Dominican Republic

Punta Cana Dominican Republic
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JW Marriott Santo Domingo opened last August and represents a $50 million investment.
JW Marriott Santo Domingo opened last August and represents a $50 million investment.

Widely known for both mid-level and high-end all-inclusive resorts, the Dominican Republic also knows a thing or two about offering top-notch service at hotels where wrist bands are not required.

While most of the spotlight is put on the all-inclusive resorts of the Dominican Republic, Luxury Travel Advisor delves into three EP-style hotels that may open up your mind about the broad offerings of one of the Caribbean’s most popular destinations.

JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo

Although we were told the JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo is primarily a business hotel, we saw a wealth of potential for leisure guests as well when we toured the grounds earlier this year.

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There are not many luxury hotels in Santo Domingo, and this is a great option for those looking to spend two to three nights in the historical city before venturing off to Punta Cana, which is only a roughly 90-minute drive away.

Back Story: The hotel opened last August and represents a $50 million investment. It has some really cool features, including TVs embedded into the mirrors of the bathrooms and key cards that are protected from magnetic strip damage.

The hotel, set in the upscale Piantini financial district, is located inside the Blue Mall, which has several fine dining restaurants and high-end shops, such as Cartier, Carolina Herrera and Louis Vuitton. Tip: Luxury Travel Advisor was told that JW Marriott is looking to start a program where guests of the hotel can charge restaurant bills from the mall to their hotel rooms.

Nice Touch: Another excellent hotel feature is the Vertygo 101 lounge, the Dominican Republic’s first “floating” restaurant and bar, which has a glass floor terrace rising 101 feet above the city. For those who fear heights, it can be a little scary to walk on, but it is definitely something worth experiencing at least once.

Along with Vertygo 101, the hotel houses Winston Grill & Patio, an upscale restaurant (think Latin American specialties with an Asian influence), as well as a mighty fine international wine and cocktail menu.

Advisors looking to make special dinner arrangements or requests for VIPs should reach out to Jacob Reyes, food and beverage operations assistant.

The hotel’s 150 rooms and suites all include high-speed, wireless internet; LCD TVs; Apple TVs; TVs embedded in the bathroom mirrors; alarm clocks with iPhone 5 and iPad docking stations; a Nespresso coffee machine; and the signature JW Marriott brand Aromatherapy bathroom amenities.

The top room here is the Presidential Suite, No. 2020; it has some of the most high-end details in the Caribbean, including an $8,000 Kohler bathtub with light therapy, massage and hydrotherapy. Note: The rooms on the executive floors have the best views.

For any special room requests, luxury travel advisors should reach out Kenneth Martinez, sales manager.

The hotel has nine event spaces, totaling roughly 3,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the 1,158-square-foot ballroom.

For all other requests or inquiries, advisors should contact Vilma Pockels, front desk manager.

Gansevoort Dominican Republic, Playa Imbert

While the north coast of the Dominican Republic has long been known for its value-led all-inclusive resorts, it hasn’t had the contemporary, chic, service-led options that an urbane and discerning luxury traveler prefers.

Gansevoort Dominican Republic Playa Imbert’s three-bedroom apartment (here) comes with a private plunge pool and a spacious terrace. The three-tiered cascading infinity pool (below) overlooks Playa Imbert’s crescent-shaped beach.
Gansevoort Dominican Republic Playa Imbert’s three-bedroom apartment comes with a private plunge pool and a spacious terrace.

Enter Gansevoort Dominican Republic, Playa Imbert, which opened in Sosua late last year and is already considered one of the best hotels in the district.

At the resort’s center is a dramatic, three-tiered cascading infinity pool overlooking Playa Imbert’s crescent-shaped beach.

A second, adults-only pool opened in spring 2015. Other planned amenities include a fitness center, a day spa featuring a Hammam-style sauna and a meditation and yoga garden.

The resort is located just 15 minutes from Puerto Plata Airport. Activities offered by the hotel include surfing, kiteboarding, golf, tennis, horseback riding and more. Note: The spa at the hotel will be open in December and should have about 4,000 square feet of space.

The three-tiered cascading infinity pool overlooks Playa Imbert’s crescent-shaped beach.
The three-tiered cascading infinity pool overlooks Playa Imbert’s crescent-shaped beach.

The current room mix includes nearly 50 suites comprised of one- and two-bedroom lofts; three-bedroom apartments with private plunge pools and spacious terraces; and a collection of four-bedroom penthouses. Tip: Each penthouse offers a private rooftop Jacuzzi. Nice Touch: Floor-to-ceiling windows offer seascapes from every guest room. Standard amenities include modern kitchens, walk-in showers, custom bathtubs and natural stone finishes.

