Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Simple, quiet hideaway with wholesome food and no TVs.
Natura Cabanas is located, rather bizarrely, at the end of a dirt road behind an upscale gated community of expats. Only a small sign announces the resort's presence. Cab drivers can actually miss the entrance, especially at night. Guests are dropped off in a small dirt parking lot. Off to the left is the main lobby building, which is really only a bit larger than any of the 10 stone-and-wood bungalows tucked among the palm trees and pebbled pathways. Just be careful you don't mistakenly enter another guest’s bungalow!
The resort is owned and operated by Soledad “Lole” Sumar, a Chilean expat who built the resort in the 1990s with her now-deceased husband. Lole and her four daughters -- they look like a family of models -- sometimes vacation on the property and help out, as they did during Oyster's visit. Their presence makes for an extremely welcoming, personal vibe that differs from the bored, transient staffers at most all-inclusives.
The resort gets a lot of American guests. This is no surprise, given its glowing coverage in Travel and Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler. The resort also gets guests from Europe, South America, and Canada.
A review in Frommer's calls Natura Cabanas, "a sunny, not particularly stressful, summer camp for adults and their children." That’s a fairly accurate assessment. True, the resort isn't exactly luxurious, but it’s definitely upscale (at least the food is wholesome). Quiet vacationers who don’t want the poolside speakers or impromptu dance competitions will love it.
A 20-minute cab ride from the airport in Puerto Plata and 10 minutes away from restaurants and shops.
Natura Cabanas is along the main highway between Sosua and Cabarete, about a half-mile east of Breezes Puerto Plata. The only sign along the road is for the Perla Marina, a gated community of expat mansions that guests ride through on their way to the resort. The resort itself is at the back of the property, along the water.
Natura Cabanas is about 20 minutes from Gregory Luperon International Airport in Puerto Plata. It's about 10 minutes in either direction to the towns of Sosua and Cabarete, which are both filled with shops, restaurants, and bars. Cabarete, in particular, is a hopping expat kite-surfing town filled with bars and cafés good for nightlife.
The cabanas have a small private beach. The beach is naturally buffeted by rock formations on either side. Still, it's easy enough to walk over the rock clusters and continue on to surfer haven Playa Encuentro or Cabarete. Although residents of Perla Marina also use the beach, it is never crowded. There are plenty of beach chairs to go around. Furthermore, the cozy spot is extremely clean and the sand is quite soft.
As in Cabarete, the waves are a bit rough (though not too rough). They're excellent for bodysurfing. Along these lines, the sea floor is quite smooth, and the water is shockingly clear. This is hands down one of the best beaches on the north coast.
Natura Cabanas consists of just 10 stone-walled, thatched-roof bungalows. The owners gradually constructed each bungalow one at a time since opening the property in 1996. Rooms range from studios to three-bedroom units. Others have whimsical names like Playa (Beach), Africana (African), and Caracol (Conch). All are eco-sensitive, meaning there is no AC, light bulbs are energy efficient, and guests must manually activate (and then shut off) hot water when showering. Rooms also have no televisions and no phones.
The dimly lit Piedra (Stone) studio is centered around a firm king bed, over which is draped a mosquito net. The two-story ceiling has a nice fan, and with the ocean breeze blowing in, you don't even miss the AC.
In keeping with the eco-sensitive theme, most of the furniture was constructed from the bamboo and coco palm trees that were cleared to construct the property. This includes a dark, intricate dresser (topped with a bottle of Chilean merlot for sale) and an elegant kitchenette and minibar.
All rooms come with an amazing stone bathroom. Although there are thick stone walls separating the bedroom and bathroom, the roof is so high that neither is really soundproof. Noises will carry from the bathroom. In fact, due to the large louvered windows, noises even carry from one bungalow to another.
But back to the totally rad bathroom. Flower petals are placed absolutely everywhere upon arrival, from the sink, to nooks in the tub, to the top of the toilet seat. There is no shampoo or lotion, but there are two bars of handmade soap. Each smelled like a blossomy breeze wafting through the windows (gush). The round shower-tub had no curtain, but was so large that it simulated the rush of taking an outdoor shower, especially given its smooth stone floor and slatted windows looking out on a thicket of green trees. Though at first the idea of a manual hot-water heater is a bit daunting, taking a long and luxurious shower without any temperature problems proved a wonderful success. The pressure is perfect.
