Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Reviews

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Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo  

Ctra las Terrenas-El Limón Km.4. PO Box: 646 Las Terrenas – Samaná. Dominican Republic.

"Amazing Vacation!! "
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Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Reviews
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Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Las Terrenas Dominican Republic

of 29 Hotels in Las Terrenas

User rating 4.3

Based on 22 reviews

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Information

On the exclusive beach of "El Portillo", this idyllic resort, Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo is located a few minutes from the village of Las Terrenas, surrounded by spectacular nature that will please the most demanding customers.

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Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Reviews

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.3 of 5 22 reviews
Very good
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"Terrible resort! Don't waste your money."

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 1.0 of 5

Posted by:  Zoé  on Aug 11, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Aug, 2010 | Leisure | With friend
1355 people found this review helpful

1. Do not waste your money coming to this resort! It's the worst resort I've ever been to. This was not even close to being a 4.5 star. Perhaps a 3.5 or 4 star instead.
2. If you must go and you book with Air Canada, make sure you go to the morning briefing with Joel (the AC rep). He provided excellent tidbits about what to do, not to do, where to buy things, how to barter, where to exchange money, etc.
3. If you didn't have money in your hand, you didn't get service (bars, restaurants, buffet, etc.)
4. On Wednesday, they gave out comment cards to fill out in the main buffet. All of a sudden, we had 3 waiters/waitresses waiting on us. They were extremely unprofessional and looked over our shoulder and even commented while we filled out the questionnaire. That's unacceptable!
5. Energy efficient: They try, but it makes them look cheep.
a) In order to get the A/C working in your room, you need to put your room card in a slot inside your front door. The first night, we left a key in the slot and went for supper. When we came back, the key was gone. We had to pay off the maid (which comes 2-3 times a day so don't leave any valuables in your room at any time.) to get a 3rd key which we left in the slot all week. No wonder some rooms smell mouldy!
b) They only turned on the ceiling fans in the lobby and common areas in the evening, which made it very uncomfortable to spend any time there during the day.
c) The lights in the public washrooms turn on when you enter. Unfortunately, they turn off when you're on the toilet! It was very annoying!

For my first trip to a Bahia Principe Resort, I am extremely disappointed. I'm a huge fan of Iberostar and have only heard great things about all their resorts. I have been going to the same Iberostar resort on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico for 4 years and thought I'd try someting new including the Bahia Principe resort chain. I picked the wrong resort. If you must do a Gran Bahia, stick to a 5 star - nothing less.

I can't wait to go back to Iberostar!

Air Canada flight down. No delays, cleared customs quickly and then directed to the bus. The drive to the hotel was 1.5 hours through beautiful mountain terrain. There is no way the trip to the resort can be done in 30 minutes (as
mentioned on the Bahia Principe website)! We left Ottawa (via Toronto) at 6:00 and were at the resort by 3:30 p.m. It was a very long day!

Avoid dealing with Wendy from reception! She's a liar or just lazy and gives you the run around.

Initially we were put in block 20. Since I had read reviews from other travellers saying to avoid that block, I asked for a different room. As it turns out, by the end of the week, block 20 got a cochroach infestation! Wendy lie#1: Wendy, at reception, told me they were overbooked and that I should come back the next day (they were only 60% booked!). We went to the room and it was aweful! It smelled moldy and had the view over the construction happening over the fence next door and noisy from the road and staff parking lot. Also, there was only one bed when I had requested two. I went back to reception and told Wendy I needed two beds. Wendy lie #2: She said: "Ah well, then come back at 5:30 and ask for Denny." An hour and a half later I return and ask for Denny. The gentleman there asked me if he could help me. When I told him, he said he could (and wondered why I was told to ask for Denny). We got upgraded to a beautiful Junior suite in block 11 overlooking the quiet pool. Unfortunately, the safe didn't work and the shower door didn't close. Later that evening I went back to reception and told Wendy. Wendy lie #3: Wendy said she'd send someone for the safe right away. Well guess what, he never came. The next day, I told her and she said: "Were you in your room?" I said "You never told me that" and she walked away. The same gentlemen helped me out and when I asked if I needed to be in the room he looked at me like it was a dumb question and said of course not.

Restaurants and Bars:
We tried 2 à la carte restaurants (Pescadoro and Gourmet). Nothing special. The buffet was acceptable. The rice pudding was great.

