You might think you’ve made a wrong turn on your way to Àni Villas Dominican Republic. Located at the end of an unmarked, pothole-laden dirt road with stray roosters crisscrossing left and right, the exclusive beach resort is a welcome sight after following a decidedly unwelcoming path. But that’s the point: Secluded and hidden, the 14-suite property is a secret known only to its guests.
To be sure, this is not Punta Cana. Set against a backdrop of lush, low-mountain forest with views of unspoiled coastline, Àni Villas joins a handful of high-end properties—including the nearby Amanera and Playa Grande Beach Club—that have recently sprouted along the island’s less-developed northern shore, where the tranquil vibe of grazing cows and fishing villages offers a low-key contrast to the southern island’s all-inclusive sprawl.
Designed by the local firm Estudio Sarah Garcia, the Balinese-style property (Àni’s fourth after openings in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Anguilla) is split into two villas—one with eight master suites, the other with six—and both are ideal for hosting a private group or two. At the heart of each villa stands a massive 6,000-square-foot open-walled living and dining pavilion, which flows out to a sun-drenched tanning deck and infinity pool. Perched here above the Caribbean and enjoying the gentle onshore breeze, guests gather for conch ceviche, rum cocktails, or a game of billiards. In the evenings before dinner, the resort might present a local acoustic guitarist, a folkloric dance troupe, or a cigar-rolling demonstration.
The villas offer a relaxing setting in which to do absolutely nothing—but there’s also plenty of something: waterslides for kids (and kids at heart), complimentary massage treatments, sunset shuffleboard matches, and a tennis court staffed by a resident coach. Guests in search of more are well-served to head back down the unmarked dirt road to explore this mellow coast with snorkeling, surfing, kiteboarding, or cycling around the nearby town of Rio San Juan.
Our favorite adventure, however, is a boat trip through the dense Gri Gri Lagoon’s mangrove forest filled with squawking white egrets. When the boat docks at a local beach, a feast of local snapper and langoustine—prepared by Àni’s attentive staff—awaits. The scene is a welcome reminder that the quintessential all-inclusive Caribbean experience need not come at the exclusion of local culture. For a taste of both, you’ve come to the right place.