Above: Juanillo Beach (all photos by CJ)
By Alexander Britell
PUNTA CANA — The Punta Cana region is the Dominican Republic’s tourism engine — an amalgam of all-inclusive resorts and exclusive accommodations.
Toward the south on the Dominican Republic’s coast is tony Cap Cana, a large-scale development highlighted by the Jack Nicklaus-designed Punta Espada Golf Club and a group of high-end resorts and condominiums.
It’s among the most exclusive spots on the eastern half of Hispaniloa — and deservedly so — a natural habitat for mega-yachts, luxurious suites and capacious condominiums.
But there’s another side to Cap Cana.
All it takes to find it is to mention “Juanillo Beach” to the security guard at the gate to Cap Cana.
You’ll be waved through, and in a few moments you’ll be on the shores of one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches, with your own private beach club.
This is Juanillo Beach, a sugar-white enclave met by tranquil turquoise waters.
At the centre of Juanillo Beach is a bright-white restaurant decorated with surfboards and signs reminding you of just how far you are from the bustle of modern life.
This is the eponymous Juanillo Beach, Food and Drinks, a classic Caribbean beach bar that is a passion project of restaurateur Carlos de Moya.
De Moya opened the beachfront eatery in 2010 by converting what had once been a reception area for incoming Cap Cana clients.
“I was working in Punta Cana three years ago, and my business partner brought me here,” he says. “When he showed me the place, I fell in love with it — I said, ‘I have to do something here.'”
Above: Carlos de Moya
And that’s what he did.
Juanillo is now open every day from 8 AM to sunset (with nights reserved for special events). It has a full kitchen serving international cuisine and beach fare like fried fish, burgers and pizza. This year, for the fourth time, de Moya will hold a Juanilo Beach Music Festival at the site.
“We call it the bohemian corner in Cap Cana,” he says. “Cap Cana has a lot of wealthy clients, and this is the place where they just come to disconnect from the world and have a little time off.”