Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic

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The new look lobby image
The new look lobby

BAM!! The 12-gauge double barrel shotgun kicks just a little as soon as I pull the trigger but I miss and the little orange clay target whizzes by overhead. BAM!!! The second shell explodes the target into bits, and everyone whoops it up in friendly support. This is a truly stellar networking event for both men and women, the latter of whom we’re told tend to be more adept at trap shooting at first—amply proven this day.

That scenario plays out for all 20 of our mixed group on the shooting range at the sprawling Casa de Campo, located 10 minutes from La Romana Int’l Airport in the Dominican Republic. The 265-room resort has long asserted itself as the Caribbean’s most complete property, and they’ve got a point. “Casa” was the first Dominican hotel to open the island up to US meetings decades ago, so it has evolved over the years in many different directions into a multi-layered luxury village of sorts, covering 7,000 acres saddling the teal blue sea.

That’s the kicker. The multitude of group venues feel like they’re offsite except they’re not, so logistics are a breeze.

Hundreds of expansive private villas rim the two golf courses: Dye Fore, with breathtaking views high above the river, and the waterfront Teeth of the Dog, ranked #1 in the Caribbean. Many of the villas are available for group rentals for elegant 100-pax dinners prepared in-house by a resort chef, or hospitality golf suites, executive retreats, spouse programs, etc.

The mega-yacht marina is filled with luxury boats, encircled by dozens of shops and restaurants with waterfront seating capacity that could support a buyout. Organize a lunch with Cantonese specialties from Chinois restaurant and calamari on handmade Amalfi china from Limoncello, before sailing to nearby Catalina Island where Casa has permanent facilities set up on the beach for private group events.

Altos de Chavon is a recreated 16th century Mediterranean plaza perched atop the cliffs overlooking the Chavon that sets Casa apart from any other resort in the islands. Guys with last names like Sinatra, Iglesias and Domingo have sung in the 5,000-seat amphitheater, available for groups. There’s a coterie of casual and upscale restaurants like the rustic La Piazzetta for gourmet Italian. Parsons School of Design in NYC has a satellite fine arts school here; planners should definitely look into doing a group art class. There’s a magnificent new museum with exhibits focusing on the native Taino tribe who once lived here, and a Dominican art museum of a quality that will surprise you. And Batey’s is a fun shop selling gorgeous, delicate handmade linens crafted by local women working in the outlying farms.

SWANKY $30 MILLION UPDATE

Last year, the hub of the resort, all rooms, the spa and the main restaurants were completely overhauled with a chic and dynamic new global groove. The rooms are situated on two floors—we like the top floor units with cathedral ceilings—but all have large bathrooms with walk-in glass showers, big balconies/patios, coralina stone floors and mahogany furnishings. Each room also comes with a golf cart to explore the entire property.

On the last night, we dined seaside on the crescent beach in the brand new Beach Club by Le Cirque where chefs visit for six month stints from the illustrious NYC restaurant. The evening’s menu included Le Cirque’s famed caesar followed by mushroom risotto or a tenderloin with provolone mushrooms. Afterwards, the private beach area was set up with a bonfire, DJ, bleachers and dancing. Casa truly is the complete package.

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