If you aren’t an Aman Junkie, you may not have traveled to many exotic venues. Aman Resorts has a keen eye for novel locations and masterfully designing exceptional and unique properties.
Once again, with their 29th property, Amanera, Playa Grande in the Dominican Republic, they have reaffirmed their long-standing record of stunning resorts.
One note, most travelers who visit the Dominican Republic, land in the over developed Punta Cana area – multitudes of hotel properties lacking remoteness or exclusivity. As Aman typically builds its resorts in locations which are a bit off the beaten track, they have succeeded again with Amanera. If isolation and absolute quiet are important to you, do waves and bird song count as noise? I think not. Amanera is an oasis of tranquility.
Built on the North shore of the Dominican Republic, this gem of a retreat offers world renowned golf, hiking, near by kite boarding, water sports, horse back riding and divine dining – why would you opt to stay with the masses?
What do you notice first? Stunning architecture, Balinese like streamlined style, soaring teak and concrete structures open to the expansive views of the Atlantic, and in the distance, a jade green jungle. Architect John Heah integrated the twenty-four casitas in an amphitheater configuration in three stacked rows so that all dwellings enjoy sensational unobstructed views of the ocean. Rooftops are covered in grass, an aesthetic attribute, a seamless blend with nature. Water features are an integral part of the design, which result in stunning mirror reflections and soft splashes, adding to the allure and sense of peacefulness.
The main building, Casa Grande is easily accessed by foot if you decline a buggy driver. With several excellent dining options, I would recommend the jaunt! Casa Grande appears to hover over a breathtaking view with soaring glass or open-air ‘walls ‘ providing an unobstructed view of the mile long crescent beach. An infinity pool floats below Casa Grande, if you don’t have your own private plunge. Nothing obscures the distant horizon.
My one bedroom casita was located in prime territory, basically center stage orchestra seating, if you will. Similar to Casa Grande, the floor to ceiling glass windows provide drop-dead views of the beach below, the horizon and the jungle beyond the beach. From my bed or my pool loungers, my tropical perch was akin to heaven. A short walk down hill to the beach provided outdoor exercise. The unparalleled setting feels like you are on the edge of the earth, deep jungle terrain kisses the shore of the white sandy crescent shaped beach bordered by crashing waves. Palm fronds edge the jungle boundaries and add a soft swish in the breeze. Beach loungers dot the sand where waiters deliver chilled libations or snacks. This is where you must bring your book bag for an indulgent catch up.
I haven’t mentioned the spa or the championship golf course. This is the first Aman property with a golf course. It goes without saying, it is exceptional. Building on this unspoiled side of the island, Aman didn’t have any competition from a local course – and good luck to anyone who attempts to top this course. The palm lined, ocean facing course has ten ocean side water holes, more than any other course in the Western Hemisphere. Besides challenging golf, there are stunning scenic photo ops for those who merely shoot cameras.
The Robert Trent Jones course was recently renovated by Jones’ son Rees Jones. Vast open vistas dominate this 7,085-yard course which curves along the jagged coastline and has breathtaking cliff-side fairways of beautiful sloping velvet greens— it’s often described as the “Pebble Beach” of the Caribbean. Resident pro, PGA Professional Julio Santos took me out for a tour, as I find golf a lesson in frustration. I highly recommend a walk on the paths after the duffers have moved on to the 19th hole…sensational views, carts are encouraged as Julio pointed out when he thought I veered too close to a dramatic drop off near a green! Don’t take my word for it, Larry Olmsted, professional travel writer/golf addict has this to say about the course… http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2016/07/05/the-best-golf-course-in-the-caribbean-plus-an-awesome-new-luxury-resort/#404cd4f2f676
A tranquil sanctuary awaits you at the Spa. Inspired by the shamanic healing traditions of the Dominican Republic, spa therapies use locally grown plants and herbs, as well as the Aman range of all-natural products. Massages, facials, scrubs and wraps join signature Spa Journeys as part of a holistic approach to wellbeing.
Dining – I’ve previously posted on the exceptional chef experience with my cooking class at Amanera. Both chef’s display very innovative styles, partly based on their heritage, and are enthusiastic in indulging guest requests. The Restaurant, specializing in fresh, organic dishes, features a terrace overlooking the uninterrupted mile-long golden strand of Playa Grande beach. Floor-to-ceiling windows ensure expansive views from indoors, and the second-story bar is the perfect spot for an aperitif. Other dining options include Club de Playa, set on the beach, don’t miss the lobster here – I have never seen such enormous lobsters! Sundowners at Playa Grande in a hammock under a coconut tree, in the sand or from the floating bar in Casa Grande – do try the local concoction Mama Juana. A regional cocktail made with rum, red wine, dried bark and honey.
Activities – A stay at Amanera is as busy or relaxed as a guest desires. Resident hiking assistant Antonio, doubles as a full-time guide, leads nature walks and mountain bike trips. He patiently explains medicinal uses for plants, uses a sharp stick to puncture coconuts to reveal the intensely flavored fruit. End your hike with a chilled bottle of wine and snacks in the jungle! Wake up to sunrise yoga or Pilates, walk the stunning crescent beach, laze about, there is no pressure to indulge-staff is present and quiet awaiting your request. Off property, cruise in a motorboat down the Río San Juan, lined with towering prehistoric looking mangrove trees and fluttering with snowy white egrets. On a calm day, traverse the waves to head out to sea for a swim or snorkel.
I find a singular component to very successful hotels or resorts is the personality of the General Manager. In this case, Rocco Bova, a very animated Italian, who listens, suggests and enthusiastically replies: we can do this – when would you like to dine, cook, hike- whatever your request – he makes the magic happen! I’ve written about Hotel Whisperer GM’s, he definitely exemplifies this magical gift. Where can I buy the chocolate in my Casita? Boxes of delicious milk chocolate appear in my Casita. My clients would love these Aman hand rolled cigars…wooden boxes and brochures are offered…Lasagne for your last meal, of course! Hotel Whisperer, Rocco Bova!
Amanera has upped the luxury game in the Dominican Republic. Highly recommend for a luxurious lazy sojourn, golf addicts must add this course to their playlist, and Aman-junkies, you must flock!
Aman has always set the stage for guest arrival and departure…in this case we were served a tropical drink and of course those ubiquitous Aman fine leather luggage tags are discretely attached to your bag before departure…
I should have asked the Hotel Whisperer for the addictive coconut cookie recipe…