Ultratravel U.S.

Fall 2015

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34 ultratravel Luxe in THe JunGLe The brand new Amanera Villas raise the bar on the Playa Grande. BY JACKIE COOPERMAN ith Amanera, Aman Resorts' first property in the Dominican Republic, the island is about to get a serious upgrade. Opening later this year, Amanera straddles the mile-long Playa Grande beach and lush jungles on the island's north coast. It features the first-ever golf course at an Aman property, and, in the initial offering phase, 13 private villas. "I love that the villas have views from every corner, that there are ample outdoor living spaces and that even if you are here for a week, you could spend every minute without leaving your villa," says Katerina Katopis, director at Dolphin Capital Partners, which developed the property. Designed by architect John Heah, the villas feature wood, concrete and locally produced tiles and range from two to five bedrooms, with some set on two-acre lots. All villas include ocean and golf course views, floor-to-ceiling windows, immense outdoor terraces and access to Amanera's spa, restaurants, the Playa Grande Golf Course and the Playa Grande Beach Club. "With the exception of the six two-bedroom villas at Amanera, all larger villas are built only once they are sold," Katopis explains. "This allows the clients to customize their property, while conforming to the overall design guidelines we have set for the villas. They are all spectacular and distinct—larger villas are majestic homes with ample space and total privacy. They give the owners a lot of customization and extra spaces. The two-bedroom villas are spacious yet cozy, and are located within the resort, making them an ideal investment opportunity." The resort—a labor of love—has been years in the making. "When we decided to expand our company to the Caribbean in 2007, we were introduced to Playa Grande by Adrian Zecha, the founder of Aman. We bought the property in December 2007. We all know what happened next, with the real estate crisis that started in 2008," Katopis says. "So for a few years, we hunkered down and managed our costs as carefully as possible, until we felt the market would come back and it was time to develop." That downtime included extensive botanical research, leading Aman to re- introduce endangered native plant species like royal plum and frangipani to the property. Protecting the surrounding natural resources was critical, Katopis says, noting that the Playa Grande Club & Reserve—of which Amanera is a part—spans more than 2,000 acres, including 400 acres that will remain a natural rainforest preserve and seven miles of beach and oceanfront. Another challenge: renovating the Robert Trent Jones golf course, which was just completed by his son Rees Jones, and includes 10 cliffside holes—more waterfront holes than any other golf course in the Caribbean. For visitors wanting to explore beyond the confines of Amanera, Katopis recommends a few favorite spots: Laguna Gri Gri just before sunset, "for its perfectly calm shallow waters, the stunning reflections of the mangroves and the symphony of birds returning for the night." The beach at Cabarete for "the laid-back atmosphere and kite surfers;" Los Haitises National Park in Samaná; the local carnival every February and swimming with humpback whales on the Silver Bank. "Above all, strolling through the local villages along the road between Puerto Plata and Playa Grande, admiring the vibrant colored homes, buying fresh fruit from the food stalls and dancing with the locals to the tunes of the merengue is what it's all about," Katopis says. Clearly, it's the kind of dulcet environment that turns even savvy real estate developer lyrical. "I am constantly mesmerized by the orange sunrises, the purple-pink sunsets, the ever-changing cloud formations, the permanently blowing gentle breeze and the sound of the waves when I sleep," Katopis says. w A two-bedroom villa at Amanera offers unrivaled views of Playa Grande beach. Hot Property PHOTO COURTESY OF DOLPHIN CAPITAL

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