When many think of an island Caribbean vacation, they think Dominican Republic – and for good reason! For travelers based in the U.S., it’s the most popular of them all, attracting droves of American tourists in high volume. The sunny weather, the expansive golden beaches, bright blue waters, the short direct flights (ENVFs if you’re lucky!), and the absolute treasure chest of all-inclusive resort variety – what could be more iconic and perfect for a stranded-in-paradise getaway?
But what travelers don’t know is that choosing the D.R. is only just the beginning.
Where is Samana?
It’s a secluded small island in Samana Bay in the northern region of the country and for travelers in the know, a worthwhile day trip or excursion from Santo Domingo, its best access point. How worthwhile? Some travelers drive two scenic hours from the main resort strips there, or even from Punta Cana just to see this secret island nestled between a peninsula and the main eastern end of the island.
What’s So Special About This Island?
In a general region so well known for developed tourism and crowds, the unspoiledness of this island is refreshing to well-heeled travelers seeking something extraordinary. Sights here include wild beaches, coconut plantations, rainforests, rolling mountains and river-filled valleys, and white-sand beaches that stretch around this secret enclave. And if that weren’t enough, it’s just across the water from Samana Peninsula, where even more miles of beaches and natural attractions delight off-the-beaten-path vacationers.
But perhaps the most special thing about the island of Samana is Cayo Levantado Resort – a newly opened and branded all-inclusive distinguished as the only resort in Dominican Republish located on its own island, offering seclusion like no place else in the country can. Best of all, it's easily accessed from the Santo Domingo international airport.
Why Cayo Levantado Resort?
As if the island’s privacy and beauty wasn’t enough …! But of course, one cannot luxuriate on sights alone.
This wholly unique resort’s luxurious reimagination is backed by one of the most trusted names in Caribbean all-inclusive travel, but is elevated so above the bar that it’s a standalone property, making it the only one of its kind. It’s (of course) set on a beach – there are three on the island, but two are reserved only for guests of Cayo Levantado Resort, a benefit day trippers are sure to be jealous of. And after 5 PM, all three beaches are for resort guests only, which solidifies its place as an ultra-exclusive enclave for travelers who really want to detox from hustle, bustle, and the everyday.
However, the shoreline isn’t the only part of this island guests can safely mosey around. Native wildlife, plants, and flowers make it a pleasure to explore the land beyond the beaches, which visitors can work into the resort’s holistic wellness program.
Cayo Levantado offers four distinct paths with associated 3 – 7-day programs guests can choose from: REFRESH, RESTORE, RELAX, and RENEW, all of which offer different atmospheres designed around each of those focus areas.
REFRESH offers higher intensity activities and metabolic and cross-training programs, while RESTORE is all about purposeful training and therapies for recovery and replenishment. RELAX takes the downshift to a lower notch with stress relief as the primary focus, emphasizing nervous and muscular system recovery with heat therapy and massages. Finally, RENEW is somewhere in the middle – as it should be since it’s designed for balance. This path is a journey of cleansing and transformation to release stagnant energy and emotion for a deeper connection with one’s higher self.
Across all, they’re meant to refresh vigor, revitalize the spirit, alleviate stress, and restore balance. Activities hosted by expert staff include exercise, meditation, and nutrition to address all that might ail your peace of mind. An on-site spa and fitness center let people recenter independently, too.
And with mind comes body, and Cayo Levantado Resort takes that challenge on with elevated culinary experiences that span five à la carte restaurants, one buffet restaurant and five bars. All feature gourmet cuisines, trendy mixology, and creative techniques with attention to quality ingredients and skill. In fact, they’re so dedicated to the former that some items served at the table may feature touches from the resort’s own organic garden.
As they’ve said, the goal is to “perceive the collaboration between health and soul, all while enjoying a vacation without compromising on good gastronomy … to create a union that combines conscious nutrition and body care with the nurturing of the mind and spirit, allowing individuals to enrich themselves entirely."
The resort’s adherence to Forbes Travel Guide luxury standards is no mean feat and obliges them to have their staff trained to bespoke solutions, undergo evaluation, and offer personalized service, such as a personal ambassador for every guest.
But at Cayo Levantado, they emphasize doing good as part of their better experience and best vacation ever. And they do it in multiples.
For example, not only do they employ local staff as the property’s contribution to local tourism economy, but they bring in work from local artists for purchase, such as Nini Carela, with whom the resort has an exclusive partnership. More broadly, many of the interior amenities are crafted from locally sourced materials by national artisans, who make unique pieces like larimar stone tables and yagumbro leaf trays in traditional workshops.
They also give back to the land as well as its people. Cayo Levantado Resort considers the island the hallmark of a visit to their property, which makes protecting it and its three fragile ecosystems with all of their might. Many species of plants on the island are protected, and invasive species are dealt with properly. They’ve installed photovoltaic panels for energy to reduce gas emissions, and centralized building management systems and installed new recirculation pumps for the cold water system to do the same.
In terms of waste management, new recycling areas make it easy to dispose of goods responsibly (including their own reusable glass bottles used in their own water bottling system), while hazardous waste is managed by an external expert company. They also use an organic waste biodigester to recover gas from fermentation to produce more energy, reducing dependency on sources that have a greater impact on the environment.
Why NOT Samana & Cayo Levantado Resort?
This is a much harder question to answer, and honestly, we haven’t found one yet.
Don’t forget to add on transfers and tours to make any vacation complete! ALG Vacations® tour partner Amstar DMC has plentiful options on Dominican Republic, and all are worth checking out. We even Ask a Pro what to pack if you have an excursion on the docket! And if you’re looking for hacks on how to get there, look no further than an Exclusive Nonstop Vacation Flight. We’ve addressed some FAQs on flying to Punta Cana on an ENVF here.