Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic

Bill Clinton

Perhaps one of the most recognisable ‘Silver Travellers’ is former US President Bill Clinton who left Casa de Campo just before we arrived. I’m sure that was merely coincidental! We were fascinated to see what attracted the rich and famous.

The Dominican Republic occupies just over half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola which it shares with Haiti. Christopher Columbus first set foot on the island in December 1492 and the capital, Santo Domingo , the first city in the Americas, was founded by his son Bartholomew in 1498.

It’s home to the world’s second largest goldmine, the Caribbean’s highest mountain and largest lake and is the second largest nation in the Caribbean after Cuba. Whilst the national sport is baseball, golf is popular with overseas visitors due to the many courses and good year-round weather.

Tourism is at the heart of the economy with a number of major developments such as Casa de Campo contributing to its success; indeed, the Dominican Republic is the most visited country in the Caribbean.

Hotel roomsCasa de Campo itself is situated in Romana and was originally home to the world’s largest sugar mill, owned by Gulf + Western, famous for such brands as Paramount Pictures, Viacom and CBS. However the area was transformed into a tourism destination, starting with the building of the Teeth of the Dog golf course which opened in 1971. Designed by Pete Dye it is generally regarded as the best course in the Caribbean. Two more were to follow and the resort opened in 1974.

It’s difficult to describe the place. Hotel – yes it has 247 rooms in a spacious garden setting – but its seven thousand acres also includes 1,800 villas. As well as three golf courses there are three polo pitches, stabling for several hundred horses which guests can ride, zip-lining, clay pigeon shooting, thirteen tennis courts and a range of water sports. Oh, then there’s a cigar factory! Of course there are the usual facilities such as a fitness centre, spa, pools and numerous bars.

BuggyA four-seater buggy is included in the package. How else could visitors cope with this huge area? It is three kilometres to the beach, five to the Marina and seven to the village of Altos de Chavon, with four of the six restaurants covered by the all-inclusive package at the latter two locations. However, in the evening there is also a half-hourly shuttle service from the hotel reception to these locations for guests who prefer not to drink and drive.

Our journey started at Gatwick where we were met at the South Terminal by I Love Meet & Greet. The British Airways flight to Punta Cana was a little over nine hours so the comfort of World Traveller Plus was worth the extra; a further forty-five minutes saw us at the resort where welcoming glasses of Prosecco were on hand to help with the check-in process which included providing a driving licence for the all-important buggy. Later that evening we set out to dinner in our fun little vehicle, feeling a little like Noddy and Big Ears.

18th holeOne of our favourite spots for lunch was the 19th hole, the club house terrace overlooking the eighteenth green of the Teeth of the Dog course with the sparkling Caribbean in the background. Drinks and substantial sandwiches were provided by attentive and cheerful staff who quickly got to know what type of wine we preferred.

Altos de Chavon, a mock sixteenth century Spanish village, was built as a film set but never used as such. It’s home to a number of restaurants, artisan workshops, museum, church and night club. We enjoyed a delicious meal at La Piazetta, a delightful and authentic Italian restaurant run by a Venetian who clearly had a passionate interest in serving great food, even down to the aged Parmesan cheese, samples of which he offered us before our meal. Later in the week we had dinner at neighbouring Chilango, a Mexican restaurant.

La PiazettaNearby is a five thousand seat Roman-style Amphitheatre. Opened in 1972, the first performer was Frank Sinatra, clearly a tough act to follow, but many have done so, including Elton John,  Andrea Bocelli, Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias, Placido Domingo and more. During our visit they were getting ready for a concert of 80s music by REO Speedwagon.

The beach at Minitas includes a beach club with two pools, one for families and the other for adults only. A food cart is available for snacks and there is also a restaurant serving lunch and dinner.

The impressive Marina was crammed with multi-million pound yachts that would not have looked out of place in Monaco. Two more all-inclusive restaurants, Pubelly Sushi and La Casita, a Spanish restaurant focussing on seafood, are at the waterside, providing a glamorous setting for dinner.

VillaOur spacious accommodation was in one of many rooms scattered amongst topical gardens, and all-inclusive. However, there are many villas to rent ranging from three to eleven bedrooms, each bedroom capable of accommodating up to two adults and two children. Breakfast is prepared by Casa de Campo’s own visiting staff who are also available to provide catering for lunches, dinners, BBQs and more.

There’s no doubt guests are spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation, activities and dining. Fitting it all in could be the only problem, so don’t forget your driving licence.

More information

British Airways flies from London Gatwick to Dominican Republic from £463 including taxes/fees/carrier charges. Book online or call 0344 493 0120. British Airways Holidays  offers seven nights on all-inclusive basis at Casa De Campo Resort and Villas from £1,350 per person, excluding transfers. The all-inclusive package includes meals at a choice of on-site restaurants, extensive alcoholic and  non-alcoholic beverages, unlimited horseback riding, tennis, non-motorised watersport and a four-seater buggy.

I love meet and greet offers valet parking at Gatwick and Stansted airports from £110 a week. Book online or call 0344 493 0120.

Mike was a guest of Casa de Campo.

 

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Mike Pickup

Award-winning travel writer & photographer

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