The excitement had been building for weeks. My first trip to the Dominican Republic was finally here and I was doing it in style.
A visit to the world-renowned Casa de Campo Resort & Villas.
After a brief ride from the airport through the La Romana region, we were swept into the welcome center, checked in by the friendly and courteous staff and introduced to the golf cart that would be our transportation for the duration of our stay. Our room was beautifully appointed with a veranda overlooking one of Casa de Campo’s three championship golf courses. I felt like I had truly arrived.
The first order of the day was to get something to eat, so we headed off, zipping along in our golf cart through streets lined with lush palm trees and scattered with luxurious villas with manicured landscapes. Since Casa de Campo covers an area of 7,000 acres, the golf cart is a necessity for navigating the property. We had decided to start the culinary part of our adventure with the wonderful beachside eatery called Minitas Beach Club and Restaurant. Of course, de rigueur, cocktails were required to celebrate our arrival in paradise. I had “Passion on Fire”, a fiery concoction of Drambuie, cinnamon, passion fruit and jalapeños. It was a treat that spoke to my Scottish heritage and added a bit of latin heat. Lunch was fantastic, the menu really had something for everyone, from casual food for a quick beach lunch to something more sophisticated. While we relaxed, it was clear to see that everyone around us was also enjoying their surroundings, a beautiful beach with water gently lapping at the shore.
In the evening we made another foray in our golf cart. Navigating our way in the dark was not easy as there are many twisting roads and intersections in this immense property. Many of the villas that we passed had been decorated extensively for the upcoming Christmas celebration and luckily some of these provided landmarks for our return journey. For dinner, we met up with friends at the exquisite restaurant SBG. The restaurant is nestled at the far end of the large marina that sits within the Casa de Campo property. The walk through the marina was a delightful part of the evening’s experience. Looking at the gorgeous yachts moored there while lazily walking the cobbled pathways got us in the mood for the remainder of our evening. SBG is easy to find as it features a lighthouse that rises above the yachts and piers that surround it. Dinner was a culinary delight with a selection of appetizers and main courses featuring sushi, local seafood, great steaks and all paired with amazing wines. The evening concluded with an idyllic ride back to our room feeling satiated and bathed in the warmth of the La Romana breeze.
One of the highlights of my Casa de Campo adventure was a visit to the shooting center. I arrived and met up with the resort’s director of shooting, Jake Pike. Jake was determined to show me the ropes and introduce me to skeet shooting at the center’s recently completed “five stand” facility. Jake is an intriguing and interesting character. A gregarious Englishman and natural storyteller, he made my experience memorable, explaining the different types of sport shooting and giving me hints on how to hit the targets more consistently. Once Jake had set me up and showed me how to safely handle the shotgun, it was time to get down to business. I had a huge grin on my face as I yelled “pull” and tracked that first clay pigeon across the blue sky. I tracked it carefully as I’d been instructed, pulled the trigger and…boom! A small kick into my shoulder as the shotgun recoiled and the clay pigeon shattered into many small pieces…success. Jake ran me through a regime of shooting the clays from either side of me, from above the stand and low in front. I even had to hit one that went across low in front of me like a rabbit running. All in all I had such a fun time at the shooting center and thanks to Jake, I learned a thing or two along the way.
The final treat that Casa de Campo had to offer was Altos de Chavón, a replica 16th century mediterranean village perched atop a cliff overlooking the Chavón river. This captivating town is chock full of artisan shops and fantastic restaurants. It felt like we’d been transported to a different time as we meandered the cobblestone streets, looked into some of the shops where items were being painstakingly handmade and taking in the delicious smells from the many restaurants. This small town even features a 5000 seat coliseum-style theater that has been the venue for many musical performances and also the beautiful St. Stanislaus Church, the focal point of the main plaza at the center of town.
A stay at Casa de Campo as my first trip to the Dominican Republic certainly set a high bar for future trips to this beautiful country. I left feeling relaxed and filled with memories that I will forever treasure, of time well spent in such a warm, tranquil environment with wonderful friends…..until next time.