Live Like Royalty at The Palace, Dominican Republic

Live Like Royalty at The Palace, Dominican Republic

With helipad, private beach, full staff and more, this spectacular villa has to be seen to be believed

A family love for this Caribbean Island led Dr Malur Balaji to build a fabulously detailed, Mughal-style getaway for his family and yours to enjoy.

The Balaji family’s affection for the Dominican Republic’s lush, tropical north coast started over 30 years ago on a family vacation to escape a cold and snowy Northeast winter. The year was 1982 and the five Balaji kids fell in love with the beauty of Playa Grande, its peace and its warm, welcoming people. They asked their parents to return every year, even through the college years with their many distractions.

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18 years and many vacations later, Balaji was offered the chance to buy a plot of land in Playa Grande, in part as a thank you for his voluntary medical service to the island. He was delighted, but still had one hurdle to cross – obtaining permission to access the private beach below the acreage. This process took two years, during which time Balaji started to scheme and dream about the home he would create there.

the palace, dominican republic 3His initial idea was for something modest, but as time went on the project became more elaborate. With no building experience, Balaji tapped into his imagination and South Indian heritage to create decorative flight of fancy in a process he likens to the building of the famous Hearst Castle in California. The house was designed in 3-6 month iterations as inspiration struck. “I used to build and repair human nerves, I never though my mind could translate that to home building and construction,” he laughs, adding that The Palace is a once-in-a-lifetime project, not the start of a nascent construction career.

Balaji admits that his imagination was allowed to run free, at times to the frustration of the construction crew, which included well-known Dominicans Dionicio Ramirez and Celestino Izquierdo who acted as the official engineer and architect for the project. He remembers one incident when he asked the crew to carve 6 different full-scale pillars for him to choose his favorite design for use in the house.

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the palace, dominican republic 4This careful, sometimes painstaking process took 8 years to complete, during which time Balaji’s wife Eileen stayed away from the site, preferring the keep the final result as a spectacular surprise. While the kids were kept up to date on progress they were under orders not to share any information with mom!

The first area of the build to be completed was the cliffside suites, stacked into the sheer stone cliffs in gravity-defying fashion. Balaji had the idea to build the suites as the staircase down to the beach was being constructed, with many tons of concrete and steel support cables. “The engineer used cables from the cliffs to support the walls,” he explains, adding that the romantic, wood-paneled rooms are now often used as a Honeymoon suite when there are weddings at the property. “It’s magnificent to sleep there hearing the waves.”

the palace, dominican republic 1With the cliffside suites finished, the next challenge was the biggest of all; the main house. On visiting the finished building, the eye is at first drawn whimsical red onion domes that adorn the roof, but once inside it’s the grand entrance hall with its double curved galleries that draw the eye. Supported by carved pillars (that were so carefully chosen) and with a glittering chandelier filling the ceiling with light, it’s like stepping back in time to the heyday of Mughal architecture and all the associated romance.

As Balaji explains, romance is often the order of the day at the Palace, which has become a favorite location for destination weddings. With room for 36 guests, and a full staff to take care of every need, it’s a charming place to say “I do”.

Guests love the oceanfront rooms on the second floor, with their stone balconies overlooking the ocean and carved wooden screens letting the sunlight filter in slowly throughout the day. In the winter months, visitors are often lucky enough to spot whales on their annual migration from the comfort of their bedroom balcony.

the palace, dominican republic 6Sitting and looking out to see is something of a favorite pastime here, but there are plenty of other activities to occupy body and mind if the motivation strikes. The Palace is just minutes away from Playa Grande golf club, often referred to as the “Pebble Beach of the Caribbean” and the ultra luxe resort amenities at Amanera – part of the famed Aman Resorts family – are close by too.

Of course, with a sprawling swimming pool, heli-pad private beach, on site gym and ocean-view spa, there’s no need to leave The Palace and its jasmine-scented gardens for pastures new. Balaji explains that the beguiling beauty of the area, which has kept his family visiting the island for the past 33 years, seems to rub off on his guests too – for many, the first visit to The Palace is not the last.

Find out more about The Palace, Dominican Republic

 

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Jenny Cahill-Jones