Finding Paradise at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana

Late afternoon, I am gently floating at the edge of the perfect infinity pool, overlooking the beautiful beach of Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. All I can hear are the gentle waves of the ocean, some birds screeching and the distant chill out music. The peace and calm is incredible. Until, all of a sudden, a dark, saddled horse flies along the water’s edge. Shortly after, a rider is coming in sight, trying to catch the escaped stallion. A fleeting glimpse of excitement before everything becomes still again. But wait, there sprints the resort’s heavy set security guard towards the resort grounds. What is going on, I wonder and then I see. The dark stallion has taken a drastic turn and instead of continuing to run along the beach, decided to escape through the middle of Zoetry’s beautifully manicured grounds.

zoetry agua, pool, punta cana, honeymoon, ocean, aavexplorationsThis is the most excitement and action I got to experience during my time at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. But then again, the people that stay here are looking for anything but excitement and action. It is an oasis of tranquility and relaxation, and it is beautifully done. Guests stay here because they want to escape the hectic world, take a holistic approach, both via organic food as well as spa indulgences.

The resort grounds are beautifully lush with swaying palmtrees and many flower bushes. Three story palapa buildings containing luxuriously spacious suites, sprawl out along meandering pools. Zoetry Agua reminds me of Tahiti. But wait, we are in the Dominican Republic, not far from all the mega resorts that call Punta Cana their home.

zoetry, agua, punta cana, aavexplorations, allinclusive, palapazoetry agua, zoetry, punta cana, swim up, all-inclusive, aavtravelEvery suite at Zoetry Agua has a wonderful outdoor area and people here like to enjoy the privacy of their rooms. Who can blame them though, they are truly gorgeous. Some are laying out reading books. Some are engaged into a loveable embrace chatting away. Some are here with friends, gathering in one of the suites’ swim-up pools.
zoetry agua, all-inclusive, penthouse suite, aavtravelzoetry agua, punta cana, beachfront suite, plunge pool, aavtravelThe world seems perfect and there is nothing to worry about. Guests at Zoetry Agua keep to themselves but are friendly when engaged. The suites are great, spacious, every comfort provided. I really enjoyed the subtle, Balinese style décor, the Bulgari amenities as well as the awesome steam wand provided. I also liked that there was a decent hair dryer. My daughters and I have an ongoing discussion about how often toilet paper is of bad quality at hotels. Well, I am glad to report that Zoetry has excellent toilet paper.
zoetry agua, punta cana, penthouse suite, dominican republic, aavtravelDespite all the beauty, arriving on a Sunday was not ideal. Much of the resort staff is off and service is very slow. During my 4 hours along the beach and pool area, I was not once offered a drink. I ran into some guests that had been there for a while and they told me that this had been the first day it happened. And they were right, come Monday beach waiter service was readily available. There was way more staff visible around the property, eagerly cleaning and taking care of all guests’ needs. Always a smile, always a friendly hola. A truly welcoming atmosphere.
zoetry agua, punta cana, beach, oceanfront, all-inclusive, aavtravelMany of the staff do not speak enough English and oftentimes have trouble answering even the most basic questions. Personally, it is something I like, as it makes you engage more with the local culture, learn some words in a different language, and use your hands and feet to communicate. It is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding.
zoetry agua, piragua restaurant, punta canaThat evening I went to dinner at Piragua. The menu looked exciting and I opted for a tuna sashimi, followed by a pumpkin cream soup. Main course was chicken on a lemongrass sauce with couscous. The sashimi was good, very thinly sliced, almost like a carpaccio. It had slightly too much soy sauce. The pumpkin cream could have been excellent, but unfortunately was lukewarm. The chicken skewers were served in a Teriyaki sauce which, since it was supposed to be lemongrass, I didn’t expect. The food tasted good with the exception of one skewer that was undercooked. The passion fruit chocolate mousse combo was excellent but lacking in presentation. All in all I would rate my food experience as good, not excellent, but still better than many other all-inclusive resorts. Breakfast was a similar experience. Some ingredients weren’t in the omelet I ordered which still tasted fine. The bacon was overcooked, the sausages good but cold. Again, I didn’t eat badly but since this is a luxury all-inclusive resort, I expected more.
zoetry agua, breakfast, egss, all-inclusive, aavtravelAll around, I had a wonderful stay at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana and would go back in a heartbeat. The property is so beautiful, the pool area absolutely stunning and the beach peaceful, secluded and well maintained. The relaxing atmosphere of the resort is hard to come by at an all-inclusive and it is wonderful not having to worry about being able to snag a palapa, or find a great chair by the pool. With only 96 rooms it feels like a privilege to stay here. I also loved that wifi was easily available and reliable throughout the property.

