Just back from: Casa Colonial, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
Was it your first time? Yes.
How long were you there? Six days.
Why did you go? We wanted to try something different in the Caribbean that had multiple flights daily and easy access from New York and Florida. We also wanted something for just six days, as opposed to the typical ten-day mandatory stay at holiday time. Casa Colonial was completely flexible about our length of stay.
Who were you with? My family (husband and two kids) and my parents.
What was the best tip you got before you left? My dental hygienist warned me not to go off-campus in this part of the DR. Sage advice. While not dangerous, it also wasn't too atmospheric outside of the hotel grounds.
What's the #1 tip you'd give a friend who wanted to go? Don't go off-campus, but do make a trip to the massive supermercado to score everything from snacks to Zithromax on aisle 1. The whole experience is just crazy and worth the trip. Note: You have to bring ID to buy anything with credit or debit cards. They check.
What did you do? We ate every meal outside and, in between, lounged on minimalist, tasteful loungers at the second-floor pool overlooking the ocean. This was interpersed with golf, tennis, a snorkeling trip, visits to the gym (the treadmills had CNN on loop), lots of reading, card playing, and just generally catching up with one another. Really interesting clientele at Casa Colonial — largely gay, a few older kids, and nary a person from the New York tri-state area. All in, refreshingly low-key.
Were you there for the right amount of time? Possibly a day too long. We tend to max out at five days of strong sun, but it was a great break nonetheless.
This was especially great: The service at the hotel. Everyone — from the waiters to the housekeepers to the concierge — tries really, really hard to please. Beds are made first thing in the morning; everyone smiles. Sometimes they misfire, but I'm all about an A for effort. Casa Colonial wants to keep customers happy, and the staff was terrific with my 9- and 10-year-old and worked with them on their Spanish words.
But this wasn't: Local vendors practically accost you on the beach selling everything from booze to jewelry to hair-braiding services.
Speed round of favorites:
Meal: Grilled local lobster tail in the main restaurant, Lucia.
Neighborhood to explore: N/a. Don't do it.
Thing you did: That supermarket comes pretty close. Weird, plentiful, serious local color.
Casual hangout: Lunch by the pool. Just six shaded tables with the best chopped salad I've had since the Ivy in LA.
Kodak moment: My kids on Christmas morning, opening their stockings.
One place you didn't get to visit, but wanted to: The fruit market. A massive outdoor labrynth/bazaar of fruit and vegetables. That and Ocean World, a massive, tacky water park that I'm sure my kids would've loved.
What did you bring back? Zithromax. And keychains for my kids.
Would you go back? Probably not as we like to mix it up and try new things. But Casa Colonial is an easy long weekend trip from New York City, so maybe sans kids sometime.
Any surprises? Lots of them. I had no idea about the geography/topography of the island. The sugar cane plantations were interesting to see, and I was especially struck by how massive and densely populated the island is. I was surprised that I didn't want to explore more — I usually love to shop and get out a bit — but this trip I was fine with relaxing and planting myself by the pool (this is actually unheard of for me). Lastly, I was surprised by the friendliness of the staff who kept drinks filled, printed our boarding passes, and didn't tell on me when I let my kids come into the tiny gym with me (generally taboo).
You can't stop thinking about: That chopped salad with the fried onion rings on top. Delicious! And just eating three meals a day as a family and really talking. This so rarely happens at home.
Casa Colonial Beach and Spa
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic