Forget everything you know about the Dominican Republic. Casa Bonita hotel, hidden amid the rainforest that covers the island’s southern reaches, is the indulgent eco retreat with ocean views, jungle adventures and organic farm-to-table cuisine that you’ve been waiting for.
Get this when you book through us:
Hour-and-45-minute guided canopy zipline tour for two
12pm, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from $220.50, excluding tax at 28 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast (Full American from $15 per adult, $10 per child).
Look closely at your coffee tables and the decorative bowls, and you’ll see they’re all made from reclaimed wood and found natural objects. The hotel’s Tanama Eco Spa offers a full range of services, from couple’s massages to body wraps, with 90 per cent of products made from organic local ingredients.
At the hotel
Spa, yoga and fitness studio, tennis court, pool, Jacuzzi, gardens with hiking trails, free Wifi in lobby and restaurant. In rooms: iPod dock, CD player/radio, free bottled water and L’Occitane or Aveda bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Any of the 10 Deluxe Suite casitas with king-size beds wins our hearts. All have private balconies with impressive views over both the Caribbean Sea and the Sierra Barahuco Mountains – views you can enjoy from your bed from the moment your eyes flutter open to the calls of tropical birds.
The lounger-lined infinity pool is located just outside the central house, bordered on one side by the open-air restaurant and on the other by unobstructed views of the jungle running straight down to the ocean. The spa has a private Jacuzzi.
Hiking boots for exploring the rainforest on the hotel’s extensive grounds. Don’t forget your swimsuit: not only is the pool a main attraction, but the nearby Bahoruco Beach is a renowned local surf spot.
Considering the numerous stairs, the hotel is not ideal for disabled guests.
Kids are welcome, though those between three and 12 cost an extra $45 (plus tax and service) a night. Babysitting is included while parents get spa treatments, the chef will adjust menu items upon request and the spa does special manicures for children.
The hotel was built entirely from locally sourced materials and uses a hydroelectric generator to minimise its carbon footprint. Pat’s Organic Garden on site provides produce for the restaurant; the rest comes from the surrounding community.
For the most romantic dining experience, nab one of the handful of candle-lit tables that sit poolside, just beyond the main dining patio.
Unfussy eco chic: the day’s swimsuits and hiking boots make way for airy dresses, linen trousers and sandals at night.
One of the perks of Casa Bonita’s remote location and eco-friendly MO is that almost all of the Las Canas restaurant’s fresh produce is grown on-site at Pat’s Organic Garden, designed by horticulturist Pat Kennedy. The open-air dining area looks out toward the ocean, providing a serene backdrop to dishes designed to showcase the area’s super fresh fish; think ceviche, ceviche and more ceviche. With a chef who formerly garnered praise at the Riviera Maya’s Hotel Esencia, the restaurant makes the most of the surrounding bounty, serving cheese from the local Monte Sacro organisation, marmalades from nearby La Cienega and home-made breads.
Part of the restaurant, the Las Canas bar area maintains the verandah’s breezy, laid-back atmosphere throughout the day and late into the evening. Paired with hip-swaying Latin beats, the house twist on a classic mojito – using organic basil from the garden, of course – will have you in a tropical mood in no time.
Las Canas and its attached bar serve food (and signature drinks) all day, from 7am to 11pm.
The full restaurant menu is available in your room from 7am to 11pm.
Casa Bonita is outside Barahona, in the southern Dominican Republic, roughly a three-hour drive from Santo Domingo.
Santo Domingo’s Las Americas International Airport is the nearest major hub at 230km (about three hours) away. American (www.aa.com), Delta (www.delta.com), JetBlue (www.jetblue.com) and British Airways (www.britishairways.com) all offer direct and connecting flights from major US and European cities.
If you want to explore the area without a guide, a car is advisable. Santo Domingo’s airport offers car rentals through most major agencies. Free parking is available at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Barahona, the closest town in this mountainous jungle region, is a 20-minute drive away, but the port itself draws few visitors. Casa Bonita’s extensive property is just part of a virtually untouched expanse of the island that more closely resembles Costa Rica than the over-developed beaches generally associated with the Dominican Republic.
Start your morning with a hike or mountain-bike ride through the hotel’s patch of jungle, then head down to the nearby Bahoruco Beach to surf with (or get a surf lesson from) the locals in the brilliant blue Caribbean Sea. Venture out on your own or with a hotel-approved guide to the explore the ancient cave drawings and protected beaches of Jaragua National Park, also home to the bird-enthusiast’s paradise of Oviedo Lagoon. Go snorkelling and swimming at other local beaches like San Rafael or El Quemaíto, both virtually unknown to foreigners, and take a tour of a coffee plantation.
