Dominican Republic: The Boutique Alternative

The Dominican Republic has made a name for itself as a bargain vacation destination, giving Cancun a run for its money. But it isn't just a numbers game anymore. Destinations are looking for "quality visitors." These well-heeled tourists are not tempted by packaged travel. They're looking for superior service, spa options and luxury touches such as personal plunge pools, well-stocked wine cellars and gourmet dining. Enter the boutique properties.

Casa Colonial, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, opened in early 2005 in the Playa Dorada complex, convenient to the colonial city of Puerto Plata. This small, luxurious, 50-suite boutique hotel has a Zen-like ambience epitomized by its Bagua Spa. The hotel is already becoming known among the celebrity circuit. A scuba diver checking out the underwater flora

Laidback Cabarete

The town of Cabarete is well known as a laidback windsurfing destination. Natura Cabanas is on an area of quiet beach, although it's easy to access Cabarete's energy. Natura Cabanas features coral tiles, walls made from stone and handcrafted furniture using bamboo and coco palms. The Cabarete Spa complements the hotel's relaxed atmosphere, where guests can also enjoy al fresco gourmet dining.

Sivory Punta Cana opened its doors last January. Also a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the boutique is set on a private, white-sand beach. Its interior design blends Dominican and Polynesian influences. The hotel offers its guests gourmet dining and rejuvenation at the Aquarea spa and wellness center. Sivory Punta Cana has its own wine cellar, stocked with more than 8,000 bottles, as well as a Cigar Lounge where an extensive selection of premium cigars is available. The hotel's Sommelier is on hand to answer any questions and assist guests in wine, whiskey and cigar pairing. The Columbus Square cafe in Santo Domingo

The hotel's Ysla Club, located in a private section of the resort, kicks the service level up a notch. The Ysla Club consists of seven oceanfront suites and offers an exclusive beach area and private butler service.

Tortuga Bay Hotel is a boutique-style expansion to the Punta Cana Resort & Club that opened in December 2005. Tortuga Bay Hotel features 15 rooms, all personally decorated by Dominican native Oscar de la Renta, who is a co-owner of the property. The boutique property, which offers one-, two-, three- or four-bedroom accommodations, features a private restaurant, pool with wireless Internet and fitness area accessible only to guests staying at the hotel. Survival Tips

Victorian House is an impressive five-star boutique property with an outstanding view of Sosua Bay. The original building dates back to the 1900s and was a getaway for wealthy owners of the United Fruit Company of Florida. Today, 50 spacious rooms are appointed with Caribbean flair. Guests can relax at the Starz Spa. One of the property's selling points is its location in the middle of the European-Dominican town of Sosua, which offers restaurants, shopping and local color only steps from the hotel.


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