuttles depart for the larger hotel and beach on demand, while some guests make the 10-minute walk.

luxe all-inclusive living It all begins with the luxurious suites. Starting at a voluminous 807 sq. ft., they feel like condos with a full bedroom separate from the full-size living room and full-size bathroom. Every unit has a large hot tub on the terrace, while the 1,007-sq.-ft. master suites feature a second hot tub for two off the bedroom. Go for the ground floor suites with direct pool access. Stepping outside, there’s an extra large daybed and two lounge chairs on the front lawn, and a table with chairs on the terrace. You’ll almost want to invite the neighbors over.

“These suites are the most impressive all-inclusive rooms in the Dominican Republic,” says Michel Albahari, sales and marketing director. “The feel is residential and the music and ambience is more moody than party-style, so we can be fully booked and it’s still quiet.”

The YHI Spa & Health Club is another anomaly in Punta Cana in terms of sheer size and style. The stand-alone thatch roof structure is designed like an East Indian retreat with individual spa cabins set in lotus ponds accessed over wooden walkways. There’s also a series of outdoor, varied temperature vitality pools and spa showers, and flowing water between coralina stone walkways. It’s completely set off from the rest of the resort so it truly feels like an oasis of serenity. The attached fitness space offers a host of unique classes including spinning, batuka, tae bo, kickboxing and massage lessons.

The biggest surprise is GABI Lounge. Inspired by the fashionista beach lounge craze created in Ibiza, it’s basically an outdoor club with chill, remixed VH1 tunes and neon strobes bouncing off the flowing canvas daybeds around the pool.

Adjacent is The Reserve’s signature restaurant, with long banquettes and plumpy orange and red pillows. During our visit, we dined on crispy chicken satay, Napoleon goat cheese salad and beef filets stuffed with shrimp. Then we shifted to cocktails with the good time crowd over at Paradisus, while a talented roller skating disco dancer shimmied with the ladies in the crowd. A lot of fun for all, but quite refreshing to return quietly back to The Reserve.

A 1-bedroom suite is $496 dbl from Aug. 23-Dec. 22, and spa and honeymoon packages are available.