Believe it or not, the Summer of 2017 is halfway over. Not unlike most other summer days, I woke up yesterday with a longing to be at the beach, but not just any beach… I’m talking about soft, white sands, clear waters, and the adventure-of-a-lifetime kind of beach.

My initial dilemma was in finding a place where I could also zip-line through the forests, dive into a beachfront pool, and spend the day indulging in flavor-bursting cuisine — because those are all requirements, as well. Surely, there are tons of exotic destinations that fit that description, but who has time to travel across the world? I sure don’t. And during my initial vacation hunt, I learned a useful fact that everyone in the United States should know: traveling out of the country can be cheaper and quicker than traveling within.

After comparing travel times and prices, I narrowed my search down to two locations, which are quintessential examples of the dream vacation: Cancún, Mexico and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

It may be summer, but I don’t have time to spare being in a plane longer than necessary. These destinations are so close, but I know I’ll feel so very far away (in the best kind of way). From the east coast, a flight to DR is cheaper than a flight to California and shorter than a flight to Florida. From the west coast, a flight to Mexico is cheaper than a flight to Hawaii.

It seems unfair that I’m doing all the research while you’ll be reaping all the benefits, but I’ll let you in on another secret: where I’ll be staying. Whether it’s the DR or Mexico, I’ll be at Club Med.

No matter how many hours you spend browsing the reviews on TripAdvisor, you will not find a bigger bang for your buck. It satisfies the criteria for luxury on a brag-worthy level and unparalleled comfort with its all-inclusive package. All-inclusive — as in an endlessly flowing open bar, a variety of water sports, sports lessons, unlimited pool lounging, and a mouthwatering international buffet. One traveler’s review on TripAdvisor described his experience with the Club Med dining as “a constant battle to not overindulge.” That sounds like a battle I’d be happy to lose.

Club Med Cancún Yucatán, set at the tip of the Riviera Maya.

I began making a list of pros and cons to decide where I wanted to go and it ended up being a list of pros and pros for each location. How do you compare paradise and heaven? There are so many things that have made each Club Med resort stand out above all the others, so I’ll outline just a few personal favorites from each.

Club Med Cancún Yucatán is located along the second largest coral reef in the world. No need to fly 24+ hours to Australia for the Great Barrier Reef, when there’s one 5 hours away. And have you heard of Chichen Itza, the UNESCO World Heritage Site? You can also see this stunning complex of Mayan ruins on the island of Tulum, where Club Med will take you by boat — swimming with whale sharks obviously included. How many people do you know who can boast of doing that?

As much as we all love ruins, I personally look for resorts that sparkle as if they had just opened. It just so happens that Club Med Cancún Yucatán has just finished its recent renovations to its pools, lounges, and restaurants, with more to come. Imagine being one of the first to dip your toes into a private infinity pool or indulge in the amenities of the Jade lounge, the 5 Trident Luxury Space. Taco-Arte — an exclusive all-day dining experience featuring a restaurant with locally inspired dishes, a bar lounge, and a wine cellar —also opened this July. An opportunity like this to be first does not come often. Call it what you will, but I call it fate.

The resort also has a specialty restaurant, La Estancia, which offers à la carte gourmet Argentinian dining with an array of authentic char-grilled meats and wines. Starting October 2017, guests can dine on the brand new extended oceanfront terrace — because what’s better than good food and good drink by the beach? You can even burn off some of those calories in the water the next day, with activities like waterskiing and wakeboarding school for guests from 18 years old, and on-demand scuba diving in the aforementioned coral reef.

Club Med Punta Cana’s adult-exclusive Zen Oasis.

Moving onwards, the Club Med Punta Cana is listed as one of the Best Family Hotels, according to Travel & Leisure Magazine. However, it also offers the Zen Oasis, a “secluded haven” for guests of 18 years and up. This ensures that no matter how many children are checked in, I don’t have to interact with any. In addition, this location has day care for children ranging from 4 months all the way up to 17 years old, which keeps kids entertained with sports and cooking lessons, art sessions, and other activities. If my parents had considered Club Med back in the day, no doubt they would have signed me up for the Children’s Club and headed straight to the L’Occitane Spa and child-free lagoon pool.

Also of note is the fun fact that the waterfront Indigo Beach Lounge becomes a nightclub in the evenings. I can’t emphasize how exciting it is for me that I won’t have to struggle with directions into the main city in the dark, worry about getting scammed by taxis, or stress about my late-night food options because everything I need will be right there in the resort.

 

While the Cancún location offers more cultural excursions à la carte, the Punta Cana location excels in sports and active experiences, such as surfing and golf school on demand. It has also taken trapeze school, which is offered in both, to a whole new level by introducing CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil, an interactive playground experience featuring acrobatic bungee, aerial skills, flying trapeze, and juggling lessons. Both locations offer stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, kayaking, golf, scuba diving, and deep sea fishing. There is clearly too much I want to do and not nearly enough vacation days.

That being said, I have concluded that I have no option but to visit both locations. To complete my previous thought: when it is a choice between paradise and heaven… you choose both, especially when they’re this nearby.

When you go, remember to carry out the rite of passage of downloading the Club Med Resort App. This should be a proud reminder on your phone that the resort you’re going to has so many activities that it has an app with schedules and even updates. This is about to be the most easily navigated vacation of your life. Tennis lesson in the morning, wakeboarding in the afternoon, and trapeze lessons in the evening? We’ll all be coming back to America with skills we didn’t leave with.

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