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Island upgrade: The Dominican Republic
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.
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.