zoetry agua, punta cana, all-inclusive, aavtravelstefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is a Honeymoon & Destination Weddings Specialist. She is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at



Turtle Bay Resort — O’ahu North Shore, Hawaii

Five miles of sandy beaches, natural authentic beauty, and completely remote, Turtle Bay Resort is the only hotel and resort located on the North Shore. Situated an hour north of the bustling cities of Honolulu with its busy Waikiki beachfront, you’ll get to experience what it feels like to escape from the world and immerse yourself in the laid back island lifestyle.

Imagine sitting on a beach chair, enjoying the sun and a fresh breeze, sipping a Kona Big Wave, overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean whilesurfers are trying to catch a wave. This is one of the many experiences you can have at Turtle Bay. Talk to the staff and you will quickly understand the magic of the place. Many have left their high-paying careers in big cities to come here to find the perfect work/life balance.


Turtle Bay

Aloha! Is likely the first greeting you will hear arriving on O’ahu. Hawaiian’s are proud of their native language and they love it when visitors know a little bit about it. The most challenging part for English speaking people is the pronunciation. This Hawaii language guide can help with it.
Aloha and mahalo are very important. Whether you’re passing a local on the street and say aloha, or paying for dinner and thank your waiter by saying mahalo, having those two words in your vocabulary will go a long way.

Here are a few other common Hawaiian words to help you out:

  • Pehea ‘oe — How are you?
  • Maika’i no au — I am fine
  • ‘Ono — Delicious or tasty
  • Malihini — Newcomer or visitor
  • KOkua — Help or need of assistance
  • Kala mai ai’u — Excuse me
  • Aloha au ia ‘oe — I love you

Experience Turtle Bay Resort

Under new management since 2010, millions have been invested into upgrading this unique property.Today you can expect sleek, sophisticated rooms and an overall modern, luxurious, casual surfer vibe. The resort has 452 up-scale, oceanfront accommodations. Choose from either beachfront cottages and villas or pick a guest room or suite–majority of the rooms at Turtle Bay have a stunning ocean views as well. What’s really spectacular is going to sleep to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore–and it’s not from a sound machine that’s on repeat, you’re really listening to the soothing sounds on your front door.

Oahu Hawaii Turtle Bay aavtravel travel Not only do you get five miles of pure beachfront beauty to walk along, the resort also has endless activities that you can keep yourself busy with, such as: horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking and tennis. You can even go to surf school and learn how to catch a wave. Water sports include: snorkeling, paddle boarding, kite surfing, kayaking and fishing. There’s also a 36-hole championship golf course designed by pro golfers George Fazio and Arnold Palmer near by. You can also learn some of the traditional Hawaiian culture by trying hula and ukulele lessons and lei making.

The Nalu Kinetic Spa will give you a multi-sensory experience: hearing waves crashing on the shore, beautiful views of the swells, and the new Wave Therapy will gently rock you back and forth as if you were floating in the ocean. It’s a great way to experience the ultimate relaxation. The spa was also named one of the nation’s top 10 Organic Spa’s in 2013–and there’s good reason for it! There are various kinds of treatments that you can choose from, whether you want a private seaside massage, body wraps, reflexology, or couples massages, you’ll be guaranteed to find something you’ll love and the treatments are reasonably priced.

