RIO SAN JUAN, Dominican Republic — Ani Villas Dominican Republic, a secluded, 14-suite private resort that commands its own dramatic peninsula, opened on December 16.
Surrounded by the sea on three sides, the four-acre estate trades on spectacular vistas. Twelve of the resort’s 14 suites front the ocean with great banks of windows opening onto sunken terraces and unobstructed views of coves and beaches along the stunning north coast of the island.
“It’s one of those locations that really makes you wonder if you’ve ever seen any place as beautiful,” said Ani Villas’ Founder Tim Reynolds. “This one’s been a long time coming. We spent three years on environmental impact studies alone. But some things are worth the wait.”
Designed by local architects at Estudio Sarah Garcia, the estate cleaves neatly between two villas – one with eight suites, the other with six – that can either host a single group across both villas, or two parties, each in their own private space.
The ten 1,200-square-foot (111 sq.m) master suites feature lofty, pitched ceilings and screens of backlit onyx, each slab a host to a one-of-a-kind art installation.
A medley of South American hardwoods and local travertine cultivate an ambiance that references Bali, but is Dominican through and through.
Deep soaking tubs anchor interior bathing spaces, and enclosed outdoor gardens do double duty as al fresco showering hideaways.
Each villa coalesces around a massive, 6,000-square-foot (557 square meters) open-walled living and dining area. A billiard table competes with a neighboring shuffleboard table for players while a staffed and fully stocked bar quenches thirsts close by.
The spaces flow onto tanning decks and infinity pools, each with shallow soaking areas and great half-moons spilling over to the Caribbean just beyond. While the villa pools inspire passive water play, a third pool rectangles out from a waterslide fit for a theme park.
However inviting the freshwater, the resort’s signature experiences are to be had on either of two private sand beaches perched atop the peninsula’s edge with stepped access to the sea.
Dining at the resort does not require a trip to a restaurant. A team that includes internationally trained chefs of local origin customizes menus based on guests’ preferences and dietary requirements.
The menu’s signature local dishes include ceviche & conch salad but draw from a wide range of culinary traditions borne of Italy, France, Greece, Thailand, Japan, Mexico and the United States.
Beyond each villa’s principal indoor and outdoor dining areas, the resort’s two kitchens serve meals to dining spots on the beaches and in the bars or to a large event pavilion, sitting on the tip of the headland, which can accommodate 40 at a sit-down dinner and 100 for a wedding celebration.
Where the private estate does look a lot like a traditional resort is with the infrastructure of its spa, where an entrance lobby, changing room, steam showers, two treatment rooms and fitness center stand as a lure to wellness.
Three dedicated spa therapists are on hand with a range of complimentary treatments from deep tissue massage to hot stone therapy. Cybex fitness equipment includes everything from upper and lower body presses to treadmills, bikes and arc trainers.
A resident professional tennis coach maintains the resort’s tennis and sports court, and coordinates a wide range of activities including mountain biking, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking and snorkeling, all part and parcel of a stay experience. Additional off-site experiences can be arranged, including deep-sea fishing, surfing, kite-boarding and a selection of sightseeing and action excursions.
The resort lies a few minutes from a Robert Trent Jones clifftop golf course reminiscent of Pebble Beach. The north coast of the Dominican Republic is otherwise renowned for its SCUBA diving opportunities and the migrations of humpback whales.
From the resort’s coastal situation, the terrain backs immediately into rolling hills ribboned by quaint country roads leading to and away from the sleepy fishing town of Rio San Juan.
As Ani’s fourth private resort, the the wheelchair-accessible Dominican Republic property is a complement to resorts currently operating on Koh Yao Noi near Phuket in Thailand, on Sri Lanka’s south coast and on Anguilla, where Reynolds opened the door on his ambitions in 2011.
Every Ani Villa offers an all-inclusive, luxury experience. A fully dedicated staff of more than 20 provides gourmet meals, free-flow beverages, beach-butler service, spa treatments/massages, cooking classes and more at no additional cost.
For every private resort built, Ani also opens an Ani Arts Academy that provides fully funded three- and four-year programs to local students. Indeed, the Ani Art Academy in the Dominican Republic, which opened in 2013, is home to more than 30 artists in training. Its campus is set amongst the hills above Rio San Juan and is a must-visit for guests to the resort.
Nightly rates at Ani Villas in the Dominican Republic start at US $4,000 per night for a group of eight, and run up to $15,000 per night for a group of 30 over the peak festive season.