It’s easy like Sunday morning at the just-opened Riu Republica on the beach called Playa Arena Gorda in Punta Cana. East of the gigantic Hard Rock Hotel, the all-inclusive is one of eight Riu Resorts in the Dominican Republic — six in Punta Cana and two in Puerto Plata. With an investment of US $140 million, the sunny playground is also the first adults-only in the Riu ‘Classic’ category joining the family-friendly Riu Naiboa and Riu Bambu.

The exclusive Canadian partner of Riu Resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico, Sunwing‘s Signature Vacations, has added packages to the newest resort from Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto.

“This is the sixth year of our partnership with Sunwing Vacations,” said Armin Kaestner, VP Sales, Caribbean and Mexico. “Canadians book these packages not only to escape the cold winters and enjoy a summer holiday by the beach, but also because of the many flights options from Quebec and Ontario.”

With more than 1,000 rooms, four restaurants, three pools and a spa, the resort is one-stop-shopping for an easy breezy vacation. “Twenty per cent of our guests are here on a Sunwing package and that number goes up to 30 per cent in high season,” added Kaestner.

Popular with couples, newlyweds and honeymooners, the resort hits the bullseye for unlimited food, drink and fun in the sun. “We are the new kid on the beach and very proud of the rave reviews we’re getting from our loyal Riu guests,” said Till Koehler, general manager.

One of the largest travel businesses in North America, Canadian-based Sunwing Travel Group is comprised of Sunwing Vacations, Sunwing Airlines, Signature Vacations, SellOffVacations.com, Luxe Destination Weddings and Blue Diamond Resorts.

Family ties

Founded in Mallorca, Spain by the Riu family in 1953, what was a small holiday venture is now an international chain of 100 resorts and hotels in 18 countries including Mexico, Jamaica and Dominican Republic.

“Owned by the family’s third generation and welcoming 4 million guests yearly, 70 per cent of the resorts are all-inclusive and on the beach.

Opening new properties at a breakneck speed, 647-room Riu Plaza New York Times Square made a grand entrance in March and a Jamaica-themed Riu Reggae will debut in Montego Bay in November. In 2018, two private islands in the Maldives will be transformed into twin luxe hotels and in Dubai; 750-room resort will be the country’s first 24-hour all-inclusive.

Beds for heads

A four-storey new-build with more than one thousand rooms (1,007 to be exact), rooms are offered in four categories ranging from a Garden View to the two-bedroom suite that easily sleeps six. Sleek lines with nothing too fancy, the rooms are the same — apart from the views. Wi-Fi is fast (and free), balcony doors have screens (big plus in the Caribbean), the mini-bar is restocked daily and resort staff is friendly — but bring a Spanish dictionary or learn a few phrases before arrival.

Eat! Drink! Play! Repeat!

The epicenter of eating, La Altagracia, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Surprisingly varied for a buffet, choices please calorie-counters and for those ditching the diet; roasted pig, juicy ribs and Spanish paella fit the bill. Plenty of outside tables catch the evening breeze while air conditioning cools the tables inside. For dessert, donuts dripping with chocolate and one-bite cheesecake squares are worth the splurge.

Themed restaurants are fun to try, like Kaori for Asian-inspired sushi and noodles and Tagliatella for pastas, pizzas and antipastos. Quisqueya is poolside dining a la carte for steak and salmon. Adjacent to the big buffet you can snag a salad or two while the chefs are expertly grilling your sirloin.

There is plenty of sipping at five bars, including the Sports Bar open 24 hours a day — which works well with early morning departures back to the airport. Bartenders are experts at shaking and stirring a spicy Bloody Mary and the Doctor Funk blended with the local Ron Dorado rum, coconut cream, amaretto liqueur and orange juice rendering it breakfast-ready.

Swim-up bars are packed with party people while the lobby bar is relaxing for a glass of wine and a handful of Spanish green olives. Roaming bartenders top-off cups with shots of rum while a seat at the bar is the perfect perch for a frosty beer or afternoon cocktail (or both). And when the sun sets, the open-air nightclub, next to the lobby bar, heats up with boogie bands and salsa beats.

For more information visit www.riu.com and www.signaturevacations.com

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