My husband and I have just returned from our one week vacation at the Grand Paradise resort in Samana, (Sam-ah-na) DR. This was our first trip to this region of the DR. It is a beautiful area. The resort is located in a small town called Las Galeras. Ten minute walk from the resort to town, 15 if you walk slowly. We have also traveled to Cuba, Mexico, Jamaica and other areas of the DR. We flew out of Halifax to Toronto, we had about an hour or so wait and then on to Samana directly. On return, we took the same route but had an overnight in Toronto. The departure tax was included in our AI package. On the way down we did have a couple of spells of turbulence due to the hurricane that had just passed the day before; the return flight was nice and smooth. We flew via West Jet Vacations. The Samana airport is pretty small and we were the only plane that arrived (that I noticed). We cleared the airport pretty fast. If you take fruit with you to eat on the flight, don’t forget to eat it. The baggage is x-rayed before you leave the airport so they will find what you forgot. The transfer from airport to hotel took between 1.5 and 2 hours (we dropped off people at another resort). The trip from the airport to resort is like a mini excursion. You get to see a lot of the area. There is road construction happening now, so the roads will be improved.
Check in was quick and we found the front desk staff to be friendly. Our room was ready when we arrived. No welcome drink. We were given room 1102, the first room, ground floor in the right wing of building #1. You are only given one room key (credit card type) we asked for a second and were told they only gave one for security reasons. They used to let you buy the 2nd key for $3/day, that policy has been changed and now there is no 2nd keys period! I had requested a room on the 2nd floor. I asked if we could change rooms and was told that there were none available, try tomorrow. If you want a quiet room, don’t get one in building #1. It is beside the buffet, which is beside the theatre. It gets pretty darn loud when the evening shows are on. If you want a room that is close to the pools, buffet and reception, ask for building #1. There are three types of buildings at this resort. Villas (all in a row like a motel, looked nice from the outside). Two storey and three storey buildings. The buildings closest to the reception are the two storey buildings. The villas are kind of in the middle and the three storey buildings are at the back end of the resort. The resort is spacious, everything is easily accessible.
The room was a good size with two double beds. We both found the mattress uncomfortably hard (no mattress pads, I guess we are getting spoiled). The room was clean, no mold, no bugs, no bad smells, no worries. There is some wear showing in the bathroom, this is to be expected. The hot water in the shower was a little tricky. You had to turn the water on and get the proper temperature before you turned the shower on. If you need to adjust it during the shower, it went to cold and you had to turn it off and start the temperature process over again. There is a sticker on the toilet seat showing you not to put your toilet tissue in the toilet, but to put it in the waste basket. The problem with this is that the waste basket does not have a lid. We put our wet paper in the basket and the other paper went in the toilet! We had a garden view from out patio that had two plastic chairs and a small plastic table. There is an in room safe (electronic, but you need to get a key for the inside of the door at reception) US$15 /week. Double closet, one phone, one bedside table, the armoire held the TV (get remote at reception) and mini fridge which was stocked with two pop and two water (it was kept stocked all week). We had a desk with three large side drawers, no clock, and great air conditioning. There were also two chairs in the room. The furniture was pretty nice and all was in good shape. The hairdryer was on its last leg. We did not need our converter for the plugs. There are several English TV channels, including movies. Beach towels were supplied. Bring your own facecloth. When in the room you put your room key in the slot beside the door to get electricity and AC. Once the key was removed the power went out in about one minute.
Weather – we had a nice mix of sun, some clouds and a few showers. One day it rained all day, pretty hard at times we were told. We were not at the resort that day and we had sun where we were. : )
The actual beach area is narrow but nice and long. The entry is sand except for one or two small sections. You can walk quite a way out in the water before it gets deep. The workers kept the beach clean of seaweed. No real snorkeling from the beach. There is a roped off section that you have to pay $10 to use. They take you out by boat to that spot. There were kayaks, boogey boards, and wind surfers. There is a dive shop. We had red flags all but one day and I only saw someone using the water sports equipment on the one day we had the yellow flag. There were a few vendors on the beach, nothing like Playa Dorada. They were not bothersome. Mostly jewelry, cigars, diving, and horse back riding. One guy was selling shells and another had coconuts. I didn’t see anyone with clothing or toys. No guys selling toy monkeys.
