08/22/2012 10:52 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 12:04 EDT

Casa de Campo: A Resort Of 'Firsts'

Casa de Campo Resort

I'm thrilled upon arrival at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic when my guide shows me my sweet new ride: a shiny red golf cart.

Okay, it wasn't a Lamborghini or Rolls-Royce, and I've endured plenty of teasing from my colleagues for being "proud" of driving a golf cart.

But the truth is, I'm a below-average golfer at best, and on those rare occasions when I do play it's usually at a community course where you're lucky to see the grass - and what little there is has often already been unpleasantly marked by the local canine community. More significantly, there are no golf carts where I play.

So driving around in this shiny red mini-rocket was a delightful new experience.

And it wasn't the only "first" I enjoyed at this resort, where you can laze about in typical holiday beach mode, or try your hand at a wide range of activities,

from the relaxing to the adventurous.

And that's what makes Casa de Campo a true "resort of firsts": there's a good chance this place offers an experience you haven't tried before - like scooting around in a flashy red golf cart.

Skeet shooting: A great way to let off a little steam - and the only thing that gets hurt are the clay pigeons.

Don't sweat it if you've never fired a gun in your life. My friendly and experienced guide Shawn showed me the ropes and had me looking like a semi-pro in no time.

After watching my spotty performance - lots more misses than hits - Shawn came to a conclusion that bruised my delicate ego.

"It's not the gun," he said cheerfully. "It's you."

Thanks, Shawn.

Other sporty pursuits at the resort include horseback riding, polo, and tennis, complete with lessons from experienced instructors.

Golf: Having a golf cart proves handy for the resort's actual golf course - and it's a world-class one at that. The Teeth of the Dog is considered one of the world's most challenging golf courses, ranked by Golf Magazine as the top course in the Caribbean and 43rd globally.

(See Gallery Below)

Casa de Campo Spa: If you've got a sore shoulder from skeet shooting or aching knees from a brisk game of tennis, the resort's spa offers a number of services designed to rejuvenate your body and mind.

Try the Crystal Chakra Aromatherapy, where crystals or gemstones are placed on your body at specific chakras, or energy centres, to promote well-being. Essential oils are also applied to enhance the sensory experience. Body wraps and seaside massages are also available.

Cool Excursions

Altos de Chavon: A must-see attraction is this charming replica of a 16th century Mediterranean village. Conceived by Italian movie-set designer Roberto Copa and designed by Dominican architect Jose Antonio Caro, this picturesque spot is perched high above the majestic Chavón River.

Enjoy the cobblestone streets and the coral stone buildings that house boutiques, art galleries, an art school, an archeological museum, and St. Stanislaus Church. Savour a meal at one of the fine restaurants like Giacosa Ristorante or La Piazzetta, and then watch a show under the stars at the Roman-styled 5,000-seat amphitheatre that will take you back in time.

La Marina: The marina features a yacht club, restaurants and bars, sailing school, and most importantly for shoppers, several fashionable boutiques where you can pick up a unique gift for that special someone. If you have the time, hire a boat to take you to nearby Catalina Island, where you can enjoy a relaxing afternoon amid sunshine, soft sand and ocean breeze.

Villas: The grounds feature a number of that will take your breath away. These properties, owned by private citizens but managed by Casa de Campo, can be rented and include housekeeping, meals and staff. These places don't come cheap (beautiful Cacique 17 Villa will set you back $4,200 US a week), but there's no harm in having a look for the wow factor.

La Romana: This sprawling city located just west of the resort is worth a visit. The hotel staff will be happy to whisk you into town to explore for a few hours - be sure to offer a nice tip for their trouble.

Food carts line the streets around the bars and clubs as the streets come alive on weekend nights. If you've got your dancing shoes on, head for the area near Francisco Castillo Márquez street and visit Babylon Bar. Another good place for drinks nearby is Marinelly Bar on Santa Maria - but this place is pretty loud, so it's not the best for quiet conversation.


Golf Cart: Each guest at Casa de Campo has free access to a golf cart with which to area. While it's possible to walk from your room to breakfast, the cart really does make your life easier. The resort is 28 square kilometres - so for excursions further afield, the staff will be happy drive you around in one of their spacious vans.

* The writer was a guest of Casa de Campo.

Casa de Campo Gallery - The Teeth Of The Dog Golf Course