On its wide and wild namesake beach on the Dominican Republic’s quiet northern coast, boutique hotel Playa Grande Beach Club is a handsome home-like hideaway. It won’t take you long to figure out that this series of bungalows belongs to an interior designer: artfully matched botanical prints, patterned tiles, pastel colours and vintage furniture come together in classic colonial decor, complete with ceiling fans, print-toting patios and wraparound porches. In one direction is the beach, in the other a hillside nature reserve, but you can be as active or as inert as you see fit. In any case, those cute white beach-hut-style cabanas with the latticework are exactly where we’d want to spend a day by the pool.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £719.70 ($1,000), including tax at 25 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast.
Full-size Big Chill fridges will be stocked with free water, soft drinks and local beer – but if you have other temperature-controlled essentials, just let the hotel know before arrival and they’ll get a shop in for an additional cost.
At the hotel
Beach, tennis court, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: air-conditioning, minibar, free bottled water, tea and coffee kit, locally made bespoke bath products, beach bags and sun hats.
Our favourite rooms
If you’re after some interiors inspo, book the owners’ home, Casa Guava, which has vintage pieces to admire, lots of privacy and a wraparound porch to sit out on and pretend you’re the proprietor of this paradise.
There’s a pool steps from the sand, lined by white beach-hut-style cabanas, palm trees and sunloungers.
In-room or on-the-beach spa treatments can be arranged on request, along with personal trainers, tennis lessons and fitness classes.
Bring active gear if you want to make the most of the hotel’s outdoor gym (the hiking-ready nature reserve in the hills behind it); or just a series of swimwear if you’re aiming to stake out a poolside cabana for the duration.
Unfortunately, the hotel is not easily accessible for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome, and little Smiths will love the games room and grounds. Single beds can be added to the One-Bedroom Bungalows, or families can book the three-bedroom option. Babysitting is available with a couple of hours’ notice for US$15 an hour.
The hotel uses seasonal, locally sourced, organic produce where possible, as well as eco-friendly cleaning and bath products. It composts all food waste, and grows kitchen ingredients in the on-site herb and vegetable garden. The beach club also supports local educational and medical programmes, helping the area’s residents with vision tests, dental checks and free preschool tuition.
Meals can be enjoyed poolside or in your bungalow, but go for a table out on the colonnaded veranda for simultaneous tile and breeze appreciation.
The prettily patterned decor sets the style-bar high – outfits as rainbow-hued as the surrounding tiles and trinkets is your goal.
The Great Room is a dining area, lounge and bar in one, with tall plants, wicker chairs and pastel-coloured cushions. Breakfast is a spread of tropical fruits, yucca crisps, house-made granola, bread and jams, with things like dulce de leche French toast and squash pancakes cooked to order. The menu for other times of the day uses island-sourced ingredients, like just-caught fish, market vegetables and fresh-from-the-farm eggs, in dishes such as teriyaki octopus, quinoa-coated tuna tataki and ceviches to share.
There’s a stool-lined bar in the Great Room, and a colourful, cosy watering-hole upstairs above the library, where you can test out tamarind-infused shandies, espresso martinis made with Dominican coffee and classic mojitos.
The restaurant is open all day from 7.15am until 10pm, with snack menus available to order from in between meal times. Breakfast stops at 10.30am. Drinks are served until 10pm.
Everything on the menu can be served in your bungalow if you prefer.
Carrera Rio San Juan - Cabrera, Km 10 - Autopista 5
Rio San Juan
Playa Grande Beach Club is, unsurprisingly, on Playa Grande (beach) on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.
Puerto Plata Airport is closest; the 80-kilometre drive should take an hour and a half. Hotel transfers in a vehicle that seats six cost US$100; for a slightly slicker SUV, it’s US$200. Another option is to land at Las Américas International Airport, but the drive’s a little longer; allow two-and-a-half hours. Hotel transfers to this airport start from US$210.
The beach club is a 10-minute drive away from Rio San Juan, which has beaches, lagoons and festivals to hit up. There’s free valet parking when you arrive. It’s easy to hire a car at either airport, but if you’re planning to fly and flop on Playa Grande, you’ll get along just fine without your own wheels.
Worth getting out of bed for
As the name hints at, Playa Grande Beach Club is on the namesake Dominican stretch of sand, with all the water-based activities that come with it. There’s a surf shack nearby that will be able to furnish you with various boards (surf, body, paddle). Kite-surfing and wind-surfing are possible in Cabarete, an hour’s drive west from the club. Have a massage in your bungalow or on the beach, or enlist the help of personal trainer Irma to kick you into shape in a far nicer setting than your local gym. And, if you still don’t feel fit enough, try a round of tennis or some yoga. Or sack it all off and head to one of the vendors lining the beach, showcasing their fresh-fish, fried-plantain and ice-cold-beer wares. The hills behind the beach club are calling out to be hiked on; the hotel has a guide ready to take you on a nature trail to learn about the local flora. You’ll also be able to cruise Laguna Gri-Gri by boat, ride horses through caves, by rivers and along beaches, and go fishing. Further afield on the island, activities include whale-watching (from mid December to late March), waterfall tracking and trips to Santo Domingo’s ‘colonial zone’. There’s a nearby cenote, Lago Dudu, for sinkhole-loving sorts to adventure along.
There’s not a lot in the immediate area around the beach club, but the country’s Aman outpost is a few minutes away by car (and 30 minutes away on foot); Amanera’s Casa Grande will welcome you with ceviche, tacos and lobster on a Playa Grande-facing terrace. For something a little more laid-back – and the chance to shop for cigars afterwards – make the 15-minute drive to El Babanuco; the cocktails aren’t bad, either.
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 this beachfront hotel in the Caribbean and unpacked their buckets and spades, a full account of their boutique break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Playa Grande Beach Club in the Dominican Republic…
Though the name might make you think of rum-powered parties and bustling beach bars, there’s nothing hectic about Playa Grande Beach Club. This colonial casa was the holiday home of an interior designer, before she was kind enough to share her patch of paradise by turning it into a boutique hotel. As you may expect, you’re in for an interiors-styling treat: patterned tiles, vintage furniture, botanical prints and pops of colour come together in a heavenly, harmonious style. There’s a series of one- and three-bedroom bungalows scattered throughout the lush grounds, and a pool edged by charming white huts – the sort you might find lining a British beach, but with pristine latticework in place of the wind-battered, peeling pastels. The Great Room serves up exactly the sort of food you’d want to eat somewhere hot: tuna tataki, grilled catch of the day and huge plates of ceviche to share. Who needs a rum-soaked rave when you have a holiday home this stylish on loan? (Answer: nobody.)