We started our trip in fine form with British Airways in Club Class. The direct 8-hour flight is extremely appealing and has been increasing the demand for the Dominican Republic. Years ago it was known as the rough element of the Caribbean with the super cheap package holidays and charters. Now, as you are helped through the VIP fast track area in their sparkling airport to be met by a shiny black SUV, you know things have most certainly changed.
Eden Rock at Cap Cana
We were whisked the 15 minutes from the airport to Eden Rock at Cap Cana on a pristine road into a gated community. This is a private estate about the size of Manhattan, we were informed, with several top end hotels.
Eden Rock at Cap Cana is part of the Relais & Chateau group and as such I had high hopes not only for the quality of accommodation but also the food. I wasn’t disappointed.
The hotel has two distinct elements. One is the original wing with the pool suites and villas and very good for privacy and beautiful pools. The second part by the beach is a little more modern with another pool, gym and a couple of incredible restaurants. These are apartments and absolutely fantastic in terms of style and space. They are slightly more public as you look out onto the beach and pool area.
Each room comes with a golf buggy to move between the two areas, which is brilliant fun in itself. It took us about 3 minutes to get between them, depending on the speed you take the speed bumps!
The food is truly brilliant. The choice of restaurants and styles is really good within the hotel and there are other options nearby. Blue was my favourite as it combined a modern take of Asian and Peruvian food. Their 7-course tasting menu with wine and Sake pairings was just incredible.
Torguga Bay Hotel
From here we went to the Tortuga Bay Hotel in a similar area. This was very different and we all loved it. It is rare to find a boutique hotel in the area and this one is truly special. Calm, serene with butler service and a real old school charm. It is family run and it shows. Many staff members have worked there since it started. I loved the sense of space here and will be highly recommending it to clients.
Casa XVI, Santa Domingo
Then on to Santa Domingo; we stayed at the glorious Casa XVI. They have several small town houses (and are developing a couple more and a main hotel). As you wander out into the streets it has a massive sense of being real but oozes charm. It is how I have always hoped Cuba would be with people spilling out into the streets in the evening and bars getting lively with great music. Anyone who knows me will be utterly shocked to hear I was out dancing until 3am in Santa Domingo but this city is so full of life it is infectious.
Usually capitals of Caribbean Islands are best avoided in my opinion however Santa Domingo was a revelation. It made me feel so alive and happy and like it was an adventure. The history of the place is very powerful.
It is incredibly different from the manicured, slightly unreal sense of charm of Cap Cana but once you relax into it, the city has more appeal and character than any other I have visited in the Caribbean. Take your dancing shoes!