Oahu Hawaii aavtravel travel Have you ever dreamed of having a private beach wedding? At Turtle Bay, you’ll be guaranteed to get just that. Ranked in the top 10 of Hawaii’s best honeymoon destinations, tying the knot beachside or at the oceanfront chapel will feel like a dream come true; it’s the perfect romantic couples escape. After ‘I Do:’ Imagine yourself, just recently pronounced man and wife. You get ready for a private dinner on your lanai with your own personal butler as you watch the sunset. Afterwards, you walk hand in hand down the beach, feeling the soft sand between your toes and listening to the soothing sounds of the waves coming on shore. You come back to your cottage and it’s decorated with rose petals leading to your own personal exotic spa….where you relax and toast to your new life together as a married couple.

Oahu Hawaii Turtle Bay aavtravel travel Haleiwa
Just a short drive from Turtle Bay Resort, Haleiwa (pronounced hah-lay-EE-wah) is a small community and is also known as the surfing capital of the world. Though this town may be little, it definitely brings its A game! Don’t expect to find Waikiki here, expect a laid back surfer town instead. There’s no shortage of shopping in downtown Haleiwa, whether you’re looking for high-end shops or affordable authentic Hawaiian-made gifts to bring back home, you’ll be sure to find something! Surf shops, art galleries featuring local artists, and specialty shops are also located downtown. If you are into photography and want to take home a authentic North Shore souvenir stop by Clark Little’s gallery. His images are amazing!

Oahu Hawaii aavtravel travel Turtle Bay’s Webcam is a great place to catch a glimpse of the waves (heads up: the link first runs an ad before connecting with the webcam).

Or, if you like videos, check out this clip about a typical day at Turtle Bay Resort:

Have you ever stayed at Turtle Bay or visited the North Shore? Share your experiences with us, leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you! Dreamed of planning a vacation to O’ahu and its magical North Shore? We can help! E-mail us at or visit our website at        

Review — Excellence Playa Mujeres Resort, Mexico

Unlike many other resorts in Cancun and the Riviera Maya, Excellence Playa Mujeres is located North of Cancun in an area called Playa Mujeres Resort. This unique, 930 hectare piece of land is nestled between the Caribbean Ocean on the east and the Chacmochuc Lagoon  on the west. Ancient history, undisturbed tropical plants were waiting to be revealed, including a 1,200-year-old Mayan Temple which was studied, restored and opened to guests for tours.

The drive along the small coastal road will keep you guessing what to expect until you pass through the gates and finally pull up in front of Excellence Playa Mujeres’ impressive lobby. The welcome at Excellence Playa Mujeres was one of the best we’ve ever received. It was heart-felt, welcoming and despite it being our first time, made us feel like coming home.

A 35 minute drive from Cancun’s International Airport will take you to this all-inclusive resort, catering to adults 18 and over, looking for romance or wishing to escape on a relaxing getaway. Excellence opens its arms and makes you feel special.

Excellence Playa Mujeres Cancun aavtravelOne of Excellence’s key strengths is the beautiful, state-of-the art spa. One of the reasons why this resort isn’t just great for people in love but also friends looking for a rejuvenation getaway. A huge hydro-therapy awaits, several massage packages, everything you could possibly want to relax and get pampered. Miilé Excellence Resort Spa is the ultimate retreat for your mind, body and soul where relaxation is natural.

Excellence Playa Mujeres Spa

Excellence Gourmet
Excellence Playa Mujeres offers nine wonderful and unique restaurants. The themed locales are authentically decorated and create a world of their own. Whether you wish to dine in a traditional Mexican Hacienda style restaurant, eat at the hip sushi bar, or are looking for an Indian dinner, gourmet dishes await. Best of all, Excellence makes it easy, no dinner reservations required. Day or night, there are 11 bars that will quench your thirst. Did anyone say signature cocktails? Never forget to ask for one.

Adult-only all-inclusive fun
There are so many options included in your stay that you’ll never be bored. Walk the two mile white sandy beaches, or swim in one of the seven pools located on resort. Feel like just laying back and relaxing? Close your eyes and let yourself truly relax in an outdoor jacuzzis or in an in-pool whirlpools. As a guest, you’ll have access to the fitness center, jogging and bicycle trail and the use of non-motorized water sports, such as: Hobbie Cats, windsurfing boards, sea kayaks, snorkel gear and paddle boards. There’s also table tennis and billiards, darts, board games, archery and rifle shooting available. And don’t forget about access to the Main Theatre for a night of entertainment and fun!

