Dominican Republic hotel Casas del XVI invites guests to quantum leap back to the colonial era – with the added benefit of all mod cons, naturally. Two casas, in the centre of Santo Domingo's Unesco World Heritage site Colonial City, have been lovingly restored (dare we say, improved upon) and fashioned into seven luxury suites. However, a supernaturally helpful private butler, peaceful palm-strewn courtyards to siesta in and a bygone setting support the illusion that you’re a fresh-off-the-boat hidalgo paying homage to the New World.
3pm, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, noon; early arrivals can stash away their luggage and relax in the courtyard until their room is ready.
Double rooms from $222.75, excluding tax at 28 per cent.
Breakfast is included.
Former Dominican Republic president Ulises Heureaux resided in Casa Arbol from 1887–1889, and Casa de los Mapas is so called due to its many wall-hung maps, inspired by an itinerant cast of characters who’ve stayed over the years. Casa del Diseñador is the former home of a Dominican fashion designer, and Casa Macorís was originally part of the colonial-era Convento de los Dominicos. The hotel’s inviting pumpkin-coloured library is irresistibly cosy; plonk down in a purple sofa with one of its small selection of books.
We love Casa del Arbol’s ‘pineapple room’, in the Deluxe category, where historic gravitas and island ebullience come together like a conquistador in Carmen Miranda headgear. Kitsch fruit-filled paintings, pineapple-shaped light fittings and a headboard with an elaborately carved – yes, you guessed it – will make you crave a piña colada.
Guest may use the pool at Casa Macoris or the unheated pool in the inner courtyard of Casa de los Mapas (unless either Casa has been booked for exclusive use). This pretty patch has grassy banks, tropical ferns and palm grass along one edge, and a smattering of day-beds; after sundown it’s lit by candelight.
A good book to read in the courtyard; we recommend Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz’s tragicomic tomes, which capture the island’s patois. Bring a Field Notes pad in which to sketch the varicoloured tropical birds that flock to the courtyard’s mango tree (in Casa Arbol) and potent bug spray to keep you bite-free while doing so.
The best beaches are found further afield, but there’s plenty to explore nearby; ask your concierge to plan a tour. If you'd like an in-casa spa treatment or personal-training session – whatever your whim – have a word with your butler.
Family groups are welcome. The Superior Room sleeps a family of four on two double beds, and a free baby cot can be added to Deluxe and Luxury Rooms. There are no special services, but butlers can arrange babysitting, child-friendly meals and baby kit.
Why eat inside when you could dine under a palm canopy, listening to birdsong, in a perfumed private courtyard?
Laid-back Caribbean cool: loungewear in bright carnival-inspired colours.
The hotel operates on a bed and breakfast basis; each morning your butler will ask where you’d prefer to dine – in casa or courtyard – before laying out a tasty spread. Anything you’re hungering for can be prepared, but the cinnamon, chocolate-chip and banana pancakes, served with coffee and freshly squeezed tropical juices, are dreamy. The hotel can put together a bespoke private lunch or dinner menu on request (with some notice).
Delicious Dominican rum – alongside a range of spirits and soft drinks – flows from each casa’s honesty bar (You’ll find one in Casa Arbol’s foyer and Casa de los Mapas’ kitchen), and your mayordomo can turn mixologist at a moment’s notice.
There’s a limited but delicious menu for in-room dining; your aim-to-please Jeeves can help if you’re hankering after something specific.
These chic casas are on the south-east coast of the island, at the centre of 16th-century Colonial City. Set on a quiet residential street lined with sun-faded fincas, they’re just 10-minutes’ walk from Parque Colon and Montesinos Beach.
The hotel is a 25-minute drive from Las Américas International Airport (www.aerodom.com). There are direct flights from most major airports on the US eastern seaboard; from Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf in Europe; and most Caribbean islands. Transatlantic flights arrive via Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and Hartsfield International, or Charles de Gaulle and Punta Cana airports; flights across the Pacific via San Francisco and Newark Liberty, or Portland and Hartsfield airports.
Driving isn’t recommended. It’s fairly easy to reach most destinations on foot, but arrive armed with a map: unmarked streets and confusing colloquial directions can leave even the most confident orienteer befuddled. If you wish to explore beyond the city there’s an Avis car-hire booth at the airport.
Worth getting out of bed for
Casas del XVI is an island stay for those who prefer touring Santo Domingo’s crumbling cathedrals and fortifications to topping up their tan. Colonial City earned its Unesco World Heritage stripes by keeping its 16th-century architectural gems in tip-top condition. The city’s most acclaimed sights are all within 20 minutes’ walk from the hotel, so – like Columbus – you can chart your own course or let the hotel’s concierge tailor a tour to your liking. Stop at Ozama Fortress (+1 809 686 02 22) and Alcázar de Colón (+1 809 686 86 57) residence on the three-hour ‘Old City Stroll’ or take a spiritual journey to the Iglesia Regina Angelorum and Convento de los Dominicos (+1 809 682 37 80, http://conventodominico.org) on the four-hour ‘Churches of the Colonial City’ tour. Gourmands with a penchant for rum can wash down caught-that-day seafood and calorific desserts laced with coconut and dulce de leche with heady amber spirits on the ‘Ron Barcelo Sugar and Rum Experience’, ‘Chocolate Clay and Sugar’ and ‘Flavours of the Old City’ tours. Nighttime tours, open-air theatre, golf challenges and day-trips to celebrate the Samana Harvest Festival are also offered.
