It’s mid-December as we begin to board our flight to the Dominican Republic – our destination, Punta Cana, where we will be spending a few days at the Luxury Bahia Principe Esmeralda. It’s one of the many Bahia Principe resorts that line Bavaro beach, whose white sands border the Atlantic Ocean. What makes the Esmeralda a special resort is that it’s a part of the Don Pablo Collection, which gives guests unparalleled service and access, some of which includes having a butler available, a pillow menu, and 24-hour room service.
As we pulled into the resort, we were dropped off at the massive, open-air, lobby of the Bahia Principe Punta Cana. It was from there where we were ushered into a shuttle that would take us to the Esmeralda. As we were driven through the grounds, we were impressed with the impeccably manicured gardens and the rows of colonial-esque buildings that housed the suites, bars, and restaurants. We felt like the resort was dipped in warm colours and it was to remain that way forever. When we disembarked we were greeted with a delicious strawberry banana cocktail, and upon tasting it our minds went straight into vacation mode. One tip to note is that if you’re planning to dine at any of the A La Carte restaurants, you should make your reservations right after you check-in. That way, you’re guaranteed to have a different culinary experience each night. For breakfast, you could visit one of the two buffets located within the Esmeralda. For lunch, we recommend you eat at the buffet by the beach, where you can enjoy international cuisine while breathing the ocean air.
The tropical weather was welcoming throughout our stay, minus the intermittent rain showers that had everyone running back to their rooms. However, the warm temperatures lingered and the showers were short. After a few minutes, people would slowly make their way back to the pool or the beach. As the evening approached, we would freshen up and head out to dinner. The A La Carte restaurants like Tex Mex Santa Fe, Bella Italia, and the Don Pablo Gourmet French were some of our favourites.
On our third day we ventured out to the capital city, Santo Domingo. Be sure to be well rested because the bus ride is two-hours and half both ways. We’d also recommend bringing a pair of headphones for music, or you could listen to the guide speak about the country’s history. Before stepping into the streets of the old city, we made a stop at ‘Los Tres Ojos’ (The Three Eyes) in Mirador del Este park. We descended into an open-air limestone cave that consisted of three dark lagoons fed by an underground river. The largest lake, which is made up of freshwater, glowed a cool baby blue, while the other sulphurous lake flowed in darkness.
Once we arrived in Santo Domingo, our first stop was at the National Palace. The well-appointed, neoclassical building houses the country’s Executive Branch. It was designed by Italian architect Guido D’Alessandro and construction began in 1944. It was inaugurated three years later in 1947. Presidential guards stood at the gates, and many tourists posed next to them. We opted to take their portraits instead.
After a quick lunch, we toured the Colonial city, making stops at the the home of Christopher Columbus’ son, Diego. Where the interior was decorated with authentic household pieces that are said to have belonged to the family. We loved the grand hall on the second floor, as well as the sweeping view of the Ozama river, which empties into the Caribbean sea. From there, we strolled through local shops and cafes, which would eventually lead us to the Catedral Primada de América. It was one of the first Cathedrals in the Western Hemisphere and one of the oldest in operation today. The artistic inputs from numerous architects have led to its structural influences ranging from the Gothic vault, to Romanesque arches, and Baroque ornamentation.
We returned to the resort shortly after 6PM, which gave us time to relax just before we went out for dinner. The rest of the week was spent in relaxation, where we returned to our favourite spot on the beach and resumed the chapter of the novel we were catching up on.
Take a look at the photos from our getaway below and if you’re planning your 2017 vacation, you can book it now at Expedia.