Every bungalow at Natura Cabanas has a wonderful, large porch that includes a table, chairs, and a hammock or swing. After an afternoon of bodysurfing at the resort's private beach, it's quite easy to fall asleep here in the early evening twilight. How could you not with the sound of birds singing and waves pounding the shore in the background?
Natura Cabanas is small and low-key, but that doesn't make it boring. True, peace and relaxation are the name of the game here, so lying on the gorgeous, tranquil beach tends to be top priority. However, the resort also helps arrange excursions to nearby waterfalls and horseback riding trails for those looking for a dose of action.
The resort also has a small kidney bean-shaped pool tucked behind the yoga building. Judging by the few leaves floating in it and the lack of lounge chairs, it's not used too often. Probably because the amazing beach is just steps away.
The small, luxurious Attabeyra Spa offers a range of body treatments reasonably priced. The stone massage huts and a somewhat opulent outdoor shower can convince almost anyone to book an aromatherapy massage -- guests appeared to positively glow after the experience.
The resort also offers yoga and Pilates classes two to three times a day in its extraordinary second-story yoga temple, which overlooks the ocean. The resort even offers yoga for kids on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
A refreshing counterpoint to the hotel's otherwise low-tech atmosphere was its several free wireless hotspots throughout the property, including in the lobby and at the daytime restaurant Karaya. In fact, if your bungalow is close enough to the restaurant, you can pick up a signal from your bedroom.
Two beachside restaurants that serve fresh, healthy food. Breakfast is included in the room rate.
Natura Cabanas has two restaurants. Karaya serves breakfast and healthy lunch fare, while at dinner the Natura Restaurant has fusion dishes featuring a bounty of the area's freshest seafood and produce. Both restaurants are near the beach and offer tranquil views and a lovely ocean breeze.
Breakfast at Karaya is included in the room rate. It's a simple affair, featuring one hot dish, such as their fluffy pancakes, and an assorted buffet of fresh breads and fruit. There is also fresh Dominican coffee and a plethora of fresh-squeezed fruit juices. It's not the most expansive breakfast, but still satisfying all the same.
For lunch at Karaya, the fresh, citrusy ceviche and spring salad with almonds, avocado, and local grapefruit are light and refreshing -- and feel much healthier compared the hideous all-inclusive buffets at other hotels in the D.R. Even better was the freshly squeezed fruit juice -- this was only of the only places that had real juice in the D.R. It's available in nearly every tropical flavor, including pineapple, mango, papaya, orange, and passion fruit (chinola, as the locals say). The restaurant is also quite popular with residents of the adjacent Marina Perla community. It seems like a local gathering spot.
The Natura Restaurant is just across from Karaya in a slightly larger, more refined space (though it's still open-air and thatch-roofed). Warmly lit with soft guitar music playing in the background, the restaurant has an open kitchen with seating at the bar to view the chef at work. For dinner, the highlight of the meal is a delicious "Shrimp Natura" (sautéed shrimp) -- a local specialty -- tossed with a special mix of curry and a creamy rum-based sauce. The entrées -- such as cocoa filet mignon and filet of grouper with gnocchi, shrimp, and anise -- are equally wonderful. For dessert, the fresh fruit crepes topped with chocolate sauce are delightful. All told, the dinner lasts almost two hours, but diners will be too stuffed and satiated to complain. Your gut will also be well-fortified for a long night of clubbing in nearby Cabarete.
Intimate, low-key weddings with a beautiful beach ceremony and delicious food
Offering eco-friendly bungalows in a lush, friendly setting, Natura Cabanas is a taste of serene, northern coast luxury for a remarkably fair price. Guests enjoy delicious, fresh food, a clean, crowd-less private beach, yoga classes, and a fabulous spa. It's quiet, and a bit rustic without TV or AC in rooms, but that's the point.