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At Playa Hotels & Resorts’ Spotlight Awards event for its top-producing travel advisors last January, I spoke with several attendees who expressed excitement about the company’s plans for the Dominican Republic. While previews of Playa’s newbuild Hyatt Ziva and Zilara complex in Punta Cana (originally set to open Nov. 1, but now delayed) were undeniably the star of the show, enthusiasm also abounded over Hilton La Romana.
About two months earlier, the former Dreams La Romana had been rebranded as part of Playa’s expanded partnership with Hilton, and its transformation was beginning in earnest as I toured the all-inclusive property.
“The Hilton is amazing already, and they're going to remodel it, so I'm impressed by that,” said Deanna Pederson of LaMacchia Travel in Kenosha, Wis.
Later, at the invitation of Playa, I spent a few days at Hilton La Romana on Oct. 2-5, and I suspect that Pederson and other travel advisors I spoke with back in January won’t be disappointed.
The 750-room hotel recently wrapped up renovations to its adults-only side. Exteriors have been freshly painted in a relatively subdued yet still-bright palette, while interiors exude the appropriate tropical vibe with splashes of orange and turquoise. A bevy of outlets alongside the exceptionally comfortable bed and reliable, complimentary Wi-Fi access are among the requisite modern amenities.
The property’s breakfast buffet offers a wide variety of hot and cold items, made-to-order omelets and so on. One culinary highlight during our stay was dinner at Sakura, an Asian fusion venue where chefs at the teppanyaki grill serve up beef, chicken, shrimp and vegetables with a heaping helping of knife-twirling, spatula-spinning flair. Save room for the tempura-fried matcha ice cream.
We sell Cap Cana, we sell Punta Cana, but we don't usually sell La Romana. But with this Hilton there, absolutely.
For those seeking local flavors, the hotel offers culinary classes. At the beachside grill, our group of travel media learned to prepare mofongo, a fried plantain dish; longer classes can offer instruction on making other Caribbean staples, such as sancocho (meat and vegetable stew) or mangu (mashed plantains). Those inclined toward less hands-on instruction can enjoy a rum tasting, where they’ll learn about the history of Dominican rum while sampling several varieties.
Guests looking to venture off property likely will find themselves booking an excursion to Saona Island, part of the Dominican Republic’s Cotubanama National Park. Our sailing with on-site operator Scuba Caribe departed right from Hilton Romana’s beach. At about the halfway point of our 90-minute sailing, we dropped anchor so we could wade in the clear blue Caribbean. Then, we continued to the island, where beach chairs, a complimentary buffet and a bar (where most drinks were included, too) awaited.
Saona is among the key attractions of the La Romana region. It’s about an hour’s drive from Punta Cana, where most Americans are likely to touch down and stay, given that area’s abundant accommodations options. But thanks to its partnership with Hilton, Playa now offers an appealing option apart from its Punta Cana portfolio.
"We sell Cap Cana, we sell Punta Cana, but we don't usually sell La Romana," Sue Schmerling of A Time to Travel in Delray Beach, Fla., told me last January. "But with this Hilton there, absolutely."
The renovation of the family side of the Hilton La Romana will be completed on Dec. 1, according to Playa representatives.
The DetailsHilton La Romanawww3.hilton.com