01/20/2013 07:34 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sunny Days in the Dominican Republic

We crave sun, sand and salutations. But we don't need crowds, saccharine drinks and poolside renditions of "La Macarena." With that in mind, sent Marianne Wisenthal to the Dominican Republic to find the best things to see and do without falling into a tourist queue.


Nestled among palms and Bougainvillea, Casa's swishiest private villas boast infinity pools, basketball courts and docks for one's yacht. Jay-Z rented something oceanfront for his 40th birthday (Queen B needs her space). No less sumptuous, our elite balcony suite had a cathedral ceiling and walk-in closet. Best of all, each room comes with its own golf carrito for getting to and fro. Arriba! Rooms from U.S. $300 per night,


There are 13 gourmet eateries here and (hallelujah!) just one buffet. We spent most afternoons noshing on fresh seafood at the open-air Beach Club by Le Cirque. Overlooking Minitas Beach, the lobster salad and poached conch cocktails are delish. Do sea breezes smell better over mojitos made from hand-picked berries? Why yes they do.


A short hop from the main resort, Altos de Chavón has a charming cache of boutiques with handspun carpets, embroidered linens and artisanal pottery. At Jenny Polanco we fell for hand-painted clutch bags and pretty lace-trimmed dresses. The village is also home to The School of Design (an outpost of Parsons). Ask to visit the library where a collection of vintage leather-bound Vogues will put a gleeful dent in your beach time.


We never could resist a gent on horseback and the Casa de Campo polo team is most swoon-worthy. Catch a cup tournament at the Equestrian Centre, take a guided trail ride or sign up for lessons in Western, English or polo (if you dare). Trot on.


Riding the range is glorious until you discover muscles you never knew existed. For your sins, the spa's polo stretching massage is just the thing. We loved that treatment products are 100 percent natural and made on site. Follow up with a turn in the meditation garden labyrinth and you might get back on the horse. Treatments from $40.