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All Caribbean hotels & resorts I've visited

 
 Atarazana

5.0 based on 3 reviews
Last reviewed May 30, 2014

 
 Bahia Principe Punta Cana

3.5 based on 42 reviews
Last reviewed May 9, 2013

 
 Barcelo Bavaro Beach & Convention Center

2.6 based on 11 reviews
Last reviewed Mar 9, 2012

 
 Brisas del Yaque

4.0 based on 2 reviews
Last reviewed Jun 16, 2014

 
 Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge

4.0 based on 1 reviews
Last reviewed May 3, 2010

 
 Casablanca

4.0 based on 1 reviews
Last reviewed May 1, 2010

 
 Eden Beach Resort

4.0 based on 1 reviews
Last reviewed Jan 9, 2010

 
 Europa Boutique

3.8 based on 3 reviews
Last reviewed Feb 22, 2013

 
 Grand Paradise Bavaro Resorts

3.1 based on 69 reviews
Last reviewed May 3, 2013

 
 Grand Paradise Playa Dorada

4.1 based on 35 reviews
Last reviewed Feb 6, 2014

 
 Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus

3.9 based on 9 reviews
Last reviewed May 1, 2011

 
 La Tortuga

5.0 based on 1 reviews
Last reviewed Apr 1, 2010

 
 Majestic Colonial Punta Cana

4.1 based on 48 reviews
Last reviewed Dec 28, 2013

 
 Majestic Elegance Punta Cana

4.1 based on 69 reviews
Last reviewed May 16, 2013

 
 Moka

4.4 based on 14 reviews
Last reviewed Apr 12, 2012

 
 Now Larimar Punta Cana (NH Real Arena)

4.3 based on 68 reviews
Last reviewed Apr 12, 2013

 
 Ocean Blue and Sand

4.1 based on 44 reviews
Last reviewed May 8, 2014

 
 Paradisus Palma Real

3.1 based on 16 reviews
Last reviewed Sep 19, 2012

 
 Punta Cana Princess All-Suites & Spa

4.1 based on 33 reviews
Last reviewed Jul 1, 2014

 
 Punta Cana Resort & Club

4.0 based on 1 reviews
Last reviewed Nov 1, 2005

 
 Rancho Constanza

2.0 based on 1 reviews
Last reviewed Jun 4, 2010

 
 Rancho Wendy

3.0 based on 1 reviews
Last reviewed Apr 1, 2010

 
 The Royal Suites Turquesa by Palladium

4.4 based on 23 reviews
Last reviewed Nov 19, 2012

 
 Villa Taina

4.5 based on 2 reviews
Last reviewed May 22, 2014

 
 Villa Trópico (Cameleon Villa Jibacoa)

4.1 based on 37 reviews
Last reviewed Jun 2, 2012

My Caribbean Reviews


Imagine ... white sandy beaches, clear turquoise sea, a delicious cocktail in my hand, the warmth of the sun on my face and very friendly people. The Caribbean is a combination of breathtakingly beautiful islands and a Caribbean way of life. Because of this combination I love to travel through the Caribbean. A holiday in the Caribbean is the perfect way to leave your busy life behind you. Sit on a beach, enjoy the tranquility and the amazing views and just forget everything around you. Do some tours, have lunches and dinners in lovely restaurants, and all what comes along with the Caribbean.


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My Reviews

33 reviews
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One of Cuba’s best 3 star resorts.
Hotel Villa Trópico (Cameleon Villa Jibacoa)

My Rating:  Villa Trópico (Cameleon Villa Jibacoa) Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted on Mar 28, 2011
Visited on: Feb, 2011 | Leisure | Solo
809 people found this review helpful

Between Havana and Varadero, nearby the town of Santa Cruz del Norte you find one of Cuba’s best kept secrets, Jibacoa, boasting just two all-inclusive tourist resorts namely Breezes Jibacoa, a four star resort and Gran Caribe Villa Trópico, which is rated as a three star.

Being familiar with the Breezes resorts I decided to give Villa Trópico a try. Despite an invasion of hundreds of jellyfish that made comfortable swimming in the sea impossible and the occasional smell of sulfur coming from the nearby oil refineries, I had a fabulous time.

I stayed in bungalow 36, which was very comfortable. The large King-size bed was firm, the water in the shower piping hot (just the way I like it!) and the air conditioner and television worked. The resort also features bungalows with a ramp and slightly modified showers, which makes them perfectly assessable for people in a wheel chair.

The hotel grounds are gorgeous. Lot’s of trees and birds and everything is kept super clean. The pool area is modest which did not bother me that much since I choose to stay most of the time on the cozy beach.

The strongest asset of Villa Trópico is the friendliness and dedication of its staff. Everyone I met had a five star attitude and showed that they really liked working at the resort. Service with a smile certainly definitely applies here and quickly makes you forget about the reasons why this hotel is only rated as a 3 star and not more.

