During the 1960’s when many fledgling Caribbean islands were exerting their independence from their colonial governance, a native Cuban named Alvaro Carta left the newly Communist controlled nation for Miami, Florida. Mr. Carta then relocated to the small company town of La Romana in the Dominican Republic to operate the then troubled South Puerto Rico Sugar Company turning the operation into the single largest producing mill in the world.
Yet Carta was a true visionary understanding the expansion of travel and tourism to the Caribbean was not far in the future. With the support of parent company Gulf & Western (their former NYC building is now Trump International Hotel and Tower), Carta began looking for land to build a lavish resort with a golf course. Working with 300 locals and manual tools and oxen (as machinery was too expensive to import) and having partnered with golf course designer Pete Dye, the vision would become a reality. In the fall of 1971, the 18-hole course Teeth of the Dog inclusive of the famous seven holes adjacent to the Caribbean Sea was ready for play and Casa De Campo would become the pinnacle of luxury hospitality and real estate development throughout the Caribbean.
While the decades that followed brought increased development and opportunities to the Caribbean ranging from camp-grounds to luxury enclaves to all-inclusive resorts catering to every demographic, Casa De Campo continues to attract vacationers in search of a luxury Caribbean escape offering opportunities for all who visit.
While many Caribbean destinations have developed over the past decades, their charm and laid-back vibe having been replaced with high-rise all-inclusive monoliths surrounded by pools and manicured beaches, Casa De Campo retains a charm and exclusivity that many associate with past generations. A sense of relaxation, comfort and luxury from a bygone era, a rarity usually associated with resorts including Caneel Bay, Little Dix Bay, Jumby Bay, The Crane Barbados, Half Moon and others developed when traveling to the Caribbean was a challenge and visits of two weeks or more were the norm, not the exception.
Yet to assume Casa De Campo is preserved in amber would be a fallacy. The resort continually receives accolades as one of the truly premier resort destinations in the Caribbean. Even within the Dominican Republic where there is development in many seaside towns, Casa De Campo continues to reign as the pinnacle for which others strive to emulate.
Getting There: The closet airport to Casa De Campo is La Romana (IATA: LRM), literally 10 minutes by taxi from Casa De Campo. The single terminal is designed to resemble a sugar mill, the original economic engine of the region. For those traveling from the United States, the following airlines offer service into La Romana: American, American Eagle and Jet Blue. Of note, flights into La Romana are from the United States can be seasonal.
A secondary option would be Punta Cana International, 70 miles from Casa De Campo offering service from Air Tran/Southwest, American, American Eagle, Delta, Jet Blue, Spirit, Sun Country and for Denver based passengers who wish to support our hub airlines, Frontier offers seasonal service and United offers one-stop service (as well as into Santo Domingo). From Santo Domingo, helicoper service is available as there is a landing pad within Casa De Campo
Lodging Options: One of the luxuries of Casa De Campo is the diverse collection of lodging options. For those who desire the hotel/resort style, the on-site hotel, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World and a recipient of 4-Diamond status by AAA will not disappoint. The standard hotel rooms are generous in size i.e. 700+ SF, larger than the average apartment in Manhattan. In addition one and two bedroom suites are available, quite large offering 1,528SF and 2,293 SF respectively. The hotel also offers an all-inclusive option to enjoy the many restaurants and activities within Casa De Campo.
Historically many families and groups of friends rent Villas within the resort. The Villas begin at 3 bedrooms and can offer up to seven. There are three general classifications, Classic, Exclusive and Oceanfront. All are luxury appointed and many have private pools.
Los Altos Club at Casa De Campo: On my most recent visit, I was in search of the new and unique. It was just two of us traveling, yet we wanted more room than a standard hotel room coupled with the privacy of a villa rental. We were advised by a friend from The Dominican Republic of a development known as The Los Altos Club Casa De Campo.
As a travel agent and I believe technically savvy, I did some research concerning The Los Altos Club at Casa De Campo and I was concerned, there was not much information available either on the web or in print. However from the limited TripAdvisor reviews, most composed in Spanish and trusting our friend we thought we would take a chance and we are glad we did.
The Los Altos Club is truly unique in many ways concerning lodging within Casa De Campo.
Location: The development of 1-3 bedroom flats is adjacent to the Dye Fore Golf Course, one of the crown jewels of golf courses in the Caribbean on the southern border of the Casa De Campo resort. The unit we were in was a two-story with vaulted ceilings and unobstructed views of the golf course separated by indigenous shrubs and grasses. Unbeknownst to us until arrival, from The Los Altos Club, one can easily walk to Altos de Chavon, a charming recreation of a 16th century Mediterranean village and home to a diverse collection of restaurants as well as a small general store.
