Hotel-set thrillers seem to be the genre du jour when it comes to television shows as of late. Case in point? The highly successful HBO anthology series “The White Lotus,” Peacock’s time-bending drama “The Resort” and Hulu’s new “Saint X,” all of which take place at exotic lodgings with a central mystery at their core. Debuting last month, the latter follows a disastrously tragic vacation in which Princeton University freshman Alison Thomas (West Duchovny, the real-life daughter of actors David Duchovny and Téa Leoni) goes missing and is eventually found murdered while visiting the Caribbean with her family. Conveyed via a dynamic timeline, the scintillating story shifts back and forth between the early aughts, when Alison is killed, and the present day, as her younger sister, environmental documentary film editor Emily (Alycia Debnam-Carey), attempts to finally get to the bottom of her unsolved death. Drawing certain parallels to the infamous disappearance of Natalee Holloway from the island of Aruba in 2005, the eight-episode series, which airs each Wednesday through the end of May, showcases the devastating ripple effects such crimes exact on all those left behind.
Based on Alexis Schaitkin’s 2020 novel of the same name and adapted for the small screen by Leila Gerstein, who was also behind The CW’s popular “Hart of Dixie,” the series’ setting is dynamic, as well, with the backdrop shifting between Brooklyn, New York, where present-day Emily lives, and Saint X, the fictional Caribbean island from which Alison goes missing.
Manhattan spots utilized include a brick-faced apartment building at 688 Nostrand Ave. in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, which Emily and her boyfriend, civil rights attorney Josh (Pico Alexander), call home. Little Sugar, the charming restaurant where Emily repeatedly attempts to befriend Clive ‘Gogo’ Richardson (Josh Bonzie), one of the main suspects in her sister’s murder, over card games and pepperpot, is, sadly, not a real place, but was faked on the ground floor of a walk-up located just down the street at 792 Lincoln Pl. And Gogo’s apartment can be found in nearby Flatbush at 2132 Beverley Rd.
But most of the action occurs at the Indigo Bay Resort, the luxe island hotel the Thomas family checks into for a week-long getaway that goes terribly wrong. Though the Indigo Bay name is fictional, the lodging where filming took place is very real, not to mention extremely idyllic, much as it was portrayed onscreen.
For the multi-month shoot, the cast and crew descended upon Selectum Hacienda Punta Cana, a nine-room boutique property situated on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic overlooking the sandy shoreline of Macao Beach at the “intersection of the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the tropical forest.” A highly exclusive tourist destination, Punta Cana has attracted countless celebrities over the years, including Oscar de la Renta, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Julio Iglesias, all of whom have built homes in the resort town.
Nestled on a verdant plot of land measuring just under five acres in the region’s Uvero Alto district, Selectum Hacienda Punta Cana was initially built as a private summer house for a New York family. In 2019, the dwelling was acquired by the Turkish-based Anex Tourism Group as part of a massive $1.8 billion, 7,000-room, 500-acre resort development project set to be constructed on the surrounding land in what Dominican Today calls “the largest investment in the history of Dominican tourism.” To “spearhead” the extensive undertaking, Anex reimagined the two-story residence, transforming it into a boutique lodging, with celebrated hotelier Francisco “Paco” Castillo hired as its head of operations.
The site’s November 2019 opening proved a bit untimely, what with the Covid-19 pandemic erupting less than six months later, thereby locking down the world for the better part of a year. Selectum Hacienda managed to weather the storm, though, and has since racked up numerous sparkling reviews on TripAdvisor, with guests espousing that the place “exceeded all expectations” and is a “piece of heaven on earth.”
The accolades are no doubt in large part thanks to the property’s wide array of amenities, including spa services, an outdoor pool, direct access to Macao Beach, an attached winery, a front desk manned 24 hours a day, 24-hour room service, free WiFi, a garden and a much-heralded onsite bar and restaurant. By all accounts, dining on the premises is a true epicurean affair. Helmed by two highly-trained chefs hailing from Turkey, the kitchen serves homemade multi-course farm-to-table Caribbean-inspired meals infused with a Turkish flair. As one former guest praised, “The detail in the style, preparation, texture and taste of the food was truly a gastronomy experience. I have never eaten so well.”
Boasting highly personalized service, with culinary offerings customized upon patrons’ various dietary wants and restrictions, another TripAdvisor reviewer reports, “Sitting poolside, one of the servers will surprise you with a fresh fruit smoothie, or a coconut with a straw (or probably a beer if you’re into that!).”
Selectum Hacienda rates start at about $450 per night, according to Priceline.com, though don’t go looking to book a family vacation there à la the Thomases. In reality, the lodging is an adults-only resort, welcoming guests 18 years and older, so the young Emily would not have actually been able to stay on the premises.
“Saint X” makes copious use of Selectum Hacienda Punta Cana and its gorgeous grounds, capturing scenes by the pool, on the open-air dining terrace, amongst the leafy pathways and along the adjacent Macao Beach.
The series showcases the location to spectacular effect, with the picturesque backdrop serving as a jarring juxtaposition for Alison’s ultimate violent end.
The production even features several of the resort’s actual rooms, including the Andrea Cinerea “tropical executive suite,” where the Thomas family stays while visiting Saint X. A true retreat, the two-bedroom, 670-square-foot enclave (photo here) can accommodate up to four guests and comes complete with a sitting area, a terrace, sea views and a bath with a shower and marble finishes.
“Saint X” production designer Javiera Varas altered the space quite a bit for the shoot, swapping out the wall paintings, artwork, furnishings, bedding, décor and even the ceiling fans to better fit the show’s more streamlined island aesthetic, though the suite is no less inviting in real life.