Club Med’s only American location, Club Med Sandpiper is located in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on the state’s East Coast. Sandpiper sits directly on the St. Lucie River, part of the Intercoastal Waterway and just a short trip from the Atlantic Ocean.
Sandpiper is both Club Med’s only American location, and, we were told, its most child-focused. Perhaps “child-dominated” would be a better term; the resort caters to children, possibly to the detriment of its older visitors. The resort’s main pool — at the center of Sandpiper’s village setup — is home to children all day, with organized games, contests, and shows aimed at the younger guests. Through the Mini Club Med, guests ages 4-10 receive (at no additional cost) supervised access to special games, contests, activities, and even meals. The clubmed.us website notes that teenagers (ages 11-17) staying at Club Med Sandpiper are eligible for a Juniors’ Club Med during vacations and peak weeks. Through these programs, parents can leave their children with “GO’s” (as Club Med refers to their employees), and get some free time of their own.
For adults, Club Med offers its share of activities, including rollerblading, sailing lessons, and yoga classes, along with staples such as basketball, golf, and tennis. (Club Med Sandpiper’s complete list of activities can be accessed at www.clubmed.us.) The golf “village” encompasses a putting green, practice bunker, and a 9-hole pitch and putt. The pitch and putt is free — and disappointing. The tees are in subpar condition, the greens are not owed, and the holes are too short. True golf enthusiasts will want to pony up for the 18-hole on-site course, which offers reasonable fees ($45 for 18 walking, during my last visit) and a challenge for experts and duffers alike. The resort also offers 19 tennis courts, along with lessons in a variety of fields, including not only golf and tennis, but archery, sailing, and the trapeze. With an on-site fitness center and several pools (including one that is adult-only), Club Med Sandpiper offers plenty for the physically active.
Sandpiper’s accommodations live up to Club Med’s reputation for first-class travel. The rooms are spacious and well-designed, featuring walk-in closet space, oversized couches, and private balconies. While the living units show some sign of age — several of the buildings could use a new paint job — the rooms themselves are immaculate. Riverfront rooms offer a panaromic view of the St. Lucie River and a slight break from the noise usually present in the center of the resort. Deluxe rooms are designed for families traveling with children, providing an extra bedroom, while suites make large groups feel at home.
Club Med is known for providing all-inclusive vacations, and Sandpiper, of course, follows suit. All meals, rooms, gratuities, and other expenses are included in the base price, so guests need not carry cash on the resort — only a bracelet marking them as guests (or “GM’s”, in Club Med parlance). Sandpiper offers three dining options: an all-you-can-eat buffet in the main dining room, snacks during off-hours, and a private, menu-based restaurant with a riverview that requires reservations (but is, again, included in the price). The buffet-style meals are outstanding; during my two trips to Club Med Sandpiper, I’ve been treated to Beef Wellington, caviar, snow crab legs, and a variety of outstanding meals from around the world. Each meal offers a special main course, along with a huge number of appetizers, antipasti, salads, and fresh-baked desserts. For children, old standbys such as hamburgers, pizza, and pasta are always available. For adults, Sandpiper offers a nice selection of bottled wines, along with draft beer, soda, and juice. In between hours for the main buffet, a small “snack bar” offers pizza, burgers, and the like. Club Med’s “Sandbar” is open from noon to 1 a.m. (2 a.m. on weekends), offering a decent selection of spirits and draft beer (though many high-end liquors are missing from their list). The “Sandbar” is a decent spot for an evening drink, but late at night gets rather loud; it is run more as a disco than a neighborhood bar, and dancing is encouraged, seemingly at the cost of decent conversation (and hearing loss). On Friday and Saturday nights, guests are treated to “Groucho’s Comedy Club” at the resort, free of charge, where they can see nationally touring stand-up comedians perform (including yours truly).
Traveling to Port St. Lucie can be done by car — it is located about an hour north of West Palm Beach, two hours north of Miami, and two hours south of Orlando. Club Med does offer an airport shuttle (I believe) — no mention of it was found on the website, but the resort itself may offer more information. Flying into West Palm Beach would be a traveler’s best option. Sandpiper’s website often offers special deals, and Sandpiper seems to be less expensive than its Club Med companions; a five-day, four-night stay in June for a couple checks in at $1,600 (adding two teenage children brings the total to $2,670; younger children are priced cheaper. Check the website for your specific group details.) While Club Med is pricey, it certainly offers a first-class, high-end vacation experience.
Club Med Sandpiper does have a few drawbacks, however. While Club Med advertises itself as “all-inclusive”, a number of its activities in fact require extra expense, such as the 18-hole golf course, jetski rental, off-site water skiing, and day trips along the St. Lucie River or to other Florida attractions (including Disney World and Sea World). For a longer trip (five days and up), the relatively small resort can become downright claustrophobic. During my first trip, my fellow comedian (and his five-year-old son) both remarked by the third day that they were tired of eating in the same place, no matter how good the food was. Unless you are an avid golf or tennis player, it’s likely that a five- or seven-day stay may get a bit tiresome by the end of the vacation, since there are a relatively limited amount of activity options.
Most importantly, Club Med Sandpiper is a resort for children and their parents. Children are everywhere in the resort, and while Club Med Sandpiper offers adults-only pools and child-free sections in the dining hall, you cannot avoid the sheer number of the children. While getting food from the extravagant buffet, you will need to be careful to avoid tripping over a loose toddler running toward the French fries. If you are intending Club Med Sandpiper to be a romantic getaway, it’s best to aim for a mid-week excursion during the school year. And, after 7 p.m., the resort essentially closes down; a show or a movie is often available, but for those who enjoy the nightlife there is nothing, save for the resort’s “Sandbar”. With transportation, you can obviously leave the resort; but it is a solid fifteen-minute drive to Port St. Lucie (the resort is set back amid golf courses and housing developments along the water) and you must worry about designated drivers and the additional expense.
In short, Club Med Sandpiper is a first-rate destination for a family vacation. The staff is exceptional, particularly with children, and manages to strike an excellent balance between family time and alone time — for both children and their parents. But childless couples — and especially singles — might want to consider other alternatives when booking their vacation.