The island’s best beaches are found further along the southern coast and in the laid-back Samaná Peninsula; however, Santo Domingo is home to Montesinos Beach, 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel, where locals meet to play beach games and sunbathe. It’s advisable to keep your beach frolicking on dry land – the murky waters aren’t the most inviting. For full-on beach fun, continue your Caribbean getaway with a seaside stay at Casa del XVI’s sister hotels Casa Bonita or Sublime Samana.
Dine on surf 'n' turf, mariscos (mixed seafood platters) and elegant tasting menus – we love the Rum Experience’s imaginative intoxicating dishes – at Pat'e Palo (+1 809 687 80 89, www.patepalo.com), a local-thronged European-style brasserie in Plaza de España. The terrace overlooks the Alcázar de Colón. A long row of stools cosying up to the bar makes Lulú (+1 809 687 83 60, www.lulu.do) one of Colonial City’s most sociable venues. Its lengthy tapas menu has internationally influenced dishes, including short-rib croquettes with Emmenthal and beef wontons. Sophia’s Bar & Grill (+1 809 620 10 11) –15-minutes’ drive from the hotel, on Calle 16 de Julio – serves high-end comfort food: truffled mac and cheese with lobster and Churrasco-style beef. Save room for calorific desserts and mugs filled with churros.
On the ground floor of the Hotel Conde de Peñalba, near a bustling shopping area, is Café Conde de Peñalba (+1 809 688 71 21, www.condepenalba.com) an excellent people-watching spot. The menu has reasonably priced international fare – burgers, sandwiches and a tasty brunch selection – alongside local dishes, including mashed plantain. The shaded terrace has views of Cathedral of Santa María la Menor (the New World’s first European cathedral) too.
If you’re seeking piratical pursuits, forgo swashbuckling and skulduggery for the louche aspects of a sea rover’s lifestyle by knocking back rum-laced cocktails in El Mesón de la Cava (+1 809 533 2818, www.elmesondelacava.com) – a former pirate’s hideout. The restaurant and bar’s setting – inside the belly of a chandelier-lit grotto – is magical and the terrace is resplendent with vividly coloured ferns, palms and flowers.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from Casas del XVI’s historic homesteads – in the Dominican Republic’s Colonial City – and unpacked their bottle of Mama Juana (a potent potion of rum, honey and red wine) and a ‘limping-devil’ carnival mask, their tales from the New World will be dispatched post-haste. Meanwhile, here’s a tea-stained missive to whet your appetite…
The neon-bright woodpeckers and narrow-billed todys look fittingly attired for an avian rave, perched in the branches of the mop-topped palms in Casas del XVI’s courtyard. If you don’t already feel like a fawned-over infanta, watching them flutter in and out will upgrade your holiday reverie to real-life Disney princess. These 16th-century casas inspire grandiosity: in their past lives they’ve been show homes for visiting royalty and a presidential des res. After a few nips and tucks they look as majestic as when they were built – turned out in timeless style with original floor tiles you’ll be tempted to prise up and pack in your suitcase (if you can style out having ‘desecrator of a Unesco World Heritage site’ on your rap sheet). So, assume your mantle as lord/lady of the house, and summon your personal butler for a rum cocktail that’ll leave you reeling before setting forth like Columbus to explore Santo Domingo’s mysterious past and vivacious present.
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 Casas del XVI’s Guestbook below.
Fantastic hotel! Service was incredible with your own personal butler. The casitas were gorgeous, it made you feel like you were in your luxury home in the old town in Santo Domingo. We had a couple's massage in the house where Oscar de la Renta lived - it was so beautiful. And it was very quiet and tranquil, we even enjoyed a bath afterwards with tea. Also - the food was delicious, and the living rooms were beautifully decorated. It made me imagine the great parties that were probably held there! Also, the price was so reasonable for the 5 star experience.
Stayed on 15 May 2019
The XVI century architecture and the gorgeous inner courtyards.
The rooms are quite small.
Stayed on 2 May 2019
Everything: our casa, our butler, the peace and quiet in the crazy dirty city that is Santo Domingo. Our room was unbelievably good, the food was magnificent and we were pampered and spoiled by our butler.
Don't expect the world outside the walls of the hotel to be quite the same. Santo Domingo is pretty gritty and has a decaying charm that not everyone would like. You're safer than you initially think, however, and you're in a total oasis in Casas Del XVI.
Stayed on 3 Aug 2018
We were blown away by the beautiful casas (you'll be in one of 5 within 5 mins of each other) with stunning interior design, thoughtfully done to the historic environment of the old town. It's a total oasis from the busy streets outside. Big beds, bathrooms and fantastic breakfast. Worth going to Santo Domingo just to stay here! Sushi Bambam – at the back of a cool design store, delicious fresh sushi, so cheap! You may need to speak Spanish for the menu though.
To be on your own – the casas have a few rooms so it's likely you'll be sharing common spaces with other guests – like staying at someone's home. The main reception is in 1 of the casas – so just know when you arrive that you may not be staying there but they are all beautiful!