Although we spent most of our time at the quiet pool, both pools are very small. Unfortunately, the water temperature of both pools must have been 35 degrees celcius. They were like hot tubs! The only way to cool down was in the shower next to the pool. This caused health issues: people were lined up at the resort doctor's office complaining of ear infections. The doctor said it was caused by the hot pool water. My guess is that she never told the hotel to pump in cold water (which I saw them do for 15 minutes one afternoon).

The beach was lovely. The ocean water was also very, very warm. Some people reported seeing and being stung by jelly fish. I did some snorkeling. It was nice.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We did the trip to the national park. We really liked it. 45 min bus ride to Samana. Hop on a jet boat to cross the bay (about 35 minutes). Zipping around the small islands, seeing the pelicans, walking in 2 caves. Then lunch and swimming on a small island where the 5 star Cayo Levantado Gran Bahia is.

We met a very nice family and shared a cab ride (4kms) to Las Terrenas. We really enjoyed that. The taxi waited for us and picked us up 2 hours later.

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"Never again to a Gran Bahia or the Dominican!"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 3.0 of 5

Posted by:  Bill from Calgary  on Mar 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2009
473 people found this review helpful


Poor Unit 20 was very noisey, construction, road noise and staff parking lot.

Restaurants and Bars
Buffet was average but always busy. be prepared to wait and get in line on some night. Be warned you must wear long pants for supper.

Large beach but have to get up early to put towels on chairs to get a spot. Very small pool, alway busy. Beautiful grounds, probably because they get a lot of rain.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel
Beach staff are lazy, they would rather hit on the young ladies and be cool than do their jobs. Whale watching was fantastic, worth the money. everything is very expensive to to do there, like eat if you want lobster and drink anything other than their local brands(gasoline) $5.00 to "upgrade"

Other Comments
In my opinion the Management at this resort has only one thing in mind and that is to stuff this resort to it's fullest regardless of the outcome. We only had two warms showers in our 7 day stay and the resort was totally waterless for two days, not very pleasent!!!! The staff and managment pretend to want to help but after a couple of days I learned that they actually did not give a hoot. They will tell you whatever it took to make you go away and then totally ignore your concerns.. I have been to the Caribbean 14 times and this I can honestly say is the first time that I wished I could have gone home before my holiday was over,very sad!! Never again to a Gran Bahia or the Dominican!

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"Nice people, good food, amazing beach!"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Ariela  on Jul 25, 2012  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jul, 2012 | Leisure | Family and Kids
932 people found this review helpful

Room Number:

Room Block:
building 3

Arrived to Samana from Toronto via West Jet. Booked a private transfer with Tour Samana with Terry as we were travelling with a 22-month-old and did not want the long treck on the cliff tops. Worth the money and Terry & Elesio are amazing people! The driving was fantastic, in an air conditioned van, with a car seat and of course, some great music.

We arrived to the hotel on a Saturday, around 4 pm. It was very busy & loud, and from our understanding, many locals stay there on the weekends as a getaway. Usually this doesn't bother us at all, but it felt as though they felt they were superior to other guests. Once Monday came along, the atmosphere was very different - quieter and more relaxing.

Another thing to watch out for is the "privilege club" people. They work for the hotel and hang out in the lobby. They are trying to sell you timeshares. They hassled us every single day (sometimes 2-3 times per day). I think saying "no thanks" once should be enough, and I really didn't like that they were Bahia employees, as I wasn't there to be hassled about time shares; I was there to relax.

Originally we were booked into room 7108, building 7. The bellboy acted a bit surprised by this, but assured us it was a good room. STAY AWAY FROM ROOM 7108!!! Bathroom light didn't work, phone didn't work, we had no towels, bath tub was dirty, and it was infested by mosquitos (we were afraid of opening the bathroom doors as they all seemed to hang out in there). It was also an adjoining room, next to very loud people. We spoke with the reception manager and were moved the next day (as they were full that night).

Once we were moved to building 3, room 3106, we were very happy. Both rooms are ground floor (as per request-easier with toddler). Our 2nd room was much cleaner, no mosquitos, all amenities working. It was kept clean all week. Both were junior suites - very spacious and comfortable. The only thing I would change is to add more lighting. Buildings 1,3,5 are the best locations for sure!

