Amanera Resort Dominican Republic

If you aren’t an Aman Junkie, you may not have traveled to many exotic venues. Aman Resorts has a keen eye for novel locations and masterfully designing exceptional and unique properties.

Amanera Casita

Once again, with their 29th property, Amanera, Playa Grande in the Dominican Republic, they have reaffirmed their long-standing record of stunning resorts.

Amanera Casa Grande

One note, most travelers who visit the Dominican Republic, land in the over developed Punta Cana area – multitudes of hotel properties lacking remoteness or exclusivity. As Aman typically builds its resorts in locations which are a bit off the beaten track, they have succeeded again with Amanera. If isolation and absolute quiet are important to you, do waves and bird song count as noise? I think not. Amanera is an oasis of tranquility.

Built on the North shore of the Dominican Republic, this gem of a retreat offers world renowned golf, hiking, near by kite boarding, water sports, horse back riding and divine dining – why would you opt to stay with the masses?

Casita Terrace with private plunge pool

What do you notice first? Stunning architecture, Balinese like streamlined style, soaring teak and concrete structures open to the expansive views of the Atlantic, and in the distance, a jade green jungle. Architect John Heah integrated the twenty-four casitas in an amphitheater configuration in three stacked rows so that all dwellings enjoy sensational unobstructed views of the ocean. Rooftops are covered in grass, an aesthetic attribute, a seamless blend with nature. Water features are an integral part of the design, which result in stunning mirror reflections and soft splashes, adding to the allure and sense of peacefulness.

The main building, Casa Grande is easily accessed by foot if you decline a buggy driver. With several excellent dining options, I would recommend the jaunt! Casa Grande appears to hover over a breathtaking view with soaring glass or open-air ‘walls ‘ providing an unobstructed view of the mile long crescent beach. An infinity pool floats below Casa Grande, if you don’t have your own private plunge. Nothing obscures the distant horizon.

My heavenly terrace and plunge pool Amanera Casita

My one bedroom casita was located in prime territory, basically center stage orchestra seating, if you will. Similar to Casa Grande, the floor to ceiling glass windows provide drop-dead views of the beach below, the horizon and the jungle beyond the beach. From my bed or my pool loungers, my tropical perch was akin to heaven. A short walk down hill to the beach provided outdoor exercise. The unparalleled setting feels like you are on the edge of the earth, deep jungle terrain kisses the shore of the white sandy crescent shaped beach bordered by crashing waves. Palm fronds edge the jungle boundaries and add a soft swish in the breeze. Beach loungers dot the sand where waiters deliver chilled libations or snacks. This is where you must bring your book bag for an indulgent catch up.

I haven’t mentioned the spa or the championship golf course. This is the first Aman property with a golf course. It goes without saying, it is exceptional. Building on this unspoiled side of the island, Aman didn’t have any competition from a local course – and good luck to anyone who attempts to top this course. The palm lined, ocean facing course has ten ocean side water holes, more than any other course in the Western Hemisphere.  Besides challenging golf, there are stunning scenic photo ops for those who merely shoot cameras.

Amanera Golf

Amanera Golf Course

The Robert Trent Jones course was recently renovated by Jones’ son Rees Jones. Vast  open vistas dominate this 7,085-yard course which curves along the jagged coastline and has breathtaking cliff-side fairways of beautiful sloping velvet greens— it’s often described as the “Pebble Beach” of the Caribbean. Resident pro, PGA Professional Julio Santos took me out for a tour, as I find golf a lesson in frustration. I highly recommend a walk on the paths after the duffers have moved on to the 19th hole…sensational views, carts are encouraged as Julio pointed out when he thought I veered too close to a dramatic drop off near a green! Don’t take my word for it, Larry Olmsted, professional travel writer/golf addict has this to say about the course…

Amanera Spa

A tranquil sanctuary awaits you at the Spa. Inspired by the shamanic healing traditions of the Dominican Republic, spa therapies use locally grown plants and herbs, as well as the Aman range of all-natural products. Massages, facials, scrubs and wraps join signature Spa Journeys as part of a holistic approach to wellbeing.

Lobster Dinner Beach Cafe Amanera…largest Lobster I have ever seen!

