Discover why celebs are venturing to the Dominican Republic's luxury hot spot!
The white-sand beaches, impressive mountain ranges veined with spectacular rivers and waterfalls, and saltwater lakes teeming with exotic wildlife are all part of the Dominican Republic's appeal. A-listers like Marc and Jennifer love the exotic island famed for sun, sea and surf. Visitors also love the fabulous colonial-era buildings that document Spain's conquest of the New World. It's inexpensive and there are lots of servings of local cuisine made up of Spanish, Taino and African influences at excellent gourmet restaurants. Plus, you can enjoy the most popular form of music on the island, Merengue – easily identified by its unique beat pattern.
Why should I go?
Where Hollywood travels, mere mortals soon follow! When Brad and Angelina visited the Dominican Republic in January 2006 (and the actress announced her pregnancy with Shiloh), the developing Caribbean nation, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, was catapulted into the press. But for those looking for fabulous beaches, outdoor activities galore, untouched wildlife and a chance to experience the nation's vibrant Latin culture, it's worth the trek. The DR attracts tourists year-round, but deals can be found in early autumn. From June to November, rain can be a factor, so pack plenty of books as a backup.
Where should I stay?
The DR has long been a haven for both the surf crowd on a budget and couples who want all-inclusive value. But the luxury hotel market is now on the upswing – as witnessed by the emergence of Cap Cana, the Caribbean's most ambitious high-end real estate and resort project to date. The 30,000-plus-acre oceanfront community, set on 3.4 miles of white-sand beach on the DR's eastern tip, is a destination in and of itself. The multibillion-dollar master plan, set to be completed in the next five to 10 years, will feature five luxury hotels, five golf courses, a yacht club, wildlife sanctuaries and one of the largest marinas in the Caribbean.
Cap Cana's hotel scene is very much in the developing stages (a 220-room Ritz-Carlton resort is slated to open in 2010, and a Trump Cap Cana is also in the works), but the community's first resort, Sanctuary Cap Cana, opened in January. Overlooking a private beach, the 176-room property features eight restaurants, eight bars and a 22,000-square-foot spa; all suites have ocean views. If you're travelling with a group of friends, check out the Caletón Villas, 16 luxurious three and four-bedroom bungalows complete with open-air living rooms (the fourth wall is missing, so the golf course and ocean are your backyard), pools with heated Jacuzzis, butler and golf cart. Of course, if you're like Brad and Angie, who can shell out the cash to rent a US$60-million French château, real estate is an option should you want to buy your own slice of paradise.
What should I do?
Cap Cana truly offers something for everyone – and as a guest of any resort or home, you have access to it all. Keep in mind that the property is vast, so arrange for any transportation with the concierge. Golf lovers can check out the Punta Espada Golf Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus (a second course, Las Iguanas, has a soft opening for the first nine holes in December). Pop into the golf club's restaurant, Bella Vista, after a round for beer and crab cakes. Foodies can check out the Trump Farallón Restaurant, which serves up dishes such as red snapper with ginger sauce.
Spa lovers won't be disappointed either: If you're staying at Caletón Villas, opt for an in room service like the stone or coconut-oil aromatherapy massage. Spend an evening at the Cap Cana Marina, the community's hub and a state-of-the-art docking point for yachts (it will house more than 1,000 slips upon completion). Dominican designer Arcadio Diaz has a store here. Pop in for chic resort wear and traditional clothing, then head for Paló, which has a fabulous selection of home accessories. You won't go hungry at the marina: End your day with a simple gelato from Il Vaporetto, and return the next morning for some of their yummy, fresh-baked breads.
How to get there?
Etihad Airways flies direct from Abu Dhabi to New York. From there, catch a connecting flight to Punta Cana Airport. Cap Cana is approximately a 10-minute drive from the airport.
Source: OK! Middle East