DESIGN YOUR OWN ROMANTIC GETAWAY ON THIS CARIBBEAN ISLAND.
Put the words “Dominican Republic” and “romance” in the same sentence, and you might picture a beachside honeymoon destination. You wouldn’t be wrong – with nearly 1,000 miles of turquoise coastline, the island merits its reputation as a dreamy beach destination.
But these days, couples are discovering that the Dominican Republic’s beaches are just part of the story on an island rich with culture and history, from private villas and waterfront resorts in Punta Cana to the beating heart of Santo Domingo, a charming centuries-old capital.
Your idea of romance might mean zip-lining off a cliff together, exploring an old-world village hand-in-hand, or enjoying a waterfront spa treatment together, and the Dominican Republic delivers. It’s easy to fall – or stay – in love.
Choose a sexy home base.
Punta Cana is known for its beachside resorts, but think beyond the all-inclusive swim-up bars, buffets, and wristbands. This coastal oasis is also a hub for high-end luxury, and if you’re itching for action after a day or two on the beach, you’re not far from your next adventure.
“So much of the stereotype of the Dominican Republic is that you go to your resort and you don’t leave,” says Louisa Gehring, a Cincinnati-based Virtuoso travel advisor. But Eden Roc at Cap Cana bucks that preconceived notion. The resort, located within Punta Cana’s exclusive Cap Cana community, offers the plush amenities of a boutique hotel.
“You can spend a whole week there, never leave, and yet feel like you have plenty left to explore,” Gehring says. Begin your stay with a concierge-led tour of Cap Cana, home to horse stables, miles of swimmable beaches, and Scape Park, a theme park where you can get an adrenaline fix via zip-lining, cenote diving, or caving expeditions.
Or book a private villa at Tortuga Bay, an Oscar de la Renta-designed collection of vacation homes in Punta Cana. Step onto your balcony for views of the Caribbean Sea and relax in your breezy suite, with an aesthetic inspired by the island’s indigenous culture. Between your kitchenette and the 24-hour room service, you don’t need to leave, unless you want to enjoy a sunset horseback ride or a couple’s massage.
Connect with local culture in Santo Domingo.Just a two-hour drive west of Punta Cana is Santo Domingo, the capital and the largest city in the Dominican Republic. Ideal for a day trip or for a longer stay, Santo Domingo embodies two cultural personalities: It’s the most modern, cosmopolitan city in the Caribbean, but also the oldest European settlement in the Americas, dating back to the fifteenth century.
“The colonial history of Santo Domingo is something you cannot miss when going to the Dominican Republic,” says Sue Jeske, a Virtuoso advisor based in Daytona Beach, Florida. “There are churches and historical landmarks that rival ones I visited in Italy.”
Santo Domingo’s Colonial City was founded in 1498 and is the site of several firsts in the Americas – the first cathedral, first hospital, and first university, to name a few. Walk along cobblestone streets through tree-lined plazas and admire architecture dating back to the era of Christopher Columbus. Order a drink or a leisurely alfresco lunch, and be sure to sample mamajuana, the Dominican Republic’s signature boozy concoction, made with a blend of herbs, rum, and red wine. Sip carefully – mamajuana is strong, and the locals will tell you it’s an aphrodisiac. (Of course, this might enhance a romantic island getaway.)
For date night, start your evening at the Arturo Fuente Cigar Club. Puff on fine Dominican cigars with a glass of rum in hand, or share small plates while listening to live jazz in the cozy-chic lounge. Enjoy dinner at one of the many bistros with picturesque patios in the Plaza de España and take in views of Colonial City. After dinner, saunter along the seaside on the Malecón, where you’ll encounter live music, restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife scene set to an up-tempo merengue soundtrack – the perfect segue to dancing the night away.
Design your own adventure together.An easy day trip from Punta Cana, swanky La Romana is popular among A-listers such as Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez. If golf is your love language, don’t miss the Pete Dye-designed courses at Casa de Campo resort in La Romana. Casa de Campo’s three courses, including its flagship Teeth of the Dog course, are renowned for both their natural beauty and their difficulty.
Casa de Campo is also home to Altos de Chavón, a replica of a sixteenth-century Mediterranean village that sits atop a hill overlooking the Chavón River. Visit the village’s cultural center or archaeological museum and shop its boutiques, stocked with items by local artisans and ready-to-wear designs by Jenny Polanco, one of the island’s most celebrated fashion designers.
For an intimate rendezvous on the water, book a private yacht from Punta Cana to Saona Island, a sparsely populated paradise just south of the mainland. You can snorkel in its tranquil, transparent waters or just relax on what feels like a secret island find.
After a day at the beach, head back to your hotel for a siesta and dinner before starting the night at Coco Bongo Show & Disco. This surreal experience is part variety show and part nightclub, complete with high-flying acrobats, professional dancers, and an open bar.
“Get ready for the most exhilarating, entertaining nightclub experience ever,” says Nancy Herron, a Virtuoso advisor based in Lake Oswego, Oregon. “You will see flying acrobats above and around you, bar-top conga lines, movie clips projected onto high-tech video screens, live bands, and more.”
A night at Coco Bongo might extend into the early hours of the morning, so take it easy the next day at one of Punta Cana’s spas. The Six Senses Spa in Tortuga Bay emphasizes health and whole-body wellness, an essential complement to a night of revelry. Book a service for two, such as a detox massage to boost circulation or an organic cocoa and sugarcane body treatment for an antioxidant boost.
Plan a stylish send-off at the newly opened VIP lounge in the Punta Cana International Airport. The lounge features an infinity pool overlooking the runway, so you can soak up every last drop of your getaway with a dip in the water and a cocktail in hand before takeoff; it makes saying adios a little bit easier.