There are two pools towards the front of the resort beside the pool bar, no swim-up bar. These two pools are side by side with a nice wide walkway between them. Both pools have nets for water volley ball. The adult’s pool is closer to the back in the Lookea section. I don’t know if the adult’s pool was being used while we were there. The only people I ever saw around it were workers. I didn’t spend much time around the pool so I don’t know if they had any activities there. The other two bars are at the beach area. One in the restaurant and the other was called the Sports Bar. There is also a bar in the buffet.
Nightly entertainment – They did not have a night show every night, maybe every second night. They had a beach party scheduled one evening, but it got rained out.
Food-we had no problem finding food. Breakfast – lots to choose from. Sausages, egg station, crepe station, pastries, sliced meat, cheese, fruit, cereal, etc etc. We only saw bacon one morning and I only saw yogurt three mornings. Lunch was good also. There was always something in chicken, beef, pork and fish, vegetables, rice, salads, fruit, pasta, deserts, breads and rolls. They also had something on the grill at lunch and supper. Supper – Fish, Chicken, Pork, beef, vegetables, rice, pasta, salads, fruit, etc. Great deserts. Lots of selection. Buffet food can get a little repetitious, just don’t eat the same food every day and you will be fine. They even had goat a couple of meals, maybe on Dominican themed days. One evening they were carving turkeys another pork shoulder and on another beef. We found the beef a bit chewy. At lunch you could go to the beach restaurant they always had hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, French fries, pizza, salads, some sliced ham, fruit and usually cookies for dessert. If you wanted ice cream, you had to get that at the main buffet. You booked in the main buffet for the restaurants that were located at the beach restaurant in the evening. This time of year they have the Italian on Tuesday and the Seafood on Thursday. They also have a cash menu at the restaurant if you don’t want what is on the included menu.
Internet & shopping:
There are two computers located just inside the buffet doors (between the buffet and the theatre. Not sure what they cost, never used them. Well I did once while we were waiting to speak to our travel rep. I played solitaire. No charge for that. : ) Next to the lobby in a separate building is a Market. Take a peek, lots of stuff in there if you forgot something. The town of Las Galeras is well worth the short walk. Several shops, drug store, grocery store, clinic, restaurants and local people. : )
The activities include introductory scuba lesson in the pool, Spanish lessons, aerobics, maybe some other stuff. At the resort they have Croquet, mini golf on a grassy course, archery, table tennis, volley ball, bocce ball, and ping pong. You could rent ATV’s right at the resort. Beside the resort there was a guy with horses. This resort does offer a lot of activities if you choose to partake. We never did find the bicycles.
We did one excursion, to Los Haitises National Park. This is a full day trip that costs $178 for two people. We were picked up at the resort around 8:00 am. We picked up people at Bahia Principe Caya Laventado and continued on to Samana where we got on a boat. The park is located in the ocean off the coast. It was raining when we got on the boat. Everybody wore a life jacket and they also offered raincoats. When we arrived at the park, the sun was waiting for us. We motored around some islands where there were pelicans and other birds nesting in the trees. They took us to a mangrove forest and then to some caves. One of the caves we went to was the one that they filmed part of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. There were caves drawings in that cave. If you go on this trip, bring your own flashlight. We went to another cave and then on to Barcardi Island for lunch. Lunch was a buffet lunch, rice, beans, French fries, chicken, fish, tomatoes, cucumbers, fruit and rolls. You got water or pop with lunch and if you wanted a drink, you paid $5 for that. On the boat they had water, pop and rum. We had about two hours on the island for our lunch. Some people went swimming in the rain. Oh yeah, the rain was waiting for us when we got to the island, lol. There were also vendors on the island in shops so those that had the urge could visit them. We got back to our resort around 5 pm.
I didn’t notice a big problem with mozzies, but I wasn’t out a lot in the evening. I would bring bug repellant and remember to use it. Hubby had a few bites.
Overall, we had a pretty good vacation. I would recommend this resort to others. We probably won’t return because we like to visit other resorts. Only having one room key is a negative for us so we would not return to this resort until that policy was changed.