Day 4 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: From ATV excursions to fine dining

Checked into the Casa Colonial. Classy joint. Photo: Jon Coen

Checked into the Casa Colonial. Classy joint. Photo: Jon Coen

Today was a day of contrast.

Sometimes, it’s cool to check out new digs. This has never been a priority of mine, and as a result, I have spent nights in fishing-net hammocks, sketchy hostels, the pavement of Central American border crossing, airport floors, a puddle under a van and even the Tenderloin district in SF (well before the first fixed gears rolled through).

But today was about both ends of the spectrum. This morning, we checked into the Casa Colonia, the only boutique hotel in the Playa Dorado region.

The place has been here for 11 years, which is apparently the perfect amount of time for the bamboo to grow around the 50 suites, two restaurants and the Bagua Spa, because the landscaping is phenomenal.

In fact, everything is phenomenal, from the incense to the infinity pool looking into a Caribbean bay. You want to relax, you’ll be able to relax here.

But you have to mix it up, and by afternoon, we were buckling into our Terracross ATVs at Outback Adventures for an afternoon of tearing through the North Coast backcountry.

Nikki Vargas and Valerie Wilson prepare for the dust storm kicked up by the Terracross ATVs at Outback Adventure in the hills of Puerto Plata. Photo: Jon Coen.

Nikki Vargas and Valerie Wilson prepare for the dust storm kicked up by the Terracross ATVs at Outback Adventure in the hills of Puerto Plata. Photo: Jon Coen.

The beauty of these ATVs is that they’re rugged and simple.

You get in, buckle up and you’re kicking up dust in no time, through the hills, mahogany groves, farms and rolling past little villages. Since the ATVs roll single file, the key is to let the driver before you get well ahead and then slam around a turn or through a stream.

We took two extended stops — one to visit a traditional Dominican home where we sucked the juice fresh from a recently machete-whacked coconut, and a swimming hole at a local river. It was a Saturday, and a bunch of local families were enjoying the afternoon, cranking tunes and barbecuing.

We were just a few miles from the line of international beach hotels at Playa Dorado, enjoying a fully rural experience with the locals, but it felt like a world away.

Whipping up the dust at Outback Adventures Puerto Plata in the D.R. Photo: NickAgires.com

Whipping up the dust at Outback Adventures Puerto Plata in the D.R. Photo: Courtesy of Nick Argires

And after going hard in the wilderness, it’s kind of cool to shower up and head out somewhere nice — the best of both worlds. In this case, we had a tour and dinner at the brand new Gansevoort Playa Imbert, in Sosua, a spot that caters to the upscale action sports clientele, someone who wants to kite or surf all day and then return to a contemporary three-bedroom suite with its own plunge pool.

The creativity and design that went into this newest Gansevoort property is impressive. But it seemed that the Gansevoort’s greatest attribute is the view.

Yeah, of course it has a nice beach, but the angle of the property has you looking back to the west, and you’re not only staring out to sea, but you can view the whole coast back to Puerto Plata and even Mt. Isabel de Torres in the distance. The way the infinity pools and cabanas are situated, everything glows golden at sunset.

We finished the day with dinner over the ocean at Aguazul, the Gansevoort’s Nikkei-style restaurant, which is a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese for a five-course meal of everything from the sea.

The new Gansevoort property in Sosua, Dominican Republic. Nice place to hang and the fisherman delivers the catch of the day just beyond those umbrellas every morning, which means dinner is just amazing. Photo: Jon Coen

The new Gansevoort property in Sosua, Dominican Republic. Nice place to hang and the fisherman delivers the catch of the day just beyond those umbrellas every morning, which means dinner is just amazing. Photo: Jon Coen

We could barely comprehend how good everything was, until I got to talking to Oscar, who took over as the manager of the property just a few weeks ago.

Earlier that day, a fisherman had moored up just off the beach. Oscar had personally gone down to buy tuna, red snapper and mahi off the boat. The freshest fish; can’t beat it. Maybe wine cellars, spas and other amenities are lost on me, but I can talk fresh seafood all day.

More from 7 Days in the Dominican Republic

Day 1 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: A love for the beisbol

Day 2 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: The open road

Day 3 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: No shortage of small waves

Day 5 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: Leaping from waterfalls

Day 6 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: Just a bunch of monkeys

Day 7 of 7 in the Dominican Republic: Muchas gracias