Tortuga Bay Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Designed by Oscar de la Renta, the 15-room Tortuga Bay hotel offers amazing service (including preferential treatment at Punta Cana Airport), an on-site nature reserve, and several superb restaurants. The rooms have handsome, tropical elegance with tasteful design -- and posh Jacuzzi tubs. They are kept spotless and have great balconies and terraces with fantastic ocean views. Tortuga's beach has calm, crystal-clear water and soft white sand, and the 18-hole La Cana golf course at the Punta Cana Estates property, which surrounds Tortuga, was conceived by world-class designer Pete Dye.
Sivory Punta Cana Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The quiet, 55-room Sivory lures mostly couples to its secluded location. Service is impressive, as is the natural setting, and everything -- from the comfortable rooms to the spa to the reflecting pool attached to the lobby -- is designed to promote relaxation. Guests are greeted with a champagne flute and a cool, vanilla-scented towel on a silver platter, and the concierge and front desk staff are available 24 hours a day. Sivory also boasts some of the best bathrooms in the D.R.
Zoetry Agua Punta Cana Rating: 4.0 Pearls
This secluded 53-room getaway is an hour from the airport, but it feels a million miles from Punta Cana's mega-resorts. The waves pounding on the shore and water trickling through the serpentine pool are the only sounds you'll hear, and the giant rooms with gorgeous terraces, the top-notch spa, and two high-quality restaurants are all lovely. Service is highly personalized and attentive, the kind that can only come from a tiny resort.
Natura Cabanas Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Offering 11 eco-friendly bungalows in a lush 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, daily yoga and Pilates classes, and a fabulous spa. With no crowds, plenty of chairs, clear water, and soft sand, Natura's beach is the best beach on the north coast. Plus, service is excellent -- the warm, low-key owner even offers personal tours of the property.
Casa Colonial Beach and Spa Rating: 4.0 Pearls
It's one of the most stylish, most luxurious hotels in the Dominican Republic -- but it's surrounded by 14 crowded, all-inclusive mega-resorts in the gated Playa Dorada complex. The hotel's 50 rooms are gorgeous -- but at the beach, the rooftop pool, and on the balconies, guests suffer through their neighbors' poolside megaphones and karaoke nights. The Caribbean-chic décor in the rooms includes a sisal rug, a plush white linen loveseat and wingback chair, modern artwork, and a mahogany four-post bed topped with Frette sateen linens. The service is superb -- warm, yet professional.