Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Photo: Casas del XVI
Photo: Casas del XVI

You’ve created trips around snow-capped mountains, lush vineyards, and seemingly endless beaches. You’ve checked national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites off your list. You’ve even been inspired by award-winning restaurants, well-publicized museum exhibits, and once-in-a-lifetime concerts. But you’ve never built an entire vacation around a hotel. Until now.

Like most people, your previous trips to the Dominican Republic revolved around the beach. Puerto Plata. Punta Cana. La Romana. Despite it being the largest city in the Caribbean, you never even considered a trip to its capital, Santo Domingo. Then you started hearing about a new hotel, set in restored houses from the 16th century, in Zona Colonial, the heart of the city. Add fascinating historic sites—the city was the first permanent European settlement in the New World—some of the best shopping in the Greater Antilles, and infectious bachata music, and you found your next vacation destination.

Photo: Casas del XVI
Photo: Casas del XVI

You fall in love with Casas del XVI immediately. After a short drive from the airport, you’re welcomed to the boutique hotel with a cocktail in the lounge. The building—with a tiled Roman roof, thick walls, and vaulted brick archways—is undeniably old. The space has been lovingly restored though. Heirloom furniture sits in front of brightly colored accent walls that are peppered with contemporary artwork by local artists. Bay windows in the library and the honor bar overlook a private courtyard. Plus shady gardens surround quiet terraces dotted with overstuffed chairs.

Your mayordomo (butler) gives you an iPhone to get in touch with the hotel during your stay and shows you to your room in Casa de los Mapas. Each room in the House of Maps is uniquely decorated—from black-and-white decor to a vintage theme to a tropical vibe. Yours has a deep tub that you can’t wait to soak in later. But your first stop is the pool in the courtyard. Turquoise-cushioned sun loungers match the water in the heated pool. A siesta-worthy couch sits on the patio. Lots of candles will be lit as darkness falls. While the flickering candlelight will pair perfectly with a Dominican rum. You haven’t even started to explore the city yet, but you’re already in love with Santo Domingo.

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