Dominican Republic Villa Rental
When you need a stress-free escape or an exotic setting for a very special event, luxury resort hotels can be lovely. The best of them offer privacy and personal service that is close to what you’d expect in your own villa.
But wait a minute… why not have your own villa? That seems to be the thinking behind the growing popularity of villa rentals-by-owner around the Caribbean. The difference between a hotel and a villa rental is subtle but significant: in a hotel you’re always a guest, but when you rent one of these resort properties, it’s as if you own the place. If you’ve invited family and friends along, which is usually the case, it’s just like entertaining at home. Except that the villa will typically provide a full staff, including cooks, servers, cleaners and maintenance staff. Then again if you’re seriously considering a luxury villa you probably have staff at home as well… rentals of high-end properties are expensive by almost anybody’s standards.
We found one of the finest of these luxury villas on the ruggedly verdant north coast of the Dominican Republic and moved in with eight close friends for a week, to see what it’s like. The short answer is, it’s heaven on earth.
The Villa Castellamonte del Mare sprawls across three acres of cliff-top land overlooking the Atlantic about half way along the coastal highway that connects the busy international airport at Puerto Plata and the small regional capital of Nagua. The pleasant little town of Cabrera is a five minute drive away, on the highway.
The 13,000 square foot villa is architecturally eclectic, incorporating strong Mediterranean design cues with local building materials and techniques to produce a pleasing structure that fits its surroundings well. Doric pillars and vaguely Moorish archways and openings leave the living and dining areas open to the ocean breeze in all but the stormiest weather, when everything can be enclosed with massive mahogany and glass doors. Furniture everywhere is extra-large to match the scale of the rooms, and much of it is hand-made from local mahogany. Fabrics are sumptuous and well-chosen. The superb craftsmanship throughout the villa is a testament to the quality of the local masons, carpenters and cabinet-makers.
Broad terraces, the main living and dining areas, kitchens, six of seven air conditioned bedroom suites of varying size and design, and the huge entrance foyer occupy the main floor. A grand spiral staircase mounts to a partial second floor which is occupied completely by an enormous master bedroom suite. All the bedrooms have luxurious en-suite bathrooms, but the master suite’s is something to behold, with its raised Juccuzi tub, gigantic open shower area and windows overlooking the ocean. Adjoining it is a huge dressing room with more marble counter space than most kitchens, two large settees and a wall of custom closets. The enormous bed chamber is dominated by a mahogany bed and large coralina fireplace, and French windows open onto a wide terrace overlooking the grounds and the ocean beyond. Roll over and slip and extra pillow under your head in the early morning and you can watch the sun rise over the sea.
Beyond the broad ocean-facing terraces with their oversized rattan sofas is the 3,600 square foot zero-entry, free-form swimming pool with its attached spa/hot tub. A large stone gazebo a few paces to the right of the pool shelters and elaborate outdoor kitchen for barbecues. The entire pool-spa-gazebo complex is surrounded by broad expanses of creamy tile cut from ancient coral.
Beyond the pool, the terraced lawns sweep down toward a high wall of coral rubble running along the cliff face. In a corner of the wall a stout wooden door opens to a long, winding staircase leading down to the sea, where there are tidal pools, caves, coral, and a small sand beach. This is a place for reading, sunbathing, and collecting shells rather than swimming. If its swimming you desire, the villa is right on the ocean, atop of a bluff. A picture-perfect tropical beach, carefully groomed and festooned with coconut palms can be found a ten minute walk from the villa. If you prefer golf, a stunning course on the ocean is nearby too.
The villa’s entertainment room boasts a full array of sound and video equipment, and a large CD and DVD collection-though you might want to bring along some discs of your own just to reinforce the “at-home” feeling. We found much of the music not to our taste, but satellite radio solved that. There is pong-pong, shuffleboard, video games, board games, and a pool table. There’s also an exercise room with a Bow-Flex bench, elliptical cross-trainers and free weights. And for all us workaholics, they provide high-speed wireless internet access throughout the villa.
What more could anyone ask for?
How about three enormous, super-friendly Great Danes? They’re the owners’ pets, and you can either let them have the run of the place, or have them kept out of sight in their big kennel. We let them join the party, and were happy we did-their galumphing play was a highlight of our stay.
The staff of thirteen (including full-time security guards) kept everything spotless indoors and out, and food and drinks were consistently spa-quality. We could choose from a menu each day, and the chef cheerfully accommodated the special requirements of the vegetarians and lactose-intolerant among us. There’s a respectable wine cellar with everything from Chilean cabernet at $15 a bottle to special vintages at rock-star prices. Of course, a wide variety of Dominican cigars are also in stock. Several of us ordered up massages and manicures one afternoon, and were pleasantly surprised to discover that this, too, was spa-quality. Nothing here disappoints.
One last thing… four of us took a side trip one sunny afternoon to a combination bar-cigar factory on the outskirts of Cabrera, about a ten minute drive from the villa. We were very happy we did. We were a widely-travelled bunch but none of us had seen anything quite like the Babanuco Bar and Restaurant. The place is made almost entirely of reclaimed lumber and fixtures, and decorated with found objects. It is an astonishing walk-through work of art that also serves good Dominican beer, ice cold, and sells fine hand-made cigars from the little atelier next door. The pretty bar maid popped a Django Reinhardt tape into a cassette player when we sat down around the burlap-covered table on the dirt terrace with our beer and cigars. Perfect.