Situated on the south-eastern coast of the Dominican Republic, edged by the Caribbean Sea, and boasting views of staggering cliffs to the winding Chavon River, it’s no surprise jigga man and his beautiful Beyonce made their way to the cloistered world of Casa de Campo. And it wasn’t their first time. For Jay’s 40th birthday, Beyonce threw him a mega bash with the likes of Diddy, Oprah, Kate Hudson and A-Rod, Kanye West, Amber Rose and Alicia Keys in attendance. During season, Casa de Campo’s guest list reads like a who’s who of the social registry, with unparalleled and intuitive service.
For 40 years this discreet enclave, run by the world’s largest sugar barons, has been a favored escape for financial moguls, politicos and Hollywood’s elite. The resort is an Eden resplendent with Sea Grape trees, Flamboyan trees blooming with fiery hued flowers and lush bougainvillea in shades of fuchsia, amethyst and white. I took a four-day break to check out the recently renovated resort and found it charismatic and full of Dominican culture. Encompassing 7,000 verdant acres, it offers anonymity for the affluent perfect for a quick weekend getaway via private jet from Miami. Here are the island’s standouts.
Want to channel your inner Jimmy Buffet? Guests can visit several secluded Caribbean beaches, each with their own personality for a truly tailored “toes in the sand” experience.
Minitas Beach: The resort’s private beach with dazzlingly bright sand is lapped by the Caribbean Sea alternating with vibrant jewel- toned shades of azure, cerulean and turquoise. Guests can enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, hobie cats, windsurfers and paddleboats, or cool off with a famous Minitas Beach Piña Colada served in a native Dominican pineapple.
Catalina Island: Part of the government protected nature preserve, Parque Nacional del Este, catamaran trips are available to the pristine island, featuring six-square miles of sugar sand beaches surrounded by the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. Relaxation seekers appreciate the chaises and shaded lounges to sunbathe, while snorkelers explore coral reefs just a short swim from the pier. Here, local vendors display their artwork and crafts, for an authentic souvenir.
Saona Island/Palmilla Beach: Renowned for the natural beauty of its beaches and vibrant technicolor tides, Saona has been utilized by film-makers as a ‘desert island’ setting and is also part of the Parque Nacional del Este. The island is teeming with wildlife, including loggerhead turtles, green parrots, manatees and dolphins. Palmilla Beach, essentially a natural offshore sandbar, offers visitors the chance to marvel at hundreds of indigenous starfish in the waist-deep shallows.
Cygalle Healing Spa
If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know that I’m a HUGE spa enthusiast. I find Cygalle Healing spa unique, deliberate and focused. The brainchild of beauty guru Cygalle Dias — the inspiration behind the Synergy House in the Hamptons — the Cygalle Healing spa offers a blend of ancient and modern healing therapies. Before treatments, I strolled through a labyrinth utilizing an ancient pattern dating back 4,000 years and entered one of the seven therapy rooms. Individual “casitas” with their own showers, changing areas and patios, the each room feature treatments made from edible local ingredients and whipped up fresh daily. I recommend any of their exfoliating or massage treatments. I left relaxed and glowing!
Inspired by the old seaside villages of the Mediterranean, the Marina at Casa de Campo was designed by Italian architect Gianfranco Fini and extends nearly 300,000 square feet. A “Rodeo Drive by the sea,” its colorful architecture includes residential villas and the Piazza Portofino, with posh boutiques, cafes, restaurants, bars and ice cream parlors.
There is also a yacht club, Scuola della Vela Sailing School, ship’s chandler and a shipyard with capacity for 120 tons, making it the largest in the Caribbean. Immigration, Customs and Navy regulate maritime transit, while surveillance systems guarantee maximum security inside the complex.
