You don’t have to be royalty to feel like a king or queen in the Dominican Republic’s most popular destination. But Punta Cana is more than a wealth of all-inclusive resorts on the beaches of the Caribbean. It’s extravagance in all its glory.
TEXT: Paola Real @sandrapaolareal
In 1969, a group of investors from the United States bought a piece of impenetrable jungle in the Dominican Republic, only accessible by sea or air. This pristine area would eventually become Punta Cana, the Caribbean summertime destination par excellence. It’s one of the most vibrant spots on the planet, with its authentic locales, exceptional hotels and a variety of secret getaways designed for the most select clientele.
Just take a look at the impressive list of celebrities smitten with Punta Cana’s beaches and heavenly hotels. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Venezuelan-American designer Carolina Herrera, English editor-in-chief of American Vogue Anna Wintour, Spanish singer Julio Iglesias and his son Enrique Iglesias, whose hit “Bailando” is in constant rotation in the country’s nightclubs. And of course, the master Oscar de la Renta, who passed away last year, owned a prized seaside mansion in Los Corals, in the exclusive residential development Puntacana Resort & Club, where the international jet set spends their vacations in all the splendor of a Caribbean Saint-Tropez.
Tortuga Bay, the only five-diamond hotel on the island.
It’s three in the afternoon, and I land at the picturesque Punta Cana International Airport, a kind of giant hut with a palm frond roof, yet famous as the airport with the greatest percentage of growth in passenger traffic in Latin America. This is the port of entry to exclusive resorts, mansions with a view of the Caribbean Sea, verdant golf courses and world-class restaurants catering to the most demanding palates. During the walk to customs and immigration, I can’t help but overhear the conversation of the couple in front of me. They’ve come to renew their vows after ten years of marriage at a villa in Casa de Campo in La Romana. Just 40 minutes from Punta Cana, this resort boasts a roster of celebrity devotees, including Beyoncé and Princess Caroline of Monaco. The couple will be able to use a golf course designed by Pete Dye or play a game of donkey polo. Their guests will be staying at the nearby Four Seasons, which has its own heliport.
Hotels rated with diamonds, US$3,500 a night villas and guests like Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton: no wonder Punta Cana is one of the most exclusive destinations
in the Caribbean.
The concept of boutique hotels is thriving here. The Tortuga Bay resort, part of the pioneering Puntacana Resort & Club, is another of these super-exclusive establishments, with accommodations for no more than 100 guests. Here, you might bump into the likes of Uma Thurman or Rafael Nadal. Designed by Oscar de la Renta, this Caribbean complex is composed of various villas, with wood and wicker furniture, luxurious bed linens and a private beach.
With prices ranging from US$600 to US$3,500 a night, staying in one of these villas is a dream, complete with a quarter mile of pristine sand resembling a remote paradise. The luxurious rooms feature comfortable bathtubs, private kitchens and soft beds surrounded by curtains bearing De la Renta’s signature. You can check in directly from your room thanks to a Villa Manager, who can be contacted on the cellphone provided by the hotel. The manager will attend your every need, no matter how extravagant. Fancy some Swiss chocolates at dawn, perhaps?
Every guest has access to his or her own golf cart for getting around the complex, which includes its own ecological reserve. It’s also the only place in the Americas to feature a location of the world-renowned Six Senses spa chain. And to wind down the day, returning to your room is an experience in itself. The valet will surprise you with a foamy, hot Jacuzzi, accompanied by your favorite aromatherapy. It’s time to relax.
The Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana combines holistic wellbeing with romance, and the result is sheer pleasure. Just 40 minutes from the international airport, this hotel is located on a palm-lined, white-sand beach with unbeatable views of crystalline waters. The 96 luxury suites are outfitted with palm roofs and tropical wood floors accompanied by amenities courtesy of Bulgari. Tropical gardens surround the hotel, several restaurants offer delicious organic fair, and the spa focuses on natural therapies for health and relaxation.
A bit farther south of Zoëtry, on the spectacular Bávaro Beach, you’ll find Paradisus, a hotel designed to offer direct contact with nature while you enjoy discreet valet service. Want pillows with the scent of green apples or a Cuban cigar and a glass of champagne on the beach? Your wish is their command. And for gourmands, a romantic dinner at the restaurant Passion from chef Martin Berasategui is the perfect way to round out the experience. Be sure to try the eight-course tasting menu, which has earned the place a Michelin star.
Beyond beaches and indulgences worthy of a sheik, there’s the magical Altos de Chavón, a beautiful replica of a medieval village built 30 years ago by U.S. magnate Charles Bludhorn. Here, his daughter Dominique has founded a design school affiliated with the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York, where artists develop luxury design projects. Other highlights include the museum dedicated to Taino art, the St. Stanislaus Church, the incredible views of the Río Chavón and the amphitheater that has hosted the likes of Elton John, Frank Sinatra and Julio Iglesias.
The church of St. Stanislaus
in Altos de Chavón.
In Punta Cana, there’s no need to hurry. Hedonism reigns but with a style all its own. Just close your eyes and become one with this exquisite universe that never fails to reinvent itself, that forever preserves the purity reflected in its crystalline waters, the generosity of its warm people, its otherworldly culinary creations and its cultural diversity. Five stars aren’t nearly enough to rate the luxury of the most famous beach destination
in the Caribbean. in
Daily flights to Punta Cana from Lima, three flights a week from Santiago and Miami, and one flight a week from Buenos Aires.
For more information, visit
Puntacana Resort & Club
Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana
The town of Sosúa is a favorite of free divers who love the underwater landscapes. To get there, take the highway that leads to the northern part of the island.