The Dominican Republic is a place that few visitors actually experience authentically. The majority of the visitors sit on the beaches, never leaving their all-inclusive resorts. Many visitors have an unrealistic fear of venturing outside of the compounds and guided tours offered in the beach towns, which is unfortunate. This type of experience lacks the local culture, food and soul of the country. Fortunately, there is Villa Isabel, which can offer you a comfortable authentic experience in the mountains, not too far away from all of the characterless all-inclusive resorts.
Villa Isabel rests in the lush Dominican mountains of Jarabacoa. The property is stunning and very much epitomizes “Glamping”. Villa Isabel a beautiful mountain home with rustic char, where no detail has been overlooked, while still achieving a genuine outdoor experience. The area surrounding Jarabacoa seemingly takes you back in time to a more simpler way of life. I always try to travel off the beaten path, and this place is literally off the beaten path up a dirt road just 15 minutes outside of the town of Jarabacoa, in a gated and secure neighborhood. The entire area is surrounded by stunning scenery.
Villa Isabel boasts an unbelievable tropical Japanese style garden that was the creation of the owner Nanchu Espinola. This walking garden has over 600 meters of walkable paths throughout with rare trees, plants and flowers. The garden is quite the selling point of the property, and must be experienced to truly be understood and appreciated. The details of this garden are incredible, with curved pathways leading from one beautiful area to the next. With each step, the garden changes character, and induces a sense of calm and serenity. Locals from all over the area are familiar with Nanchu’s garden. At night, there is a beautiful lighting system that can be turned on, and the garden looks as though it has come from a scene in a romantic film. I highly recommend having dinner or drinks outside next to the garden and then going through a stroll down the lighten pathways at night, as it is absolutely stunning. It is so beautiful that Nanchu’s own daughter decided to have her wedding in the gardens on the property. Just past the garden, there is a river on the property that is just a 5 minute walk away from the main house. The river has fresh clean water and is perfect for an afternoon swim.
The inside of the property is just as beautiful as the outside. The house has three bedrooms, one attached to the great-room with the kitchen and living room and the other two in a different building just steps away, with a wrap around porch. The main part of the house is one the outdoors via breeze ways at the top off the walls, making it feel as though you are outdoors, with the amenities of the indoors.
One of the most glamorous aspects of a stay here at Villa Isabel is the live-in maid and cook, Francia. Francia lives nearby on property and is available to freshen up the rooms during your stay as well as cook all three meals a day (you just need to visit the supermarket and pick up the food). To say that Francia’s cooking is fantastic would bet a large understatement. Her cooking is phenomenal, and many of her best dishes are local Dominican meals. This is an excellent way to experience some of the culture, by tasting local homemade meals that are typical in the Dominican Republic. It’s also very nice to not have to lift a finger, or go out to eat. It makes for a far more relaxing visit and for some memorable meals! Her three sons also live nearby to tend to the property and the gardens. Upon arrival one of them will be available to hand over the keys, and show visitors where light switches are, as well as the switches to turn on water pressure and the hot water for showers.
The property does not have A/C, but it does not need it. The mountain air of Jarabacoa is much cooler than the famed beaches of the Dominican Republic, and a great place to take a break from the heat and disconnect from the rest of the world.
If you can pull yourself away from the peace and quiet at Villa Isabel, there are many activities to experience nearby. Rancho Jarabacoa is only 15 minutes away and offers white water rafting, horseback riding, city tours, tours to waterfalls, and… Nearby, the Akasha Spa rests in the quiet mountains just a few minutes away from Villa Isabel. There is also a popular waterfall nearby that is worth a visit via a quick hike.
The attention to detail in the garden, decor and fixtures on the property are impressive. Everything is very zen, and antique decor is interesting and tasteful. The entire experience provided at Villa Isabel doesn’t just promote relaxation and rejuvenation, it also helps you to meet locals and immerse yourself in the culture and food of the Dominican Republic. After all, isn’t that what traveling is all about?
Valerie is a solo travel expert and travel host. Valerie prefers to travel like a local and not a tourist, going off the beaten path and discovering hidden gems that only local’s tend to know about. She looks up to travel experts Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern and Samantha Brown. Valerie is an adventure and experience junkie with no comfort zone, and she prefers to travel solo.
Valerie shares her adventures, experiences and travel tips on her Instagram: @TrustedTravelGirl, SnapChat: TrustTravelGirl & Youtube as well as her website TrustedTravelGirl.com