The Dominican Republic is best known for its beaches and hot weather, but did you know that in the small northern town of Cofresi, there is a perfect breeze every afternoon?
And the most optimal spot to experience this breeze is sitting on the spacious balcony of your own private condo.
Which is exactly where I was every afternoon during my week-long stay in the beach community just outside of Puerto Plata.
Yes, I was just another Canadian on vacation in the Caribbean during the cruel winter months, but my trip was not your ordinary trip down south.
While up the road from me, other tourists sporting multi-coloured wristbands were sharing their designated beach areas, I was sitting on my private balcony in the Condos Club Paradise complex, overlooking the private pool and the ocean metres away.
Yes, this was the luxurious vacation most people envision when they think of the Caribbean.
My travel companions and I also had our own private maid/cook for the week who took us grocery shopping to pick whatever local foods we wanted her to cook for us throughout the vacation.
Every morning we woke up to a home-made Huevos Rancheros or breakfast burritos, or some other Dominican dish -- and every evening we came home to dinner waiting in the oven, everything from exotic local dishes to fried chicken with rice and beans.
We also had a concierge who would come by our unit to help us arrange day trips and tell us about his country and his family over afternoon drinks on the balcony.
And our own personal driver gave us a cellphone so we could call him to pick us up any time, day or night --and he even came out with us at night, at no extra cost, to act as our personal bodyguard/dance instructor.
But the best part of this arrangement was that it was cost-efficient.
A sparkling clean two-bedroom condo in Condos Club Paradise costs US$1,000 a week in high season, or $250 a person -- and US $700 a week in low season.
And that includes all the fixings, plus 24-hour security guards.
Despite all this, renting your own condo is still a fairly well-kept secret, says property manager Luis Francisco, as most tourists aren't comfortable venturing beyond the standard resort experience.
"When you're in a condo, you get the feeling like you need to travel on the island to get what you want," he says.
"It's not just beach, cocktails and palm trees as in a resort."
Once you experience the independence of staying in a condo though, you probably won't go back, says Chris Brawn, a Calgary-based software developer who has owned a condo in the complex for 18 months.
"You go beyond being a tourist when you're there," he says, adding it's not uncommon for condo owners to invite staff members' families over, and be invited into staff members' homes.
"You're not an ex-pat or a local, but you have a connection with the community and the people in the community."
For more info about Condos Club Paradise, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-809-970-7576.