To use a travel guide cliché, Villas Jazmin is a "hidden treasure". It's a small, family-run resort just west of Puerto Plata, in the upscale suburb of Costámbar (= Amber Coast). It consists of a dozen one- and two-bedroom bungalow-style villas, plus apartments in several buildings down the street, for a total of 30 units. The Canadian owners are gradually expanding the accommodations, but the resort maintains its intimate, cosy atmosphere in which you very quickly get to know everyone who's staying there. Many are timeshare owners and return every year. We were there in mid-February -- a perfect time of year, with temperatures of 75-80° F (24-27° C).
The resort is some 17 miles (27km) from the Puerto Plata airport. The hectic taxi ride (US$30-35 plus tip) over potholed roads, the chaotic traffic and the exhaust pollution are enough to make you want to spend your entire week at the resort, which we did. Many other visitors (mostly Canadians and Americans, plus a few Europeans) went on excursions to visit the amber museum and the rum bottling plant at Puerto Plata, surf or snorkel at other beaches on the Atlantic shore, climb the mountain waterfalls and tour other parts of the country by jeep or air-conditioned minibus. The cable car ride up the nearby Pico Isabel de Torres (2617 ft.) was unavailable because of repairs.
The air-conditioned villas are kept spotless by an efficient cleaning staff, who change towels every day and linens twice a week. Some speak a little English, but it helps to know some Spanish. Our two-bedroom villa was not luxurious but spacious and comfortable, with firm beds and a single three-piece bathroom with shower.
Unique Quality: A five-minute walk from the resort brings you to its own tree-shaded beach, dotted with thatched umbrellas and kept spotless by Carlos, the "beach boy". At the high tide mark there is often a rim of crushed seashells -- debris from the reef offshore -- but once over that you can luxuriate in the clean soft sand and enjoy the warm water. The resort has its own pool, which is great for kids and non-olympic adults.
Although each unit has its own full kitchen, we advise buying the meal plan (US$160 pp per week) because the restaurant food is so good that it's worth taking a break from cooking to experience its gourmet quality. Breakfasts are a smorgasbord of fresh fruits and juices, cereal, eggs any style, bacon, sausages, crêpes, roast potatoes, sliced ham, cheeses, toast, jam, etc. After that you don't need lunch, though it's available at extra cost. Some dinners are buffet style, with a different theme every night: Italian, seafood, beef/pork/chicken barbeque, Dominican specialties, etc. All dinners can also be ordered from the menu: the surf (lobster) and turf (beef filet) is especially good. All food is washed in purified water, so we had no hesitation in sampling the many fresh fruits and salads.
Evening entertainment included a singing guitarist, a 6-member Caribbean band and an 8-member troupe of dancers.
Make friends with Hélène Bourke, the resort's efficient manager, and you will enjoy an unforgettable personalized holiday -- and want to go back next year!
Directions: From Puerto Plata airport, turn right on the main highway and go two miles past Puerto Plata to the Costambar entrance. Go through gate and turn left at the second street.