touring | dominican republic - an all-in rainforest to coastline luxury adventure
unique all-inclusive resorts are redefining the island
the dominican republic is known the world over for its it beautiful beaches & friendly locals but punta cana has in recent times suffered from over tourism pre pandemic. i was here to explore the contrasting landscapes that this beautiful destination has to offer from the historic city of santo domingo to the rainforests in the northeast of the island this was a journey that took me to some of the most unique luxury resorts that offer an all-in service, from excursions to meals this was a true luxury experience.
arriving to the historic island capital, one of the oldest colonial cities in north america. i was pleasantly surprised by the zona colonial where i was going to stay for a few nights to delve into the past of this vibrant city.
from the vast plaza de la hispanidad that comes to life in the evening with locals getting together, dancing to latin music & chatting about the day's events to the cobbled streets lined with colorful homes shaded by ancient trees. fortaleza ozama, a riverside 16th center fort is a wonderful place to learn about the colonial history of the area with one of the enthusiastic guides that take you around the complex.
chocolate has been a passion of mine for years & one of the most interesting experiences in the old town 'a chocolate making class' can be found at the kahkow experience. take in the rich history of cacao on the island whist creating your own handcrafted bar that makes a perfect gift.
hodelopa nicola de ovando
this historic hotel set in the old colonial zone is an oasis in the heart of this beautiful city. with its abundance of history, you’ll never get bored exploring this fantastic hotel.
i had the pleasure of staying in one of the superior club imperial suites that offers a separate elevator entrance for club guests. the room was large & elegantly decorated incorporating the age & history of this building. the four poster bed was a nice touch & in room espresso machine was very welcomed. i loved that they had noise cancelling headphones for the tv so not to bother others & the super cool bathroom with circular stone shower was a joy to bathe in with the luxury toiletries.
my club imperial room included private access to the lounge that is only for club guests with drinks available all day & an aperitive in the evening with two free drinks & snacks, it’s a great way to start the evening.
the pool courtyard is where you’ll spend most of your time cooling off from the incredible heat of the daytime, the massive ancient tree next to the pool supplies ample shade & a home for local birds that sing the morning away. there are many courtyards & beautiful seating areas, my favorite place being the orchard courtyard that has a vast array of local flora from mango trees to herbs, it's such an inviting place to sit back with a cocktails & enjoy the evening.
breakfast, lunch & dinner are served up at the sublime courtyard restaurant. offering a huge variety of hot & cold high quality dishes, especially the fruit. the bellini station for a morning tipple was a nice touch. i also had a fantastic seafood lunch of ceviche for starter & roasted dorada, both were delicious & the hotels famous mojito is a great way to wash down all that tasty food.
this is a luxury hotel & that really shows in the service here. the staff are super kind & courteous always willing to help. if you're in town there is no better place to stay.
rooms from: ($175) book here
i heading out of the city north to the samana peninsula that is home to samaná bay, which plays host to thousands of humpback whales during winter’s mating season. the three hour drive through the heart of the island was spectacular from the boundless plantations & farms to the mountains & dense forest that cover huge areas of the island.
dominican tree house village
my next stay was going to be a little special. the dominican tree house village is an all-inclusive tree house resort set in the rainforest of samana.
to have the pleasure to stay in the rainforest elevated above the canopy in artisanal eco treehouse was once in a lifetime experience. the sounds of the rainforest echo around you 24h a day from the birds to the geckos it's an unforgettable experience. who needs a therapist when you have this place to get away from the daily grind & all without mosquitoes…
my room, well it’s a treehouse that has been elegantly built with local eco materials made for a very comfortable stay with double bed & swinging chairs overlooking the forest beyond. this is not camping, it’s a hotel room in the canopy. each room has a bathroom with cold water shower, great for starting the day fresh although hot ones are available separately.
the bed is super comfortable, sheets are changed daily & the net keeps away any bugs, although there are no mosquitoes here, you can thank the bats for that.
don't worry i never seen a single bat during my stay. the rooms are connected by elevated walkways that meander through the trees linking all the areas of this special resort.
you will spend a lot of your time at the main tree house lodge where breakfast & dinner is served along with the inclusive bar with delicious rum cocktails. the views from here overlooking the forest are fantastic, i often sat here for hours looking out for the abundance of wildlife that call this place home. from birds to butterflies the sights & sounds of this place will have a profound effect on you. there are so many areas to explore to get away from the daily grind, from the swimming pool to the fire pit & yoga pavilion you’ll have no trouble finding solitude if you wish & if socializing is your preference, then here, you’ll meet friends for life as it has such a vibrant community, no need to worry about coming alone.
