On the Dominican Republic’s little-explored north shore, designer Celerie Kemble officially unveiled Playa Grande Beach Club, her nine-bungalow, 2,000-acre beachfront resort, earlier this month. Passported’s Director of Marketing & Community, Claude Davies, was given a sneak peek of the exclusive property over the summer and shares her highlights here.
Arriving at Playa Grande Beach Club after the hour plus drive from Puerto Plata airport (around the same distance from Samana airport) feels like stepping into your most fabulous friend’s secret, stunning estate. Everything here is personal. Fresh fruit drink in hand, I strolled through the open-air main dining and lounging pavilion towards my beach bungalow, one of just nine on the 2,000-acre estate fronting a pristine mile-long stretch of sand.
Less a bedroom and more a private abode, all bungalows have fully-equipped kitchens, enormous bathrooms, separate living areas (with space for two twin beds if you’re traveling en famille), and quiet, hammock-strung patios. Each one is individually designed in a creative colorful Dominican style, with vintage furnishings, custom-made pieces by local artisans, and luxe extras like the gorgeous John Robshaw robes. The result is effortless elegance, much like the resort itself.
For me, one of Playa Grande’s greatest charms is that your choices are limited; in this case, less is much more. The short, sweet menu at the restaurant comes directly from the locally grown and caught fish, meat and produce. And the chef is always willing to accommodate special requests, including a young guest’s picky palette. As dinner time approaches, head over to the bar, sip a cocktail, and meet your fellow guests as you would at a dinner party. One night during my stay, dinner was a full Dominican feast, complete with a (local) slow roasted pig, while another evening ended with a dance party in the upstairs bar and lounge. Depending on the nature of your group, there’s also a library for quieter evenings and games nights.
The beach fronting Playa Grande is one of the widest, longest and most pristine stretches in the DR. Lounge, swim or raid the stash of water toys like snorkels, boogie or paddle boards, or take the half-mile stroll down the beach to the brand new Aman Hotel, Amanera. Here, you can eat at one of their two restaurants or play a round of golf on the world-class courses that the two hotels share.
Beyond the beach, Playa Grande can organize just about anything and knows this part of the world inside and out. Favorite excursions include horseback riding on the sand, exploring local caves by sea or on foot, visiting a monkey sanctuary, zip-lining, wind and kite surfing, hiking, and whale watching in January and February. One highlight not to miss is a trip to the nearest town, Rio San Juan, where you can take a small, captained motor boat into the Laguna Gri Gri and dive into shallow caves at the base of the cliffs. The combo of the inky sea, rugged coastline and total lack of crowds is just one of the north shore’s many charms, and a total contrast for anyone familiar with the island’s developed east end.
There’s no conventional kids’ club here, but rather a dedicated staff member who will lead little ones on fun adventures like nature walks, crabbing races, snake hunts, and archaeological expeditions that fit their age and interests. There’s also a one-week surf camp in the summer.
While the kids play, parents can organize a massage on the beach, or just fold into one of the poolside cabanas positioned at the heart of the property between the dining pavilion and the beach. The size and scope of Playa Grande Beach Club lends itself perfectly to a large group of friends or extended family take over. Then it won’t just feel like the most exclusive, enchanting and private stay, it will be just that.