We travelled with Sunwing so we flew into Punta Cana and then transported by van to the resort. It’s a rough ride and takes about 3 hours; if you’re subject to motion sickness, I would recommend taking Gravol ahead of time. Some people complain about the beaches in this area, but this is a more rugged part of the country, so if you’re looking for the idyllic beaches that you see on postcards, go to Punta Cana instead. This area has lots to offer -it’s just different.
We arrived at the resort around noon and check-in was very slow. They had several staff members behind the desk but only one person was checking guests in. Luckily, you only have to check in once! Otherwise, the reception desk was very helpful and very quick to respond to requests. Check-out was a breeze.
Rooms: Let me start by saying this is a 4-star resort by Caribbean standards, not North American or European standards, so guests need to be realistic about what that means with respect to cleanliness and styling. We had a gardenview room looking out over the main pool. All the rooms have balconies. Our room had 2 double beds (although you can request a king instead) and they were comfortable with good pillows. The TV is small, sure, but who goes on a vacation to watch TV? Other than the Spanish channels, there were several English news channels and a few others offered in English (like Discovery). There was a mini fridge stocked with two beers and two bottles of Coke/Sprite and one or two bottles of water near the sink. There was also a small walk-in closet with hangers, shelves, suitcase stand, safety deposit box ($3/day with manual key) and an ironing board. As for the bathroom, the toilet and shower are behind a lockable door and the sink is external. There is plenty of counter space beside the sink along with several drawers. There were always two bath towels and one hand towel. We later switched rooms and there we received two hand towels and also two face cloths. It was a little inconsistent but we had what we needed. We had no issues with water temperature or pressure. You have to brush your teeth with bottled water, sure, but that’s not unique to this resort or this area. On the down side, our curtains didn’t quite close all the way, we had to ask for a bottle opener because the one attached to the mini fridge was broken, and we had to change rooms because we found a baby mouse in our room one day (which they were very quick to rectify after asking if we were sure it wasn’t Mickey). We had a new room allocated in a matter of minutes and a bellboy arrived immediately after to move our luggage.
Restaurants and Bars: The resort has a main buffet and several a la carte restaurants. When we went, only two a la carte restaurants were open any given night. Reservations are made same-day starting at 8am and the bookings would fill up by 10am. The food at the main buffet was really good and much better than you’d expect for a 4-star resort. The service was also excellent. In my opinion, the buffet was better than the restaurants. We tried the Mexican and Mediterranean restaurants and then kept returning to the buffet.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach is very small at this resort and you will not find beautiful white sand and breezy palm trees hanging out over the ocean here. The beach towel shack is open from 8am to 6pm and you don’t need to leave a deposit for the towels, which is nice. Due to the location of the resort, you see the city skyline if you look down the coastline. There is an area with hanging lounge beds and raised lounge beds when you first step onto the beach, but these are off limits – they belong to the restaurant nearby. There is a restaurant with burgers and hot dogs at the beach along with a bar. There’s also a pool at the beach, but we never used it. The oceanview rooms are literally right on the beach. There’s a pool at the beach but the main pool with swim-up bar is surrounded by gardenview rooms on the other side of the resort. There are plenty of lounge chairs and the pool was very clean.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: There are a large number of excursions available through the resort. We went on two: Santo Domingo tour and Saona Island day trip. Santo Domingo tour: We’d heard great things about this tour and knowing the city has great history, we expected a great tour. Unfortunately, our trip didn’t go so well. Our tour guide (David) read off notes for the majority of the trip, said everything in four languages even though our entire tour group was English and didn’t crack a single joke the entire trip. He appeared bored and disinterested, so the entire group’s energy was pretty low. The tour covered Cave of Three Eyes, Colonial Zone, and multiple gift shops (where they leave you for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the gift shop). There are all sorts of really interesting places we would rather have gone. We had street vendors with us the entire day, even walking the tour with us, which becomes incredibly annoying. The tour cost $35 per person. You could hire a taxi to just drive you and a few friends to the places you’re interested in for less. Saona Island: The tour (again with David) starts with a two hour drive to La Romana. Multiple tour buses arrived at the same time at the launch site to take speedboats out to the island. It took over an hour for our group to get into boats, standing in the sun, with nowhere to sit in the shade while waiting. The vendors were relentless. They stop the speedboats to go swimming in the ocean, which we found a little awkward to get on/off gracefully. When we got to Saona Island, it was pretty, but again no Punta Cana. They served lunch, which was great, and left us there for 3 hours. There were only tourists on the island, and the vendors were hawking their goods endlessly. I’m not sure why the tourist boards would encourage this, as it was really irritating to most guests who were trying to relax. They were selling jewelry, massages, cigars, coconuts, coconut oil, beach hats, you name it, and even if I pretended to be sleeping, they tapped me on the shoulder to show me their wares. A relative did this same trip a few years ago, and the vendors were not allowed on the beach; I’m not sure why it’s changed. We took a catamaran back, and they loaded more people on the boat than there were seats which was rather uncomfortable for a long ride. We were asked to tip the speedboat driver, the catamaran driver, the bus driver, the tour guide. The excursion cost $75 per person.
Other Comments: This resort is much smaller than others we’ve been to. Depending on what you’re looking for, this may be a pro or con. You can easily walk the entire resort in about 10 minutes and it’s wheelchair friendly. The landscapers do a good job keeping the grass and walks clean, but there isn’t much for flowers or other coloured foliage. The resort is also located pretty much within the town, so it’s easy to go shopping or go to restaurants outside the resort without needing a taxi. Communicating is very easy at the resort. Most information is available in Spanish, English, French and German. The servers all switched to English for us (even though we tried to speak Spanish, lol) and we regularly heard French and German spoken as well. They do an excellent job trying to accommodate their guests this way. I’m not sure why other reviewers found a language barrier, as even the bellboys used English. I found this resort exceptional in this manner; if you’re travelling to a Spanish-speaking country, I’d expect Spanish. If visitors arrive in my country, I don’t switch to the visitors’ language, so well done to the resort on this one.