Restaurants and Bars:
We ate at the buffet every morning & lunch and 4 evenings. breakfast & lunch is the same everyday, lots of variety and very delicious. We checked out the lunch grill at the beach, but due to our picky toddler, we felt the buffet would suit us better as it had more choice. For dinner, we did the Oriental restaurant once. It was ok. Nothing special, but a very nice atmosphere. We went to the Italian restaurant twice (once for hubby's bday). Very nice atmosphere, great food, and wonderful service. I did have the white wine and was surprised to find out that it was quite drinkable (I usually hate resort wines). The rest of the week, we ate at the buffet for dinner.

Overall, the food was great! We definitely didn't go hungry! My only complaints about the restaurants is the times they are open. lunch starts at 1 (at buffet - beach grill is 11 I think) and dinners start at 7 pm. I would move both start times back by an hour (so 12 and 6) to make it more convenient for families with younger kids. Also, the AC in the restaurants (especially the buffet) should be stronger. It's nice to be able to get away from the heat while you are eating, but that didn't happen here.

Grounds: The same as other Bahias; exactly what we expected. Nice greenery & some flowers, well taken care of. Lobby is also the same concept as other Bahias, nice atmosphere. No AC anywhere in the lobby/hallways and no breeze. There are ceiling fans, but they do not do much.

Pool was ok. Small, and water didn't feel so clean, but it's a nice little area with music playing. The beach loungers are comfy, but did have an odor. We only spent 1 morning at the pool as we are beach people.

Beach: Amazing! Nice sand, always a lounger available. No big waves, water was calm, clean & crystal clear. Water was warm and had reefs right by the shore, which was nice as you can see many fish swimming around... the closer you get to the reef, the better the fish are!

The vendors on the beach really do harass you EVERY 5 minutes ALL week long. It got quite annoying, but it is what it is.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We didn't do much in terms of activities as we were with a toddler and we like to sit back and relax. The animation staff was great though-really friendly, not pushy and fun. We saw a few "kids shows" (same music/songs every night) and our daughter loved them. We didn't stay for the show as it was too late for our little one. The staff all around are great - waiters, reception, animation, bar tenders, everyone was super friendly!

They do have music in the lobby every so often which was nice - people were dancing and it was nice to just hang out and listen to the music.

Other Comments:
Overall, this was a solid resort. More of a 3.5 star in my books. I think the business on the weekend, the crappy room we got at first, beach vendors and time share people brought it down from a 4 star for me.

With that said, it's a nice, smaller resort that has great food and really nice staff with an amazing beach. I don't regret going there, but I have been to better all around resorts. If you love a beautiful beach though, this resort is definitely one to consider.

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"Great Resort"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Danielle  on Feb 9, 2012  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2012 | Leisure | Family and Kids
1049 people found this review helpful

My husband and I along with our son and daughter in law stayed for a 10 vacation and thoroughly enjoyed it. The resort was very clean, well layed out and the service was excellent. Although there isn't a view of the beach from most of the rooms, we had our own smaller pool at building 11 and spent a few of the days there away from the busier main pool and beach area. The long beaches were beautiful and you could walk for hours. Food was very good with loads of selection at the main buffets for breakfast and lunch with different continental themes each night for dinner. Our only complaint was that the A La Carte restaurants lacked the selection we were looking for as a break from the buffets, and there was too many seafood selections. Also, for some reason the A La Carte entrees were so salty that we hardly ate any of them. Buffet was better. The junior suites that we booked were very nice with huge spacious bathrooms, king size bed and large balcony for privacy. Took a couple of excursions which were also great. The drive to and from the airport was very long and winding but you get to see some beautiful scenery. Not much shopping but we were there to relax and enjoy the company and take advantage of the great weather. I'd definately recommend this, and wouldn't hesitate to go back.

Room Number:

Room Block:
building 11

check in was very fast and easy.

rooms were nice and clean. used the air conditioning a few times but didn't really need it. Could never predict when they'd be there to make up the room though which made it difficult to plan a siesta.

