Dominican Republic’s Casa De Campo — just a three-hour flight from Charlotte — delivers the vacation goods, from pristine beaches and water sports to inventive dining and some of the best golf in the Caribbean.
by Michael J. Solender
After more than a year of missed vacations, once-homebound travelers will find many temptations to heed the tropical call of Casa de Campo, one of the Caribbean’s dreamiest resorts.
Hop an early morning nonstop flight from Charlotte to Punta Cana, transfer to nearby La Romana, and you can be sipping margaritas by mid-afternoon on the resort’s private Minitas Beach. Guests will find more than 7,000 acres of immaculately manicured grounds at Casa de Campo, where every day is the weekend and the most difficult choices are which of the three Pete Dye-designed golf courses to take on or where to dine among the more than half-dozen on-site restaurants.
Spanish for “country house,” Casa de Campo has long been one of the Caribbean’s premier luxe island getaways and sporting destinations. Following a recent $37 million renovation, the property gleams. Whether traveling with a buddy, your significant other or extended family, you’ll find accommodations ranging from luxurious rooms and suites to fully staffed luxury villas, each offering complete access to the resort’s amenities.
It’s easy to be taken with the topography and natural beauty of this easternmost part of the island, where sugarcane fields host migratory birds. Spotting cranes, egrets and other waterfowl soaring alongside the ambling Chavon River flanking the property is a fine afternoon diversion. Guests are provided with their own golf cart for the duration of their stay, making navigation of the expansive property a breeze.
A most unexpected treat is found in the 16th century-style Mediterranean village overlooking the river, Altos de Chavon. Here, guests stroll cobblestone streets, admire Roman-inspired grand fountains and snap selfies at St. Stanislaus Church, home to the ashes of Poland’s patron saint, a gift from Pope John Paul II. The village was handcrafted by Dominican masons, carpenters and blacksmiths under the direction of Roberto Coppa. The Italian stage and film set designer was engaged by the resort in the ’70s to create this architectural gem. Today, the village is home to art studios, retail shops, restaurants and a 5,000-seat outdoor amphitheater that’s hosted the likes of Sinatra, Pavarotti, J.Lo, Elton John, Ricky Martin and Andrea Bocelli.
While it’s always in style to chill at the beach with a pulpy novel, guests here are equally tempted by an endless list of sporting activities. Here’s what not to miss:
Saddle up: There is an extensive equestrian program at Casa de Campo, with polo introduced decades ago by an Indian maharaja. Ride the trails, volunteer to care for the ponies, or be lucky enough to catch a polo match or a few chukkas.
Water, water everywhere: Casa de Campos’ marina extends more than 90,000 meters. Seafaring options include daily sailing trips and lessons, deep sea sport fishing, and personal watercraft tours. There are half- and full-day excursions to Isla Catalina, 45 minutes from Minitas Beach. Here, snorkelers find the protected cove teeming with sea life, and sun worshippers score perfection on the white sands, with tropical libations and snacks close at hand. Kayakers can navigate the Chavon River with expert guides to keep them on track.
Shoot: Casa de Campo’s 245-acre shooting center has more than 200 stations for trap, skeet, sporting clays and pigeon rings. A 110-foot tower projects sporting clays, and novices and experts alike are welcomed by a knowledgeable staff.
Tennis: Dubbed the “Wimbledon of the Caribbean,” by tennis buffs, the center has 13 Har-Tru courts and plenty of pros to hit with — even ball boys and girls for your most important matches.
Golf heaven: Three of the finest courses in the Caribbean call Casa de Campo home, including the legendary Teeth of the Dog, Pete Dye’s masterpiece oceanside course that’s ranked No. 32 on Golf Digest’s World’s Greatest 100 Golf Courses. The fabled architect’s other island gems, The Links and Dye Fore, perched along the gorge overlooking the Chavon, are each bucket-list worthy on their own. Play these three on consecutive days for a golfer’s dream trifecta. The caddies, many with decades of service, are guaranteed to shave strokes off your round and spice things up with a colorful yarn or two.
Spa/fitness: Therapeutic massages, aromatherapies and detoxifying treatments are all available, as are yoga, Zen hikes, aquatics and a complete fitness center.
Eat & drink
With full-time play at Casa de Campo certain to generate a healthy appetite, an intriguing variety of dining options covers all the bases. Our favorites:
At Minitas Beach Club, the food is as stunning as the view. Mediterranean fare is on tap at this beachside eatery. Expect Spanish tapas like shrimp and ham croquettes, ceviche frito, and chicharron de pollo — marinated chicken with Dominican wasakaka, an herb and lime sauce similar to chimichurri. Mains include branzino, poke bowls and arroz negro — calamari, octopus and local shrimp with squid ink. Pizzas and numerous vegetarian offerings round out the menu.
La Cana serves French-inspired cuisine with a Caribbean twist. Beef Bourguignon is classic red-wine-braised short ribs with a fluffy, spiced potato puree. Confit de Canard is a falling-off-the-bone duck quarter with a piquant demi-glace, celery root puree and roasted cipollini onions. An impressive wine list boasts ample French, Californian and South American choices — but no one will blink if you order a cold Presidente, the crisp Dominican lager.
At Causa, a recent addition at Casa de Campo, expect three widely popular styles of Peruvian fare: Creole, Nikkei and Chifa; sushi; and stir-fry and mixed-grill offerings that blend Chinese, Japanese and South American flavors.
Breakfast is served al fresco at Lago, which overlooks the 18th hole at the Teeth of the Dog course. The selection is staggering, from smoked fish, Dominican sausages, made-to-order omelets, smoothies and tropical fruit of every variety, churros, waffles, and homemade French pastries. As you dine, watching the grounds crew fuss pridefully over the verdant golf course is as entertaining as the aerial show of terns and other small birds trailing after the mowers in search of their own breakfast.
With the mantra of “First, Best and Most,” Casa de Campo is designed to pamper. Feeling a bit spoiled during your stay here, however, and you might be planning a return trip before you catch the flight home. SP
Casa de Campo Resort & Villas, casadecampo.com.do