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Walnut Creek Magazine

Casa de Campo is Calling

Dec 17, 2018 09:13AM ● By Fran Miller

BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER

Dominican Republic fans are likely familiar with tourist spots such as historic Santo Domingo and beachy Punta Cana. But the mention of Casa de Campo often befuddles. The 7,000-acre slice of paradise is not exactly hidden, nor is it a secret. Yet somehow it flies slightly under the radar – most likely due to the privacy that its expanse of territory affords. Regulars such as Michael Jordan, Drake, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Derek Jeter, Alicia Keys and the other well-known celebrities who vacation there prefer to keep it that way, lest their favorite villa, hotel suite, or poolside cabana be discovered. 

It’s hard to define Casa de Campo, the Caribbean’s playground of the rich and famous. It’s a resort with requisite pools and beaches. It’s a bucket list golf retreat. It’s a world-class equestrian center, a venue for concerts by some of the music industry’s biggest names, and a marina at which luxury yachts are moored. It’s fine dining, boutique shopping, and Merengue-inducing. Add a warm, welcoming, and friendly staff, and Casa de Campo becomes greater than the sum of all of these parts.  

Known to insiders as ‘The Hamptons’ of the DR, Casa de Campo is both a traditional luxury resort hotel – part of the Leading Hotels of the World group – as well as the site of some of the Caribbean’s most sumptuous residences, many of which are available for rental and are held to the same Leading Hotel standards as the hotel rooms and suites. Guests are indulged with twice daily maid service, stocked mini-bars, sumptuous linens, a daily inquiry from guest services about special requests, and…golf carts. Each accommodation includes a fire engine red golf cart – an amenity necessary for traversing the entirety of Casa de Campo. Think Disneyland’s Autopia and the gleeful, childlike freedom of open air cruising. That’s the feeling derived from a Casa de Campo golf cart – and nearly reason enough to book a visit. But here are a few more: 

BEACH & POOL

Private Minitas Beach is located in the middle of the property, offering snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and palm shaded oceanfront lounge chairs in multitudes that make the 7am towel drape ‘save’ unnecessary. Adjacent Minitas Beach Club features an infinity pool, cabanas, and a new bar and restaurant from which it’s hard to imagine a better sunset view. A stunning new family pool also graces the beachfront. Because so many Casa de Campo guests opt for villa rental, and because each villa sports its own pool, the central resort pools are tranquil and relaxed. Again, loungers and even cabanas need not be ‘saved.’ There is room for all, even at the swim-up bar stools. 

GOLF

Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog course is rated #1 in the Caribbean and is on every golfer’s bucket list, and its easy to see why. Designed by the famed Pete Dye and featuring seven holes spectacularly situated directly along the aqua waters of the Caribbean Sea, its setting is breathtaking. Two additional courses round out the golf options, as well as a new state-of-the-art Golf Learning Center- a PGA Tour-quality facility with two indoor hitting bays, practice greens, and an outdoor range. 

POLO, TRAIL RIDES, SKEET, AND TENNIS

Learn to play polo, ‘the sport of kings,’ at Casa de Campo’s first class Equestrian Center where both beginners and experts can take advantage of equipment, group instruction, and personalized training. (Regular polo matches are played from early November to the end of April for those simply content to cheer from the sidelines.) Take a trail ride through herds of water buffalo and near lakes teeming with flora and fauna. Private guides are available for individual and group rides. Shoot skeet, sporting clays, and pigeon rings at the 245-acre Shooting Centre – considered one of the best shooting facilities in the world. Play tennis at the 13 court La Terraza Tennis Center, dubbed the Wimbledon of the Caribbean. Learn to throw a clay pot, or weave a blanket on artisanal looms at the Altos de Chavon arts center. 

SIGHTS

Take a golf cart cruise to the Marina to ogle the luxury yachts and to shop for luxury goods at Jenny Polanco, Vilebrequin, and Be-Store. Continue north to Altos de Chavón, (above) Casa de Campo’s awe-inspiring replica 16th century Mediterranean village designed by Dominican architect, Jose Antonio Caro and Italian master designer and cinematographer, Roberto Coppa. Overlooking the Chavón River, this cultural center for residents, tourists, and working artists features cobblestone streets, an archeological museum, a charming church, and a 5,000 seat Grecian style amphitheater (above) that has hosted Sting, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Elton John, U2, and Andrea Bocelli, among many others. (Frank Sinatra was the venue’s first performer in 1982.) It's hard to believe that this entire village was constructed from scratch less than four decades ago.

DINING

Start the day at Lagos, the thatch-roofed, open air restaurant overlooking the greens and the ocean, serving buffet style breakfast and lunch with choices so plentiful it would take weeks to sample every item. For dinner, choose from any number of restaurants on the Casa de Campo property – no repeats necessary. Pubbelly Sushi, located in the Portofino-style plaza overlooking the Marina, serves Japanese classics. La Piazetta, located in Casa de Campo’s replica 16th century hilltop village Altos de Chavon serves authentic Italian cuisine and wine with a side of live music provided by its strolling quartet. Minitas Beach Club & Restaurant (above) features sunset views, and La Caña Bar & Restaurant overlooks the main resort pool and serves French-style fare. The La Caña Bar features live music nightly and is the perfect spot to end an evening, and perhaps learn to dance the Merengue. The diverse cuisines at each of these restaurants and others is fresh, seasonal, and delicious.

Casa de Campo truly has it all, including packages that allow visitors to vacation just as the A-listers do. Check out the 'In Your Shoes’ experience here, and the ‘Ultimate Guys Golf Getaway’ experience here.