Paradise Found: Bunny’s Review of Villa Paraiso in Las Galeras, Dominican Republic
The writer was raving about the place like mad and Bunny doesn’t always agree with their judgement. What does a Lonely Planet writer know about sophisticated travel anyway? Not much compared to Bunny!
So, Bunny decided to go and investigate the place herself. And she was totally blown away by the beauty, hospitality and tranquility of Villa Paraiso! Read Bunny’s full review below.
The Magic of Villa Paraiso
The friendly owners of Villa Paraiso, Nora and Jose, describe it as “a rustic getaway situated atop cliffs overlooking Samana Bay”. This is technically correct, but it does not begin to capture the magic of the place.
Some places just ooze peace and harmony and Villa Paraiso is one of those, Bunny says.
The natural setting is stunning and the rustic charm of the villa derives from the exquisite pieces of furniture gathered from all over the world (India, Bali, Mexico…) and the nature-inspired artwork. It is an eclectic collection, but it is beautifully arranged and everything just fits together somehow.
The vibe at Villa Paraiso is very friendly, relaxed and charming. Even the usually grumpy Mr. Bunny was inspired to think positively during the stay. That, if anything, is quite an achievement, Bunny says.
As Bunny had explored the Samana peninsula before her stay at Villa Paraiso and planned to continue doing so afterwards, she was able to concentrate on enjoying Villa Paraiso itself, the tranquility, the total peace with nature, the amazing views, the birdsongs, the breeze in her fur…
Villa Paraiso has only six rooms. In other words, it is the perfect size.
Each room is unique. Bunny had the best room of the lot (she thinks): the African-themed room number 5. This is where Nora and Jose used to sleep before they built their own private villa nearby.
The Africa room is breathtaking. It is almost completely open to the sea with 120 degrees of walls replaced with retractable canvas shades. Views to the Samana Bay are spectacular, framed by lush vegetation, including a papaya tree you can reach from the room.
The room is airy and quirky in a stylish and exotic way. There are high wooden ceiling beams and a thatched roof. Keeping with the Africa them, the room is adorned with interesting masks and sculptures from the continent.
The bathroom is completely open (could be an issue if you prefer to poo in private, Bunny says). The lovely shower has Bay views, plenty of hot water and nice toiletries. The bathroom counter is made from the wood of a sunken ship and the sink is a recycled pot. It is rustic and lovely at the same time.
The bed is very comfortable; you can lie there and watch the sea during the day and gaze at the stars during the night. The first night Bunny used the mosquito net while sleeping but scrapped it after that and braved the nights without any protection. It was an amazing feeling to sleep out in the open Caribbean night. There were practically no bugs, Bunny didn’t get a single mosquito bite during her stay!
Should bad weather roll in, you can protect the room with three large roller canvasses, two operated by hand cranks and one electric. Bunny slept with the rollers open, even when she experienced a bit of poor weather. There is no aircon (that would not make much sense now, would it?) but there is a ceiling fan though Bunny never used it. There is a constant gentle breeze that keeps you cool and mosquito-free.
A lovely addition to Bunny’s room was a small makeshift pond with a constantly running spout that created a soothing soundtrack for the room, complementing nature’s own sounds. Another favourite of Bunny’s was the bird-nest’s style hammock seat with sea views.
As Villa Paraiso is such a small, intimate place, all features of the villa are also available to the guests. There is the common area, where breakfasts and dinners are served, a lovely infinity pool with views to the sea, a small jacuzzi and a manmade “beach area” with a hammock and a bar. This is a great place for whiling away the afternoons.
There is Wi-Fi in the common areas, but not in the rooms. Better that way, Bunny says. She might be a bit of an internet addict but even she recognises that there are certain times and places where no internet is the best policy.
If you manage to drag yourself out of Villa Paraiso during your stay, you should definitely visit nearby Playa Rincon. Bunny was so impressed with Playa Rincon that she will include it in her Top 10 Beaches in the World blogpost once she gathers enough energy to actually write it…
Breakfast is served in the common area with colorful local tableware. It is a sumptuous affair with eggs as you like them, very tasty local cheese, fresh juice from the fruit trees on the property, home-made jams on delicately toasted bread, local dishes, such as fried yucca or mashed plantains, assorted tropical fruits (delicious!) and coffee.
The table setting is always beautiful and perfected with small details, such as flower pedals on the placemats.
There is no restaurant as such at Villa Paraiso but the Italian Chef Mirko will cook dinners for you on request. This is definitely something you should go for, Bunny says.
Place your request in the morning when you can find Mirko enjoying his morning coffee in the common area. This gives Mirko time to plan the meal and shop for the freshest ingredients.
Mirko cooked the Bunnies’ dinners on all four nights they spent at Villa Paraiso. It was an exquisite affair each time. The Bunnies gave Mirko a free hand to choose the menu, as long as it was all vegetarian, and he came through with flying colours each time. Bunny had the best marinated eggplant ever and the pastas, risotto and desserts were some of the best foods the Bunnies had the pleasure of eating during their 2-month stay in the Dominican Republic.
As a surprise one evening, the Bunnies were served a candlelight dinner on the “beach” by the pool. It was very romantic (even with Mr. Bunny who is normally the antidote of romance) eating alfresco with your toes in the sand… Not to mention that all three courses of the dinner prepared by Chef Mirko were absolutely delicious - definitely not diet food though!
Guests are also allowed to use the kitchen at Villa Paraiso if they’d prefer to prepare their own meals. The Bunnies didn’t bother with this as Mirko’s cooking was far too tempting. Bunny did bring some of her own drinks though, encouraged by the hosts to do so, as the drinks selection at Villa Paraiso is a bit limited (and a tad expensive).
In the Dominican Republic, you should always keep your wits about security. Bunny was relieved that there was a 24h security guard at the gated Villa Paraiso. In addition, the villa’s location high up on the hill, surrounded by sizeable guard dogs on all sides, gives you additional peace of mind. You can sleep safely and soundly in the open-air rooms at Villa Paraiso, Bunny says. They don’t even have room keys, just an old-fashioned latch that closes the door from either inside or outside the room. There is a separate safe deposit box inside the room for your valuables.
Dog Lover’s Paradise
Nora and Jose, who are both veterinarians by profession, care for more than 30 dogs in total. Talk about lucky people, Bunny says. Not all of the dogs live on the property but there are always plenty of fluffy friends running around at Villa Paraiso. All of them are very well-behaved and lovable. Bunny was, naturally, in cuddle heaven.
And just in case you prefer more colourful animal companions, there are also three delightful parrots on the property. They roam free during the day time and spend their nights safely tucked away in a big cage in the garden. Luckily for Bunny, they were quite happy to pose for pictures, particularly at meal times…
If you visit Villa Paraiso at the right time of the year (mid-January to April), you will have a high chance of spotting humpback whales directly from your room! The whales migrate to the Samana Bay every winter and at Villa Paraiso, you will have a front row seat to the parade.
Bunny stayed at Christmas, before the whale season officially starts, but received a wonderful Christmas present when Mr. Bunny (bless him) spotted the first whales of the season. It was mesmerising to watch a mother and her baby calf slowly make their way south in the bay, under the observing eyes of the Bunnies and other flabbergasted guests at Villa Paraiso.
Check out Bunny's video below:
If you travel to the Dominican Republic, you should not miss the Samana peninsula, Bunny says. And the best place to stay in Samana, without a doubt, is Villa Paraiso.
In fact, Villa Paraiso is one of the nicest places Bunny has stayed anywhere in the world for the price. And she has visited 100 countries and stayed in every variety of accommodation from the decadent to the despairing, so she should have a bit of authority, right?