There are many version of a tropical beach vacation. There’s the action-packed one—where you’re always on the go, exploring attractions and moving from place to place. Then, on the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s the one where you just sit back under an umbrella without a care in the world or a schedule to follow and let yourself completely unwind.

On a recent trip to the quieter, less touristy part of the Dominican Republic, I was more than ready to indulge in the latter option. With a wilder and more rugged coastline than that of the capital city of Santo Domingo and the resort-dotted Punta Cana, the island’s more remote north shore is just the ticket if you’re looking for space in which to breathe, pause and decompress.

When it comes to escaping the hustle and bustle and connecting with nature and culture, there’s no better place than the intimate, family-friendly Amanera resort in Rio San Juan, about an hour and a half from Puerto Plata International Airport. Perched atop an 18-metre-high cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the expansive—and often deserted—golden sands of Playa Grande beach, this small slice of luxury certainly lives up to the prestigious Aman hotel group’s worldwide reputation.

On my first evening, I make my way to the impressive two-storey reception building, Casa Grande, for dinner, and the restaurant—with its floor-to-ceiling windows—is lit up against the night sky like a giant beaming lantern. But what I really notice is that there are only two other couples eating. The property counts a total of 25 ocean-facing casitas (guest houses), each nestled into the cliffside and enveloped in foliage, so although you might see a handful of guests relaxing by the pool, lounging at the beach or dining at one of the resort’s two restaurants, there are never that many people around, making the whole place feel secluded and private. And that’s the whole point. Amanera’s primary aim is to foster tranquility within its surroundings. The resort has this incredible ability to draw out the days in the best possible way—and make you never want to leave.

Every Aman property is designed to fit seamlessly—and impressively—into the landscape. Here, Casa Grande seems to float above the mountain, with its open-air rooms and cascading water features giving way to the verdant hills and sandy beach below. Clean and minimal, the concrete and wooden structure disappears into the lush backdrop and, from within, perfectly frames the glittering blue ocean. Make sure to take in the breathtaking views from the bar before the sun sets—with a pre-dinner drink in hand, of course—and let the sights and sea breeze wash over you in a tropical sensory overload.


The accommodations do not disappoint either—they’re designed to be places you’ll want to bask in. My sprawling contemporary two-room (living room and bedroom) casita features a glass facade with sliding doors that open onto a perfectly manicured lawn, an infinity pool, loungers and a table with plush banquettes, all overlooking the crystalline water. Yes, I could absolutely take the two-minute walk to the beach or head to the 40-metre-long heated main pool, but I have everything I need right here to just sit, soak, read a book, listen to music and stare out at the horizon—which is exactly what I end up doing, for the most part.

Sampling the resort’s delicious cuisine gives me the best reason to finally leave my private quarters. The two restau- rants—one on the main floor of Casa Grande and the other right on the beach—highlight local seasonal ingredients, with the Beach Club being the more casual option of the two. I get to spend some time with executive chef Cesar Landeo, who tells me about learning how to cook from his mother and shares the Dominican dishes that are near and dear to his heart. One of them, La Bandera Dominicana, a traditional meal consisting of rice, beans and meat, represents the Dominican flag—the beans are the red, the rice is the white and the meat (either chicken, beef or pork) is the blue. Later that evening, during the Dominican-themed night at the beachside restaurant, Landeo serves up his mom’s bean recipe specially for me; combined with melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked pork and fluffy white rice—making it the Bandera trifecta—it proves to be comfort food at its best.


A focus on the details is what makes this resort a cut above. Take, for instance, the small gift tied to Dominican culture left in my casita every night along with an explanation of its signifi- cance. First, I receive a set of maracas, which are an essential part of local Bachata music. Originating here in the early 20th century, Bachata has a singular style that melds together influences from the island’s European, Indigenous and African descendants. On the second night, I am given a baseball—a nod to the country’s favourite sport. The Dominican Republic boasts the second-highest number of—and the highest-paid—players in the Major League. On the third evening, I find a gorgeous guayacán-wood box filled with dominoes, a national pastime, and on my final night, I am treated to local chocolate, rum and mamajuana. Although I know that the country is famous for its rum and its chocolate is often touted for its fruity, floral notes, mamajuana is completely new to me. The traditional liqueur can be traced back to the native Taíno people, who, long before Europeans arrived, lived throughout the Caribbean and brewed mamajuana as a herbal remedy. It’s a mixture of rum and wine infused with local spices, tree bark and honey and is still considered a cure-all today. These little tokens are such a thoughtful way to introduce guests to local culture, and the staff are more than happy to elaborate on Dominican life, talk baseball or even sit down for a friendly game of dominoes.

The spa (a.k.a. Wellness Casa) also incorporates elements that come from the Taíno culture. The Moon Ritual treat- ments, for example, start with smudging ceremonies. Guests are fanned with the smoke of burning palo santo, which is considered a “holy wood” by the island’s Indigenous people, to cleanse them of negativity and usher in new beginnings. If you’re wanting to dig even deeper into Taíno traditions and herbal medicine, you can join one of the spa’s experts on a guided stroll through the nearby forest to learn which plants are used for which remedies. They’ll even teach you how to properly harvest and prepare them.

While there is no shortage of activities to keep both adults and kids fully entertained—from water sports to horseback riding to sunset yoga to golf at the nearby Playa Grande Golf & Ocean Club—there is also zero pressure to actually take part in any of them. In a world where life often feels rushed and complicated, doing next to nothing can feel like the ultimate luxury—and Amanera invites you to do exactly that. A spa treatment one day, a gentle workout at the gym the next, maybe a lazy afternoon dip in the pool—sometimes soaking in quiet moments like these is exactly what you need to recalibrate, recharge and reset.