Even while still in the Punta Cana airport, it was immediately palpable that I was now on a Caribbean island…the Dominican Republic situated between Puerto Rico and Cuba to be exact. In many places the terminals are open-air, filled with natural light, and covered with a series of woven palm frond palapas. Roving merengue bands play randomly amongst the throngs waiting in line for customs or a flight. Now is a great time to begin trying out salutations and simple phrases in Spanish. No matter where your travels take you, your island experience will be so much richer if you make an effort to temporarily consider English as your second language. Many Dominicans are bilingual but I found that reaching out to your hosts in this regard is a reward in itself.
As you’re waiting at the ground transportation pickup area, you can be sure that the crowds surrounding you essentially fall into 2 groups: Those going on their own staying at a B&B in the countryside taking locally-run tours or visiting wonders like the Punta Canta Ecological Foundation where forest honey is produced. The other larger group will be staking their claim on a comfy lounger at an all-inclusive resort for a lavish frolic in the sun. I discovered that you can actually experience both if you’ve booked a Platinum package at The Bavaro Princess Resort.
The feature that immediately impressed me upon arrival at the Bavaro Princess was the property ground’s sheer diversity. Within a span of 15 minutes, you can amble from your day bed on the beach in the VIP roped off area under swaying palms surrounded by sugar white sand, to the massively opulent pool, and then explore an onsite eco park via boardwalk trail system winding above marshland teeming with wildlife surrounded by dense jungle vegetation.
This is a nature preserve with several aviaries, one of which is home to a resident scarlet macaw, available for perching on your shoulder when staff are available to assist. Wandering through this area gives you a glimpse into what the landscape was like before being transformed into a resort. Nestled behind a water fountain amidst the meticulously manicured rolling lawns and palm groves lies the tranquil Metamorphosis Spa. Inside, a portion of the ceiling is open to the sky with a babbling brook running through the center. It is here that I indulged in both a Swedish massage on an outdoor bed and a private room shiatsu treatment. It’s simply inconceivable that you could leave this spa without being enveloped in complete bliss.
When it’s dinner time, be sure not to miss Bavaro Princess’s weekly Dominican night at La Hispaniola Restaurant. The court yard outside bustles with artisan craftspeople. A glass artist trained a precision torch on delicate tubes twisting and blowing them to create exquisite ornamental palm trees and other decorative objects. Wood carvers spread out their inventive wares and classic Dominican cigars were being hand rolled from scratch right on a table using the most moist wrapper leaf I have ever put my lips to. A merengue ensemble played at the restaurant’s entrance along with 2 ravishing cabaret dancers readily available for photo ops.
Once inside, I was treated to a buffet brimming with Dominican dishes like Sancocho stew andMoro de habichuelas rojas (Dominican rice and red beans) along with desserts like rice pudding and sweet plantains baked with cane syrup & cinnamon sticks. The most visible made-to-order dish was the mofongo. A chef was behind a serving station vigorously mashing tostones (twice fried plantains) with garlic and olive oil in a pilon (a type of mortar & pestle). Before mounding the mixture into a ball, chicharrones (small cubes of decadently fried pork) were placed in the middle. The chef then served up the newly created mofongo with some gravy and more chicharrones on the side. The resulting hearty dish reminded me of polenta only a bit sweeter. And when combined with the crisp and chewy chicharrones, absolutely to die for!
As a Platinum guest, an exclusive cabana is available with complimentary breakfast and a selection of finger foods & drinks throughout the day. Comfy chairs and flat panel monitors broadcast the latest programming if that’s what you’re craving at the moment. Suites comes equipped with an in-room hot tub, private terrace for shaded non-beach lounging, and mini bar stocked daily with drinks, most notably local El Presidente beer. The plush King beds, terry robes, and individually controlled AC are appreciated extra comforts as the sizzling tropical sun gives way to your choice of evening respite or vibrant nightlife.
The party really starts to heat up here when the sun sets. You’ll see that Dominicans truly relish their nightlife and are eager to share it with you. Even if you’re not a night owl, just remember that you can always catch some up on your Zs on a beach lounger the day after.
Videos courtesy of Steve Mirsky. Coverage made possible by a Royal Holiday sponsored trip.