Dominican Republic is in our crosshairs
- Last Updated: 5:27 PM, February 10, 2012
- Posted: 4:16 PM, January 9, 2012
A weekend in La Romana, the resort-filled region in the southern Dominican Republic, is a weekend designed to put hair on your chest or a blush on your cheek, depending on your gender.
Here in the rugged D.R., rum is quaffed and Montecristos are smoked without much regret. And while it could be slightly ridiculous to say that some of the more opulent outposts of the D.R. involve “roughing it,” the activities on offer seem designed to hone the Y chromosome — even if you’re not male.
For example, this reporter, who had never shot a gun before, arrived at an elegant wood-paneled La Romana club several weeks ago, and picked up his first rifle. A group of men and women who had mostly never fired such a weapon spent their afternoon getting in touch with their inner Charlton Heston. (We just destroyed clay pigeons, but still.) The group only disbanded when it ran out of ammo.
La Romana is one of those tourist destinations that hasn’t quite had the cachet of, say, Punta Cana in recent years. The lack of a nonstop flight from New York hasn’t helped, but it has the requisite beaches, greenery and resorts with lush golf courses that sun-seekers want.
And it recently got a big boost: In November, JetBlue started offering twice weekly direct flights from JFK (starting at $149, one-way, Wednesdays and Saturdays).
Even without nonstop flights, Americans found their way to Casa De Campo. La Romana’s 7,000-acre resort (the region’s biggest) underwent a $42 million renovation over the course of the last two years (including $12 million alone on its kitchens). Golf fanatics, meanwhile, already knew Casa De Campo’s five courses, the most famous being its renowned “Teeth of the Dog” course, often ranked one of the top 50 in the world. (And they’ll no doubt feel at home staying in one of Casa De Campo’s 185 guest rooms or 12 suites -- starting at $495 per night -- where guests are given golf carts for the entire stay.)
“At our hotel, 70 percent of the clientele are American,” says Casa De Campo’s president and CEO, Claudio Silvestri. However, Silvestri adds, “There’s another 4,500 rooms in Bayahibe.” That resort area, 10 miles to the east of La Romana, gets more European and Latin American tourists.
The JetBlue flight has been a boon to Bayahibe as well, Silvestri adds.
Bayahibe is bright and cheerful; tourists jam the beaches here for outings to the nearby islands, like Isla Catalina. There’s also a growing ecotourism industry, thanks to the surrounding Parque Nacional del Este, a protected reserve with 500 different kinds of flora and 300 different species of birds. And one of the biggest trends of late has been the area’s “underwater archaeological reserves.” These are essentially re-created 17th- and 18th-century pirate ships; tourists are invited to don their snorkel or scuba diving gear and view up close. (The practice got a big boost with the 2007 discovery of Captain Kidd’s sunken merchant vessel off the coast of Catalina, which was later the subject of the National Geographic Channel’s “Shipwreck, Captain Kidd”.)