The drinks at the bar are limited to the local Cuban brands meaning that a Margarita with golden tequila is not available. That said, the bartenders did their utmost best to make you forget about wanting one, by serving up delicious coffee drinks (delicious cappuccino’s and ice coffee’s with rum) as well as tasty Mojito’s.

One day, lunch was served near the pool area, another day we had a dinner on the beach. Not a lot of variety of foods but everything was well prepared. Compared to other Cuban 3 star resorts, I dare to say that the food at Villa Trópico ranks among the best. It is better to limit the offerings and prepare the food the best you can, than trying to offer more but of a mediocre quality. I did not care much for the nightly entertainment at the resort and I can imagine that teenagers get bored at night because there is simply not much to do. Parents with grown up kids should consider Varadero instead.

Though swimming was not an option, the water bikes and canoes were readily available. The weather was just right to let myself float for about an hour on the calm water before paddling back. I also took a great ride on the catamaran.

On most days, jellyfish don’t spoil the swimming party and Jibacoa is perfect for diving and snorkeling thanks to the coral reef just off the shore. Looking down from my water bike into the crystal clear water I could spot many fish of different shapes and colors. Being an ideal location for easy snorkeling automatically means that the beaches are not as sandy as those of -for example- Varadero. A five star staff, excellent rooms, decent food and first class showers make me already want to come back. Perhaps even to dive. Like I mentioned before, this is not an ideal resort for teenagers and people who expect to party 24/7. Instead Villa Trópico is a wonderful place to chill out, read a book and recharge your batteries.

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You love Italian? Piergiorgio is a MUST eat
Restaurant La Puntilla de Piergeorgio

My Rating:  La Puntilla de Piergeorgio Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted on Dec 14, 2010
Visited on: Dec, 2010 | Leisure | Solo
1884 people found this review helpful

The subject says it all. La Puntilla Piergiorgio is a real Italian restaurant. Non, no pizzaria, although they offer very good fresh homemade pizza's but try their fresh pasta's, the deserts, the ... well, everything!
Italian owned and an Italian chef in the kitchen makes this romantic place the best option for a good and romantic dinner in Sosua. The outside restaurant with its lovely terrace on the rocks above the water and part of the hotel Piergiorgio Palace, can also be hired for weddings.
Check out my pictures and read the article about Piergiorgio Palace in the Debbie's Blogs and Articles section of this website

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Having lunch at Casa Colonial
Restaurant Casa Colonial La Verandah / Lucia

My Rating:  Casa Colonial La Verandah / Lucia Review: 3.0 of 5

Posted on Apr 7, 2010
Visited on: Jul, 2010 | Business | Solo
1803 people found this review helpful

Gary, the retired Canadian who I just met at the golf course, tells me among some more trivial things, that he has built his own house in Cabarete and that Casa Colonial gets the honors for being the best restaurant in Puerto Plata. It is already around noon and I agree with myself that I should treat myself and pay a visit to this place right now.

Not that much later I arrive at an impressive gate where I am being stopped and greeted by a guard. Casa Conial is a 5 star hotel and obviously proud of demonstrating its “grand allure”. I tell the gentleman who I am and inquire if there is someone available to show me around the hotel before I sit down for lunch on the terrace by the beach. The guard makes a quick telephone call and raises the barrier that blocks my path. I proceed to walk on the gravel towards the hotel.

Two porters, dressed in a white outfit stand each on one side of the large glass entrance door. Julián, a tad overweighed, slightly feminine man wearing some kind of sailors uniform and a topi on his head, kindly greets me and shows me around the premises in a way he must have done a thousand times before. My tour starts with the hotel and the adjoining building, we pass the plush restaurant, which only opens for dinner, the spa, the rooftop terrace with infinity pool and finally arrive at the raised terrace at the back of the hotel. Due to the quiet season, the tables, all with crème colored parasols, are being set at half capacity meaning that just 2 chairs per table have been dressed up with a pillow. I figure that the only other guests are Dominican, probably hotel staff. Their loud behavior does not fit well with the ambiance and is inconsistent with the ambition of the hotel.

Luz, the waiter, hands me a menu, which I study meticulously. The sandwiches, quesadilla and salads are priced between expensive and way too expensive. Based on my extensive restaurant experience I can I tell you that none of the food offerings are worthy of the excessive prices. Today I will end up paying too much.

Food:
Although the Club Sandwich does also appeals to me, I decide to go for the chicken filled Quesadilla, which without upfront intend also turns out to be the cheapest item, ringing in at 390 pesos ($11.75). The plainly served, average sized, good tasting quesadilla comes with three small dishes filled with Crème Fraiche, Guacamole and a freshly prepared salsa consisting of tomatoes, bell pepper and onions while a glass of fine white wine arrives with a small basket containing two kinds of French bread and butter. To round of the experience I order a double espresso that would pass the taste test of the most discerning espresso buff.

