Arrival: December 20-27, 2008: We were on Air Canada’s inaugural flight to Samana. It didn’t get off on the right wheel as they didn’t have the flight scheduled or there wasn’t a plane ready or something? The details were a little fuzzy, however, they did offer us $10 per person at Wolfgang Pucks which we took advantage of. We were delayed by about two and half hours and we were sent through security with HAND WRITTEN boarding passes, that’s a first! I don’t know the type of plane, the seating configuration was 3 & 3 and had the personal entertainment system in the head rest in front of you, very comfortable three and a half hour flight. When we landed we were greeted by two fire engines spraying an arc over the plane for their inaugural landing in Samana, another first for us. We exited the plane by both front and rear exits and we were the only plane at the airport, needless to say, we were processed very quickly through customs. No cerveza at the departing area for the one hour drive to the resort. We met our Conquest rep and we were on our way in due time. Try to arrive in the daytime if given the choice, there are some breathtaking views along the way. Depending on the driver, they’ll stop for photos.
Check in took a little while, most of the people on our flight were in the same hotel too. This was a good thing as it was real easy to make friends with familiar faces.
Rooms:: We bought into the Roulette Jr. Suite deal which means we didn’t know until we made contact with the Conquest rep. which resort we were at. It could have been El Portillo or Cayacoa. We were at El Portillo, at first we were put into a standard room with a king size bed, I thought that was the junior suite, we went to the front desk to pay for the in-room safe key approximately $40usd for the week, we were informed that they had put us in the wrong room. Well, the real junior suite was even more impressive, room #8201, very large bedroom / living room area and the toilet, shower had there own segregated areas within the bathroom, very clean and no sign of creepy crawlers, bugs or anything else. We are not slobs and didn’t invite any bugs either. The mini-fridge was stocked daily with two beers, two waters and four soft drinks. Just leave a note and a tip if you want more than two beers or any other beverage left on a daily basis. If you arrive to your room without the bellhop, you need to insert one of your room keys into the white wall slot on the inside of your room to activate the power and a/c in the room. The shower had plenty of force behind it and all you had to do is place old towels on the floor to receive new ones.
Our balcony overlooked a utility shed of some kind and the property line where there was some palm trees and lush vegetation. There are no “Ocean view“ rooms as the resort is set back from the amazing beach. We were approximately a five minute walk to the beach from our room.
Restaurants and Bars:: We did not reserve a la cartes until the next day after arrival and to our disappointment, could only get one of our entitled three reservations and that was at the oriental restaurant. As it turned out, we did not take advantage of the a la carte and we dined exclusively at the one buffet restaurant. The food and variety was o.k. to good, always fresh eggs for omelettes in the morning to theme dinners in the evening. The most important fact, neither one of us had any ill effects from the food or water. I do have to commend the resort on their X-mas eve gala dinner, it was exceptional, we had caviar, crab, traditional turkey was available, they accommodated a table of twelve outside for us, live music, a special X-mas with our new family of friends.
The bars were good, never had to wait too long, there were three bars fairly close to the beach, remember to bring a travel mug, there cups are small and it is a waste of plastic. The drinks are made well, not half alcohol like I have experienced in other all inclusive resorts. They only had El Presdente on draft and local spirits, there drink list was good and we tried a few of them. I enjoyed the Caiperhinjas, a white rum, sugar, lime and some other mix, very good!
Beach/Pools/Grounds:: The beach was incredible! If you are looking to body surf the waves, this is not the place for you. If you want soft golden colour sand, great coral reefs right off the beach, then this is paradise. The snorkelling was excellent, there are still plenty of areas where you can go for a dip and cool off. Never an issue for a beach lounge chair, they had plenty, no need to RESERVE your chair and leave, I hate that. It was fairly windy on most days, but, we preferred that to the pool. We only spent literally ten minutes in the pool, we just couldn’t pull ourselves away from the beach. The pool was a bit cool, and to me, a little small.
The grounds were very clean and well maintained with lots of lush local vegetation.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:: We enjoyed a couple’s deep tissue massage on site at the spa (not the one on the beach, that looked a little suspect for our liking) for one hour. $150usd for both of us, a little pricey but enjoyable. We also went on the Cascade (waterfall) half day excursion, approximately $45usd per person, this was awesome. The drive was about thirty minutes in a unique type of bus, followed by forty minute horseback ride to a shaded rest area for the horses, then, a fifteen minute walk down to the falls, just beautiful. Go for a dip if you like, just remember you have to ride back in wet bathing suit or take a change of shorts. Bring hikers, I went in sandals and had to wear their rubber boots. Your shoes will get dirty. It is a very rocky and rustic trail which crossed the river a few times, but, the trail was beautiful in its own right. We each had our own horse and guide / horse whisperer, these guys walk the whole trip in rubber boots, every day. You can opt not to take a horse, I wouldn’t recommend this option, it is pretty hilly terrain and it would wipe you out the rest of the day. I was sore enough from riding the horses, never mind hiking the trail on foot. I was fortunate to meet a fellow Canadian who knew a thing or two on sailing, Admiral Perry! We were able to take advantage of the catamaran that is available, the shoreline is beautiful and it was a pleasure to see it from out on the water. I went out with Perry on three different occasions. Enjoyed playing Bocce ball on the beach with Perry and Bob, you can get the bocce set from the animation team where they hand out towels.
The Disco was hit and miss. We had two great nights out of three visits where there disco was hopping pretty well, thanks to Bob and his tequila shots!
Other Comments:: We are an easy going late 30’s couple and were looking for a place to catch some sun, relax and re-charge our batteries, we got this and more. The beach is fantastic, we met some new friends and had a great time and didn’t get sick. With the new airport, this area will explode with tourism, visit now before it’s too late.