Have a Private Dining Experience in an Underground Cave at This Luxurious Hotel in the Dominican Republic
Dusk is falling on the palm-fringed grounds of Eden Roc Cap Cana, a pristine beachfront resort on the private enclave of Cap Cana. Many guests taking the last swim of the day are unaware that mere yards away on the property, at the base of a 65-foot cliff, there is a hidden underground cenote, a reservoir filled with water that forms when a cave ceiling has collapsed.
Fewer still are aware that you can dine there — a unique experience that's more than a little surreal.
The otherworldly feeling commences when I step onto a wooden staircase, that descends down, down, down into the cave. It's dark, but the violet and pink lights that shine on the cave's craggy walls provide just enough illumination. It's all enveloped by lush greenery that resembles a sunken forest.
What's that sound? No, not the cascading waterfall. Its music — specifically, "La Vie En Rose," played by a French saxophonist named Pascale, who is standing on a rock at the base of the cave.
At the bottom of the steps, waiter Oscar Alcantara guides me to a table glowing with candlelight that has been set up on a deck inside the cenote. My four-course in-cave dinner is about to begin.
When the resort was built in 2012, it was constructed around the cenote, protected by the government as a natural area. Then, in January of 2020, it played host to 250 people for a film festival. The event planner wondered: why not host the screenings inside the cave?
"Everyone loved it, because it was so unusual, and the acoustics were amazing," says Eden Roc Cap Cana's managing director Stefano Baratelli. Last year, the walkway and an open-air wooden deck was constructed inside the cenote for intimate private dinners.
Many people who want to celebrate a Big Event do something like dinner on the beach, says Baratelli. "This, they haven't done. Almost no one has."
The sky high above the cave slowly grows dark, as fireflies meander by, and swallows dart in and out. After some house-made sourdough bread with delicious coconut butter (salted butter whipped with coconut cream) the four-course parade of dishes, finessed by Executive Chef Adriano Venturi, begins.
There is crudo de Chillo (raw snapper with pineapple and passionfruit juice), discs of caramelized eggplant parmigiana, deeply flavorsome roast chicken from a local purveyor, cooked on a bed of hay, and five versions of Dominican chocolate.
The dinner, with Champagne, a private waiter, a saxophonist (or, if you prefer, a violinist, or trio) and a cave-side massage which you can take the next day, is a splurge at $1,200 per couple — but it is unforgettable. The stars are coming out, the lapping waters of the cenote and Pascale's haunting notes of "You Go To My Head" echo off of the walls; for the first time in my life, all I want to do is linger in a dark cave.