Service:
The service is how it should be, clean, courteous and fast. My astray is being refreshed after every cigarette. A piece of moist paper prevents the ash from being blown all over the place by the wind.

The final bill comes to 1115.10 pesos ($ 31) for a simple lunch. I come to terms with the fact that it is the location and the reputation of the hotel that also needs to be compensated. Before I can afford dinner at the Casa Colonial, I have to save up a little longer or marry an affluent man.

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Great time in Jarabacoa.
Hotel Brisas del Yaque

My Rating:  Brisas del Yaque Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted on Jun 4, 2010
Visited on: Jun, 2010 | Business | Solo
1926 people found this review helpful


The cozy feeling that comes over me while approaching the center of Jarabacoa, a little town in the “Dominican Alps” with many boutiques, cafeteria’s with nice outside patio’s, a gym, plenty of restaurants and even a stationary store, is an early indication that my stay here is going to be fine.

It takes me way too long to find my hotel because of the one-way streets, traffic mayhem and the absence of a map. A tip in case this happens to you too: pay a scooter kid 50 pesos to guide you directly to your destination. Within minutes I park my car in front of the hotel Brisas del Yaque 1 (out of 2), tell the receptionist about the purpose of my visit to this wonderful little town, fill out a check-in form and move my luggage to second floor. My room is small but comfortable with loads of wood trimmings, a sturdy bed, a TV, Airco and a more than decent view. The bathroom is slightly worn and shows evidence of people smoking in the bathtub. Today I could care less. The shower is warm, I already like this town and I am going to have a whole lot of fun!

Upon passing the front desk, I am being introduced to a guy who is supposed to be the hotels excursion expert who tells me he will take me to Rancho Baiguate tomorrow for my Wild Water Rafting experience. I am pleased that the hotel seems to be “on the ball” assisting me with the confirmation of my reservation. “That’s ok by me, as long as you have everything confirmed and you won’t charge me an extra 20 bucks”, I tell my sufficiently dependable looking friend.

I walk out of the door in search of a nice place to drink a refreshing cocktail and to buy some pens and paper. I am glad that I will stay two nights in this hotel because I am kind of worn out from driving so much and the bad food I had to stomach the last 24 hours. One thing that is keeping me from being 100% at easy is the notion that I have to contact my office to tell them I am ok.

The hotel provides a strong Wi-Fi signal but no one at the reception desk knows the code. Stupid that is, and the Internet café down the road happens to be closed. I haul down my laptop and start walking around asking for a place where they provide Internet. Within 10 minutes or so I am configuring my computer and hear the relieving “mail is sent” sound of my Mac book. I am amazed by the fact that there are so many places that offer free connection. A great example of how things should be in the information age.

I decide to call it a night and get a good night rest because tomorrow I will need to be ready to get wet and have a blast.

The alarm clock function of my mobile phone is not needed to wake me up. I run down the stairs and… the excursion expert of the fine hotel Brisas del Yaque 1 is waiting for me. We jump in the car and drive to Rancho Baiguate where a young lady informs me that there will be no rafting today because a large group of people cancelled a few days ago. I look at my “Hotel excursion Manager” who gets ready to duck and cover. Since I stay two days in this fine town, I am assured I can join the excursion tomorrow and still will be able to make it to Constanza, my next destination, I feel that I perhaps should cut my friend some slack and send him on his way with a few dollars in his pocket. After all, I am at Rancho Baiguate and I need some breakfast. After that I will go horse riding. Total costs: $14 US. This turns out to be an extreme value for money excursion. The awe inspiring natural beauty of this part of the Dominican Republic makes me really wonder if I am on the same planet as the one I am supposed to come from.

I am being rewarded for keeping my cool with the fake excursion manager and drive back to my hotel with a big smile on my face. I greet the people at the reception not mentioning a word about what just happened with their “colleague”, walk up to my room and try to figure out how I ever will be able to explain what I just saw. It is great to witness how things that go wrong, work out for the better.

A hotel that does not offer breakfast and wisely does not pretend to be a fancy facility definitely benefits from the experiences the town, its people and the region has to offer. Good for them! 4*

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A rough night.
Hotel Rancho Constanza

My Rating:  Rancho Constanza Review: 2.0 of 5

Posted on Jun 4, 2010
Visited on: Jun, 2010 | Business | Solo
1824 people found this review helpful

Rancho Constanza caters to families and (large) groups. This becomes perfectly clear the moment I arrive at the wonderful facilities that are build against the slope of Loma de Peñón, at an altitude of 1097 meters above sea level and at a distance of 2.8 kilometers from the small town of Constanza.

Would I have known that Rancho Constanza is not set up to accommodate a guest who passes by on a whim or if someone would have paid some attention to one of the three e-mails I sent, a lot frustration could have been avoided. Having said that, I found out that all but one hotel I approached by e-mail in preparation of my trip, did not respond to any of my mails. (Congratulations to Casa Blanca)

The Ranch consists of 10 standard rooms, 1 junior suite for 2 guests and 1 suite for 4 guests as well as 12 rustic villas which each accommodate up to 5 persons. The grounds are green, beautiful and perfectly suited for families with children who certainly will enjoy the swings at the designated play area.

