We don’t normally contemplate carrying out diamond heists or Machiavellian manoeuvres, but if they’d result in a life lived at luxury hotel Amanera in the Dominican Republic, they’d be well worth it. Crime-justifying charms here include: a jaw-drop Playa Grande perch, cliffhanger casitas with contemporary good looks, an Aman spa, two restaurants and more adventure activities than a superhero would know what to do with. There’s even a well-stocked cigar lounge, so you can go home proficient in the art of rolling your own gangster smokes.
2pm, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, noon.
Double rooms from £1326.81 ($1,664), including tax at 28 per cent.
Rates usually exclude breakfast but include some outdoor activities, non-motorised watersports, afternoon tea, soft drinks and snacks and access to the kids club.
Take part in free yoga and Pilates classes or book a private session with the personal trainer ($120 for an hour; $170 for 90 minutes). Keen golfers will relish the chance to tee off at the Playa Grande Golf Course, the hotel’s near neighbour, which boasts the highest number of oceanside holes in the Western Hemisphere (www.playagrande.com/golf).
At the hotel
Private patch of Playa Grande beach; more than 2,000 acres of leafy grounds; Aman spa; watersports centre; tennis courts; cigar lounge; gym; free WiFi across the resort. In rooms: Nespresso machine, TV, DVD player, Aman bath products.
Our favourite rooms
If you like the sound of bedding down on the front row of a 60-foot cliff, with uninterrupted views of Playa Grande beach and sunrise (it’s up to you whether you wake up early enough), opt for a Bay View Pool Casita or the Amanera Casita. (That said, if you’ve had a peek at our pics, you’ll know that this litter has no runts.)
As curvy as a Caribbean supermodel, the main infinity pool cascades around the dining areas, meaning meals are soundtracked by splashing water.
Holy smoke. Inspired by the native healing methods of the island’s Taíno Indians, treatments at Amanera come with the option of ‘smudging’: the fanning of palo santo wood smoke over one’s body, traditionally carried out before any journey for a sense of a new beginning. Palo santo means ‘holy wood’; as its name suggests, it’s considered sacred. Try a sage-infused body wrap, a coffee exfoliation or a facial featuring natural oils.
Bring a thirst for rum and a yen for cigars.
There are compulsory gala dinners on Christmas day (at the Beach Club for $195 an adult, $85 a child, or restaurant $375 an adult, $105 a child) and New Year's Eve (at the Beach Club for $375 an adult, $185 a child, or restaurant $550, or $270 a child).
Little Smiths are very welcome. Parents can borrow cots; there are on-loan highchairs; babysitting is $20 an hour (book at least a day ahead).
Little Smiths of all ages are invited – and they’re brilliantly catered for.
Take your pick – they all have space for a tot or teen.
None, but babysitting can be arranged.
Amanera has an Eco Casita Children and Youth Programme that champions the hotel’s landscapes. Guests of all ages can join hikes and nature walks; little Smiths aged between five and 12 can go on guided beach and forest jaunts and learn about the native flora and fauna; younger ones can try supervised arts and crafts sessions. Special events are regularly staged for younger guests: bonfire nights, discovery walks, tennis and golf clinics, cookery classes, dance performances and more…
The family-friendly infinity pool has a shallow end and Roman steps; there’s also a kids’ pool by the beach.
Menu items can be adapted for junior palates; the hotel has a stash of on-loan highchairs for parents.
Babysitting is available for $20 an hour; give at least 24 hours’ notice.
No need to pack
Nappies, swim nappies, baby wipes, baby food and healthy snacks.
Older kids can borrow DVDs, books and bicycles; there are indoor soft toys and outdoor toys for younger tots to play with, plus plenty of arts and crafts materials.
Ask staff to set up a private candlelit barbecue/bonfire on the beach.
A chacabana (traditional shirt) for Mr Smith; something as sultry as the weather for the Mrs.
There are two to choose from: the Restaurant in the Casa Grande and the Beach Club, a shrimp’s throw from the sea. The former serves Mediterranean cuisine, including moreish tapas and tempting mains (caramelised mahi-mahi and goat stew, for example) in a breezy space that surveys the beach, jungle and main pool. The latter offers casual feet-in-the-sand-style dining (don’t miss the zingy ceviches, toothsome tacos, and luscious langoustines and lobster).
Have pre- or post-dinner drinks at the ocean-spying bar above the Restaurant. Get a liquid lesson in rum – the Dominican Republic is one of the Caribbean’s finest, oldest rum producers – via the cocktail list.
Casa Grande is open from 7am until 10pm; Club de Playa serves ‘lunch’ from noon until 6pm.
The 24-hour room service menu means you could feasibly stay in bed for your entire holiday without wasting away (you’d waste a lot of ocean time, mind). Have breakfast in bed or order salads, sandwiches, ceviches and more from the all-hours selection).
Amanera occupies a vertiginous clifftop patch above glittering Playa Grande beach, surrounded by jungle and forest. Put simply, it’s one of the most incredible spots we’ve ever clapped eyes on.
