Casa de Campo – The Sporting Life and So Much More
by Susan Campbell
Though I had been to other parts of the Dominican Republic I was anxious to explore more regions, and La Romana was the most recent. I had no idea what to expect really, and when we arrived at Casa de Campo Resort, I was blown away by the sheer massiveness of its sprawling community. Located on 7,000 acres, with a vast assortment of accommodation options and activities, it’s best known for its sports offerings- golf- shooting- equestrian pastimes and tennis among them, but there is so much more to it than that. But first, let’s look at its most famous pursuits.
I took my first ever golf lesson at the famed “Teeth of the Dog” course there- ranked as the number one course in the Caribbean-one of three championship Pete Dye designed courses on site. And though my instructor was great, and very patient, I ended up agreeing with Mark Twain that “Golf is a good walk spoiled,” due to my ineptitude. But I really did enjoy touring the course by golf cart for its awesome scenery, especially by the sea. And the hole that traverses wild and restless waves over a cliff must be one of the most unique water traps anywhere!
I also took my first ever rifle-shooting lesson at their massive facility where they offer over 200 stations for trap, skeet and sporting clays. But alas, again, it turned out not to be my thing. Though I did manage to hit a few skeet, I bruised my shoulder with the kick-back and found the sheer volume of the shots nerve wracking though we did wear earplugs.
More up my alley was the horseback riding, a pleasant little jaunt along the golf course. Though I was sorry that we didn’t get a chance to visit the real Equestrian Center where they have all kinds of lessons-both English and western style- and also jumping and even rodeo stunt instruction- and polo. But if I do return, I would definitely like to try the offbeat pastime of “donkey polo” where anyone can play the sport regardless of riding skill.
They are also known for tennis, though I don’t play that either. But even though I was not their ideal “sporty” type of candidate, there was still plenty to keep me happy and active at this spot, especially since I’m really a marine life and beach loving kind of gal at heart.
For sea lovers, too
Though they have a nice beachfront with kayaking, sailing instruction and the like, it was the trip to private Catalina Island that really got my juices going. The 45-minute boat trek was a tad rough, but well worth it, as the beaches there were glorious and the waters aqua perfection famed by scenic cliffs. Snorkeling was also a treat as was the solitude- lots of room to go off on your own and just become one with the sea. Also for sea lovers is an entire “yachtie village” back at the resort. Casa de Campo Marina was designed to resemble a seaside Mediterranean village, and its Piazza Portofino delights with lots of cafes and dining and entertainment including cinemas. Hundreds of sleek vessels line the docks there, and there is also a sailing school and yacht club. They also have their own accommodations options in the marina village.
It takes a village…
But the biggest surprise for me there was Altos de Chavón- a manmade replica of a 16th century Mediterranean village. It is absolutely gorgeous, and really looks ancient. Perched above the Chavón River, it has dining, curio shops with local items like chocolate and cigars and the charming St. Stanislaus church where official weddings often take place against the unique backdrop. Also surprising is the state-of-the-art design school also located there, and the archeological museum showcases the work of its artists. You can also take a pottery making class using local clay on site or purchase some of their creative clay wares. But the piece de resistance in this village is the recreation of a massive Greek amphitheater, which serves as their official Performing Arts Center. Another surprise. First inaugurated by Frank Sinatra in 1982, it has hosted some superstar performers over the years including Andrea Boccelli and Sting, and the natural acoustics are incredible. During the winter months, it also hosts a weekly Caribbean Review.
Most of the guests stay at the main lodge- some 200 rooms and suites overlooking the greens of the golf courses- with a pool complex, and spa and many dining choices on site. And there are many villa rental options in the immediate area. And most of the guests get around by golf cart since the complex is so large. Or, new to the resort- you can also rent electric stand-up scooters! Very cool.
They also offer a new option of holiday for those seeking an extremely healthy stay- the addition of Ki-Ra Holistic Living- a full service organization that now offers a full spectrum of health and wellness services and retreats for guests of Casa de Campo. (Groups of 12 max.) The resort is also very family friendly with an official kid’s club, and in the summer they hold a special children’s soccer camp for both locals and visitors alike.
So even though their official theme is ‘The Sporting Life”, you don’t need to be a super sporty type to enjoy Casa de Campo’s multitude of activities. There are plenty of pleasures and pastimes to suit every holiday style.
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