The young girl at the reception tells me that I am only one of six guests. I pay my bill upfront and go to my basic room with a decent bed, a TV with lots of satellite channels but without a ventilator or air conditioner. The moment I am ready to step into the shower I find out that there is no warm water available either. Normally this is no big deal when vacationing on a tropical Island but here in Constanza, with an average annual temperature of 16 degrees Celsius, taking a cold shower is kind of roughing it. I notify the reception and I am being told that in an hour or so, warm water will be available. What concerns me more is that the restaurant is closed (apparently because I did not make a reservation that includes a meal plan). I am forced to go to “downtown” to get some food. Since it is dark and there is absolutely nothing else to do except for watching the TV set, I decide to take a 40 minute walk to a restaurant…. and back.

Upon my return I figure I should try to connect to the Internet but unfortunately the Wi-Fi connection is down. There is also not one single beer available. Here arrives the moment where the girl who maintains a “don’t you know all this is normal” attitude, manages to find someone who is willing to pick me up some, thereby earning an extra Debbie flower for her boss.

While I sit down to drink my beer in the huge lobby and restaurant area, watching the girl who is watching a soap opera, I envision that by the time, the restaurant is open, the warm water flows abundantly, the Wi-Fi connection is reestablished and the huge available standing fridge is stocked with some common beverages, there should be enough guests at the ranch who could paint a complete different picture of the place.

Next time I will probably stay at the nearby Rancho Guaraguao, which was fully booked at the time I passed by to get some information, but definitely left a good first impression.

It is time for bed! The clubhouse featuring a basketball court, an infantile Ping Pong table, chessboards, volleyball, billiards, dominoes etc. are of no use to the lone traveler who passes by on a quiet Friday night.

Frankly, I am happy a new day has arrived. I will drive to Aguas Blancas, with 87 meters, the highest waterfall in the Caribbean before I return to Santo Domingo. I take two cups of coffee out of the thermos on the counter and forget all about my mediocre experience at Rancho Constanza.

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Absolutely stunning! In the middle of the pool stands a palm tree.
Hotel Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge

My Rating:  Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted on May 3, 2010
Visited on: May, 2010 | Business | Solo
1789 people found this review helpful

Following the impressive though exhausting excursion to Lago Enrique and Isla Cabritas, I pass by the Casa Blanca to pick up my luggage and head directly to the most renowned hotel in the Southwest part of the DR, the Casa Bonita, some 10 km further down the road towards the west. I am tired and can’t help to arrive slightly frustrated since for the last ten days I have been trying to make a reservation via the website and by phone.

Initially the reception at the hotel desk was not that friendly either, but to be fair I have to say that the attitude of the night staff improved by the minute. I pay my bill in cash, receive my key and Casa Bonita finally can start to impress me. My room is all right. In dominant sight I find an electric wine cooler stocked with 4 bottles of wine, priced at around $ 20 US each. There is no television. I notice an agreeable smell in the room. Not just the room but the sheets and towels also have the same nice fragrance. Less impressive are the dead or at least dried out flowers in my room. This should not happen. While the hotel is located at a distance of about 500 meters from the road, the noise of cars with powerful boom boxes still interfere with the serene environment that is definitely being provided by almost everything else. Another irritating noise comes from the motor of the Jacuzzi, which I can still hear while using the walk in shower with a wooden floor in the dimly lit bathroom. I could use another light next to the mirror.

I walk to the centerpiece and highlight of the hotel: the infinity pool overlooking the distant sea. Absolutely stunning! In the middle of the pool stands a palm tree. While floating on my back looking up I realize that this perspective is absolutely new to me. The wooden and sturdy sun loungers with thick white pillows are really comfortable. Before settling down to watch the moon rise through the palm trees, which indeed are everywhere, I walk to the bar to do my “ how good is the bartender” test by simply ordering a Margarita. The bartender, who turns out to be the same guy who I talked to while checking in, squeezes about five lime’s and pours two shots of tequila gold and countreau over the ice in the shaker. Soon my drink is being poured into a large cocktail glass with a lightly salted rim. Delicious!

The grounds of the hotel are being kept into tip-top shape; everything is being done to offer postcard impressions from almost every possible angle.

I can confidently predict that 90% of the guests make use of the elevated open-air restaurant next to the bar that almost naturally grants similar great views by overlooking the pool and the sea in the background. The design team has again done an excellent job by creating the modern luxurious ambience that you see in travel magazines. A remarkable detail is that the food, with entrees starting around 15 $ US, is not expensive at all for a hotel with grand allure. This demonstrates a certain respect towards the guests who do not have a lot of dining options within a distance of, let’s say, ten to 15 kilometers. I order the tuna with a ginger and soy sauce that turns out to be enjoyable though not emotional. The glass of white wine could have been a little cooler. Half way through my dinner a song is being played with rather foul language. This definitely should not happen and neither should I have to listen to the same ABBA song twice. The smal

l details that may be insignificant in a less expensive or less pretentious hotel stand in the way of being able to say that I enjoyed a true 5* experience. Still I would like to go back, knowing that nothing in life is perfect except for that incredible pool!