Sophisticated palates indulge in any one of more than 20 cuisine collections. It’s hard to decide whether the exotic flavors or breathtaking settings are most unforgettable. There are several spectacular dining venues at Casa de Campo. Lago Grill, located by the Golf Pro Shop, overlooks the golf greens and blue Caribbean Sea. It’s a breakfast lover’s dream with daily omelet buffet, fruit and juice bar, homemade breads and other goodies. The Beach Club by Le Cirque allows visitors to dine on sumptuous lunch and dinner cuisine prepared by a chef from NY’s famed Le Cirque in this spectacular resort restaurant on Minitas Beach overlooking the sparkling Caribbean Sea. For a private, most memorable dining experience, make a reservation to dine in a secluded cabana. For a light lunch of fine dining, enjoy Mediterranean cuisine specialties prepared by chefs from the noted Circo restaurants in New York and Las Vegas at La Cana Restaurant and Lounge By Il Circo.
Casa de Campo’s shooting center is one of the most extensive private shooting facilities int he world with 250 stations on 245 acres, a 110-foot tower that projects clays up to 45 yards into the sky and a cast 20,000 acres beyond for a variety of hunts including ducks, pheasant, partridge and quail walked up and driven. Here I tested my aim (which wasn’t all too shabby) at trap and skeet shooting, a thrill for amateurs like me and professionals alike. A team of instructors offered me basic shooting orientation and more advanced instruction is available with reservations.
Trail rides, jumping lessons and polo matches are just a few equestrian activities at Casa de Campo, which offers scenic rides through the picturesque resort or tropical trails to the Chavon River.
Consisting of three playing fields, a practice field and the largest string of polo ponies under a single brand in the world, polo matches are played every week during the November-April season. Established by late Indian Prince, Maharajah Jabar Singh, Casa de campo offers equipment, group instruction and personalized training for beginners and medium-goal players, or families may hire ponies for stick and ball tournaments and compete against each other.
Even novices have the chance to become championship polo players just by having a cowboy spirit. Donkey Polo with Dominican burros is a favorite among families and corporate teams, alike. Ladies, if you don’t know already, polo players are by far the most attractive athletes in the world!
The Caribbean’s premier golf destination, all three courses are designed by Pete Dye, who actually sits on the Casa de Campo Board of Directors, and is the home of the David Leadbetter School of Golf.
Teeth of the Dog: Ranked as the top course in the Caribbean and 43rd worldwide, by Golf Magazine, guests are guided through Dye’s classic by top-notch caddies. The course captivates with devilish doglegs, signature Dye obstacles and trade winds courtesy of Mother Nature — and is the only course in the world with seven Caribbean edged holes.
According to Dye, without proper heavy machinery to crack the coral along the Caribbean, the tireless Dominican crew used sledgehammers, pickaxes and chisels (often cut when working on the course) and referred to the area as Dientes del Perro, or “Teeth of the Dog.”
Dye Fore: Dye’s encore course features a visually intimidating seven cliff- side holes dropping a staggering 300 feet to the Chavon River below and challenges players with up to 40 mph gusting winds. # 12 and #15 are two of the greatest par three holes in the world and the entire course offers spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea, Dominican mountains (the highest mountains in the Caribbean), Chavón River, Casa de Campo Marina and Altos de Chavón artists’ village.
The Links: An authentic links-style course hauntingly reminiscent of the British Isles, its undulating greens, with tall Bahia and Guinea grass roughs and multiple sand traps keeps players on their toes. Water comes into play on five holes, with lagoons and even lakes with wading birds.
Fishing and Kayaking
Deep sea and river fishing are two of Casa de Campo’s most popular watersports. Angling for snook in the Chavon River or trolling for championship billfishin the deep blue Caribbean Sea is both exicting and challenging. Chartered trips are available for deep sea fishing on 22 to 60 foot boast from the Marina for half-day and full-day charters. They supply rods, bai, boats, soft drinks and experienced guides. Guests and land wahoo, dolphin, kingsih, sailfish, marlin and barracude. For river fishing enthusiasts, an excrsion through picturesque scenery and lush vegetation of the Chavon River while a light tackle angling for championship snook. The trip includes boat, river guide, tackle, bait and sodas and water.