Restaurants and Bars:
Buffet was great. A La Carte restaurants were disappointing. not much selection and food was VERY salty. Nice decor though. Snack bar by the beach had great hot lunch fare. Lounge had great servers but got sick of listening to Kenny G!

nice clean beach. Pool was small but we had our own small one at building 11. gardens were beautiful and very well kept. gorgeous palms and flowers.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
ATV excursion was really fun, with a trip to Ricon Beach which is worth seeing. Stopped at a local Dominican home and got some helpful history and tour of their agricultural industy. Guide spoke good english, but most of the hotel staff had very limited English. Good to know some Spanish phrases before you go.

Other Comments:
10 days was perfect - not too long, not too short.

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"Best beach at an awsome place"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Dave  on Feb 20, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2010 | Leisure | With Group
1078 people found this review helpful

This was our second trip to The El Portillo and the general concenses of our group was this is our favorite all inclusive so far. It is not a perfect place but was a perfect vacation and we plan to go back for 2 weeks next time.

Your Arrival:
Check in done on the bus so we headed straight to the beach restaurant. The bus ride is not 45 min to 60 min, it is a good 90 min, but the trip is beautiful over the mountain.

The room is large with a king bed, 2 chairs, clean and comfortable. Lots of storage for our clothes. For the most part the room was kept clean and the bathroom was cleaned and towels replaced twice a day. The turn down at night was nice although they missed us twice. Was never bothered by the staff if we left the don disturb sign out.

Restaurants and Bars:
After being to Cuba, and other Dominican hotels it was pleasant to have consistantly good food at every meal. There was always some thing new to try, Beef Wellington, roast turkey, pork roast, and always a pasta dinner built to your taste. The breakfast was good, they could use another toaster, and yes there wasn't always bacon but maybe that was a good thing. The beach restaurant was great, one of the best. BBQ chicken , hamburgers, steak. pork chops, hot dogs, salads etc, etc.

This is one of the best beaches. Better than Varadero, or Punta Cana. Nice gentle slope, goes on forever. Prtected by a reef, with coral outcrops close to shore for easy fish veiwing. The water was pretty clear, and nice and warm.
It was necesary to reserve a spot but then where do you go that you don't. We didn't spend much time at the pool but it was warm. clean and a little small, but was never over crowded. There are several bars along the beach manned by really nice bartenders.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Didn't do any just sat on the beach or walked.

Other Comments:
The staff was very good to us. English is not their langauage but they tried and so did we.
I thought about giving a bad review just to keep people away, but couldn't do it.
I'm going back.

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"Tipping was essential."

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Desiree from Toronto  on Jan 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2009
433 people found this review helpful

Arrival: Dec 27 2008-Jan 3 2009
We were a group of 6 and they did not have the name of one of our twosome at the airport however they still allowed us on the bus to the hotel- a porter demanded a tip before putting our luggage on the bus.Check in took quite a while as we felt they really did not have the info on the 3rd registration.

The rooms were all junior suites-we had actually pre-paid extra for one junior suite so although I was pleased that we all got the suites I am ticked that I paid $80 extra to have the one.

Restaurants and Bars:
We went to 3 of the 4 theme restaurants and felt very rushed to order our meal and eat it. Even though we had more waiters in the theme restaurant we felt we had more time to dine at the buffet.The waiters in the theme room did not speak ony more english than anywhere else. The food at the buffet was quite good and we felt there was enough variety- the beach bar which had an all day snack bar was great for lunch- The drinks were plentiful and we did not feel they were watered down too much. the new Year's eve dinner was great with lots of crab, salmon and special food beautifully set up.

The beach was great-lots of chairs- and tables we never had any shortage-we did have a problem with sand fleas-sea kayaks were plentiful and we easily could get the catamaran once a day-the beach was quite windy however not enough to stop us from spending the entire day until sunset down there- snorkeling was fun and there was also beach volley ball and soccer available for the children.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
we took the catamaran tour for the day- It is over priced for what you get. They take you to 2 spots for snorkeling however these are not very good spots to see anything- some nive corals but not much in the way of fish- there have got to be better spots down there.

Other Comments:
We had a great holiday however it was very typical DR-with most of the staff not speaking any english and not overly friendly or helpful. Tipping was essential. The maid service was excellent-The business with towel cards was just plain silly-I was also surprised to have to pay for a room safe- I have never had to do that at any hotel previously- I fell that they were trying to nickel and dime us with those sorts of things.

