Posted by: Anni Orekh | September 15, 2010

Dominican Republic: Caribbean’s most luxurious destination.

Where to Go and Stay

When to Go
Even in deepest February, in the dead of night, the temperature rarely gets below the mid sixties. Hurricane season is in August and September, and there’s a fair amount of rain in the months on either side, especially in the north, but storms tend to come in bursts and are followed by sunshine. Generally, the mercury lingers in the sunny mid eighties.

Getting There
The three main international airports—Las Americas (Santo Domingo), Gregorio Luperón (Puerto Plata), and Puntacana—are all served by direct flights from North America.

Where to Stay
Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial
Hotel Doña Elvira
A very colonial bed-and-breakfast with spacious loft rooms. (Be sure to ask for one with air-conditioning.)
207 Padre Billini; 809/221-7415;
www.dona-elvira.com; doubles from $60.

Hotel Sofitel Nicolas de Ovando
The rooms in this endless 16th-century former governor’s residence near Plaza Maria de Toledo are as bright as its gracious courtyard.
Calle las Damas; 809/685-9955;
www.sofitel.com; doubles from $320.

Puerto Plata area
Casa Colonial Beach & Spa
809/320-3232;
www.vhhr.com; doubles from $260.

La Romana
Casa de Campo
Rooms need a face-lift, but the Pete Dye golf course, horseback riding and polo, shooting range, and pool are the stars.
800/877-3643;
www.casadecampo.com.do; doubles from $225; private villas from $1,057, including butler.

Punta Cana
Sivory Punta Cana
809/552-0500;
www.sivorypuntacana.com; one-bedroom suites from $266.

Tortuga Bay Villas at Puntacana Resort & Club
888/442-2262 or 809/959-2262;
www.puntacana.com; one-bedroom villas from $516.

Where to Eat
Zona Colonial
Bobo’s
The menu claims to be Asian fusion, but the small plates come from all over the world. Still, you’re more likely to go for the people-watching.
157 Calle Hostos; 809/689-1183; dinner for two $35.

Mesón d’Bari
The cangrejo guisado (fresh crab stewed in a piquant brown sauce) is the dish to order at this favorite of Oscar de la Renta’s. 302 Calle Hostos; 809/687-4091; dinner for two $60.

La Romana
La Piazzetta
The chef (formerly of Cipriani’s in Venice) makes memorable feather-light risotto and homemade buffalo mozzarella. Reservations required.
Altos de Chavón; 809/523-3333; dinner for two $60.

Cabarete
La Casita de Don Alfredo
A local favorite for the gigantic skillets of heads-on prawns sautéed in coconut-cream sauce. Not cheap but worth it.
About halfway up the Playa Cabarete; no phone; dinner for two $60.

Punta Cana
La Yola
This posh, minimally decorated open-air pan-Latin and Mediterranean restaurant serves fresh seafood and organic vegetables.
Puntacana Resort & Club; 809/ 959-2262; dinner for two $60.

Where to Shop
Zona Colonial
Boutique del Fumador
Watch cigar makers roll Cohibas, which you can sample free.
109 Calle El Conde; 809/685-6425.

Calle el Conde
Cheerful market street in the heart of the Zona with missable trinkets and unmissable atmosphere. (Handicrafts, other than cigars, are not the Dominican Republic’s strong suit.)

Punta Cana
Galerîas Puntacana
Everything from swimsuits and housewares to Italian and Portuguese food, plus movie rentals and a full-service pharmacy.
Opposite the Puntacana International Airport.

La Romana
Marina at Casa de Campo
Shops here include Ermenegildo Zegna, Burberry, and Tacco & Punta, where you can get your Marc Jacobs and Prada shoe fix. 800/877-3643.

What to Do
Zona Colonial
Alcázar de Colón
The former house of Columbus’s son Diego is crammed with antiques. For a more thorough explanation of the sacristies, it’s worth it to hire (for a 30-peso tip) one of the guides who congregates here.
Plaza España; 809/689-5946.

Catedral Primada de América
The first cathedral to be built in the New World is grand and imposing, with a curious combination of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque features.
Calle Arzobispo Meriño.

Museo de las Casas Reales
Once the seat of the colonial government, this museum houses everything from Taino artifacts to 16th-century armor to an old apothecary shop lined with ceramic jars.
Calle Las Damas & Calle Las Mercedes; 809/682-4202 .

Puerto Plata
Fortaleza San Felipe
If you can tear yourself away from the cruising teenagers on Puerto Plata’s neighboring boardwalk, pop into this colonial fort, built to protect precious metal–rich Puerto Plata from 16th-century pirates. Bahia de Puerto Plata.

Nightlife
Zona Colonial
El Conde Restaurant
The food at this greasy spoon is unremarkable, but a table outdoors under the massive tree next to the Parque Colón’s main taxi stand is the best place in town to start a night out.
Hotel Conde de Peñalba; Calles El Conde & Arzobispo Meriño; 809/688-7121.

Parada 77
Grungy but welcoming two-room bar and club with an attractive, bohemian crowd, plus a live merengue trio on weekends.
255 Isabela la Católica; no phone.

Praia
Located about a $5 taxi ride outside the Zona Colonial, this spot is where the children of sugar barons and visiting movie stars go to let their blow-outs down. House music, dance hall, and, of course, reggaeton on the system.
74 Gustavo Mejía Ricart; 809/732-0230.

Juan Dolio
Aura Beach House
Fans of Miami’s hyper-trendy Nikki Beach will recognize the bed seating in this uncharacteristically chic restaurant-lounge.
Turn off DR1 just before the Shell gas station in Juan Dolio; Aura is two blocks below the Metro Hotel on the Calle Central; 809/ 526-2319.

Cabarete
Eze Bar & Restaurant
Hammocks, tatami, and tiki torches make this beachside bar a perfect evening destination.
Top of Playa Cabarete; 809/880-8779.

What to Read
In the Time of the Butterflies
By Julia Alvarez. A half-fictional account of three sisters who, in the late 1950’s, sought to overthrow the Trujillo dictatorship, from the country’s most famous contemporary author.

Quisqueya La Bella: The Dominican Republic in Historical and Cultural Perspective
By Alan Cambeira. A personal, detailed, and highly engaging history of the nation’s place in the larger Caribbean.

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