Golden crescent beach Amanera

Dining – I’ve previously posted on the exceptional chef experience with my cooking class at Amanera. Both chef’s display very innovative styles, partly based on their heritage, and are enthusiastic in indulging guest requests. The Restaurant, specializing in fresh, organic dishes, features a terrace overlooking the uninterrupted mile-long golden strand of Playa Grande beach. Floor-to-ceiling windows ensure expansive views from indoors, and the second-story bar is the perfect spot for an aperitif. Other dining options include Club de Playa, set on the beach, don’t miss the lobster here – I have never seen such enormous lobsters! Sundowners at Playa Grande in a hammock under a coconut tree, in the sand or from the floating bar in Casa Grande – do try the local concoction Mama Juana. A regional cocktail made with rum, red wine, dried bark and honey.

Massive mangrove forest lines the river to the sea

Activities – A stay at Amanera is as busy or relaxed as a guest desires. Resident hiking assistant Antonio, doubles as a full-time guide, leads nature walks and mountain bike trips.  He patiently explains medicinal uses for plants, uses a sharp stick to puncture  coconuts to reveal the intensely flavored fruit. End your hike with a chilled bottle of wine and snacks in the jungle! Wake up to sunrise yoga or Pilates, walk the stunning crescent beach, laze about, there is no pressure to indulge-staff is present and quiet awaiting your request. Off property, cruise in a motorboat down the Río San Juan, lined with towering prehistoric looking mangrove trees and fluttering with snowy white egrets. On a calm day, traverse the waves to head out to sea for a swim or snorkel.

Amanera hand rolled cigars

I find a singular component to very successful hotels or resorts is the personality of the General Manager. In this case, Rocco Bova, a very animated Italian, who listens, suggests and enthusiastically replies: we can do this – when would you like to  dine, cook, hike- whatever your request – he makes the magic happen! I’ve written about Hotel Whisperer GM’s, he definitely exemplifies this magical gift. Where can I buy the chocolate in my Casita? Boxes of delicious milk chocolate appear in my Casita. My clients would love these Aman hand rolled cigars…wooden boxes and brochures are offered…Lasagne for your last meal, of course! Hotel Whisperer, Rocco Bova!

Scrumptious Tub- windows open to sea breeze- soak amid the jungle! Amanera Casita

Amanera has upped the luxury game in the Dominican Republic. Highly recommend for a luxurious lazy sojourn, golf addicts must add this course to their playlist, and Aman-junkies, you must flock!

Aman has always set the stage for guest arrival and departure…in this case we were served a tropical drink and of course those ubiquitous Aman fine leather luggage tags are discretely attached to your bag before departure…

Addictive Coconut Cookies- Amanera

I should have asked the Hotel Whisperer for the addictive coconut cookie recipe…











Chef Antonio Tridenti AMANERA Travel Tales

One of my favorite travel activities is meeting chefs and taking cooking classes. My recent stay at Amanera in the Dominican Republic allowed for some free time with Executive Chef Antonio Tridenti. He eventually added a cooking demonstration to our schedule and at the suggestion of the more than willing to please GM Rocco Bova, we enjoyed the most delicious lasagna lunch before our airport departure. Chef Antonio rose to the request, Rocco had raved about the lasagne and then insisted we enjoy it before we departed…this is typical Aman hospitality! Light as air pasta with scrumptious ricotta, homemade tomato sauce, a touch of basil…yum!

Chef Antonio Interview:

Do you have a favorite meal? One of my favorite meals is pizza. I come from Naples and we usually like to enjoy it 2-3 times a week.

Do you feel a responsibility with your chefs in each kitchen you inhabit – a sense of mentoring younger chef’s? Yes, I try always to teach them everything I’ve learned in my experience. I share the process of a dish from the first step to last, and I also try to learn something from them because you can always learn from other chefs.

If so, what do you look for in a young chef? The passion they have in their job, this is the most important point to be a cook.

Did you have cooking or dining influences as a young child? Yes, from my mother and my grandmother.

Which talent would you most like to have that you don’t possess? My next step is to make a course of Japanese food and understand their technique, they are perfect on the cut and in creating raw dishes. This is a skill I do not have but I want to learn.

Have you always had an affinity for fine food? Not always, when I was a child I grew up with the typical Italian kitchen of my grandmother and my mother. Difficult to try something different, but when I started my adventure in London I started to try all types of food, from  street food to fine dining and I started to open my mind to different flavors.

