Tortuga Bay Travel Diary I

19th November, 2014

‘We’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow…” ~ The Beach Boys, KokomoTortugaBay2bIt’s a mere four hour flight from JFK to Punta Cana ~ essentially the same travel time as getting to the Hamptons in high summer ~ but to set foot on the grounds of the Tortuga Bay Resort in the Dominican Republic (where we shot this staggering natural beauty) is to step over the line dividing reality from dreams. Uncompromisingly luxurious and gloriously secluded, it’s a beachfront compound comprised of 15 butter yellow, private houses, scattered across five miles of white sand beaches in a meandering little idyll, connected by sandstone sidewalks traversable only by bare feet or by golf cart. Traffic, deadlines, schedules, noise, and any other varieties of intrusion are concepts that suddenly cease to exist.
TortugaBay3Upon arrival into the Punta Cana airport, one is swept past customs by the hotel’s VIP service and whisked by private car to the property, wherein one receives their own golf cart for all transportation needs and a cell phone with a direct line to a personal travel concierge ~ essentially, a butler on speed dial. All I’m saying is a girl could get used to that kind of life. Tortuga Bay feels like a long, cool exhale.TortugaBay4ABOVE + BELOW| exploring the expansive property in Ray-Ban sunnies, an Elle Sasson dress and Prada sandalsTortugaBay5 TortugaBay6If it all seems like the epitome of relaxed elegance (and it really is), it isn’t by happenstance. The entire oasis was lovingly designed ~ and quite recently refurbished ~ by the late, great Oscar de la Renta, whose personal home is a stone’s throw down the road. We were invited to be among the first guests to experience his newly redecorated retreat, and indeed were there, surrounded by his friends and loved ones, when he passed. It was an achingly bittersweet time to be enjoying the spoils of his imagination, but also an incredible privilege to celebrate the legacy of what he’d created, and to witness firsthand how deeply he touched the lives of so many of the people there, his native countrymen. Everyone loved him.
TortugaBay7 TortugaBay8 TortugaBay9 TortugaBay10 TortugaBay11 TortugaBay12ABOVE + BELOW| Oscar de la Renta deliciousness in every bathroomTortugaBay13 TortugaBay14As Punta Cana was his hometown outpost, Mr. de la Renta kept a little octagonal jewel box of a shop on the grounds of Tortuga Bay. It is run by his niece and was clearly near and dear to his heart ~ he not only stocked it with his signature caftans, costume jewelry and Spanish mules, but also designed special little pieces totally exclusive to the island store.
TortugaBay15 TortugaBay16ABOVE| an array of ODLR earrings on display, like macarons on a tray BELOW| the Spanish mules that I’ve loved for so longTortugaBay17 TortugaBay18ABOVE| Oscar de la Renta earrings and Elle Sasson dressTortugaBay19At Tortuga Bay, I left the wide French doors to my balcony flung open every evening. Sprawled across a massive canopy bed, I fell asleep to the sound of waves softly licking the shore, then woke up with the colors of sunrise seeping through the bed’s fluttering linen curtains. Just remembering the feel of those sheets brings a wash of peace.
TortugaBay20The resort is home to the only Six Senses Spa in North America, which offers transcendent massages and treatments so natural you can literally eat all the products (think honey, yogurt and oatmeal-laced facials).
TortugaBay21 TortugaBay22 TortugaBay23ABOVE LEFT| a special dinner set for us on the beach, where we watched the sun set slowly and be hastily replaced by a million scattered stars  BELOW| enjoying the view from my balcony in Oscar de la Renta earrings and an Elle Sasson dressTortugaBay24TortugaBay25 TortugaBay26For all the dazzling glamour of Tortuga Bay, there’s a reality to it that’s far lovelier, and that is the estate’s commitment to sustainability. Their Zero Waste program offers a hopeful vision for what the tourism industry could be, and the Puntacana Ecological Foundation is actively, aggressively, constantly developing new programs to combat the industry’s greatest social and environmental challenges. On a large scale, they’re spearheading revolutionary recycling programs for the entire local community; on a macro level they’re nurturing bee colonies, hand-making honey, and growing much of the produce used in the resort’s restaurants on site.
TortugaBay27Their Center for Sustainability is a research facility that collaborates with universities such as Harvard, Columbia, and Cornell to develop true solutions to the environmental challenges related to development and tourism. It is here that the Dominican Republic’s wild charms are felt most poignantly, where horses and chickens roam and where Mr. de la Renta could so often be found, picking up a game of dominoes with the locals…
TortugaBay28PHOTOS| by Jamie Beck

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