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"Place to relax"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Jeane  on Jan 12, 2011  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2011 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
1406 people found this review helpful

We arrived at night and was wondering where we were going for an hour through the mountain, but interesting ride. When we did arrive we received our room quickly. The room was very clean and cleaned daily. Of all of the 12 resorts I have been to this is the quietest one. The beach area was clean, quiet and soothing. I felt safe and very happy with our choice. If you are a Pool area person they only have on and it is way too small and very echo..too busy for me, but then again we don't do Pools. The grounds are beautified with vegitation and continuously manicured..not much flowers but still gorgeous grenery.
Our only regret is we did not bring snorkeling gear but will for sure next time.
We tipped when we wanted and was still well served without it. I also found the wine and the food very tasty and such a variety. Due to the fact I do not eat much meat I ususally eat bland foods but it was great compared to Mexico, Punta Cana and Cuba. We only ate from the buffet. What is really nice is you can eat all meals outside.
There are ramps everywhere for wheelchairs and strollers.
We did not go off the resort so I cannot comment on the surrounding towns but I can say we will gladly, return with Air Canada....

Room Number:

Room Block:

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"Beautiful but too crowded for our liking"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Marina  on Jan 16, 2010  >  2 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2010 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
949 people found this review helpful


Your Arrival:
Check in done on bus to hotel, could go straight to our rooms upon arrival.

Had a junior golden suite, beautiful, spacious, large bathroom, all marble and seemed to be fairly new,king bed, mini bar and private balcony.

Restaurants and Bars:
Four specialty restaurants,only went to two, Oriental and Italian, service was good but non english speaking therefore orders were mixed up!

Beautiful and stunning, grounds green and lush, beach beautiful, pools were adequate but too small for amount of guests, had to be reserving lounges early in the morning on both beach and pool ohterwise out of luck for the day pretty much.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Enough activities if you want, not our cup of tea, so we didn't really bother

Other Comments:
This area of the DR, gets more rain then the other areas, as our rep told me, we had 4 out of 7 days of constant downpours, not too much fun if you enjoy the beach. One cannot control the weather but for that reason we will not return to Samana

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"A good holiday, but we will not be going back there anytime soon."

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Paul from Toronto  on Feb 1, 2009  >  4 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2009
433 people found this review helpful

Arrival: Feb 2 Feb 8
The flight on Air Canada was good although $6 for a beer, ouch. On arrival it was nice to walk down the steps and onto the tarmac. We had our luggage in a very timely manner and customs was a breeze except for the seemingly endless forms we had to fill out. The Samana airport is quite nice with a very open concept. I didn't appreciate the guy loading our luggage into the little trailer attached to the bus demanding that I tip him, needless to say I watched him load our luggage and did not reward him for his lack of manners. The ride to the resort was a real eye opener, the mountainous terrain is beautiful although the road (if you can call it that) makes for a long hour and 15 minute trip. I was taken aback at the poverty I witnessed on this journey with families living in "houses" with no hydro the size of a single car garage. The amount of skinny stray dogs and cows on the road was interesting. Arriving at the resort was a relief as there aren't any toilets on the bus (good thing I only had one $6 beer on the plane). Check in was okay but it would of helped if our guy had spoken even a little english. It was a pleasure to learn that because we were with Air Canada we got a free safe key and one extra ala carte.

We were in room 20202 which is your standard room and it was nice. The usual comforts, A/C (only when the sliding door is closed) fan, miny bar etc. We didn't have any problems with the number of towels or getting the bar restocked and our room was always cleaned in a timely manner. Although our travel agent requested an "ocean front view" we couldn't of been further from the water if we tried. Our room backed on the the new construction and driveway for some sort of deliveries. Each morning all too early we were awoken by this huge machine that was driving pillers into the ground and an earth mover with a very loud back up beeper.

