Travel
Feb 4, 2016

Island upgrade: The Dominican Republic

By: Vanessa Craft

Courtesy of Eden Roc at Cap Cana Resort Author: Elle Canada Credits: Courtesy of Eden Roc at Cap Cana Resort

Travel
Feb 4, 2016

Island upgrade: The Dominican Republic

By: Vanessa Craft

The Dominican Republic has changed since the first time I waded into its cyan-blue waters. Back then, my vacation was fuelled entirely by cheap (equally) blue cocktails during a single-girls all-inclusive party break.

My drink palate and relationship status have evolved since then, and so has the DR. With the slew of new five-star properties catering to selective, luxe-loving travellers now dotting the diverse island, it was difficult to decide where to go for our honeymoon.

But my new husband and I chose perhaps the most exclusive spot: Eden Roc at Cap Cana Resort, a 34-villa hotel that is part of the Relais & Châteaux group. It’s also part of Cap Cana, a gated community on the eastern tip of the island that is home to five kilometres of white-sand beaches, private villas, a yacht-filled marina, an equestrian centre with polo fields, ecological parks and several award-winning golf courses.

My heart leaped when I discovered a long cedar walk-in closet off our suite’s bathroom, which had a coral-stone and marble tub so big it took an hour to fill. My husband was so busy playing with the iPads used to control all the settings in the suite that he didn’t notice we had a private pool and an alfresco rain shower head on the back patio.

The personal golf cart parked outside the suite, however, was instantly noted. Here, golf carts are a necessity for getting around the sprawling grounds or visiting the members-only Caletón Beach Club, a secluded palm-fringed cove.

READ MORE: Antigua: A day at the beach

At nearby Scape Park, we decided against our tour guide’s suggestion that we zipline from the cliffs. (I knew I had made the right choice of spouse by how fast my guy rejected that option.) Instead, we took the Hoyo Azul eco tour, an easy hike through a jungle rich with endemic plants and edged by rugged cliffs that ended at a picture-perfect swimming spot: a hidden lagoon with Smurf-hued water.

On our last night, the concierge at Eden Roc booked us a private dinner on the beach. But as we set out in our golf cart, the skies opened up. The rain was torrential, and the cart’s plastic tarp did little to stop the sheets of water pelting down on us. My husband drove while I screeched out directions in the darkness.

It was our big, romantic The Notebook-rain-scene moment, but our passion was soon directed at the helpful wait staff at La Palapa — a stunning local seafood restaurant — who rushed out with big golf umbrellas to escort us to shelter.

We ate dinner overlooking the beach, listening to the waves crashing against the shore while the rain beat down on the roof above us. It still felt like a romantic Hollywood moment.

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Island Upgrade: The Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic: Must-see

Eden Roc at Cap Cana Resort’s Garden of Eden pool. READ MORE: Antigua: A day at the beach

By: Vanessa Craft Source: Courtesy of Eden Roc at Cap Cana Resort Credits: ELLE Canada

Island Upgrade: The Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic: Walk

Cap Cana’s five- kilometre beach. READ MORE: Island hop: Cecilia Nord’s Antigua black book

By: Vanessa Craft Source: Courtesy of Eden Roc at Cap Cana Resort Credits: ELLE Canada

Island Upgrade: The Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic: Explore

Hoyo Azul, or the “blue hole,” in the 30-hectare Scape Park (a forest reserve for endangered species including sea turtles, the Ridgeway hawk and the Ricordi iguana), is a serene mineral-rich blue lagoon at the bot- tom of a 65-metre cliff. Although it is around 37 metres deep, the glowing-blue water is so clear that you can see to the bottom. A swim selfie is mandatory. READ MORE: 6 posh rooftop pools in Canada

By: Vanessa Craft Source: Scape Park Credits: ELLE Canada

Island Upgrade: The Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic: Swim

The private pool at one of Eden Roc’s villas. READ MORE: Travel luggage: What to pack

By: Vanessa Craft Source: Courtesy of Eden Roc at Cap Cana Resort Credits: ELLE Canada

Island Upgrade: The Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic: Spa

The 1,900-square-metre Spa at Sanctuary Cap Cana is set within tower- ing medieval-like walls. Try the stimulat- ing endorphin-releasing hydrotherapy circuit. Or, hole up with your spa partner in one of the cozy thatched cabins by the pool for a couples massage. READ MORE: Long-weekend getaway to Tofino, B.C.

By: Vanessa Craft Source: Courtesy of Sanctuary Cap Cana Credits: ELLE Canada

Island Upgrade: The Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic: Eat

Embrace decadence (and the expert sommelier, your soon-to-be best friend) at Eden Roc’s Mediterraneo Restaurant. Order the torchon foie gras with brioche and Porto wine jelly. A table on the open, airy terrace is a must. READ MORE: An insider's guide to Oregon

By: Vanessa Craft Source: Courtesy of Mediterraneo Restaurant Credits: ELLE Canada

Island Upgrade: The Dominican Republic

What to pack: Bikini

Nylon and spandex bikini top ($29.95) and bottoms ($24.95), Dynamite (dynamite.ca). READ MORE: New Zealand's art deco time warp

By: Vanessa Craft Source: Dynamite Credits: ELLE Canada

Island Upgrade: The Dominican Republic

What to pack: Beach bag

Polyurethane and leather bag, Mara Hoffman ($205, marahoffman.com). READ MORE: Inspiring Instagram accounts that make you want to travel

By: Vanessa Craft Source: Mara Hoffman Credits: ELLE Canada

Island Upgrade: The Dominican Republic

What to pack: Shorts

Rayon shorts, Missoni ($730, at netaporter.com). READ MORE: What to do on New Zealand's North Island

By: Vanessa Craft Source: netaporter.com Credits: ELLE Canada


READ MORE:
Island hop: Cecilia Nord’s Antigua black book
Travel video diary: Kamalame Cay in the Bahamas
Canada's best beaches

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Island upgrade: The Dominican Republic