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Suzanne was ready for a change
Hotel Casablanca

My Rating:  Casablanca Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted on May 1, 2010
Visited on: May, 2010 | Business | Solo
1785 people found this review helpful

Some ten years ago, Susanne Knapp, a project manager for a food magazine at the time, travelled by train from Frankfurt, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland. A small newspaper sales ad regarding a property on the south west coast of the Dominican Republic caught her eye. She booked a flight to Santo Domingo, took a bus, closed the deal and two months later she started the preparations which would lead to the Hotel Casablanca as we know it now.

“I guess I was ready for a change”, she says. Suzanne now occupies her time with activities she likes best: preparing delicacies in the kitchen, taking care of and interacting with her guests, decorating the hotel and gardening. During my stay it became absolutely clear to me that Suzanne deems the Casablanca as her personal piece of paradise, which she loves to share with us.

My arrival is about two hours later than I anticipated because the rental car company did not have my 4x4 waiting for me at the airport. Instead of zipping right away to Barahona area, I needed to go to the downtown Santo Domingo first. Thanks to my colleagues in the DR, who met me at the airport, this ordeal did not turn into a straight nightmare. Having said that, I did enjoy the ride in my white shining Ford Ranger with just 8 miles on the clock.

The Casablanca rooms are basic; they do not have television, air-conditioning, and fancy additions like a minibar or a hairdryer. My bed is comfortable. At night a slightly noisy ventilator helps to cool me down. Warm water has to be arranged beforehand with Suzanne. I imagine that some kind of gas heater needs to be turned on for a while. I just use the tropical version of cold water. I feel that the bathroom is the weak spot of the hotel mainly because I do like a real warm water shower and expect to find this standard in a Dominican Republic hotel that costs more than the equivalent of $ 35 US a night.

Now that all people who can not handle the above room situation probably skip to another hotel on our website (may I suggest my review on Casa Bonita), I will continue to tell you what these folks are missing and why I do seriously recommend you to consider hotel Casablanca when you are travelling to this pristine part of the Dominican republic.

For dinner Susanne prepares a salad with homemade vinaigrette, followed by an exquisite fish soup, made with 100% day fresh ingredients. Toasted mini-breads with an aioli dressing are floating on top. What a fine combination! The distinct but not overbearing anis flavor gave the meal, served with a glass of nice cold white wine, a Mediterranean tough. Breakfast is also a feast, starting with a fruit cocktail that must be the best I ever tasted. Not too sweet and deliciously creamy! After this enjoyment I can pick and choose from coffee, tea, milk, mango juice, bread, cheese, tomato, the egg (any way you like it), some kind of marmalade and honey.

The impressive cliff and beach pertaining to the property are rough in every aspect. You take the stairs down to the sea level where rocks, gravel and boulders do not allow for easy seawater access, but if you persist and take reasonable care you can take a bath, like I did. Whereas everything at the Casablanca is being inspired by ecological awareness, it is the beach that underlines how much we need this kind of attitude. While walking over the rocks towards the water I witness that the sea continuously throws back to the shore what we should never dumped in the water to begin with. Hard to keep up cleaning the beach when you run a six room hotel with just three people! On the positive side, Susanne has decorated a good portion of the hotel with the more natural offerings of the ever-pounding waves.

Susanne does not have any problem assisting you in finding additional information about the area, to suggest something to add onto your itinerary or let you use the phone when you want to book an excursion. If you fancy a drink, you have a choice of bottled water, soft drinks, natural fruit juice, beer, wine or rum and everything is being delivered with genuine kindness. I am extra grateful for the anti mosquito lotion Susanne offered me since I forgot to pick up some on the way down. The peaceful, secluded environment makes it unnecessary to think let alone worry about my safety.

Several seating areas are scattered all over the property. This is great way to enjoy the grounds from different perspectives and allows you to find your perfect level of privacy when more guest are staying at the hotel. There are a lot of (design) details to discover and enjoy. The two dogs, Socrates and his son Max, pose no treat at all and just hang around “doing their thing”.

After the great dinner, interesting conversation and a nice drink of aged Dominican rum I decide is time to go to sleep. During breakfast I feel rested, relaxed and ready to continue to explore some of the most beautifully stunning, underrated and adventurous parts of the Dominican Republic.

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Coming Home
Hotel Atarazana

My Rating:  Atarazana Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted on Apr 9, 2010
Visited on: Apr, 2010 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
1870 people found this review helpful

After a 3-hour journey with Miguel, my driver, which originated from the uninspiring resort destination Punta Cana, I arrive at Hotel Atarazana, located in the outstanding Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo.

