Casa de Campo - It’s Going to be a Good Life
The beautiful people congregate for sun and sand at Casa de Campo, a secluded compound in the Dominican Republic. Nestled in La Romana on the southeastern coast, old-school glamour rules with the local elite and international crew. For New Year’s Eve and well into the winter months, the DR is an ideal destination to escape the cold, without breaking the bank. You’ll be living la vida buena with leisurely lunches, boating on the turquoise Caribbean, and partying it up very late night.
The Road to Romana
Whether you rent your own car or let someone else do the driving, Casa de Campo is about an hour and a half away from the airport. You don’t need a car to get around Casa de Campo if you’re willing to zip around in a golf cart and use hotel transport for evening. It’s a pretty penny for private airport drivers at around $220–250 round trip. On the lower end of that range is Dominican Airport Transfers; just make sure to let them know what time you’d like to be picked up for the return trip to the airport, instead of having them dictate the schedule. If you’re driving on your own, keep in mind that the infrastructure outside the resorts is not great. Roads flood with a drop of rain and yet the locals still drive like maniacs.
Casa de Campo 101
Casa de Campo is a 7000-acre resort that was developed by the famed Fanjul sugar family. It’s the Dominican version of the Hamptons, and with $20-million beachfront homes, that sounds about right. Casa de Campo is a compound of private homes, the hotel, restaurants, horseback riding, a shooting range, spa, and the Teeth of the Dog golf course, one of the finest in the Caribbean.
The marina and their very own replica of an old town, Altos de Chavón, class up the resort. Had the Spanish explorers built a town, this is what a souped-up version would have looked like. Within both the marina and old town are independent shops, galleries, and private and resort restaurants. At $300–400/night in mid-season, and around $500 in high season, Casa de Campo is a nice value. And, the resort has been newly renovated, so each room is spic and span and generously sized for two people. For this New Year’s Eve, descend upon the DR with your own crew, taking over a lavish oceanfront villa, with personal butler and staff, of course.
Inclusive or Not, That is the Question
Thankfully, there are no limbo lines or cheesy cruise directors at CDC. The local crew, who own multi-million-dollar homes at Casa de Campo, are one classy bunch. The hotel itself is best classified as the moderate luxury category. By virtue of the secluded resort setup, Casa de Campo offers an inclusive supplement, which applies to seven restaurants. You’ll eat at all of these throughout the course of a stay; the food is generally stellar, especially for an all-inclusive deal, which is recommended if you’re an eater and drinker. The cost is about $100/person per day. It’s especially worth it if you’re traveling with friends, so that you’re not constantly running a tab. Otherwise, prices are reasonable at the restaurants, so run your numbers to see if it makes sense for you.
Each room at Casa de Campo gets its own golf cart, which is one of the most fun perks of the resort. During the day, you can explore the 7000 acres with your cart as your wheels. At night, leave the carts at home and opt for the hotel drivers who can shuttle you around for a relatively modest price, equivalent to an NYC taxi ride.
The furthest point of interest is the Altos de Chavón, which is about four miles from the hotel, and well worth a visit. No one will tell you this, but it sure isn’t easy to find if you’re not familiar with the resort. Altos de Chavón was built by Casa de Campo to replicate an old Spanish settlement. It’s a charming daytime stroll through its stone streets, art galleries, and restaurants, and even better for the night scene with its lively restaurants. There’s a church in the center of town that’s not just for show; you really can take in a Sunday mass. They planned well when they built the town; Altos de Chavón has a stunning view of a river and valley below, complete with an amphitheater where during the holidays you can catch “The Nutcracker” and festive shows. For New Year’s Eve, it’s the center of all the parties and fireworks.
At some point during your stay, make sure to put-put over to the marina, where the hitters dock their boats and you can catch lunch and shop the boutiques for a traditional guayabera. If you forget your trunks, you can pick some up at Vilebrequin, and check out the goods at Jenny Polanco, the hot local designer. During the day, the marina has the best supermarket within Casa de Campo for basics like water and snacks, as well as the high-end shopping of the resort.
Breakfasts are made up of a huge spread of made-to-order omelets, a traditional buffet, classic Dominican food and large fruit and cheese platters.
The Casa de Campo beverage does its namesake proud. A fruity tropical drink, the pineapple juice is so refreshing that you’ll have to remind yourself the drink has a generous splash of rum.
The highest quality food is at La Caña by Il Circo. The cuisine borders on excellent, even for those skeptical of all-inclusive resorts. This chef has skills. Seasonal highlights may include sea bass, fished right out of the water that day. It’s prepared in a tomato sauce topped with zucchini ribbons so light and healthy you’ll feel like you’re eating spa cuisine at Canyon Ranch. Another standout is the Dominican paella, a dish of shrimp, calamari, and fish served with coconut rice and topped with fried plantains.
Le Cirque (yes, as in the famous New York restaurant) is right on the beach, and has the best setting of those in the inclusive package. The excellent service is matched by their seafood starters, including tuna sashimi, crab, and lobster. This is the most formal of the restaurants, meaning collared shirt and long pants for the gents.
La Piazzetta in Altos de Chavón is perfect for pre-dinner drinks and appetizer. Graze on the antipasti plate and enjoy the gorgeous sunset. You can stay on for homemade pastas and Italian wine, should you be so inspired.
All the pretty young things hang at Pepperoni which, despite its name, is the best place to hang out in the Marina. It’s not part of the supplement, but it is part of the cool circuit. The restaurants open up onto the main square, and the pastime is people-watching. The ladies break out the high heels, and the guys are casually elegant.
Nightlife is pretty sleepy at the CDC unless it’s their rockin’ New Year’s Eve festivities, where they light up the sky with fireworks. During the rest of the year, locals dine at the restaurants, enjoy post-dinner drinks at the Marina or Altos de Chavón, and then party late-night at their villa. It’s about making your own entertainment so bring your crew.
Nothing Says a Girls’ Weekend Like Shooting Some Guns
For those looking to do more than veg out at the pool, the CDC has all the requisite offerings, from horseback riding to golf. Spa services are done in private suites; the only common area is the outdoor yoga studio. The star of the spa is the water treatment room, which combines the steam, hot, and cold plunge pools. Like the spa services, the water treatment room is booked for private sessions. While it’s a luxury to have it all to yourself, it also means limited availability.
Of great pride to the resort is the shooting range, where they’ll hook you up with a box of ammunition and a shooting vest and gear. Not a bad way to get that aggression out.
A Typical Dominican Saturday
To get the full experience of the DR, you’re going to want to get on a boat. And like most things in life, bigger is better. The Dominican elite take their yachts to Palmilla, where they drop anchor and spend the day swimming and drinking rosé. As a tourist, you can get to this area is by hiring your own boat or by taking the big tourist boat where they pack you in like sardines. Guess which one we recommend.
Palmilla has the most turquoise waters in the Dominican, only rivaled by select areas in Punta Cana. Don’t be surprised if you see A-Rod floating around these parts, accompanied by his scoop du jour. Palmilla is almost an hour and a half away from Casa de Campo, so plan to spend a luxurious day grilling burgers on your boat and then hobnobbing among the yachts. It’s a day you won’t want to end. And the same goes for your weekend at the Casa de Campo.