Aman junkies exist for a reason. This self-defined group of devotees to the exclusive hospitality group’s signature brand of luxury — exquisite minimalism with a decided emphasis on service and seclusion — has determined that no other hotel lives up to the same standards. And they’re right. Aman prides itself on knowing what its loyalists want and giving it to them before they even ask. To that end, the company keeps files on its discerning clients and their preferences, small but meaningful details gathered by attentive, accommodating staff over a lifetime of stays: if they favor coffee or tea, if they prefer firm or soft pillows, and the like. And it works; repeat customers who jet from one property to another make up about half of Aman’s business.
Owner Vladislav Doronin likes to scout potential sites from the air or sea, which allows him and his team to envision the brand’s trademark sleek design situated in remarkably remote destinations. And that’s precisely why Amanera (meaning “peaceful water”) feels entirely unlike the Dominican Republic you know, a world away from tourist-ridden areas like Punta Cana and La Romana. Opening its doors in 2015, it’s the 29th of 32 Aman properties across 22 countries and the second Caribbean locale.
Amanera is perched atop a rugged 60-foot cliff on the idyllic north coast overlooking private Playa Grande Beach and set against a dramatic backdrop of verdant jungle. (In fact, Christopher Columbus purportedly declared this very spot to be the most beautiful in the world back in 1492.) The resort’s 25 standalone casitas were expertly designed to maximize sweeping sea vistas by acclaimed British architect John Heah, who was inducted into the elite group of architects who’ve created Aman properties with this impressive debut. (He nailed the aesthetic so well that he was tapped to design the first Mexico outpost, slated to open next year.) And Amanera delivers on everything junkies have come to love, even before they arrive.
Upon wheels down at Gregorio Luperón International Airport in Puerto Plata, just a short jaunt from Miami, you’re given the VIP treatment and whisked through customs. From there, a driver chauffeurs you through quaint seaside villages and past grazing livestock to the property, complete with cold towel service, refreshing water, handcrafted snacks and in-car Wi-Fi. You’d never guess from the winding two-lane road that behind lush foliage lies a private 2,000-acre paradise. (Of course, you’re always welcome to arrive via chopper, too.)
The open-air Casa Grande sets the tone. Striking the perfect degree of delightful restraint, the organic architecture — think massive concrete eaves, Indonesian teak beams, floating stairs and walkways, walls of glass or none at all — blends seamlessly with its surrounds and lets the breathtaking water views take center stage. The space comprises the lobby, main restaurant, lounge bar, cigar lounge, library, boutique, gym and unreal infinity swimming pool that appears to extend right into the ocean below. For dining, there’s also the aptly named Beach Club, which is tucked into a sandy cove and open for lunch and select dinners.
But it’s your casita where you’re likely to spend most of your time. There’s an undeniable gravitational pull toward your private pool, which you can gaze upon from inside the chic space through floor-to-ceiling glass. True to Aman form, guest quarters have everything you could ever need, all cleverly hidden from plain sight so as not to obstruct the views or detract from the thoughtful simplicity. Rooftop gardens and perfectly positioned landscaping ensure you feel like you’ve got the entire resort to yourself.
Relaxation takes many forms here. At the spa, treatments integrate ancient healing modalities and utilize local plants, fruits and herbs alongside the Aman skincare line. Inspired by the moon cycles, signature experiences begin with a palo santo smudging ceremony and foot soaking ritual then focus on either grounding, nourishing or purifying. Sweat sessions range from yoga to dance lessons to a game of tennis on one of the two clay courts. And adventures abound, including canyoning, kayaking, kite surfing, whale watching, horseback riding, cultural excursions, cooking classes and more. But the real highlight is the guided nature walk led by naturalist of sorts Antonio Alvarado, who takes you through the jungle to an overlook giving you a literal bird’s-eye view of the resort below. Along the way, he enthusiastically points out camouflaged fauna, describes the therapeutic uses of specific flora and offers you wild passionfruit that’s ripe for the picking.
This is the first Aman outpost offering access to a fully integrated golf course, the adjacent Playa Grande Golf and Ocean Club, which is often lauded as the Pebble Beach of the Caribbean. Featuring 18 holes spread across 370+ acres of coastline, it was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and refreshed by his son Rees Jones. Guests are granted access to the private course, and even those who can’t swing a club will want to make their way there, as the prime locale offers the best sunset viewing along the jagged, meandering coast.
All told, Amanera more than lives up to the standards of its Aman brethren. The only disappointment? When it comes time to check out. But if you can’t bear the thought of leaving, you can always buy in. Several to-be-built Aman Founder Villas are available to own and come with access to resort amenities, a lifetime golf membership and more — so you can have your own little slice of paradise. Otherwise, if you’ve officially reached junkie status, you’re already planning your next Aman excursion before you’ve even left the grounds.