- Dominican Republic,
- La Romana,
- Puerto Plata,
- Punta Cana,
- Santo Domingo
celebrating dirty thirty
Casa Colonial, Dominican Republic
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Tel: 809 320 3232
As the hyperdiscerning crowd that frequents this place already knows, Casa Colonial has raised the bar for luxury lodgings on the island. (Donatella Versace has stayed here—need we say more?) The hotel's 50 suites occupy two white Mediterranean-style villas with Spanish tile roofs (one with a palatial sun deck, an infinity pool, and Jacuzzis). The interiors are grand but quietly so, with gleaming marble floors and columns, high arched doorways, and rich fabrics in creamy colors. The expansive suites have private balconies, beds with Frette linens and upholstered headboards (some have gauzy canopies, too), potted orchids, and a mix of woven rattan and wooden furnishings. All have flat-screen TVs and high-speed Internet, and the spacious bathrooms feature double basins, walk-in showers, and enormous Roman-style tubs. The hotel's common spaces are just as opulent and include a superb Caribbean/Asian fusion restaurant, Lucia (one of the island's best), and the Bagua Spa, where the treatments use ingredients like honey, royal jelly, and crushed amber gemstones. The only part of the property that's not particularly impressive is the small beach; although it's golden and dotted with white chaises, it's bordered on both sides by crowds from neighboring all-inclusive resorts. Many guests forgo it altogether and opt for the rooftop infinity pool instead.
Tortuga Bay, Puntacana Resort & Club, Dominican Republic
Tel: 888 442 2262 (toll-free), Tel: 809 959 2262
Fifteen gorgeous, cheery yellow villas—decorated by none other than D.R. native son Oscar de la Renta—are spread along the beachfront of this posh gated community. De la Renta, Julio Iglesias, and Mikhail Baryshnikov are among the somebodies who own homes here, and when you're ushered through the Punta Cana airport to a waiting car, whisked to your villa, and handed the keys to your own golf cart, you'll start to feel like a big deal, too. Together, the villas comprise 30 one- to four-bedroom suites, each decorated in fresh, Caribbean-meets-Hamptons style, with cream upholstery, dark wood furniture, coralline stone baths, and French doors that open to a private patio or balcony. Although the friendly staff tries hard, the service isn't always as polished as you'd expect when paying upward of $800 per night in high season. But if there's anything you need, you can use your hotel-provided mobile phone to ring up your villa manager. The poolside Bamboo restaurant and bar is Tortuga Bay's congenial hub, but you'll also have access to the surrounding parent property, Puntacana Resort & Club (easily reached by golf cart). Though a little more gimmicky-feeling, Puntacana nevertheless has a lot to offer: two golf courses (one designed by Pete Dye, the other by Tom Fazio), six clay tennis courts, a Six Senses spa, water sports facilities, and several restaurants (including the beachfront La Yola). The resort also has its own 600-acre forest preserve, where you can bathe in spring-fed pools and take guided nature walks.
Hostal Nicolás de Ovando Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Tel: 800 763 4835 (toll-free), Tel: 809 685 9955
Located on one of Santo Domingo's oldest streets, this hotel's stately, fortress-like main building is an important piece of the island's history. Built in 1502, it was the home of Nicolás de Ovando, the Spanish explorer who made landfall here on Hispaniola (the island that encompasses the DR and Haiti) and subsequently became its first governor. The original building has been expanded and modernized, but it still has a gracious elegance. The 104 rooms, with their soaring wood-beamed ceilings, Spanish terra-cotta floors, and mahogany poster beds, seem to call for candlelight rather than electricity. Happily, though, this place isn't a museum, and has all the modern conveniences a 21st-century bigwig could want—including Wi-Fi, dry-cleaning service, marble showers (in slightly too small bathrooms), and luxury bedding. Expect to see D.R.'s movers and shakers congregating in the excellent on-site restaurant, La Residence; around the pool; and in the clubby, wood-paneled Cibao Bar.
Sivory, Dominican Republic
Tel: 809 552 0500
Opened in winter 2005, this resort prides itself on being ex clusive rather than all-inclusive. The emphasis here is on the finer things: pick-up from Punta Cana's airport via private helicopter, an 8,000-bottle wine cellar, two of the island's finest restaurants, and spa packages for couples that might tempt you to leave the kids at home. The 55 suites here are housed in 12 villas, all centered around a huge swimming pool on a breezy stretch of beach. They range in size from Junior (650 square feet) to the almost obscenely spacious Grand Suite (2,250 square feet). All have stone-tiled floors, Indonesian-inspired teak canopy beds, woven rattan couches and tables, and plasma-screen TVs with cable and satellite (so you won't have to miss Top Chef—this is paradise, after all). Some suites have double showers; others have Jacuzzi tubs built for two (and the bottles of Etro bath products are big enough to share with your, uh, roommate).
Bahía Las Ballenas
Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic
Tel: 800 877 3643 (toll-free), Tel: 305 856 5405
Comparing this all-inclusive resort with its newer, more stylish competitors might lead you to the initial conclusion that it needs a face-lift. The sprawling collection of stucco Med-style buildings can inspire Brady Bunch flashbacks, and the outdated decor inside the 280 rooms and suites—mahogany wood furniture, watercolor-patterned fabrics, and lamps that resemble Grandma's—isn't much better. Still, there are real reasons why this old-school property has a following among celebs like Bill Clinton and hometown hero Sammy Sosa. First, there are the property's newer and much swankier Excel villas—150 private, waterfront houses that come with all-day butler and maid service and your own touring cart for getting around the property. The expansive grounds are the other draw: Between the three Pete Dye–designed golf courses, stables full of horses for pleasure rides and polo games, bicycles, tennis courts, shooting excursions, water sports, and spa treatments, the property can feel like a summer camp for adults. There's a boatload of kids' programs, too, including Kidz 'n Casa, a toddler-friendly option that keeps the little ones busy with arts and crafts, playground games, music, and puppet shows. Of the resort's eight restaurants, La Piazzetta has the most peaceful, romantic ambience—which you'll want after your day of running around. Or try the latest addition, a beachy outpost of New York City's Le Cirque.
Agua Resort & Spa, Dominican Republic
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Tel: 809 468 0000