Stylish Caribbean chic in Punta Cana
When you arrive at Punta Cana International Airport for a stay at Tortuga Bay Puntacana Resort & Club on the east coast of the Dominican Republic, an escort will be waiting for you at the gate. She’ll help you breeze through the lines for immigration and to pay the entry fee and usher you into a private van that will whisk you away to the exclusive hotel. Although the hotel is a mere six minutes from the airport, it seems like another world. Unlike the big all-inclusive resorts on the island, the 30-suite Tortuga Bay is hushed and relaxing. Three miles of barely populated private beach fronts the grassy villa yards. An eco-reserve (free for hotel guests) is dotted with lagoons where you can take a dip.
The Caribbean-chic accommodations are just as enticing, namely because fashion powerhouse Oscar de la Renta designed them (he co-owns the hotel with singer Julio Iglesias and entrepreneur Frank Rainieri, all of whom have homes in the gated community surrounding the resort). The yellow villas are as bright as the piercing Dominican sun. Inside the white, airy rooms, the canopy bed gets a dreamy island interpretation with brown wicker. Coral stone fills the spacious bathroom, which comes with a sunken Jacuzzi, a separate glass-enclosed shower and perfumed bath products from de la Renta (of course). If you're a fan of the designer’s sartorial work, visit his first hotel boutique, which is nestled among the villas. You won’t find his red-carpet gowns there, but his flirty dresses and accessories line the shelves.
While it’s easy to be dazzled by the beach and the designer suites, don’t miss the food. Among the property’s six eateries, Bamboo is the must-visit. Head to the small restaurant in the morning for a complimentary breakfast buffet with a tempting charcuterie spread (everything from red pepper caciotta and camembert to lomo ham and prosciutto) and à la carte dishes. Fill up with the heavy Dominican breakfast that includes two sunnyside-up eggs, mangu (mashed green plantains), a pile of sautéed onions, slices of thick white fried cheese and slabs of Dominican salami. At night, Bamboo transforms into a candle-lit romantic setting (snag a seat outside near the pool amid the backlit palms) with Mediterranean-influenced dishes like wagyu tenderloin with truffle-flavored mashed potatoes and mushroom dust, and pan-fried red snapper with pigeon pea stew, mashed cauliflower and carrot and celery crudités.
After check-in, your personal villa manager will give you a cell phone that’s programmed with his number so you can reach him from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., with the option to contact front desk during the night hours (expect a check-up call to ensure all your needs are met). A golf cart will be available for use during your stay so you can explore the property. Don't miss the 45 holes of championship golf (duffers will love the six waterfront and 14 ocean-view holes), Six Senses Spa (get the knot-busting Punta Cana Signature Massage, which uses fresh oil from local coconuts), the turquoise water lagoons of the Ecological Reserve and the aquatic center (where you can arrange to scuba, snorkel, sail on a catamaran or take a private cruise). Though relaxing on the white sand beach is an equally good option.
It will be hard to leave the pristine waters, but the luxury hotel makes parting even easier than your arrival: An airport escort will help you bypass lines at the ticket counter and security so that you can rest up in an air-conditioned (a nice perk, since the rest of the airport doesn’t have cool air) private lounge with a mojito and snacks like cheese and pineapple. And when it’s time to board, you’ll be escorted to the beginning of the line.