From experience my one issue with Casa De Campo is the need for an automobile. Due to the design of the resort coupled with the size, a car is necessary throughout most of the resort. However at The Los Altos Club we were able to walk to dinner nightly and only used the car to enjoy dinner at the Beach Club one evening and take in a movie.
The Units: As mentioned we had a two bedroom flat. I believe we may have been upgraded as our visit was prior to high-season. Also, upon discussion with Arianna, our concierge, we were advised our unit was “Adults Oriented” due to the open-design of the master bedroom, a true open loft design. I was advised for guests with younger children, there are units with more traditional design i.e. enclosed walls.
The units are the perfect blend of resort accommodations coupled with vacation rental amenities. The first level of our flat had an entry foyer including a ½ guest bathroom and a discreetly placed washer and dryer. Beyond, a fully equipped kitchen with stainless appliances and granite counter-tops. A dining area which seated 8 in comfort all leading to an expansive living room with double-height ceilings, floor-to-ceiling glass and sliding doors to truly enjoy the Caribbean weather.
The furnishings were truly what I consider Caribbean comfortable. Overstuffed chairs and sofas encased within white linen slipcovers. The dining chairs and breakfast bar seating seem to be made from native wood. The marketing materials provided by The Los Altos Club advise the décor is “Caribbean Zen” which is the perfect description, kudos to their copy-writer.
On the second level, were two split bedrooms separated by a corridor. Both bedrooms offered en-suite windowed luxury bathrooms, walk-in closets, tile flooring, flat-screens, Ipod docks and other deluxe appointments. I was not surprised to hear a few residents of Los Altos Club are year-round as the units are designed both for vacation and year-round occupancy.
Amenities: From eye-balling I believe each building has its own infinity-edged pool. During our 4 night stay, we were the only guests at the pool. Adjacent to the pool is a gas grill and dining area, available to all guests.
Within the complex I did use the fitness facility once which I felt was expansive considering it was only available to residents and guests within The Los Altos Club development (which is gated and patrolled 24/7).
The Concierge: While managed vacation rentals are slowly instituting systems to provide resort style service, Los Altos connects with guests prior to arrival with their own concierge contact. With vacation rentals, I believe such a service is even more important than a hotel as there is no front-desk or “Dial-Zero” option. With The Los Altos Club, the concierge is able to arrange transportation (private shuttle from La Romana, gratis). In addition, services we employed included grocery delivery, restaurant reservations, golf tee-times, activities for tall guests within and beyond Casa De Campo and my personal favorite, a cell phone. Even though we brought cell phones, Los Altos Club provides a cell phone pre-programmed to allow immediate connection with their concierge. Even though I consider myself a sophisticated traveler, I also am well aware the local concierge can provide insights and conveniences including restaurant suggestions which were spot-on based on our wishes concerning cuisine and price-point.
What to Do within Casa De Campo: This is truly a loaded question as one will not be bored within the resort. Golf is a major attraction with three world-class courses coupled with perfect weather to enjoy the sport. While Teeth of the Dog is the most famous course, The Dye Fore and The Links are well worth a tee-time. Each course is uniquely different and challenging. Be sure to bring your camera and as is tradition, Caddies are available and are required when playing Teeth of the Dog.
The Spa at Casa De Campo is a popular amenity and is open everyday from 9AM to 8PM. A diverse selection of spa services is available and the staff is multi-lingual as many clients travel from Europe and recently an influx of Asian based clients.
Sports: It seems the marketing materials for every Caribbean resort include the term “water sports”. From my experience the term can be inclusive yet deceptive. Thus from experience I always desire to explore beyond water sports.
Casa de Campo´s Equestrian Center is most welcoming to aspiring riders to those who travel the Polo circuit around the world. Guests can enjoy instruction in both English and Western-style riding. Private trail rides can be arranged. However my favorite is the option for younger guests using the center’s three ponies. Of note, and I know very non-Caribbean, if planning to ride, be sure to pack long pants and closed-toe shoes, personally I would suggest studier than sneakers. If in season i.e. November to April, be sure to view a Polo match and when back in Denver, have renewed respect for the Polo Classic sponsored by Denver Active 20/30.
The Shooting Center is a great option to practice your sport shooting abilities. No worries concerning TSA as gun rental and ammunition are included in your round of clay shooting. Private lessons are available.