Hotel::
Hotel Atarazana feels like a breath of fresh air on a hot summer’s day when you prefer a hotel with a personal touch to a “business is obvious” all-inclusive resort.

Hotel Atarazana offers 6 beautiful adorned rooms, all with balcony although some are slightly larger than others. Berny, one of the two German owners of the property, an architect of origin, puts all his creative energy into the decoration of this beautiful boutique hotel in the historical heart of Santo Domingo while his business partner Susanna takes on the tasks of host and manager.

Service::
One of nice features of a boutique hotel is an often-outstanding service, which surpasses those of 5 star business hotels or all-inclusive resort chains.

Hotel Atarazana offers her guests an unsurpassed experience making one feel comfortable and looked after. The hotel further provokes associations with a superb bed and breakfast fused with an Asian “Zen” environment…. tranquility and stability.

Wi-Fi Internet is free of charge, the front door opens by entering a numerical code and a cozy spa offers a variety of treatments performed by happy and friendly personnel.

You won’t be surprised when I tell you I felt truly at home. I even became more aware of this fact when I caught myself walking bare feet down the stairs.

Grounds::
Due to its location it is hard to expand on “the grounds” of the hotel other than saying it has a nice and sunny patio with tall tropical flowers and plants and a waterfall, originating from a high wall, that pours into pond with tropical fish. A delicious breakfast is being served daily on this patio.

Room::
My room is situated at the front and first floor of the building. Like all rooms the ceilings are high which allows the room to stay cooler. Of course there is an airconditioner available and in case you don’t like these machines you can opt for a ceiling fan instead. De bathrooms, with a shower, toilet, cupboard for your clothes and a safe are nicely stylized as well. On my bed I find a natural silk coverlet and two nicely filled pillows. At night I leave the doors of my balcony open because I prefer the fresh natural air to a cold airco. For added safety you can close and lock the iron- gate, which is mounted in front of the balcony doors. This prevents anything but air from entering your room.

Restaurant::
Hotel Aarazana offers bed and breakfast but the owners Susanna and Berny will be more than happy to serve up suggestions on where to go for lunch and dinner.

Other comments::
This boutique hotel offers style and personal attention. Therefore I call it my home from home in Santo Domingo!

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The staff, grounds and beach save the hotel.
Hotel Barcelo Bavaro Beach & Convention Center

My Rating:  Barcelo Bavaro Beach & Convention Center Review: 3.0 of 5

Posted on Apr 5, 2010
Visited on: Apr, 2010
1791 people found this review helpful

At the start of my Dominican Republic trip, I decide to stay one night at the super sized Barcelo Palace Hotel.

My cab driver Carlo charges 1000 Dominican Peso’s ($ 28 US) for the ride from Punta Cana airport to the Barcelo Palace Hotel. One hour after landing I enter the Barcelo Palace lobby. It is the Friday before Easter and the hotel is filled up to the brim. It has not been easy to get a one-night reservation for a single room ( I am a women travelling on my own) since hotels in Punta Cana avoid this kind of bookings.

My room, # 6029, does not feature a frontal ocean view but thankfully I can see the Ocean from my terrace on the ground floor. Very refreshing after plowing through a nasty winter. Still I cannot deny feeling slightly depressed this first night of my DR arrival. This might have something to do with my 10-hour flight or the fact that I am not a huge fan of all inclusive vacation resorts. Having said that, I always felt quite all right staying in Melia (Paradisus) resorts elsewhere. Maybe I feel this way because from the first moment onwards, the Barcelo Palace comes across like a resort where routine reigns. I suppose that to some extend this is normal, but I feel more processed rather than welcomed.

Check-in::
Despite it is the Easter weekend, there is only one gentleman in front of me at time of check in and after 30 minutes I am walking with a porter to my room # 29 in building six. It is not easy at all to get the porter to leave my room and although I have plenty of experience travelling in the Caribbean, I feel slightly uncomfortable with this pushy male in my room.

Room::
My room is big, has a tile floor en smells moldy. Like always I look underneath my bed, here I discover lots of piled up dust. The bathroom also looks like it has been cleaned in 30 seconds. The mattress cover and curtains don’t look fresh, towels are old, the soap dispenser is dirty and needs replacement, the poster on the wall is way to small for the size of its frame and the base of the large standing light is rusting as are the two iron chairs and table on the terrace. Time doesn’t take it easy on most of everything.

The airco also has its routine as it kicks in every half hour with a noise that in combination with the disco nearby guarantees a sleepless night. The television channels come in fuzzy and the sound of TV is almost as awful as that of the airco. I always wonder:" Why do hotel rooms always have so little outlets available for the time you want to plug in your laptop ?" Well you get it, the room is a total disaster but to be fair I have to mention it is also sunny and the water pressure of the shower is ok. The bed is also nice and big and the safety chain on the door is a feature, which I, being a woman travelling “solo”, highly appreciate.

