No AC in the rooms (the cost of being eco-friendly)
Bugs can be a problem
Smaller pool than most D.R. resorts
Subject to brownouts and power loss
Nearest town, Sosua, can be sleazy, and
is infamous for its sex industry
No TVs in the rooms (pro for some)
Offering 11 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 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.
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 first visit. Their presence makes for an extremely welcoming, personal vibe that differs from the bored, transient staffers at most all-inclusives.
Supremely laid-back, Natura Cabana is a tiny oasis of calm compared to the typical Dominican mega-resort. It is lightly occupied by American tourists and local day trippers, and also draws guests from Europe, South America, and Canada. This chill, shade-dappled Eden amid a
pleasant grove of trees is filled with the sounds of tweeting birds
and the muted roar of the surf just yards away. A wandering path with
images of Buddha winds past the grand temple to yoga, and to the
hotel's garden, which grows ingredients used in the hotel's restaurants. In the other direction, it passes a treehouse
manned by giggling children and leads to the small pool, where guests hang off the
rim and read books or iPhones.
At lunch in one of the open-air
restaurants, guests and locals sit down and chat. During our visit there were expat farmers,
local families with young children, a youthful professional couple considering a move to Silicon Valley, and the requisite white guy
with dreadlocks in tie-dye. On the beach, guests dive into the waves, joined by an attentive local dog, or set up camp under the shade of the trees on the gentle
slope that leads to the cabins. Altogether, it's the perfect antidote
to the mobbed, noisy, must-have-fun frenzy of the Dominican mega-resort.
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, and about a 10-minute drive from each. Sosua is a somewhat sleazy
town of Sosua known for three things -- scuba diving, cheese, and
prostitution -- while Cabarete is known for its water-based adventure sports and good nightlife. 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.
neighbors include a residential building on one side, screened off by
trees, and a coming hotel development on the other (it had barely
started on our visit in 2015). The hotel is in the middle of its own little
forest, and has its own small beach, which guests access by walking
down a sandy slope. Locals are allowed access to the beach as well,
and it's become a popular place for friendly, mellow expats to hang
out for the day and take in the ocean and some lunch. Many bring their dogs (which must remain leashed while passing through the hotel grounds on the way to the beach).
It's about a 20-minute drive to Gregory Luperon International Airport in Puerto Plata. From the more popular entry point for international travelers, Punta Cana, it's a whopping six-hour drive or more.
Charmingly rustic bungalows lack AC and TVs, but have large porches and beautiful stone bathrooms.
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. All are eco-sensitive, meaning there are powerful ceiling fans in lieu of AC, light bulbs are energy efficient, and guests must manually activate (and then shut off) hot water when showering. The power went out briefly at least once during our stay. Rooms also have no televisions and no phones, but they do have mini-fridges and free Wi-Fi. A fun game is looking for
the element of the room that gives it its name, such as the
mirror-flecked Rajasthani wall hanging and Indian-style dresser in
the Indian Room, or the African mask in the African room.
One of the most special units is the Coral Room, which could easily be the pad where a post-collegiate Little
Mermaid hangs her shells. It's a spiral, two-story affair built out from a
weird-looking boulder, with the entryway and a small bathroom on the
first floor (the bathroom is set off with strings of seashells,
naturally), rising up to a tree house-style bedroom and decent-sized
All rooms come with an amazing stone bathroom, and the manual water heaters work well. 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. Windows and doors are all of the screen variety, and for privacy, guests roll down bamboo mats -- noise from passersby and other bungalows is noticeable.
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 beach, it's quite easy to fall asleep here in the early evening twilight.
Excellent yoga studio, outdoor excursions, Wi-Fi, and a small pool
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, though it usually doesn't get as much action as the beach.
The hotel has regular yoga classes on its yoga platform, led by a teacher who can accommodate all skill
levels. Two professionals take turns as the masseuses-in-residence, offering a long menu of treatments in the resort's spa area, which consists of two massage huts, a mushroom-shaped sauna, and a row of outdoor showers. Couples massages can be arranged with a little notice.
The hotel keeps a small garden in one corner of the property, where it grows
organic vegetables that make their way into the meals served at the two restaurants.
Two beachside restaurants 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, dishes such as fresh, citrusy ceviche and salads are light and refreshing -- and feel much healthier compared the hideous all-inclusive buffets at other hotels in the D.R. Sandwiches and pastas are also served for those seeking something heartier. 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. It is helmed by Argentine chef Nico Figueroa, who specializes in Italian and vegan raw cuisine (get the straccetti with his his grandmother's ragu, if's he's made it, and the torta cruda made from raw cacao and raw almonds).
With no crowds, plenty of chairs, clear water, and soft sand, this is the best beach on the north coast.
Natura Cabana has a small beach. It 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.
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