Restaurants and Bars:
Thanks god for the 4 specialty restaurants!! For the past 2 years we have gone to the Mayan (Gran Bahia Principe Tulum) and found the buffets wonderful with great variety and quality. This buffet sucked! For the first 4 days the bacon was so raw I felt it was unsafe to eat. The "cook" just tossed handfulls of bacon into the frying pan and lightly cooked the outside pieces then put it out for consumption. The inside 6 or 7 pieces were still raw. The scrambled eggs were almost unrecognizable due to the amount of water in them. The omelette cook was the saving grace although several people asked him to cook their eggs a little longer as well. The fresh juices were very nice and the fruit was to die for. I found the lunch buffet was the best of all with a lot more variety than even the dinner buffet. The open air snack bar was nice but it seemed to have the same choices every day. I personally have no complaints about the food at the specialty restaurants (I had steak 3 of 4 nights) but like another review that I read my wife and I did feel that we were rushed. If we ate at the speed the food was coming out we would of been in and out in less than 30 minutes. The drinks were plentiful and the El Presente cold. My wife drank Banana Dacaries and with a different maker came a different taste, some drinkable and some not. Like other reviews I also recommend taking a large travel mug as the cups are small and horrible for this beautiful islands landfills.

My wife and I also agree with the other reviews that the 2 pools are much too small. Why do people "reserve" the pool chairs and then don't show up until noon to use them? The animation team was interesting....I'm not sure if it was their lack of real energy that made them so annoying or if they were just really annoying as a rule, but my vote is for imported professionals. The quiet pool was tucked away from the beach and when we finally found it, it was just that, quiet. Again a very small pool with it's own bar and maybe 25 chairs. I with we'd found it on the first day and not the last.
The beach was breath taking, miles of nothing but palm trees, beautiful sand and colourful waters. Each day we would walk the beach and be totally alone. The snorkeling was great although our weather wasn't the best as it was very windy and wavy which churned up the sand but we did see a great number of fish. At the resort on the beach we found an over abundance of beach chairs and didn't have any problem finding shade (although 4 of 7 days were cloudy, but you can't help the weather and at least it wasn't snow). The grounds were well cared for the there were always works tending to it.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Our activities at the resort were confined to the beautiful beach, snorkeling and people watching. We did go on 2 outings, first was the horse back ride to the waterfall which consisted of a 30 minute bus ride to a really nice spot where we were given a "typical" Dominican lunch of chicken, rice, beans and bread which I found really nice. Then we were size matched to our horses and assigned a personal guide that walk/ran beside us for almost the entire 40 minute ride up and back from the waterfall. These guides were really nice people who made sure the horses behaved. The trip through the mountains and foothills was wonderful and definately one of my highlightsl. The waterfall was a welcome and refreshing site but not what I imagined from the pictures. The pool was quite small and the water very turbulant. Only 3 people of 25 went in. At the beginning of the ride a young guy who speaks French,English and German explained to use about the poverty (that I had witnessed first hand already)in the area and asked that if we pleased a tip would be appreciated. At the end of the trip I didn't see one guide with their hands out which I really appreciated. My wife and I both gave our guides $10us which we felt the truly deserved after just walk/running up and down the mountain, as well as help people up and down the very steep steps to actually access the waterfall. I was appauled at a fellow Canadian the boasted at giving $2 and buying her guide a beer.

Other Comments:
Overall good holiday, but we will not be going back there anytime soon.

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"Loved the resort, but the bus ride was the deal breaker for me"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Tanya  on Mar 5, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2010 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
1267 people found this review helpful

El Portillo
Samana DR

We bought the Bahia Routlette and stayed at the El Portillo in Las Terrenas from Feb 25th to March 4th

Your Arrival:
We flew with Air Canada Vacations and the flight was OK. Personally, I would suggest that Air Canada Vacations find another food supplier than Quiznos, as the food is not worth the money you have to spend on it. That is when they have enough to go around. They ran out of sandwiches by the time they got to our row, so we were offered breakfast sandwiches instead. We had to pay for them but I heard some others on board made a fuss and got them free. Anyway, enough about that, as it’s a moot point. They will not change this service as long as they make money from it.

