Greetings from Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic.
We are right in the middle of cigar festival season, Nicaragua’s was last month, Cuba’s festival is next week, which means this week is all about the Dominican Republic.
As has been the case for many years, Procigar—that’s the name of both the Dominican manufacturers’ association and its festival—begins on the eastern tip of the island in La Romana, or more specifically, in Casa de Campo. For those unfamiliar, Casa de Campo is a resort town and truly one of my favorite places to visit. My family was considering coming here for a vacation last year, and this is how I described it to them:
Casa de Campo is a variety of different things. It’s a 7,000-acre area on the tip of the island, about an hour away from Punta Cana. It’s a mixture of a private, gated community with homes and a resort, also called Casa de Campo. Located within the area are multiple golf courses, tennis courts, helicopter pads, shooting ranges and pools; a marina, the hotel, bar, a variety of restaurants/shops and Altos de Chavon, which was built in the 70s to recreate a Mediterranean village. It has a museum, amphitheater and restaurants.
While Casa de Campo is excellent in its own right, Procigar starts here because of La Romana, or more specifically a certain cigar factory in La Romana. Less than 15 minutes away from Casa de Campo is Tabacalera de García, the largest premium cigar factory in the world and the one responsible for making many ofAltadis U.S.A.’s cigars, including the Dominican version of Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta, as well as VegaFina and a host of others.
Procigar always includes an optional La Romana leg but most people start in Santiago, a city located on the other side of the country and where most of the Dominican Republic’s cigar factories are located. The reason why most people come to this leg isn’t to see Tabacalera de García—though it’s impressive and unique—but because this is the vacation part of the trip: beaches, cocktails, golf and more.
We have extensively covered Procigar and the Casa de Campo leg before, but each year is a bit different.
Sunday is the day that most people arrive to Casa de Campo. I left Dallas at 5 a.m. and arrived in Punta Cana—about an hour away from Casa de Campo—at around 2 p.m. I checked in, grabbed my official Procigar bag and tickets and then ventured off to the hotel’s main bar for some relaxation before dinner.
Sunday’s dinner was held on a patio overlooking Dye Fore, one of a number of courses at Casa de Campo designed by the late Pete Dye, who passed away just over a month ago in La Romana. For golf fans, the above video gives you an idea of what you would see. I’ve been to this particular restaurant before for a lunch and it’s a great view. Unfortunately, we were here at night so the stunning views weren’t on display.
Dinner—as is the case for all Procigar dinners—was a buffet. It was an extremely laid back evening, highlighted by Tabacalera de García bringing some cigar rollers to give people freshly rolled Montecristo Cincuentas.
One thing I’ve realized is that Procigar really does make an effort to change up the La Romana leg as much as possible. For a couple of years that meant we were at different hotels, though I’m much happier to be here than in 2017 when we were at the Hard Rock.
The only planned activity during the day was an optional cigar blending seminar at the beach club at Casa de Campo. Tabacalera de García has done these seminars more or less every year, though the location has changed. The seminar has been held at various restaurants, one year I seem to recall it happening during dinner, another year was on a boat.
While the beach club might not be the most interesting place—the boat ride was awesome—the location was about as good as you can get: a covered patio looking out at the ocean.
After that, I headed back to the bar and then got ready for dinner, which was once again held on the other side of the beach and on the sand itself. The laid back theme continued—particularly compared to some years—and the roasted pig was good enough that multiple people seemed to head back for seconds.
- There Are Fewer People — My recap last year said that roughly 150 people attended this portion of the trip in 2019, that seems a bit more than I remember but this year is certainly a lot less. I believe there are fewer than 50 of us here for the Casa de Campo leg. It’s much more intimate and reminds me of the Casa de Campo visits from many years ago.
- A Bit Less Entertainment — I should be clear, I am perfectly happy with fewer activities and entertainment but it’s a noticeable cutback from how these days used to be. Over the years, Tabacalera de García has put on rolling competitions, longest ash contests, blind smoking competitions, professional dancers, fireworks, etc. None of that has taken place this year. While many of us that are here on the Casa de Campo part have been doing it for years—and are probably fine without some of these things—I would imagine a lot of first-time visitors would like these activities.
- Golf Cart Incidents: 1 — Each room at Casa de Campo gets a golf cart, something that’s necessary to navigate around the massive property. My streak of not hitting another golf cart ended Sunday night when I rear-ended a golf cart driven by some people from Boveda. In my defense, it was super wet and we were going over a speed bump. It was either slam on the brakes during the speed bump—something that inevitably would have led to me spinning out my golf cart Mariocart style—or lightly bump the Boveda guys at 1.5 mph.
Tomorrow is my least favorite day of Procigar.
First of all, leaving Casa de Campo is never fun; I wish I could (afford to) live here. But the Tuesday of Procigar is also the longest day of the week. It officially begins at 7 a.m. for an optional breakfast and safety seminar—don’t expect pictures from that—and then we head to Tabacalera de García for a tour. It’s then back to Casa de Campo for lunch before a 175-mile drive across the Dominican Republic to Santiago. We’ll get there in the early evening, check in to our hotels and then there’s a cocktail hour and usually a rather late dinner.