By Roger Cox, Editor
While it is easy to list the extensive resort amenities sprawled across Casa de Campo's 7,000 subtropical acres—three Pete Dye-designed golf courses (including the exceptionally difficult "Teeth of the Dog", the No. 1 ranked course in the Caribbean), 13 Har-Tru tennis courts, a spa and fitness center, four polo fields and an equestrian center, a 250-slip marina, a shooting club with 250 stations, a private beach, children's center, some 20 restaurants, dozens of shops, watersports, bike rentals, a replica of a 16th-century artisans' village, a cruiseship pier, and more—that summary doesn't really get at how different it feels to vacation here. What it leaves out is the unpretentiously friendly service of the local Dominicans, the freedom of motoring around by golf cart, the lushness of the well-tended grounds, or the sheer pleasure of a landscape innocent of anything taller than two stories. And not only is Casa de Campo far larger and richer in amenities than anything else in the Caribbean, it is also one of the most accessible. There with three international airports within an hour's drive, the closest of them a mere 10 minutes away. You can leave New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, among other cities, at 9 a.m. and be in your room, on the beach, or on the tennis courts by 3 p.m. or earlier.
I was out the door of my room moments after arriving at Casa de Campo, but rather than head straight for the tennis courts—my usual first stop on any trip—I climbed into my golf cart (all rooms come with one) and headed for Altos de Chavon, the replica of a 16th-century artisans' village perched on the heights above the Chavon River. There, as I knew from previous trips, a broad plaza, anchored by the small St. Stanislaus Catholic church, overlooks the river far below. Beside it and behind rise a warren of stone houses with red-tile roofs, wooden doors, and wrought-iron detail work. These are filled with galleries, museums, shops, restaurants, and two design schools. Beyond it a 5,000-seat amphitheater, which doubles as a concert and entertainment venue, spills down the side of a hill. I'm drawn there by the charm of the village and the views, of course, but mostly by the unexpected artistic dimension it adds to a resort otherwise steeped in the sporting life. After tennis or golf or polo or whatever activity draws you here, it is an unadulterated pleasure to wander these cobblestone streets, stopping in to see local paintings or a collection of amber, and have a drink or dinner in a setting completely unlike a typical resort venue.
Pro Shop: 809-523-3333
Casa de Campo's 13-court La Terraza Tennis Center ranks among the most beautifully laid out on the planet. A large patio with the pro shop, a bar, swimming pool, and tables and chairs overlooks the courts, all of which are Har-Tru. Two are individually fenced show courts, their action viewable from the patio or the terraced, red-brick seating area. The remaining courts have been scattered in twos and threes through a landscape lush with colorful flowers, verdant shrubs, and towering trees. Beyond the courts rise the red-tile roofs of some of the privately owned villas.
Tennis Programs. La Terraza's tennis programs are currently in transition. As in the past, you'll still have access to that rarest of tennis amenities—ball boys—as well as to a stable of young pros available as fill-ins or hitting partners. There are shortcomings, in particular a lack of game-matching services. Management is looking at ways to address these issues. As they find solutions, I'll post them here.
Courts & Fees. La Terraza Tennis Center has 13 clay courts, 10 with lights. Court fees: $35/hour days, $45/hour nights.
Spa & Fitness
Beach. The resort has that rarest of amenities: a private beach, tucked into a cove that makes it inaccessible to non-guests unless they arrive by boat.
Golf Courses. Noted golf designer Pete Dye laid out three courses at Casa de Campo, the notoriously difficult "Teeth of the Dog," chief among them.
Teeth of the Dog: Ranked the No. 1 course in the Caribbean, this beautifully laid out, par 75 course is riddled with Pete Dye obstacles made even more challenging by the Trade Winds.
The Links: A moderately hilly inland course, not so ego-bruising Teeth but still challenging, with water on five holes
Dye Fore: picturesque but intimidating—seven holes along the clifftops—variously with views of the Caribbean, the Marina, Chavon River, and Altos de Chavon.
Spa & Fitness Center. A quiet retreat bordered by a meditation labyrinth and outdoor pool, the Spa at Casa de Campo offers an option of indoor or outdoor treatments in a spa suite, private gazebo at the beach, or in your own villa. Those looking to workout will find an glass-walled fitness center containing a range of Cybex stations and cardio pieces, spinning bikes, and free weights in an air-conditioned room behind the lobby and La Cana Restaurant.
Backed by a stable of 250 horses, the equestrian center consists of four polo fields and a jumping course staffed by experienced instructors offering lessons in English and Western riding as well as trail and pony rides as well an introduction to polo using donkeys. Regular polo matches are played throughout the week from early November to the end of April
Set on more than 245 acres, the Shooting Center comprises over 200 stations for trap, skeet, and sporting clays. At the heart is a 110-foot red-and-white tower—said to be the largest in the world— capable of launching clay from three levels and simulate the flight of quail, partridges, ducks, and other birds. Lessons are available. There also a kennel for boarding and training dogs.
And ... There is a full range of watersports—kayaking (both in the Caribbean and on the Chavon River), fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing—as well as a 3-mile jogging trail and bike rentals (for use only in the resort).
There is a full range of supervised children's program, from full and half-day sessions for all age groups: toddles ages 1 to 3; kids ages 4 to 7; and tweens ages 8 to 12. In addition, teens have their own club with a billiard table, air hockey, music, and movies.
Lodging options range from a spacious hotel room through elite suites all the way to five-bedroom villas with private swimming pools and maid and butler service. All come with at least one four-person golf cart, complimentary wi-fi service, and access to the fitness center.
The two standout dining options at Casa de Campo are La Cana Restaurant & Lounge and the Minitas Beach Club & Restaurant. Beyond those two venues, however, there are numerous other choices, including an Italian restaurant La Piazzetta in Altos de Chavon and three at La Marina: a Spanish restaurant La Casita, Pubbelly Sushi, and SBG, the last for Mediterranean cuisine..
If you're contemplating a Caribbean tennis vacation, you also ought to look at:
Lodging consists of hotel rooms and suites, located near the lobby and main pool, and 3-to-10 bedroom private villa homes. Villas include an assigned maid, private pool, and the use of a 4-passenger touring cart. Discounted package rates often available May-September.
Visit the website for current rates
Travel Instructions. There are three international airports in the Dominican Republic within easy access of Casa de Campo. The closest of them is La Romana (LRM), which is served by Jetblue and American Airlines from the U.S. (there is also service from other Caribbean islands on Seabourne. The other two options are Santo Domingo (SDQ) and Punta Cana (PUJ), which have even more service.
General Tourist Information. For general tourism information about travel in the Dominican Republic, log on to the Dominican Republic website or contact them toll-free at 888-374-6361.