We arrived at the El Catey airport and were whisked right through immigration and right onto the bus. No beer to buy, no time to go to the bathroom, no downtime at all for people getting off a 4 ½ hour flight before putting us on a bus for another 1 ½ drive. (In reality it is actually closer to 2 hours) Our bus didn’t have a good working air conditioner so the bus drive was very long and hot.. now, an addendum to this comment.. some of our friends went on the “small” bus and their trip only took 45 minutes as they went up over the mountains directly, whereas we on the “big” bus had to go all the way down to Samana then back up to Las Terrenas as the direct roads could not accommodate the larger bus.. they didn’t mind the drive at all. It was a deal breaker for me and although the resort was mostly wonderful (as described below), I won’t subject myself to that bus ride again. My hubby was in complete agreement, as were many others we spoke with.
Check in was done on the bus, so that was a plus. (Although if I were working at the front desk I would not want to deal with people getting off that bus ride either! )

One thing we did notice was the fact that our plane was the only “English” speaking plane at the resort. There was a plane load from Helsinki also, but most of the guests at this resort seem to hail from French speaking Canada. Apparently they don’t teach manners where these people come from, and they certainly don’t teach them to their children. I don't normally have issues with others but I can honestly say that I have never witnessed more disrespectful behaviour with a distinct lack of common courtesy to others around them, in both the children and the adults.

We went directly to our room, which was in building 18 and was on the 2nd floor in room 204. This suited us perfectly. It was a standard room, but was nice and roomy, had a king sized bed, a balcony, a decent bathroom with a jet tub (unfortunately our plug would not work so I couldn’t make use of the tub) a shower, satellite TV and bathrobes to wear during your stay. Nice touch. We did have to have our room sprayed as I was getting bit at night by mozzies or no-see-ums.. we had both in the room. I mostly got bit on parts that would stick out of the blankets at night.. it got better once the room had been sprayed, but I started wearing bug spray to bed and then daily around the resort as I was getting bit quite a lot.. I saw others with many bites too..

Restaurants and Bars:
The main bar is in the same building with the lobby, but occupies the back half of the large facility. There is “veranda” seating in a triangle pattern around an open “garden” and one large section is smoking whereas the two smaller sections are non-smoking areas, although smoking is permitted at the bar which is located in the same section as non-smoking seating.

The pool bar was open daily (weather permitting) from 10 am to 6 pm and Augustin and Joel were the main purveyors of fine beverage at this locale. They were exceptional every time we stopped by.
We did not get up to the bar at the quiet pool so I can’t comment on the service there.

The beach bar was open daily (weather permitting) and Justino was the main man here..

The Beach grill and bar was another option. All of the bars were consistent in the drinks they made and the service they provided. When it rained the only bar opened was the lobby bar, which was staffed with Augustin and Joel as well as the main staff from this bar.

The buffet was more than adequate and most nights the food was better than what we either ate at the a la cartes or our friends ate at the a la cartes.. Weather permitting, outside every night, Nicolas runs the BBQ. That man grills the best steak I have ever eaten in the Caribbean.. No skirt steaks there.. better grade cuts grilled to perfection every time. Although my hubby, who is a bit more of a steak connoisseur than I, said he figured they were marinated. They were “cut with a fork” tender every time.

We ate in the Seafood restaurant. I had salmon cooked to perfection on rice, hubby had a tough as shoe leather steak served on ice cold potatoes.. I would have preferred with dinner veggies but they weren’t offered. Our waiter Anthoni was very good however, and deserved every bit of the tip we left him.

The other restaurant we ate at was the Gourmet Restaurant. While the food was good for the most part (my pork medallions were anything but tender) the service was crap, as our waiter “forgot” we were sitting there and we waited for almost 45 minutes for him to come take our order. The people that came in behind us were already on dessert by the time we got our orders taken. I could understand if it was busy, but we were one of only three tables in his section.. needless to say, his tip was much smaller..

We did not eat at the other two a la cartes but our friends did. They enjoyed the Italian very much, but said the service at the Oriental is very slow. Their reservation was for 6:30 and they didn’t get out of the restaurant until after 9:30. Oriental does not mean Chinese only as most people expected. They serve sushi, and various traditional dishes from several Asian countries.

They set up a sushi bar at the beach one day. I was in heaven. It was very good. What a nice treat.

The beach was wonderful. White powdered sand which turns to tan colored down by the water. Yes, I have been to Punta Cana, so yes, I can compare it to there.. there are very close similarities. Punta Cana is a bit softer and whiter, but this isn’t anything to complain about.. it’s a gorgeous beach.. The towel game is in full play, but it seems some people play by different rules.. (see above for referrals to who I mean). The beach is great to walk, but at the resort boundaries, be aware of the man with the big shot gun. He won’t let you go out alone if you are a single female, and even if you are a couple, he may make you sign out when you leave the property..