breakfast is served al la carte, while dinner is a communal buffet affair. they have different dishes everyday so you're sure not to be bored. make sure to try the local cacao drink in the morning it’s a great alternative to coffee. for lunch you'll get a voucher to mami’s restaurant that’s found at a beautiful beach close by where you’ll take a free cruiser bicycle to if not doing one of their epic tours. the beach was a highlight for me, it's actually a protected area due to it being a sea turtle nesting sight.
there are a multitude of things to do here. the daily excursions are awesome from the horseback riding trip to el limon waterfall to the scooter tours of playa rincon you will never be lacking in choice. the on-site zip lining is such an exhilarating experience flying above the canopy on the 12 lines that navigate the forest I had the privilege to see a humming bird while on one the platforms. it’s super safe too, with two safety lines.
wellness is a key pillar of the resort & a 40min massage for only $10 is a fantastic bargain for anyone who carries stress in their muscles.
rooms from: ($300) book here
sublime samara hotel & residence
as the name suggests this resort is absolutely sublime. my time spent here at the resort was a true highlight of my trip to dominican republic, the quality of the staff & surroundings makes this truly one of the best luxury hotels on the island, if not the world.
i stayed in a one-bedroom suite close to the reception near the entrance of the resort. the room consisted of a kitchen, dining area & living area with a super comfortable sofa & a small second bathroom. the master bedroom adjacent was separated from the main living area, the huge comfortable bed with feather pillows was a dream to sleep in. the sliding doors opened on to the terrace with a seating area & lounger, it was a delightful place to relax before dinner.
there are a few distinct areas to the resort. the main central area houses all of the rooms & villas along with the longest pool that i have ever seen, it stretches from the top of the resort to the beach. the shaded poolside day beds are a wonderful place to get out of the strong rays of the midday sun.
they have two restaurants, one near the lobby & my favorite the beach bar that also serves the same food & some great cocktails. the private guests-only beach has full service with luxury sun loungers that are equipped with mattresses & fresh towels daily. you can also order drinks directly from your lounger. for those who are more active like me, the gym &tennis court were great places to keep active along with the aquatic sports center.
meals from breakfast to lunch & dinner were an absolutely sublime experience. the quality of the food is near michelin star standards.
-breakfast; fresh coffee & juice served with bread & pastries as a side coupled with my favorite main dish of poached egg with sautéed tomatoes, to finish fresh fruits…
-lunch & dinner; so many dishes to choose from but the fried calamari to start with, followed by a tomato gazpacho & the mahi mahi for main. to finish the tres leches completed the meal off nicely.
firstly, we must start at the aquatic sports center this was at the heart of my daily routine. i used the kayak & boogie boards daily, I also had the awesome opportunity to go out on the small hotel catamaran with one of the staff.
wellness is a key part of my routine from yoga to the gym i try to stay healthy i also love to have a massage. the on-site coconut wellness spa is a wonderful place to unwind & let the stress of your daily life melt away. a fresh after treatment coconut drink capped off a wonderful experience.
rooms from: ($220) book here
away from the mega resorts of punta cana you'll find the true beauty of this fantastic country. the diverse landscapes are as vibrant as the people & their hospitality to match. for those looking for a more authentic & tranquil stay away from the crowds & tourist traps of the east coast then look no further than the samana peninsula.
the caribbean is a notoriously expensive region although the dominican republic is one of the best value destinations. from the food & beer to the hotels & car rentals. a one-week trip will set you back around ($1500) per person. due to the covid-19 pandemic the prices have dropped considerably
⦿ budget ($200-400) a day including accommodation.
⦿ if you travel often get yourself a curve card. it's the best travel card around, i have saved thousands of $$$ using it. get a free card & $/€/£5 in credit here.
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country travel tips
atm: most banks offer withdrawals for ($3). don't accept the on-screen conversion.
sim card: claro. 15GB is ($10) for 15 days. got an e-sim enabled phone try airalo.
transport: local bus ($1) per trip, rental car ($40) daily.
taxi: uber? use promo: carlm5078ue for free ride.
accommodation: get ($20) off your first booking.com reservation here