The minibar holds two beers, Coca Cola (light and regular!), a large bottle of water and some other types of soft drinks. There is an ice bucket available but this is of no use to me since the ice compartment ironically needs to be de-iced before it can become functional again.

Grounds::
The wide beach is nothing less than spectacular; white powder sand, palm trees and of course a marvelous blue sea. Lots of loungers too! The surrounding grounds are kept up perfectly by gardeners who are picking up leaves, pruning trees and harvest the coconuts just before they might fall on someone’s head. I see some little birds flying up and down with twigs, building their nests high up in the palm tree. Evidently spring also has arrived here.

The pathways towards the beach, restaurants, lobby and rooms gently wind through a landscape made up by lush vegetation and a vast number of palm trees. Nicely done!

Restaurants::
During the check-in process, I learned about the various restaurants of Barcelo Palace. One is closed which seems awkward during the busy Easter weekend. I can imagine that once you arrive for the first time in a large resort like this one, you feel kind of overwhelmed by all the (restaurants) choices, which are at your disposal; at least that happened to me. I decided therefore to hit the lobby bar first. The white wine is inelegantly poured out of an, also super sized, plastic bottle. After sitting down at one of the small tables, a friendly waitress offers me some bite size sandwiches decorated with combinations of cheese, tomato, ham, chorizo and some kind of caviar. Nicely and not so nicely dressed families pass me by on way to the restaurants which all are located nearby the pool. After my drink, I also decide to find out which restaurant can offer me a relaxed and quiet table to eat.

The French restaurant Chez Palace is non-smoking en does not look cozy at all due to way to much white light. The menu displayed at the entrance looks attractive to me but “ambience” is more important to me. I move on to the buffet, which many families with children seem to prefer and where the noise level on a scale from 1-10 is about eleven. After crossing the small bridge over the swimming pool I find a nice, small restaurant with a large number of folks waiting outside for a table. Not exactly what I planned to do so I move on to the Dominican Restaurant around the corner, which hugs the beach and offers local specialties. I like this! The restaurant is not busy at all; this might have something to do with the fact that many visitors are unfamiliar with the dishes explained on the menu and their Caribbean ingredients. Local food is local, so I pick Yucca Soup, rice, beans in a special sauce, fried chicken pieces and fried banana. My desert consists of a popular traditional sweet made from condensed milk with a caramel topping, which is called “flan”. All in all I enjoy a great meal although I have my doubts if the red house wine has not been watered down;)

Breakfast in the buffet restaurant is just fine. Lots of choices, friendly staff, fast and good service and fresh squeezed juices made from fruits of my choice.

Activities::
Because I only stay here one night and I have to confront the inevitable jetlag, I skip the evening show and go to sleep right after dinner. In the lobby I did see an activities board with lots of options and two desks with representatives where you can book off-resort excursions as well as various information desks.

Pool::
Way to small! Especially when the hotel is packed!

Internet::
In these modern times I think that it is a rip-off when hotels charge you for Wi-Fi. This should be a standard service! Internet costs at the Barcelo Palace run from $5 US for 15 minutes using one of the 4 PC’s in the lobby to $ 60 US for Wi-Fi, which covers the whole complex, on your laptop.

Other comments::
I imagined the Barcelo Palace to be much more luxurious, offering services of a much higher level. In my opinion this is a commercial tourist factory, lacking a sense of romanticism, a place where they forget to enhance the experience of staying on a truly fantastic beach. Maybe a new management with a fresh approach could bring a much-needed change and couple a brilliant location with a superb resort experience.

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At the base of a mountain, overlooking the lovely bay of Playa Dorada Beach.
Hotel Grand Paradise Playa Dorada

My Rating:  Grand Paradise Playa Dorada Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted on Apr 1, 2010
Visited on: Apr, 2010
1758 people found this review helpful

The trip from Santo Domingo took us 4 hours including a stop allowing for a coffee and a piece of fried chicken. I travel with my chauffer Miguel who, as some kind of father, drops me off at the entrance of Grand Paradise Playa Dorada. La Reina (the queen) has arrived in Puerto Plata for a 3-night stay.

Hotel::
Check in:

Upon arrival I am being courteous greeted by bellboy Sandy who takes my suitcase and sets it aside. I walk to the front desk to hand over my reservation, passport and business card. After some undefined “behind the counter” action I am handed my documents and being accompanied, by a friendly female member of staff, to an office behind a glass wall. I am kindly offered a seat and a drink. A different lady, who looks more likes a “jefe”, asks me for my documents and leaves. I feel that something is up. It does not take long before the lady returns with some kind of fill-in form and a silver wristband, which I surely will need to eat, drink and enjoy the other All-inclusive services.

It is only 2.15 in the afternoon, meaning that I arrived early. My room will be available in about an hour and the first lady takes me to the restaurants, which are located near the beach and where, according to her knowledge, free Wi-Fi internet access is being offered. Not so! More about this later.