Both Puerto Plata Gregorio Luperón International Airport and Samaná El Catey International Airport are 80km away (a 90-minute drive); transfers from Samaná cost US$295 (including 18 per cent tax) and a Puerto Plata round trip will set you back $400 in an SUV. Call our Smith24 team to book your flights and organise transfers.
It takes about 70 minutes to drive to Puerto Plata, the capital of the Puerto Plata province on the Dominican Republic’s Atlantic north coast. There are car-hire booths at Puerto Plata’s airport.
Should you – entirely sensibly – wish to arrive by chopper, the hotel can arrange private helicopter transfers from any Dominican Republic airport (at an extra cost, natch).
Worth getting out of bed for
Be as adventurous as your setting: go on a hike or a nature walk, perfect your swing on the world-famous golf course on your doorstep, try surfing, bodyboarding, snorkelling, kayaking, kite surfing and stand-up paddle boarding. Set off on a boat trip among the mangroves and natural pools that form part of Amanera’s aquatic playground; go canyoning and cascading in the nearby national park. Sound a tad tiring? Make time for treatments in the spa (a clay body wrap infused with guanábana leaves, perhaps) or borrow books from the library. Don’t leave without learning about cigars in the cigar salon, stocked with Amanera cigars, plus some of the most popular brands from the Caribbean and Central America. Amanera’s resident cigar roller is on hand to offer private classes in the art of cigar-rolling.
El Babonuco in Cabrera is beloved for its brilliant owner, fun atmosphere and utterly delicious fish and seafood. What more could you ask for? Yep, the Presidente beers are ice-cold, too. Order the pasta heaped with conch, lobster, shrimp and other sea-bounty; pay a trip to the owner’s cigar factory while you’re here (+1 829 338 8707). If Amanera’s main restaurant has given you a taste for Italian food in tropical surroundings, continue the theme at Entre Amigos in Cabrera (+1 829 969 7044). You’ll thank us, once you’ve sampled the courgette lasagne (and the delights of the owner’s wine cellar). The Clubhouse restaurant at the Playa Grande Golf Course is well worth golfing up an appetite for.
Arriving at Amanera is a moment to remember. You first walk into the building through the back – a series of stepping-stone paths over water, with multiple levels and wall-less rooms that make the building (despite its concrete construction) seem like it’s floating.
As you walk through the main building you’re greeted with the most incredible view, which is when Amanera really feels like it is suspended above the ocean. The detail isn’t just in the building, though: staff whisk bags away without you even noticing, and you’re handed a delicious drink (I am still thinking about it now) as you’re given a short tour around the building.
From there a little golf buggy takes you to your casita. Each one is set back from the main path, with views of the sea and your own private seating area (in some cases a swimming pool). Your tour continues to point out all the fancy tech – who knew a light switch could do so much? – and all the amenities you could ever need. It’s definitely a place to stay if, like me, you have a tendency to forget things when packing – they’ll have whatever it is you need. The villas are modern but not sterile; light and airy but still cosy and homely. You really could just spend the entire stay here…but I don’t recommend you do.
Firstly, you must visit the beach. It’s everything you could dream of from the Caribbean: white sands framed by luscious greenery and a (choppy) blue sea. There is a shoreside restaurant where we ate lunch daily – and I’ve missed sipping on a mojito with that sea view every day since.
There’s a second restaurant in the main building, alongside the incredible sea-view lounge bar that became my favourite area. Perhaps the only shortcoming of Amanera was the service speed in the restaurants and bars. Whether it be at the beach, the main restaurant, or room service, the wait for food and drinks was always a little on the longer side. That being said, this is the Caribbean – and the food was great. From meat dishes, seafood, tapas-style sharing options, the menu had a great selection to satisfy whatever mood you might be in.
Aside from the must-see beach, there are a series of excursions you can take: dinners for two on the beach; hikes; horse rides… We opted for an hour in the saddle, riding along Playa Grande. It rained sideways for a good portion of it and yet it was still a truly incredible experience. The two guides we had were amazing, both speaking perfect English and teaching us about the island and its nature as we went. Despite not having been on a horse in several years, there wasn’t a moment I felt unsafe or worried about riding again. I highly recommend you do this.
After a morning on horseback and an afternoon by the gorgeous pool, a good night’s sleep was on the agenda. The turndown service in the room also goes the extra mile – more than a chocolate on the pillow; on our second night we were left with a pestle and mortar along with a little note explaining its crafting, the relevance of its materials to the area and the history behind it. It was such a lovely little touch to find in to the room, and is completely representative of the lengths Amanera went to to make our stay there so memorable.
Even the spa shuns the ‘normal’ and instead incorporates ancient ‘smudging’ traditions where guests are fanned with sacred wood smoke, to mark their new beginning here.
Also, make sure to look up on the evenings, I have never seen a night sky like it in my life. It, like most other things here, was completely awe-inspiring.