Do partake in the weekly Beach Party on Wednesday night. It’s a blast!

Also.. sand fleas are alive and hungry. I had to wear Off on my ankles on the beach or I got bit..

We only spent time at the main pool one day, but found that parents would rather let their children run, scream, and splash and generally make life unbearable for others trying to enjoy the pool. We did not get to the quiet pool but our friends said they enjoyed it very much when there weren’t kids there.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We booked the couples massage for $70 per person. With that you got 15 minutes in the hot tub and a 50 minute massage side by side. It was first class pampering from the minute you walked in the door until you walked out feeling like a million dollars.. I could have spent all my money on their other services too.. highly recommended

We did the whale watch. It was great. I have one point of suggestion.. when you see the boat staff standing there with a bucket of Dramamine TAKE ONE! Or two.. They aren’t pushing drugs on you.. they aren’t standing there offering them for the good of their health.. they are doing it for your own good.. most people took advantage. One mother made a comment about how she wasn’t putting those “third world” drugs in her 3 sons bodies.. bet when the three were heaving ho over the side she wished she had rethought her logic..

Some of our friends did the catamaran. They weren’t overly impressed. They have done catamarans everywhere they’ve gone, so they have something to compare to. Only rum and cokes or water to drink on the boat and then they put you on the island for 3 hours where you have to pay for drinks (at $4.50 US per) $1 to sit on a plastic chair and $3 to sit on a cushioned lounger. Food was available to be cooked for them.. lobster was $20 for a small one and $40 for a larger one. Fish was chosen from fish hanging from a tree.. they would have gone for that but when they noticed the flies were already relaxing on the fish they opted out of the food..
Our other friend did the El Limon waterfalls. She loved it. But she was very stiff and sore the next day from both the horse back ride and the climb down to the falls.

Other Comments:
The staff was great! No complaints there. Our favourite waitress was Yahaira (Ja-High-ra) who was from Haiti. She went through a world of tragedy with the earthquake and still has a smile and a sense of humour that lights up the room. She waitresses the lobby bar and we often went there just so she would serve us. She has a 6 year old boy and she is working hard 9 ½ hours from home to help her husband afford to rebuild their house so their little boy can stop sleeping on the street. Her 27th birthday is March 21st. Wish her happy birthday if you see her on that day. Ask her to do her Michael Jackson impression.. it’s a hoot!

The Animacion team was terrific.. Luis, Santo (Tobi) Carlos (Hot Chocolate), Enimencio (Eminem), Ana (Ana Banana).. they were all great. Everyday was a new costume and a new way to make people smile.. They put in long days and still manage to smile. Maxi and the photog staff were great too. I can honestly say that the whole staff, from the maids who always smiled and said “hola” to the front desk staff and everyone in between, were simply a joy to deal with on a daily basis. We gave Simon, who works in the Tours office a bag of baseballs and gloves and hats to take to his home in Las Terrenas and give to the kids there. They have a baseball school, and the equipment was gladly received. You would have thought we had given him a million dollars. We wished we could have.

The lobby was big open and very clean. The marble floors were polished to a mirror finish. Beautiful but dangerous when wet.. as were the ceramic tiles on the pool deck. One elderly lady slipped and fell and hit her head on our way to the info session, as it was raining that day. To the left of the front desk is the internet “café” which consisted of two lap top computers which did not always work properly. The cost was $12US per hour to use. Next to those computers was the guest services desk where you booked the a la cartes. We booked 2 rather than the 4 we could have done, but more about those later.

One other thing I must comment on is the automatic lights in the public bathrooms. I LOVE the idea. When you walk in the room the lights come on with motion sensor. They shut off after a preset time of no motion, say 5 minutes. Great energy saving idea!

Directly right of the front desk was the Lobby Shop. You could buy just about anything there from beer, souvenirs and snacks to decongestant. The Tour Desks were located to the right of the shop, but down a hallway. There was also an ATM, which we used with no problem. It offers service in English and Spanish, but pays out in Dominican Pesos.

All in all this is a fantastic resort, despite the rude guests, the horrific bus ride and the 2 ½ days of rain, (which is no one’s fault). Would I recommend it? Definitely. Would I go back? Probably not.. unless the price was “really” right.. or I could be guaranteed to go on the “small” bus!


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