Known as the oldest city in the New World, Santo Domingo is a place filled with firsts. Founded in 1496 by Christopher Columbus’ brother, it is home to first cathedral, the first monastery and the first hospital built in the Americas. Away from the UNESCO old town this is a modern vibrant city filled with music and colour, but to walk around the Zona Colonial is to step back in time.
In the middle of this entrancing historical gem, you find the delightful Casas del XVI. This is not an average hotel, more a unique collection of six beautifully renovated houses, some dating back to the 16th century. Each house is different and although some are neighbouring properties, the houses have their own courtyards, dining areas and one has a swimming pool. This is really like having your own historic home.
Entering the impressive front door of the Casa Del Pozo from the cobbled street, I immediately feel like a grand lady of the 16th century court. I learn that I am to have my own personal butler for the duration of my stay who is responsible for all my needs from a cup of coffee or cocktail to helping me navigate the city. The house which is built in the former grounds of the Convent of the Dominican Order is filled with antiques and surprising modern touches such as dramatic artworks. It has six rooms with a central courtyard and an ancient well from which the house gets its name. There is also an outdoor lounge area and a swimming pool.
Six luxurious rooms are in this house each with huge beds and luxurious 400-thread count bed linens and stylish furnishings and elegant bathrooms with gorgeous Antica Farmacista toiletries. The bed was fit for a queen and comfortable, and all rooms have complimentary Wi-Fi, iPhone and iPad on loan, hairdryer and safe, plus a large flat screen TV if you yearn for 21st century reality. Accessible rooms are available on request and family groups (and pets) are welcome.
The other houses in Casas del XVI are called Casa del Disenador, Casa del Arbol, Casa de Los Mapas, Casa Macoris and Casa Antillana. Each has its own theme ranging from fashion to folklore with interior design to match. Guests can opt to dine or spend time any property.
Meals are served in the courtyards or in one of the dining areas of each house, depending on personal preference. The butler will serve anything your heart desires or advise you on local delicacies and recommend wines. And this being the Dominican Republic, it is almost essential to sample some of the country’s exquisite rums.
Breakfast on the terrace is a delightful affair with fresh mango juice from the hotel’s own trees and a selection of freshly baked pastries. I opted for the traditional Dominican Republic breakfast of plantain, onions, salami, fried cheese and eggs. The perfect start to a day of sightseeing.
All in all, I found the staff to be extremely friendly and obliging. And it’s worth noting that Casas del XVI is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Casas del XVI, Calle Padre Billini No 252, Cuidad Colonial, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Tel: (809)688 4061
Casas del XVI is in the heart of the old colonial city (Zona Colonial) in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. It is about 30minutes by car or taxi from Las Americas International Airport, Santo Domingo.
Type of Hotel: Historic Boutique Luxury Hotel
Number of Rooms: 20 rooms across 5 houses.
Price Band: Medium. Double rooms start from £259 including breakfast.
Insider Tip: Although there are a number of bars within walking distance, opt to hunker down in the lovely library in the Casa Arbol which houses the reception area, where guests are welcome to sit and read or have a drink from the honesty bar.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Judith Baker is a London-based freelance travel writer.
Photographs courtesy of Casas del XVI