A scenic catamaran or speed boat is available as well to take you to a beautiful Saona island with white sand beaches and crystal clear water. And kayak tours are available along the tranquil waters of the Chavon River showing gorgeous views of vegetation, magnificent villas, Dye Fore golf Course and Altos de Chavon.
Situated on a bluff overlooking the resort and Caribbean Sea beyond, La Terraza Tennis Center, often referred to as the “Wimbledon of the Caribbean,” features 13 fast-dry Har-Tru courts, 10 lighted for night play. Thirty-two ball boys in crisp white tennis attire chase errant shots not only making guests’ matches more pleasant, but helping local Dominican children learn the game and look forward to a brighter future.
Excursion to Altos De Chavon
Casa de Campo offers a wide variety of exciting tours and excursions including to Altos De Chavon, an architectural wonder set on a cliff overlooking the Chavon River. A complete village dedicated to the arts, it is a center of culture in the Dominican Republic. Commissioned to be an exact replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village, Altos de Chavon was built in 1978 under the direction of Italian cinematographer, Roberto Coppa. It was hand constructed by local artisans of stone, wood and iron. A tour through the winding streets brings you to museums, local crafts shops, boutiques, art galleries and more. The Altos de Chavon Amphitheater, a spectacular 5,000-seat Grecian-style amphitheater is a beauty to behold and has hosted such super stars as Frank Sinatra, Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan, Sting, Bryan Adams, and many more.
Villas and Real Estate
The luxurious 15,000-acre Casa de Campo community features a unique quality of life found nowhere else in the Caribbean and no doubt the reason Jay-Z, Beyonce and many other superstars continue to visit and call the property one of their homes. Getting to your vacation home here is easy, as Casa de Campo is located on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic and has its own international airport just 8 minutes from the resort entrance and a spectacular Marina within. Just a 90-minute flight from Miami, it is a smart investment in a solid asset. 100 “villas” (more like sprawling haciendas) deliver the utmost in luxury and are a minimum of square-feet. Unsurpassed amenities include private pools, expansive terraces, private butler, maid, gardener and even a personal chef, if desired. The utmost in personalized service, guests check-in right in their villa and receive breakfast prepared in villa, as well as a selection of fresh fruits, “Dominican Bar” and welcome assortment of snacks and treats.
Freshly refurbished Elite rooms and suites feature dark walnut louvered doors, L’occitane amenities, 42-inch flat screen televisions and second-floor cathedral ceilings with thick, exposed beams. Reflecting a connection to its sugar plantation heritage, all rooms are “cane inspired” with either an aerial photograph of sugar cane fields, wooden cane art, straw hats or sugar cane wood carvings.
The hallmark of elegance and sophistication, Casa de Campo provides the ideal backdrop for couples to tie the knot, whether barefoot on the beach, a Moroccan soiree at the Safari Club or intimate affair in the impressive surroundings of an oceanfront villa. The picturesque Altos de Chavon offers diverse options from the intricately stone-laid St. Stanislaus Catholic Church to a ceremony under the stars in the Grecian-style amphitheatre.
Getting to the Island
Guests to Casa de Campo in La Romana have the option of arriving into two convenient airport locations.
La Romana: Just minutes from Casa de Campo, La Romana International Airport (LRM) is serviced by American Airlines via Miami on Thursdays and Sundays with convenient connections from most major U.S. cities, as well as direct service via Puerto Rico through American Eagle on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Santo Domingo: About an hour drive from Casa de Campo, Las Americas International Airport (SDQ) is serviced by American Airlines, JetBlue and U.S. Airways flights via the U.S., as well as American Eagle via Puerto Rico.
Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic 800.877.3643 or 305.856.5405; www.casadecampo.com.do