While walking back to the reception to see if my room is ready, I notice that most of the guest are walking around with a red wristband and not a silver one like mine! At the reception I quietly ask what the difference might be between the two. It turns out that silver means VIP. Now I realized why the first part of the check-in procedure felt so different.

Room::
Sandy, the friendly and laughing bellboy, accompanies me to my room# 9201 and tells me that it is excellent. He is right!

The white/beige/turquoise-decorated room on the first floor with an ocean view turns out to be more like an apartment. A living area, a dining table for two persons, a kitchenette and a refrigerator below the kitchens counter, which is stocked with a Coke, Sprite, a large bottle of water and holds an ice cube tray. A door connects this room with the one next door, a really nice feature for parents traveling with kids.

The separate bedroom has a huge king-size bed and as usual I conduct my “how clean is this room test” and conclude that the maid also cleans underneath the bed.

The balcony looks out over the beach and the turquoise sea, has an area with a table and two chairs and is also super clean. Too bad: the balcony door cannot be locked. I will mention this to the reception.

Bathrooms always are prone to problems and I wonder myself: “who is actually taking a bath while on vacation?” The modern walk-in showers, which take up less space give the bathrooms a much cleaner look and make them look less dated. Anyway, this bathroom has a tub with a shower curtain that hangs slightly uneasy over the edge. The camarera found a creative solution by folding the shower curtain in a way she also does occasionally with the toilet paper or towels. Although this should not be necessary in the year 2010, I do appreciate the effort.

The hose of the shower itself is kind of short and the water flow is being hampered once you take the shower of the wall in order to use it by hand.

All in all the most important thing is that the bathroom is clean and large enough for one person.

Service::
Soon after checking out my room and taking some pictures, someone knocks on the door. It turns out to be a visit by the room service department. A lady carries an extra large plate with a variety of fresh fruits while the gentleman holds two plates and silverware. She put the surprise on the table and whispers to her colleague that I am here by myself and therefore just need one plate. As soon as the friendly people leave the room I “attack” the succulent precut pieces of melon. Delicious! This should not come as a big surprise knowing that every seed you drop in the fertile tropical soil of the DR will grow into a tree.

I walk to the reception to tell them my balcony door does not closes. The door has been fixed during my stay.

Internet::
Always a challenge …

It is too bad that in nearly every resort I visit, I have to search for a quiet spot WITH a Wi-Fi Internet connection, let alone a power outlet for recharging my laptop battery. In this regard there is a lot left to be done for the hotel chains anno 2010, the year where everyone, young and old, walks around with Iphones and blackberries.

In contradiction to what the lady at the reception desk told me, it seems to me that guests at the Grand Paradise Playa Dorada do need to pay for Internet, which I believe is a bad thing. A self-respecting hotel should offer Internet as a free service.

A Colombian staff member who sees me getting irritate while walking around trying to find Wi-Fi, tells me that normally the costs for Internet are 3 USD for 30 minutes. I say normally because it turns out that there are two available WiFi connections named GPSD and GParadise. The latest you can find near the lobby and shop and…. surprise, surprise, this connection is free and super fast! It did cost me two hours to be able to get to work. Unfortunately the next day the Internet in the whole region was down.

Grounds::
The hotel rooms are located in one of approximately 15 white buildings, all with four floors and positioned around the pool. They are connected by perfectly maintained walkways cutting through beautiful gardens. The beach, or rather the two beaches of Grand Paradise Playa Dorada are gorgeous, overlooking a bay with again abundant vegetation. I spot various type of birds, even a hummingbird!

Restaurants:
Drinks:
Paradise Playa Dorada also waters down the white wine, which is being confirmed by various staff members after I make a joke about it. Watering down wine is becoming a trend in all-inclusive resorts. You are better off drinking vino tinto, which is not bad at all. The choice of national brand drinks is sufficient. The resort only has one bar on the beach, Sinners, if you want a coffee you need to go to the restaurant.

Restaurants:
I have been able to discover three restaurants in Grand Paradise Playa Dorada. The buffet restaurant, the grill restaurant on the beach and the Italian restaurant with air co near the pool. During my stay only one of the two restaurants opened. One day the grill, the other day the Italian restaurant. The available choices at the buffet restaurant are ample. Everything looks fresh and both breakfast and dinner tasted fine.

It is a shame that the buffet staff does not change the table clothes more often. I have to put my plate on top of the food stains of my predecessors.

Activities::
The best prices on excursions you will find with Carlos, on the Grand Paradise Playa Dorada beach. Carlos is being mentioned in various reviews and I have met some of his very satisfied customers. For more “tailor-made” tours and transfers I recommend Asaira Tours operated by the very dependable Martin Espinal: www.isairatours.com

Conclusion::
An excellent hotel with a very friendly and accommodating staff. I can recommend it!

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