Returning to Casa Bonita doesn’t mean you can sit by the infinity pool just yet. Rather, saddle up for a horse ride through the diverse terrain or strap in for your high-flying adventure on their private canopy tour. Only then will you have earned a massage and a stint in that lounge chair.
The nearest worthwhile restaurants are still too far for a reasonable drive, so plan to dine at the hotel.
Every hotel is visited personally by members of our team and given the Smith seal of approval. As soon as our anonymous reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in the Dominican Republic and unpacked their hiking boots and homemade jam, a full account of their tropical island escape will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Casa Bonita…
Welcome to the real Dominican Republic. While visitors have been flocking to Punta Cana’s sandy, overdeveloped shores for decades, discerning locals have been keeping the jungles of Barahona for themselves. Casa Bonita, a former family holiday estate, wouldn’t have to do much to lull guests into total bliss among its hundreds of untouched acres of rainforest and unobstructed Caribbean Sea views. But with thoughtful touches such as an organic garden to supply the open-air restaurant and decor in private casitas coming courtesy of reclaimed local wood, its owners have managed to create the kind of destination that makes both demanding environmentalists and authenticity-seekers feel at home.
So, grab your board (or one of the hotel’s) and head down to one of the local-surfer-secret beaches or hop onto a horse for a ride through the hotel’s own patch of jungle. Soak in the views from your balcony, or let the bartender bring you another cocktail at your poolside chaise lounge. Just follow your fancy, because, with only 12 casitas, Casa Bonita might as well be your own private estate…
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Casa Bonita’s Guestbook below.
Our honeymoon stay at Casa Bonita was nothing short of heavenly. We reserved the Master River Suite and were delighted at the babbling brook running right past our back deck, where we enjoyed coffee and fruit in the mornings and reading in the afternoons. We got a couple's massage in an outdoor pavilion and read by the pool with margaritas and fresh calamari. When we landed in Santo Domingo, we were greeted by a friendly driver holding a sign with our name; he drove us the entire 3.5 hours to Casa Bonita in the pitch dark. We were exhausted and grateful to have a comfortable, air-conditioned car for the trip. The pool next to the restaurant and lounge area is beautiful, although not heated and quite cold. Our room was very well kept. Some folks in the reviews complain of a damp or moldy smell we noticed a very strange smell from the closet. We tried to keep it closed at all times and open all the windows during the day. Our bathroom was completely outdoors! Two showers, one in a sheltered/tiled area and one in the free-air. The toilet was enclosed but with a glass door (I wouldnt share this room with anyone with whom you arent intimately familiar). Our room also had a hot tub/private pool in the bathroom area that has optional heating, which was so wonderful on the windy days when we wanted to warm up. We spent hours reading in there with the jets on. The creek/river running through the back is swimmable! It is clear and gorgeous and we saw some tiny fish. People walking in the creek do have a view of your room if the curtains are open. Packing tips: 1. bug spray 2. snacks 3. eye masks 4. books 5. hat 6. if you stay in the river suites, don't bring your heels, you cannot walk up the hill to the restaurant in heels.
Don't expect staff to speak much English; download a translator app (this was so helpful). There are a few staff who can speak some English but it's limited. This isn't Punta Cana – you need to come prepared. If you're already booked, look out for Suzana and Carlos. They are the best to communicate and they know everything. Many people reviewing mention searching for a better deal or renting their own cars. We chose not to as the route is very difficult after dark and the driving is VERY different from what were used to (it would have taken us much longer as we would have had to drive more slowly and would have most certainly have had difficulty navigating in the dark). Take money from the ATM after you pick up baggage (not currency exchange) and tip your driver. We tipped D500-1,000 on any given trip or excursion. Casa Bonita employs members of the local community and I imagine you care about that and thats why youre visiting Casa Bonita for its sustainable eco tourism (and not Punta Cana). There was a great deal of wind while we were there as well so be prepared to spill a few drinks and pack a sweater or light jacket for meal-times at night – the tables towards the back of the restaurant area are safely out of the wind so try to sit up there when possible. We were here for New Year's Eve and the day before the resort did get a bit crowded so we didn't have any privacy during that time with the volume of passerby exploring the creek.