Island dreams
Frank Ranieri and the vision of Punta Cana
by Andrea DaRif

It’s easy to admire the views from the La Cana course at Punta Cana Resort and Club. Situated on 15,000 pristine acres at the eastern end of the Dominican Republic, the P.B. Dye layout plays along sparkling ocean waters and lush tropical jungle, a setting that has earned it accolades as one of the most scenic courses in the Caribbean.

That the original untamed natural beauty blossomed into one of the premier golf venues in the region is due the vision of its founder, Frank Ranieri. In the late 1960s, a mutual friend introduced Ranieri—a young man with a crop dusting business and a small airplane—to an investment group, headed by the legendary New York labor negotiator Ted Kheel, that was looking for someone from the area to show them land for possible development in the Dominican Republic. A stretch of spectacular oceanfront property caught their eye—the trouble was, it was inaccessible. There were no roads, no airstrip, no electricity, no infrastructure . . .

No problem, said Ranieri. Inspired by the success of Puerto Vallarta on the west coast of Mexico, which had been transformed from a sleepy fishing village into a tourist mecca, he convinced the Americans to buy into the idea of a creating a luxury resort at Punta Cana. Driving his own bulldozer, he cut a rough road through the wild jungle, then cleared a modest airstrip. Construction began, and by 1983, his single dirt runway had turned into an international airport—the first fully private international airport in the world. Today, it is the third busiest hub in the Caribbean. Direct flights to Punta Cana arrive daily from major hubs like New York, Miami and Paris, bringing in over 1.2 million guests from around the globe to bask in the glow of of Ranieri’s dream.

The luxury accommodations at Punta Cana Resort include 420 elegant guest rooms, clustered in oceanfront and tree-shaded villas surrounded by over a hundred acres of lush gardens. There are also private golf villas and beachfront residences designed by Oscar de la Renta—who, along with such other celebrities as Julio Iglesias and Mikhail Baryshnikov, calls Punta Cana home. The resort boasts a full service deep water marina, five international restaurants, an ecological preserve, three miles of white sand beach and a variety of homesites along the golf course. Ranieri, whose charming wife and children are also involved in running the business, sees even greater things to come. With new real estate developments under way and a second 18-hole golf course on the drawing boards, Punta Cana is destined to remain one of the hotspots in the Caribbean for years to come.


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