Do you have a preference for Michelin style dining or are you happy with a simple baked chicken or other comfort food? I prefer ‘mamma style’ cooking, for this reason, I chose to come with Aman. I like fine dining, but I think this is something you can have 1-2 times a month. On the rest of the days, I prefer simple food with nice flavors as you would enjoy in your home.

Was there anything that you thought you wanted to do before you started cooking? When I was young always tried to help my father (he was a policeman, but always with passion of bricklayer). When he needed help, I was always with him, but the passion of the kitchen was always with me. I tried to help my mother or grandmother when possible, and when I was 12 years old I had already been in my first kitchen, I understood this was what I wanted to do for life.

What foods are you craving the most right now? Healthy foods – now everyone tries to eat healthier.

How strong is the will to be recognized as a Michelin chef? Sincerely, not too much, because not every Michelin chef will be a good chef.  In Italy I’ve been in a lot of restaurants where the foods is amazing, genuine and fresh and the cook is simply the mum of the owner. And I been in some Michelin restaurant where the foods was not the best experience. I prefer to always have happy guests with our dishes, it is not Michelin style dining.

Is there one food that you’re secretly obsessed with having at home? Like most Italians, we cannot eat a meal without bread, cheeses and enjoy a meal without a glass of wine.

How are you influenced by other chefs? Or cultures? I like to meet chefs from other countries and listen to their opinions and ideas; you can always learn from them.

Do you try to tell a story with your menus? I always try to add my experience and my history from my home country, Italy is famous for their pasta. So in this respect, I always offer fresh homemade pasta and a selection of dishes from my background.

Is there a food that you hate? No, I like all foods, but I find I am intolerant to bell peppers. Although, I sometimes eat them and incorporate them into a dish.

What do you do for fun? I like to stay with my dog and my girlfriend. I enjoy swimming and if I have a chance to watch a match of my favorite team (Juventus), I will watch them at any time.

Is there a childhood comfort food that you think about? Baked rabbit from my grandmother she always cooked it on specials days.

What kinds of ethnic food do you think are underrated right now? Food from Ethiopia. I meet one chef from this country and the Ethiopian food is very good.

Are you intimidated by choosing say, a menu/dish from a foreign country and putting your own twist/stamp on it? No, I am not intimidated, it’s a nice idea for chef’s to adapt different ideology of foods and add your own touch to a particular dish.

Has there ever been an ingredient that you weren’t able to master and have given up on, like animal innards or tongue or brains or a particular spice? I am not fond of brains. Animal innards and tongue is typical in my country, my father loves it.

Do you have a favorite foodie city in the world? I think London and New York, you can found all types and quality of dining in these cities.

If you could read anyone’s cooking notebook, whose would it be? Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura.

On average how many times do you change a menu? My habit is to change one dish from the menu monthly. Trying to change the complete menu is usually too complicated. The kitchen staff has full knowledge of an entire menu, we can change options dish by dish, but not an entire menu.

What do you appreciate the most in your kitchen staff/friends and family? Sincerity, everyone in the world can make a mistake, the most important quality is having the courage to admit mistakes.

Where would you go for the best dessert in Italy? In Naples or Sicily they have the best  dessert in Italy. If you visit Naples you need to try ‘Pastiera’ and ‘Sfogliatelle’.

Do you have favorite restaurants in Italy? Or any other international cities? When I’m in Italy, I always go to BelSito Hotel in Manocalzati AV. When I was young, it is where I spent some time in the kitchen. In London, I always go to Cecconi’s Restaurant, the executive chef is my friend.

Thank you Chef Antonio for taking time to respond to my questions and even more for your personal attention while at Amanera. I’m grateful you and Rocco were so enthusiastically receptive to our requests, which were usually at the last minute!

Salad with local cheese wrapped in a sliver of bacon…

Ceviche from our cooking class demo.

Scrumptious breakfast…local avocados with eggs!

Dessert, a caramel crumble with coconut ice cream.. I intended to have only one bite…

Our first night Chef served an array of delicious starters..this was a lentil dish that was fabulous…

Delicious meals at both Amanera restaurants, great diversity, fresh and healthy and innovative!