After a few schedule conflicts, we were finally able to accept an invitation to The Bungalows, Cofresi Beach, a new luxury resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, last month.
It was worth the wait.
The party heats up by the pool at The Bungalows
We arrived from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport via American Airlines and touched down around 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday. Since the property opened about four months ago, we had been hearing about the resort’s claim to having some of the most personal and unique services offered in the Dominican Republic.
We saw evidence of that the moment we exited our plane at Santiago Airport: The Bungalows’ driver Mario Susaña was waiting for us. We were escorted to a VIP lounge, where another attendant took our passport and baggage ticket, and told us to sit tight.
That’s right, they actually provide a service where you don’t need to clear customs, immigration or even claim your bag. In fact, while someone was stamping our passport, paying our entry tax of $10 and picking up our overpacked luggage, we were sipping on a Diet Pepsi and reading USA Today.
We later learned that this service is available for all guests for a fee of $35 or $60 roundtrip, which includes the $10 tax. Only two hotels offer the service in Puerto Plata, and The Bungalows is the only one that does this at Santiago Airport, which is about an hour and 30 minutes from the property.
The Studio Bungalow features a large living room area with modern, custom-made furniture
Susaña took us to the property, where we were introduced to our concierge and taken to our room, a Bungalow King. The room was actually two rooms joined together by a connecting door, which we didn’t figure out until we missed our wake-up call for the second time (they were going to room #2036, where we placed the call and not to room #2035, where we slept). The room was enormous. It came with a Jacuzzi, a king-size bed, two 42-inch plasma TVs and a terrace equipped with lounge chairs and sofas.
The minibar was even a surprise—it was unusually inexpensive compared to what other resorts charge. For example, a Presidente, the local beer, could be purchased for just $3 a pop while a pack of Marlboro Lights could be bought for $6. (We didn’t indulge, in case you’re reading this, Mom.)
A Full Day
After a great night of sleep, Susaña picked us up at 10 a.m. on the dot as promised and took us to Cabarete, a beach village about 45 minutes away that is known for its party-like atmosphere, and is sprinkled with restaurants and beaches along the entire strip.
Before we arrived, however, we made Susaña show us a few car washes along the way since we didn’t believe his claim that the car wash in Puerto Plata is a place where locals drink, dine and dance until the sun comes up. We were wrong. If Dominicans could make a party out of washing a vehicle, we realized, they can make a party of out anything.
We recommend booking Susaña’s services for clients looking for a driver who will show you Puerto Plata’s best-kept secrets, from rum shops that offer free samples to the best nearby beach parties. He can be reached at 011-809-586-3531 or at [email protected].
Since we arrived in the midst of a minor storm Thursday night, we were excited to see the sun blazing Friday afternoon in Cabarete. We weren’t sure if we were going to get sun like this for the rest of the weekend, so we abandoned the sun block (not recommended). When we arrived back at the resort, we took advantage of our scheduled spa treatment. We usually prefer a good, old-fashioned, deep-tissue massage, but considering I was now “Lobsterman,” I opted to go with the more subtle aromatherapy massage, which was excellent. A 25-minute session costs $60 and is enough to do the trick. We were covered in scented oils, rubbed down from head to toe and sent on our way to dinner with General Manager Jaime Basauri and Corporate Sales and Marketing Director Joaquín Dueñas at the signature restaurant, Social.
We ate everything from duck salad to lamb chops to roasted beets and goat cheese, but nothing topped the pork tenderloins served with port wine sauce and mixed dried fruits. But if you are still not sure what you want from the menu, the restaurant’s general manager Sean Mohammed, who actually prepares the recipes, is always more than happy to help.
Program for Agents
Over the course of our meal with the executives, we learned about some newsworthy items. Maxim is slated to launch a new website in early July geared toward preferred travel agents. The program is called the Elliott Preferred Travel Agent Program or EPTA. Here, agents can register to become preferred Maxim agents and receive incentives from 15 percent commissions to $100 bonuses for every booking made in the low season. Visit Maxim Bungalows’ website for more information.
Maxim’s second property, The Bungalows, Juan Dolio, is slated to open in the fall. Although an official opening date hasn’t been released yet, we were told that the latest possible date would be early November. Unlike The Bungalows, Cofresi Beach, which caters primarily to the leisure traveler, ages 25-40, this property is going to be geared primarily toward corporate clients and will be about 30 minutes from industrial Santiago, which is mostly a business destination. We also learned of Maxim’s plans to open a third resort in Turks and Caicos. No additional details were released to us, since plans are still being ironed out, but Basauri did confirm that Maxim is eyeing Turks and Caicos and also has plans to open more resorts in the Dominican Republic.