Life

More Canadians going south in the summer

Robin Robinson.

By Robin Robinson, Toronto Sun

The Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic, has a beautiful beach setting with lighthouse bar. PHOTO COURTESY IBEROSTAR

The Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic, has a beautiful beach setting with lighthouse bar. PHOTO COURTESY IBEROSTAR

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Travelling south in the winter is a great Canadian tradition, but in recent years more of us are heading there in the summer, too.

Perhaps it's the wonky weather we've experienced in the past few summers: Chilly where it's usually warm and hot where it's usually cool. And despite heat waves in some areas, summer has gotten off to a very slow start in others -- or warm spells have been fleeting.

Bottom line: It could be 30C today and 21C tomorrow. And while 21 is comfortable weather for a workday or dinner on a patio, it doesn't quite cut it for a beach holiday.

So I recently decided to give the Caribbean a summer spin and discovered I was far from alone.

There were a few empty seats on the WestJet flight from Toronto to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, but not as many as one might expect. Most of the folks aboard were heading to all inclusive resorts.

My seat-mates, a chatty couple from Clarenville, Nfld., told me it was 6 C when they left home -- at the beginning of July! It has since warmed up there -- to a balmy 17 C.

Several families were heading out for a week of sun and sand with the kids.

My time was split between two Iberostar properties.

I expected the resorts to be half-full at best, but they were close to capacity. Later, I learned that summer occupancy can be almost as high as winter with many guests coming from Spain, where Iberostar is a familiar brand, Northern Europe and South America, where the seasons are the reverse of ours.

One Toronto mom told me that when food, drinks and recreational activities are factored in, a week at the lovely all inclusive Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus in Bayahibe was comparable to renting a beachfront cottage at home. And no one had to make meals or do dishes! Plus, the family resort has a very good kids club, also included, with activities for different ages.

Hacienda Dominicus has 504 rooms grouped in seven buildings, each built around a central courtyard. And despite being 94% full, its beautiful beach with seaside lighthouse-bar, multiple pools and expansive lushly landscaped grounds never felt crowded.

CELEBRATING

A group of three related couples I chatted with were celebrating special birthdays with a week together at the sophisticated adults-only Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro, a lux Punta Cana property.

Grand Bavaro has 272 suites, including a dozen grand suites at the water's edge and 19 swimout suites with direct access to the pool. This hotel is part of a larger complex of several Iberostar resorts, which includes an 18-hole championship golf course.

Anyone who has visited Spain -- where the family owned Iberostar is based -- knows how seriously food is regarded in that country. Gastronomic traditions -- Spanish and otherwise -- are showcased at the resorts, which both have several specialty restaurants.

Fine Spanish cuisine is front and centre this year during the Iberostarchef on Tour program, which sees the country's top chefs whip up gourmet dinners at some resorts.

Between them, the 16 participating chefs hold 20 Michelin stars, and there is an extra fee for the dinners, which include a tasting menu and wine pairing.

The next two dinners take place at Iberostar resorts in Spain, then the series returns to the Caribbean for its grand finale -- an extravaganza by six female chefs at Grand Bavaro Oct. 16, followed by dinners at Iberostar resorts in Cuba (Oct. 20) and Mexico, where the tour wraps up Oct. 24.

-- For resort information, see iberostar.com. For details of the Iberostarchef on Tour series, see iberostarchefontour.com/en.


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