If you’re like me, once you’ve arrived at your vacation villa, you don’t want to spend your time worrying about what to do or how to get there. Enter Homebelike, a new rental company in the Caribbean and Latin America that provides every guest with the ultimate amenity: a personal concierge who can suggest activities, make reservations, and provide inside intel on the best ways for your group to have fun. Even better, since each “experience specialist” is physically located in the community where they work, they’re a true local resource who can find a restaurant open on a Sunday night, make tee times or even call a doctor should the need arise.
“Our experience specialists come from top hotel groups including The Ritz-Carlton and Relais and Chateaux, so they take their work seriously and are great problem solvers,” says Miguelina Butron, partner and vice president of sales and marketing for Homebelike. “They are experienced in their markets, too, so they have all the resources a visitor needs.”
Though Homebelike was founded just a year ago, the company’s portfolio already includes more than 500 properties in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, with Costa Rica and St. Barth up next. There’s a property for many budgets, too, from luxury one-bedroom condos to sprawling villas with 10 or more bedrooms that come with chefs, live-in Experience Specialists, and housekeeping.
My recent Dominican Republic experience with Homebelike in Casa de Campo and Cap Cana was seamless, starting with my arrival at the airport, where a VIP manager met me planeside before whisking me through immigration and straight to an air conditioned lounge where I tapped away at my computer and sipped a cold Presidente as I awaited my suitcase. That VIP service, which also includes access to the Punta Cana airport’s swanky departure lounge—it has its own outdoor pool—is a free perk to anyone renting a property at a rate of $2,000 or more per night. Some villas, particularly those in Cap Cana, also include airport transfers.
Casa de Campo
Our first villa was Maison Larimar, an eight-bed, 10-bath stunner located on a shady street in Casa de Campo’s Las Palmas neighborhood. Within the large back yard there was a pool, a basketball court, and numerous sitting areas, some shaded, others perfect for sunning. Though the house had numerous outdoor eating areas, an indoor dining room with air conditioning and a gigantic table was a nice bonus, as was the well-equipped exercise room.
Chef-prepared meals were bountiful and delicious; our only job was to let the team know what we wanted to eat and what time we wanted to dine. Housekeeping was equally efficient—by the time I returned to my room from breakfast each morning, the bed had been made and the bedroom and bathroom cleaned.
Many Homebelike rentals include a golf cart, which is practically a necessity in Casa de Campo, which sprawls over 7,000 acres and is home to three golf courses (including Pete Dye’s famous Teeth of the Dog course); a marina; bars and restaurants; lots of shopping and a replica of an Italian village complete with an outdoor amphitheater, a church and outdoor cafes. Although we could have driven, we chose to walk along the resort’s trails whenever we could. Hearing our plans, our experience manager showed up an hour or so later with maps for us to use.
Located in the tony Juanilla section of Cap Cana, our second Homebelike villa resembled a boutique hotel. Set within several structures that encircled a huge pool were eight bedrooms with en suite bathrooms; a gazebo and bar; an air-conditioned dining room; cinema; steam room; cigar room; squash court; gym; and game room with a pool table. There was also an outdoor pizza oven, a massage area and a multi-use court for tennis, basketball, or volleyball.
The lucky person who scored the downstairs master bedroom has access to a private plunge pool located just off the bathroom. As before, we indulged in three meals a day as well as snacks; a highlight was an Argentinian meat feast, or asado, that our Argentinian chef cooked up on the outdoor barbecue setup.
Like Casa de Campo, Cap Cana is filled with pedestrian pathways that loop around the property and make it easy—and safe–to stroll and ogle the majestic homes. Most are paved and are accessible to strollers, bikes, and wheelchairs.
Since Cap Cana is more beach-focused than Casa de Campo, many of Homebelike’s properties, large and small, sit on the resort’s beautiful palm-studded strands. Our house was several blocks from the beach but came with access to the Eden Roc Hotel’s Beach Club and an eight-seat golf cart to get there. Since this home also comes with airport transfers—Cap Cana is located just 10 minutes from the Punta Cana airport—a car was unnecessary.
Throughout the trip, I was impressed with the level of service that Homebelike provided. One day in Cap Cana, my cell phone cord disintegrated just as I was getting ready to get on a call. Without hesitating, our butler (yes, the house comes with a butler) unplugged his phone from the wall and handed me his charger to use until someone could get to the store and get me a new one. It was an unnecessary, but greatly appreciated gesture that illustrated how seriously the company wants guest to feel welcome and taken care of.