Although clients won’t find a
swim-up bar, the infinity pool
offers additional retreat.
Booking clients for a vacation in the Dominican Republic used to be
a simple question of brand: Iberostar, Club Med, Paradisus? Famed
for its long beaches dominated by sprawling all-inclusive resorts,
the country hasn’t invested much effort courting the upscale E.P.
(European Plan) market, focusing instead on increasing its room
count with resorts that number their beds in the hundreds or even
But some observers noticed that a segment of vacationers was not
being served by the destination.
“I believe that the true hotel is an E.P. hotel,” explained
Spanish hotelier Manel Vallet. “And I felt there was an opportunity
here for luxury boutique hotels.” Vallet knows one side of the
equation well: His family owns the Catalonia brand a Spanish chain
of traditional all-inclusives. For his E.P. venture, Vallet set his
sights on the Coconut Coast, the Dominican Republic’s beach-blessed
eastern tip which encompasses Punta Cana and neighboring (and more
extensively developed) Bavaro to the north.
The area already has 24,000 hotel rooms, with many more on the
way. To fulfill the concept Vallet had to select a location
“We looked at a lot of land, but most of it was too close to
all-inclusives,” he said. “We saw [parcels] that were very deep but
had just 160 feet of beachfront.”
But by venturing far north of the other developments, Vallet
found a piece of land with 1,000 feet of beachfront. The
neighboring parcels aren’t deep enough for a large-scale resort,
providing a natural barrier for Sivory, as he named the property,
against future all-inclusive developments.
The resort that sprouted worked out to just 55 rooms, spread in
two-story, four-unit villas lining the strawberry-blonde beach. The
rooms are actually swank suites, and each boasts sleek modern decor
with hand-crafted dark mahogany and Indonesian furnishings, soaking
tubs and double-headed showers most have a sea view through a
tangle of sea grape trees.
For a resort of this size the beach frontage is generous, while
a large infinity-lipped pool offers additional retreat. The
landscaping is native and thus more ecologically sensitive,
minimizing the need for harmful chemical fertilizers typical of
large resorts while the country’s trademark coconut palms sway
Sivory is also notable for what it doesn’t have: No swim-up pool
bar, no casino, no disco typical attributes of Punta Cana’s often
charm-challenged large resorts. The location is quiet and isolated,
one hour north of the Punta Cana airport.
Although Sivory’s boutique status is an attraction, it creates
its own hurdles.
“A concern with a small boutique hotel is that people can get
bored,” explained Vallet. “There’s only one restaurant, and they
don’t want to eat at the same place four nights in a row.”
The answer: Not one or two, but three restaurants on property,
plus a pool bar with a lunch menu and an 8,000-bottle wine cellar
overseen by cheerful sommelier Juan Pierre.
In February, Denis Jaricot was brought in as executive chef. A
native of Lyon, France, Jaricot is fresh from stints at the
high-end resorts Cuisinart in Anguilla and Little Dix Bay in Virgin
Sivory’s venues include the Asian-fusion venture Tau; Lavadera,
overlooking the beach and serving three meals daily; and Gourmond,
a fine-dining room for refined French cuisine against a backdrop of
the wine library.
The meals are ambitious and rewarding. Jaricot hosts
complimentary cooking demonstrations on Monday afternoons, and a
Chef’s Table on Fridays at noon, with guests invited to assist in
But these aspects present their own challenges. The pool of
highly trained resort workers in the Dominican Republic is in high
demand, and luring them to the remote property has been difficult;
service snafus cropped up during Sivory’s first year of operation.
A new general manager, Franz Acevedo, started in April and his
initial focus has been retraining.
The full-service Aquarea Spa & Wellness Center completes the
Sivory picture, with a vaguely South Pacific design percolating
through the intimate and relaxed facility. The menu of services
includes massage, hydrotherapy, Vichy shower regimens and beauty
These improvements by Sivory have recently been recognized by
the AAA with the awarding of the Four-Diamond award in 2007. Things
are starting to look up for Sivory and future developments are
Vallet wasn’t alone in observing the Dominican Republic’s
shortage of E.P. hotels, and other small boutique properties have
debuted around the country recently. Next year will see the opening
of Westin’s Roco Ki Resort in Bavaro, with a Nick Faldo golf
course. The mammoth Cap Cana development, located just south of the
Punta Cana airport, includes five E.P. hotels opening over the next
several years, and Trump-branded estates. Luxury is promised at
all, though not necessarily the type Vallett has strived for.
“Luxury is not so much a matter of marble and gold as it is
about space and atmosphere,” Vallett said. “We want people to be
comfortable here, without noticing why.”
Who needs another swim-up pool bar after all?
Sivory Punta Cana
*A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Sivory Punta Cana
rates start at $290, double.
Other alternatives to the all-inclusive vacation have sprung up
in the Dominican Republic in the last few years.
The 50-room Casa Colonial Beach & Spa is a
beautifully designed property in Playa Dorado, the tourist complex
located just outside Puerto Plata (the country’s main north-coast
gateway). Oversized rooms are equipped with Frette linens and en
suite bathtubs, while a superb spa is the property’s best asset. On
the downside, the locationcheek-by-jowl with clamorous
all-inclusive resortsmakes the beach crowded and unappealing.
Doubles from $260.
Villa Serena , located in Las Galeras at the
end of the Samaná Peninsula, sits in a broad bay blessed with
gorgeous beaches. The 21-room inn, opened in 1993 by an ex-pat, is
pure romantic idyllno swim-up bar, no conga line, no motorized
watersports, but plenty of rest and relaxation. There’s not much of
a beach, but water taxis whisk guests away to their choice of
coves. Doubles from $130.
Located next to the famed La Cana golf coursea favorite with
golf buddies Bill Clinton and Mikhail Barishnikov Tortuga
Bay Hotel , is a collection of high-end villas containing
30 one- and two-bedroom units facing a silky beach. Jacuzzi tubs on
balconies, butler service, and a full-service Six Senses Spa are
among the amenities; the subtle interior design was handled by
co-owner (with Julio Iglesias) Oscar de la Renta. Doubles from
Located next door to Sivory is the brand new
Agua a 53-unit resort which opened in May 2007.
The rooms are found in two-story, thatch-roof bungalows leading
back from the beach, linked by a series of wooden bridges. There is
a full-service spa, a restaurant with 24-hour room service, while a
dramatic and unusually long pool snakes through the property.
Doubles from $350.