The La Terraza Tennis Center provides guests access to 13 Har-Tru (synthetic clay) counts, 10 which are lighted for evening play. What I found most intriguing is the option to hire a “Ball Boy” during your play. In addition to the luxury, the program which dates back a few decades provides direct economic and skill assistance with children from the surrounding La Romana community. Be sure to hire a Ball Boy as you may see that hire at the US Open in the next decade.
Minitas Beach, just minutes from the main core of Casa De Campo is the private enclave for Casa De Campo residents and guests. The typical water sports are all available including snorkeling, kayaking, hobie cats, windsurfers and paddleboats. Beach front massages are of course available, yet from experience most adults enjoy the comfy beach lounges sipping the signature Minitas Beach Piña Coladas served in a pineapple.
Of note, the beach is not the signature amenity of Casa De Campo. While expansive and well designed; if you are in search of a true white powdery sand beachhead, best to head further west to Punta Cana which in my personal opinion has the most beautiful beaches within the Dominican Republic. Of note, the Beach Club by Le Cirque is truly one of the most charming beach-front restaurants in the Caribbean. Casual by day, truly romantic and beautiful by night.
For shoppers, fans of the culinary arts and those who just wish to explore, Casa De Campo does not disappoint.
The Marina seems to be a great gathering spot at sunset and into the evening hours. While the yachts are impressive (and many available for charter), the scene in the Marina area caters to all. For shoppers, there is an eclectic group of shops and boutiques. Harmont & Blane a personal favorite for preppy designs with an Italian flair and Vilebrequin for a memorable French print bathing suit.
A collection of restaurants including Italian (Peperoni), Chinese (Chinois), a gelato place (Il Pistakio) and others share a marina facing promenade with inviting outdoor seating. Even those who wish to cook in residence will not be disappointed as the Supermercado Nacional is well stocked and offers an excellent wine and spirits selection. The baggers will load your car or golf cart if you wish.
I mentioned the Beach Club by Le Cirque earlier. Le Cirque is the legendary restaurant based in New York with an outpost in Las Vegas. Their Beach Club option within Casa De Campo is a dining experience not to be missed. Be sure to make a reservation for an outdoor table. Even with the open-air design of the restaurant, the outdoor tables with views of the Caribbean Sea coupled with fine dining food and service is a combination not to be missed. Surprisingly the tariff, while not inexpensive is reasonable. Of note, at dinner, for men, long pants and a collared shirt are required.
For families, all of Casa De Campo is truly family-friendly and it is not uncommon to see children traveling in groups sans adults. The expansive security presence allows children to enjoy and give their parents a vacation as well. For those parents who desire a night on their own, Casa de Campo´s Kidz (4-7 years) and Tweens (8-12 years) at Night programs provide kids with their own evening out in a safe and fully supervised program.
Altos de Chavon is a unique development in the southern section of Casa De Campo and an area we were able to walk to from The Los Altos Club. As mentioned prior, the 16th century replica of a Mediterranean village is perched high above the Chavón River (which runs adjacent to the Dye Fore Golf Course). Construction of the village began in 1976 and the village was inaugurated in 1982 with the concert of Frank Sinatra at the amphitheater which seats 5,000 is truly a marvel in itself.
We found ourselves spending our evenings within Altos de Chavon due to the diversity of restaurants, a small general store (great for ice cream treats) and the overall beauty of the development, charming and inviting. A few suggestions:
- Onno’s: Great for basic food including pizzas and burgers as well as tropical drinks. The open-air seating encourages loitering in a good way.
- Gino In Trastevere: A beautiful Italian restaurant with an expansive patio overlooking the river. For a truly romantic dinner, not to be missed. One evening while in the area, there was a wedding at the St. Stanislaus Church followed by a reception at Gino’s.
- La Cantina: No not Mexican, more Caribbean and Cuban inspired. Casual dining, a great place for fish and chips with a local beer.
- Le Boulanger: Our choice for a late lunch after a round of golf. Sandwiches and platters available to eat on-site or to-go. Be sure to try their Cuban inspired sandwiches.
Four days was not enough to truly experience Casa De Campo. The diversity of activities will insure one will never complain “what should we do now”. No matter your Caribbean vacation desires, Casa De Campo can fill it. Please note, if you tastes are oriented to the all-inclusive mega-resort, Casa De Campo will disappoint.
However if you are searching for a vacation experience which is from generations past, you will love Casa De Campo. From conversations with a few guests it is understandable how Casa De Campo is attracting the 3rd generation of families since its inception. With increased air lift into La Romana and the overall popularity of The Dominican Republic it will be notable if Casa De Campo can retain the mix of history and tradition which seems to be lost during the last decade in the Caribbean.