Luxury Meets History in the Dominican Republic

Columbus statue in Dominican Republic
A statue of Christopher Columbus in the Zona Colonial.

I just returned from my first trip to the Dominican Republic. The Caribbean nation shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, and is between Puerto Rico and Cuba. With fantastic beaches, a rich history, a lot of luxury hotels and resorts, friendly people and easy access from the U.S., it’s a great place to get away from it all.

Santo Domingo
A circle in the middle of the country’s government buildings in Santo Domingo

Getting There
There are no direct flights to the Dominican Republic from Los Angeles so we flew American via Dallas and Miami. We used AAdvantage miles for a portion of the trip, so we had flights at inconvenient times and with one more connection than if we had paid for tickets. With all that said, the three flights all left and arrived on time and only one connection was rushed. Knowing we had a few connections, we did travel with carry-on bags only so we didn’t have to worry about our luggage making all three flights.

InterContinental Santo Domingo
The Real InterContinental Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo
Our first stop was the capital city and a stay at the new Real InterContinental Santo Domingo. The luxury hotel, in the city’s Piatini neighborhood, provides a new level of services and amenities to the Dominican Republic. Aside from hotel guests, the pool bar, restaurants, spa and other areas are popular with locals, and the property has become an important part of the Santo Domingo social scene. It benefits guests as you have an opportunity to interact with locals and residents, not just other hotel guests.

Suite bedroom at the InterContinental Santo Domingo
Suite bedroom at the Real InterContinental in Santo Domingo
Fortaleza Ozama
Fortaleza Ozama, the first permanent military installation in the Americas

One day, we explored the city on a half-day tour set up by the hotel. It was fascinating to learn about the country’s colonial history and also its rich (and sometimes tragic) political history. It’s important historically as it was the first permanent Spanish settlement in the Americas and as such is the home to the first fort, palace, cathedral and university in the Americas.

Santo Domingo Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace in Santo Domingo
Bathtub in luxury hotel suite
The beautiful, spa-like bathroom of my suite at the InterContinental, complete with amazing bathtub views to the ocean

Another day we took a drive to Juan Dolio, a beach resort about an hour and a half from Santo Domingo. We spent the day at the Coral Costa Caribe Hotel, which offers a day pass to its beach and food. For $50 each, we got access to their beach plus unlimited food and drinks. Well, an unlimited lunch buffet and a free snack stand with pizza and hot dogs. We found ourselves a secluded spot on the beach, away from the crowd and enjoyed a very nice afternoon.

Juan Dolio Dominican Republic
The beautiful beach of Juan Dolio
InterContinental Santo Domingo pool
The very cool infinity pool at the InterContinental offered great views of the city

Punta Cana
After our time in the city, we were ready for a beach resort experience so we headed about two and a half hours outside Santo Domingo to Punta Cana. Unfortunately, we found ourselves heading there on the Friday before Easter, during a week which was already a school holiday in the country. Rooms at any of the well-known properties were just not available, either directly from the property or via various online booking sites.

Vista Sol Punta Cana accommodation
View from our junior suite in Punta Cana

To get to Punta Cana, we used Uber, which was cheaper than a taxi ($120 vs. $200). I’ve used the app all over the world (Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico City, London, Paris) and love having it as a reliable transportation option.

Vista Sol Punta Cana VIP
The Golden Club VIP building was separate from the other accommodation units

Without a lot of options, we booked a room at the Vista Sol Punta Cana and it was about what I expected, a large all-inclusive resort, crowded for the holiday weekend. After booking the room on a popular online booking site, we had no problem checking in, and were thankfully upgraded to a junior suite in the resort’s “Golden Club” VIP area. The junior suite was a bit frayed and tattered (it looks nothing like the junior suite photos on their website!), with a loose sink and a tiny shower, but it had an ocean view and was fine for a one-night stay.

Vista Sol Punta Cana
The beautiful beach in Punta Cana was worth the hassle to get there and the less-than-luxurious accommodations

We enjoyed the beach for a few hours in the afternoon and then had a late dinner in the buffet. The food was plentiful and a bit better than acceptable and our late dining time made it less crowded than it would have been at peak dinner hour. We spent another few hours on the beach the next morning, before heading to the airport for our long journey home.

Getting Home
Our return trip would again take three flights on American, this time from Punta Cana first to Charlotte, then to Dallas and finally onto Los Angeles. As before, all three flights left and arrived on time and we had no problem making the connections.

Read more of Freddy Sherman’s take on travel on his Go World Travel Blog. You can also follow more of his adventures at blog and on his YouTube channel.