I have been to Caleton twice, and both times the place has blown me away. So much so, in fact, that I am bringing my family this Christmas instead of returning to Anguilla after 10 years. This might be a bit of a gamble, because Cap Cana is still relatively unknown, and the global economy has obviously hit this massive development hard. However, if Caleton can get sufficient business, it is run independently of the real estate operation, so it should survive. And it deserves to! In fact, the only negative about Caleton at all was how quiet it was on our visits. We loved it, and hope that when it gets busy, which it clearly will once the world becomes aware of it and they adjust their pricing for reality, the service does not suffer, and they don't ruin it with the usual DR garbage of loud music and overcrowding. It is a peaceful and gorgeous place.
The six one-room bungalows that sit right on the water are among the most beautiful, sexiest rooms in the Caribbean. They all have spectacular views of the water, and a couple even have steps down to tiny spits of private sand. They are all a couple of steps from the Beach Club building and facilities, and a marvelous beach in a small, protected cove. Each bungalow is unique, but they all are wonderfully decorated in an elegant Spanish colonial vernacular, with lots of wood and cane furniture. They are completely modern, with flat screen TV's and cable, and both wired and wireless internet. The beds are superb - no cheap mattresses here, with high-count linens. Like all hotels in the Caribbean, the bedside lamps could be brighter, but these were better than most.
The bathrooms are generally spectacular, with double sinks and real indoor/outdoor showers. Each room has its own hot water heater, so it's plentiful and hot. There are plenty of towels and robes, and small but serviceable courtesy supplies of shampoo, etc.
Each of these rooms is surrounded by a vast and private covered porch, loaded with comfy furniture and dining area, and with privacy/wind/light shades that can be rolled up or down (The bedrooms have the same shades inside). There is a small fridge and coffee maker tucked away on the side of the porch, stocked with the usual drinks.
The beach club has a terrific restaurant that serves all meals, and the food was really good -- completely modern, sophisticated dishes with a hint of Caribbean/Spanish influence. The chef knows what he is doing. Service in the restaurants was excellent - but we were practically alone. Room service was a bit slow, but not horrible. They certainly seemed to want to make us happy. The spa was a shortcoming - just a couple of treatment rooms, with mediocre services and massages. The Spa at the larger hotel was not open and had been put in a huge suite temporarily. The quality of massages was poor- they need to get some Thai practitioners in to train the staff.
The beach and pool are absolutely stunning -- picture-perfect. There is a kids' pool, and an unfortunately ugly playset for toddlers - it should be moved away from the bungalows. A small tent has some useful exercise equipment in it, but the machines are suffering from salt air exposure. The fitness equipment should be found a nice, airconditioned indoor space.
Elsewhere on the vast resort, there is the Sanctuary Hotel, another possible gem. We opted not to stay there because of their insane holiday pricing (it's not 2006 anymore, guys) we noted some maintenance issues in their oceanfront rooms, and the main beach is tiny for a relatively large hotel. But, the restaurants there that we tried were both really excellent. The steakhouse and Blue Marlin served really fine food, with good service. There are two or three other restaurants, and if they maintain the level, there's no shortage of good food. The Sanctuary has several beautiful pools, and is supposed to have a casino, night club and spa...but I'm not sure if they are open yet.
The Marina, which we did not visit, also has six or seven restaurants, and the new Golden Bear Lodge has one or two as well.
The golf course, Las Iguanas, is a real gem - one of Nicklaus' better designs. It is no pushover, and if the wind is up can be a real test. The second course, which will be badly needed if this place catches on, is supposed to open in 2009, but the locals doubt it, even if the money is there to finish. There are two or three other excellent courses within 30 minutes, though, so there's plenty of golf to be had.
Caleton also has 15 or 16 private villas, though none of them is on the beach or direct waterfront. They are all exquisitely decorated, with private pools, though not too much privacy. They need more screen plantings around their back patios. Their placement is in the middle of a vast sand waste area between two golf holes, so golf carts will buzz by during th day. It's an odd placement, but they are so beautiful you can forgive them -- besides the beach club is a five-minute walk from the furthest villa, or a two-minute cart ride... no big deal. They are so lovely that they'd all make wonderful family vacation spots, or great guys golf trip villas.
Basically, Caleton is a 9.8 on the ratings scale for physical plant, an 8.5 for service, and a 9 for food. Prices are just too high for everything, however. If the owners can afford to keep it exclusive, that will make it one of the world's best small beach hotels. If they are forced to drop prices and quality, it will suffer badly. They had better not open the hotel beach to outsiders, because it could readily get too crowded and noisy. Serving just the six bungalows and the villas will max the Club out when things are busy.
Cap Cana faces a tough future, and a paradox. Right now, the place is a construction site with several first-class facilities. The developer is in serious financial trouble. If Cap Cana cuts prices and becomes less-exclusive, it will decline and fail. If they keep prices up, they will likely also fail. They need to find a balance as the economy recovers (hopefully). It is doubtful the crazy prices and hype of the real estate will ever get back to 2004-2006, and that's a good thing. Should Caleton become the ultra-exclusive haunt of a group of regulars, with great service and food, it will be the best tiny boutique hotel i the Caribbean. Let's hope that happens.
The photos attached are not my best work - only had a tiny camera, and the weather was spotty during our stay.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.