Luxury travel advisors with any special room requests should reach out to Delio Trinidad, reservations manager.

We hear the hotel’s most frequently requested room is the Premium Ocean Front Three-Bedroom Suite. The Premium Four-Bedroom Penthouse is also highly coveted. Hint: Both categories are the hotel’s most ideal rooms for families.

Nice Touch: Resort guests are welcomed with special SUV cars and VIP meet-and-greet service at the airport (POP). This is included in the room rate. Arriving via helicopter transfer? There is also a landing pad about five minutes from the hotel.

Dining: The two-level Baia Lounge + Restaurant is just a short stroll away from the rooms. Based on occupancy, both the lounge and restaurant are typically only open to hotel guests. Hint: We were told the local ceviche and homemade pastas are a must. Tip: There is no bad seat in the house at the restaurant as all seating offer ocean views. Reservations are recommended in advance.

To further customize your VIPs’ vacation, advisors should contact Kim Darby, associate sales manager for the Caribbean.

Casa Colonial Beach & Spa

While the first two Dominican Republic hotels we told you about are fairly new, the Casa Colonial Beach & Spa hotel is an oldie but goody.

This 50-suite property opened in Puerto Plata in 2007, but with constant upgrades and touch-ups still looked brand spanking new when Luxury Travel Advisor toured the property in April.

We hear the most requested rooms are the third-floor Junior Suite Superior Ocean Front rooms, Nos. 35, 36, 39, 40 and 41. Hint: The best room for families is the Master Suite Ocean Front, which comes with a private entrance connected to a junior suite and includes two-and-a-half bathrooms, two separate bedrooms with one King bed (deluxe suite) and two Queen beds (junior suite), three TVs, a separate living room, a dining area and two private balconies. Tip: Although the hotel doesn’t currently offer butlers, word is that service may be added on.

Casa Colonial Presidential Suite offers a living room, a separate bedroom with hardwood floors and one king-sized bed, a spacious sitting area with a sofa, a balcony, dining area and two bathrooms.
 
Casa Colonial Presidential Suite offers a living room, a separate bedroom with hardwood floors and one king-sized bed, a spacious sitting area with a sofa, a balcony, dining area and two bathrooms.

For special room requests, luxury travel advisors should reach out to Arline Santana, reservations.

The spa is 12,500 square feet with each of the 13 treatment rooms having about 175 square feet of space. The most popular  treatment here is the Aromatic Journey, which involves deeper body work with targeted pressure and aims to relieve muscular aches and pain. We hear the best therapist for this treatment is Kay Sarita. Hint: During high season, treatments should be booked 48 hours in advance and 24 hours in advance for low season.

Casa Colonial is accessible by two local airports — Puerto Plata Airport is about 10 miles from the resort and the Santiago Airport is about 45 miles away. Note: The hotel offers airport transfers in an SUV Chevrolet (Suburban and Tahoe) with a fee.

We suggest taking the hotel’s Catamaran Romantic Sunset Tour; it’s a customized, two-hour experience with hors d’oeuvres and champagne followed by a three-course, private candle- and torches-lit dinner served on the beach à la carte from the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, Lucia, with a final special bath surprise.

For other inquiries, luxury travel advisors should contact Irina Hurtado, sales executive.

On the Cuisine Trail

Island Destinations’ COO Laurie Palumbo recently visited the Dominican Republic and returned with these dining tips:

La Casita at Casa de Campo: “One of my favorite restaurants at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic is La Casita, located at the marina featuring open air dining and locally caught fresh fish. I personally love the Langoustines grilled to perfection, all while enjoying live music and flamenco dancers. During my five-night stay, I went back for a repeat performance! At least you can dance off the Bizcocho de Chocolate dessert.”

Gansevoort Playa Imbert: “For foodies and wine connoisseurs, I highly recommend a visit to La Cantina Wine + Cigar Cellar. A nine-course menu and wine pairing experience will introduce travelers to the local Dominican flavors with five-star style. While relaxing pool-side or beachside, watch the local catch of the day arrive; the tuna sushi is a must along with the fresh mozzarella and mascarpone imported from Italy. Top the night off with a nightcap of Brugal Papa Andres Dominican rum. I can’t forget to mention the morning pastries, freshly baked [and] served warm right from oven to table. I promise you won’t want to leave.”

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