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Travel to the Dominican Republic, Cigar Country

Visiting the Dominican Republic
Michael Frank
From the Print Edition:
George Burns, Winter 94/95

(continued from page 4)

All V Centenario guest rooms feature safes (not an amenity to take for granted, since most hotels in Dominicana charge extra and keep your valuables in a safety deposit box inconveniently located at the front desk), minibars, cable, two double beds or one queen size. Suites have desks, sofa beds and one-and-a-half baths with giant sunken bathtubs. Throughout the hotel the style is muted, but exceptionally clean and quiet.

The V Centenario also has a casino, but this is not a good place for gambling. The coolness of the hotel doesn't meld with the necessity of excitement in a game room. It is possible to nap in this casino, so go elsewhere for action.

Jaragua
Avenida George Washington No. 367,
P.O. Box 769-2, Santo Domingo, RD
Phone: (809) 221-2222
Fax: (809) 686-0528
Room rates: single and double: $180 to $220; suite: $495 to $820

 

Just the opposite of the V Centenario, the Jaragua Renaissance Resort and Casino is bursting with energy, from its lively disco to its massive casino. It feels like Vegas, which goes a long way toward explaining the slightly fraying carpeting in the room, and suburban shopping-mall sprawl of the entire property. Better to stay out and enjoy the best pool in the city--afternoons are an excellent time for sipping Daiquiris and watching capitalinos schmooz their way around. In the evenings the most impressive-looking casino on the island pulses with cash and a bold, international exuberance. The 7,600 sq.-ft. casino is divided relatively equally between slots and regular gaming tables, with black jack, roulette, baccarat and craps all available. Of course, like all of the casinos in the capital, there is a sports book. It's unlikely that the Jaragua is a good spot for serious gamblers, as less locals come here and more tourists on fixed budgets come by to blow their souvenir money. But the ambience, with pink walls, gaudy mirrors and a perfectly tacky '80s exuberance, makes the Jaragua a fantastic site for gambling gratuitously.

Rooms here are adequate, and the VIP section is wisely removed from all of the casino buzz. However, there is no overriding distinction to the guest rooms (besides fuchsia), and overall they are a bit too dark for a country so blessed by clean air and bright skies.

Hamaca Beach Hotel
P.O. Box 2973
Santo Domingo, RD
Phone: (809) 523-4611, (800) 945-0792
Fax: (809) 523-6767
Room Rates: single and double: $115 to $175; suites: $135 to $255
Three restaurants, four bars, terrace, grill, tennis, scuba diving, archery, bicycling, horseback riding, snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing

 

The Hamaca is a welcome surprise. Fifteen minutes from downtown, its private beach escapes crowds and noise, but still allows for city tourism--and it's a bit closer to La Romana and the Consolidated Cigar Factory (Tabacalera de Garcia Ltd.) than its brethren in town. A different perspective is evident throughout Boca Chica beach, where the hotel is located. People slow down, and the staff is a bit friendlier. Enter the clean, terra-cotta-tiled lobby and a calm, tropical quietude returns. As you walk down the terraced landscape, through the lower lobby and the beachfront side of the property (the hotel is shaped like a rectangle, with the lower side of one long edge facing the water and the upper edge fronting a lush garden), you wind up on the hot, white sand beach where a palm-frond-covered bar is the focus of noonday respites. After an iced pineapple juice, it is possible to rent jet skis, windsurf up to one-quarter-mile out without encountering rough surf (the beach is naturally protected by a reef), go horseback riding or play tennis. The hotel is also adding a casino due to open early in 1995.

Rooms are sprightly decorated, with minibars, large closets and in-room safes. Suites are larger, with balconies, living rooms and a bit more panache.


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