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Hacienda Dominicus

by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer

Remember the old school ditty, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue"...? The Dominican Republic is one of the islands Columbus definitely visited on his first voyage to the new world. Today the island is really two countries in one, Haiti, on the western side and the Dominican Republic on the east.

Columbus might be called the first "official" tourist in the Caribbean. I'll just bet he was allowed to bring his toenail clippers and nobody hassled him about the size of his carry-on bag.

It seems busy Columbus set foot on every island I've visited in the region, or so the current inhabitants say. It makes me wonder if his name isn't thrown around loosely for the sake of notoriety. On the other hand, since there appears to be dispute about exactly where Columbus dropped his anchor, why not claim him? A famous name never hurts tourism.

My four-day stay in the Dominican Republic was at the Hacienda Dominicus, an all-inclusive Iberostar property on the southeast coast of the island. The resort is relatively new, having opened in December of 2001.

It's still as beautiful as the day Columbus popped in, however I can report the amenities have vastly improved over the past 512 years. The closest airport is La Romana, but Punta Cuna is roughly 90 minutes away. This island, blessed with a lovely coastline, is gaining popularity as a honeymoon destination.

Iberostar Group has several upscale resorts in the Dominican Republic, as well as in other countries of the world. As an organization, they take great care to respect the ecology of the area. They go so far as to salvage and save any trees which are in the way of construction, replanting them once work is complete. My guest room was designed with special sensors on both the air conditioning and the lights to conserve energy. I was told all the ground water at the resort is recycled. No need to feel guilty about damaging the habitat at this establishment.

Talk about recycling--the designers at Hacienda Dominicus took creative license a step further. They utilized an entire discarded airplane in their interior design. Airplane parts of all shapes and sizes now lead useful lives, in an attractive new setting. Some parts hang overhead in the lobby as graceful chandeliers. Other sections make-up the bases for small tables. That's clever!

The cockpit, along with the nose cone was put to functional use as the DJ both in the disco at another Iberostar resort on the island. Never one for wasting things, I was captivated by the idea of using airplane parts as ornamentation.

Beginning with the palatial lobby, you'll notice all the public areas are spacious and in a word--grand. Two extra wide covered walkways curve out from either side of the lobby, leading toward the dining rooms, guest rooms and finally the ocean. Between the walkways, a pond with gardens, is home to waterfowl and fish. A focal point on the far side of the water is a wedding gazebo, sitting over the water. It's connected by a small bridge and swans glide around, adding to the picture.

A wedding was in progress on the afternoon of our arrival. A couple from England was tying the knot, surrounded by about a dozen friends. The resort had decorated the walkway to the gazebo and music was provided. The bride, in her a white sun dress, looked much cooler than her intended, who wore a standard dark suit for the occasion. Nonetheless the couple looked happy, while the swans, having witnessed many nuptials, were nonchalant.

Unique decor can be found throughout the resort. Two life-size horses seem to stand guard in the courtyard area near the lobby, begging to be photographed. The beach bar is situated in a mock light house, nearly as large as the real thing.

All manner of water sports are available, allowing you to fully enjoy the sea. The complex has a 5-star PADI scuba diving center where qualified divers teach certificate courses for beginners.

If you tire of water sports or your lounge chair, the roster of other activities is long, including painting ceramics, something I'd not seen at a beach resort before. A full spa is available, along with dance lessons, tennis, basketball, archery, a game room, and library, to name a few. Want to contact home without the high phone expense? Internet access is also available. I'm certain Columbus would have been a dutiful son and emailed his mom back in Genoa.

Entertainment at the resort isn't limited to the day time hours. Provided your energy holds, nightly shows feature lively staff members singing and dancing. They encourage audience participation, so if you care to "cut loose" sit near the front.

Resorts you'll find aplenty in the Caribbean, yet in many ways, Iberostar stands out from the crowd. You need not take my word for it--in 2003 travelers voted Iberostar Hotels & Resorts as the "Best Hotel Chain." It was the third time the company received the Crystal Award from Apple Vacations, one of America's largest tour companies.

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