Excellence Mexico aavtravel travel

Excellence Playa Mujeres is also located within walking distance of the marina and the Playa Mujeres Golf Club that was designed by golf pro Greg Norman. The 18 hole, par 72 course is challenging and features beautiful views that you can’t get back home. Imagine yourself teeing off on one of the lagoon and ocean-front holes.

Romancing in style
Excellence is the perfect place for a romantic escape. Whether you just want to enjoy each other, tie the knot, or celebrate your marriage, Excellence will welcome you with open arms and has a package that meets your need. Celebrate your love with a romantic night on the beach having a private sunset dinner. Or dining in-room on your rooftop terrace. Looking for a romantic way to propose? Contact us, we have some ideas (wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise!).

Excellence Playa Mujeres is a dream come true to those who stay. From the gorgeous resort, to the multiple dining areas, endless activities and five-star accommodations, your stay will feel luxurious. Enjoy the stress-free lifestyle the Caribbean has to offer.

Have you stayed at Excellence Playa Mujeres? Please share your experience in the comment section!

For more info and to contact us visit


Costa Rica: From San Jose to El Silencio

This is the first part of a series of blog posts covering my trip to Costa Rica, early August 2011. This was my second trip to Costa Rica within a year, visiting additional areas and properties.

After the first night spent in San Jose we left early next day to visit the Poas Volcano. The area around the volcano is famous for excellent strawberries (best I’ve ever had) and string cheese. It has a very alpine feel to it – intensely green meadows and incredibly fresh air. Once at the Poas Volcano park we had to walk up the hill to see the crater of this active stratovolcano. It is really exciting to get this close to an active, water filled crater and the information center is very informative. The walk up the hill takes about 10 minutes and is very easy, despite the high altitude.

Poas Volcano Costa Rica

From Poas Volcano we traveled around more volcanic mountain ranges to get to a unique lodge called “El Silencio”. It is nestled in the middle of mountainous rainforest and comprises 16 luxury cabins with Egyptian Cotton sheets, gas fireplaces and wonderful outside hot tubs. Each cabin has a patio area with rocking chairs boasting views of the mountain range and rainforest.

El Silencio is a retreat in every sense of the word and the name is very suitable. It is a place in tune with nature – a place to reconnect and appreciate. There is no entertainment and a typical day consists of hiking, relaxing on the terrace, reading a book, and enjoying organic meals prepared from the goods harvested from El Silencio’s gardens and green house.

There are no tvs in the cabins and wifi is only available in the bar and entertainment room in the main building. Since the hotel is so secluded you have to book the lodge including meal plans. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are selected from a seasonal a la carte menu. There is a fridge with snacks and juices in the cabin which are also included in the cost.

El Silencio Lodge & Spa

El Silencio also has a wonderful spa! The conical treatment room is probably one of the most spectacular massage areas I have ever seen. It offers an absolutely magnificient atmosphere, especially at night, when you can see the moonlight shine through.

One morning we visited El Silencio’s gardens, greenhouse, fish pond, chicken den, and went on a hike. The walk took us to 3 spectacular waterfalls. We also spent half a day zip lining about an hour away from El Silencio. Some people in our group chose to take a cultural tour to Bajas del Toro instead. They learnt to make tortillas in a locals home and planted coffee plants in a back yard.

El Silencio hiking trail with waterfall

From a vacation concierge standpoint I would recommend this area to anyone who loves seclusion, rainforests, and supports eco-friendly efforts. You will enjoy this area if you like to be close to nature, away from it all, secluded in the silence (and noises) of the rainforest. I do definitely recommend contacting a specialist to make your travel plans since it is an out of the way destination and there are ways to optimize your stay.

Posted by: Stefanie Pichonnat can be reached at 812-917-2149 or