February 23 to March 2, 2002
Arrival: We traveled from Punta Cana to the Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus, which is approximately 1-1/2 hours. We had made prior arrangements for Rafael from RS Taxi to pick us up and take us to Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus. The Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus is a new hotel located near the Village of Bayahibe, 90 minutes from Punta Cana, 20 minutes from La Romana Airport, and about an hour and 45 minutes from Santo Domingo Airport. It opened on November 15, 2001. We arrived at the hotel around 2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. My first impression was “wow”. This was my first visit to an Iberostar hotel, so I can’t compare it to other Iberostars, but the lobby is absolutely amazing! I’ve never seen such a large lobby area. And the décor is beautiful. Huge chandeliers, beautiful tables, comfortable chairs, wall decorations, porcelain vases, etc.
Our room was not ready yet and we were told it would be 30 minutes. When we returned to the front desk, we were told some repairs had to be done in the room, so it would be another hour. They offered us a different room, but after seeing it, we decided to wait for the original room we had been given. The front desk staff was very courteous, however, and trying to do the best they could, as the hotel was fully booked. A short time later we were taken to our room on a golf cart with our luggage. Housekeeping and maintenance were still in the room finishing up. A last minute check revealed that our toilet was leaking around the base, which apparently has been a common problem at this hotel. However, by the time we returned to our room that night, it had been repaired. The TV remote we had been given on checkin did not work. We called the front desk and someone arrived promptly with two remotes, handed them to us and left, not taking the one that didn’t work, so now we had three, so if there was anyone there that week that couldn’t get a remote for their TV, I apologize 🙂
Rooms: Our room was really lovely, there was a full bathroom with good lighting, king-sized bed, dresser, couch and table. It was on the point of the building, so had the added bonus of an extra window and two balconies and had a partial view of the pool. We were in Building 6, which is a central location, halfway between the pool/beach and the restaurants/lobby. There was a hairdryer in the bathroom, as well as daily supplies of shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer and bath gel. There was also a shampoo and bath gel dispenser in the bathtub area. Water pressure was good and we always had hot water. There is a minibar in the room with soft drinks, beer and a gallon jug of water. This is refilled every two days. If you run out of something in the meantime you can ask for it and they’ll bring it to you. There is no clock/radio or coffeemaker in the room. We bring our own small travel kettle and coffee/teabags. We bought milk at a store just down the street to the right of the resort, they don’t sell any in the hotel shops. You might want to bring your own mugs, we didn’t and the maid kept taking the cups that we brought from the restaurant. I hid them one day so she couldn’t take them, but I left them out again after the room had been cleaned and when we returned to our room that night the maid had been in, and the cups were gone. There is a mini-safe in the room. When the hotel first opened the safes were free, but they started charging for them the week we were there, the cost is 200 pesos per week. Most North American appliances should fit into their plugs, our travel kettle was fine, but my travel iron, which has worked in other places, had a left-hand prong that was just a little too wide to fit. Pat performed surgery on it with the nail clippers, though (the iron plug, not the outlet) and did get it to fit. After traveling to the DR so many times you learn to improvise.
There are 496 rooms at Iberostar Hacienda, in 7 two or three storey buildings. Map of Resort The whole resort is built in sort of a horseshoe shape, and you can actually walk from one building to another under cover if it is raining. Each building has a central courtyard, each with different decoration and landscaping. Very beautiful. Standard rooms come in two types – one with a full bathroom, king-sized bed, couch and table, like the one we had, and the other has a large walk-in shower (no tub), an armoire instead of a couch, and two beds (they call these double beds, but I saw one of these rooms and it is more a ¾ size bed, not much larger than a twin.) They also have 36 Junior Suites with ocean view. The only difference I could see from a regular room was that the living area where the couch is is a little bit larger.
The Beach, Pool, and Grounds: he resort is huge. Considering there are only 496 rooms I was surprised at how big it is, it’s almost as wide as it is long. There are fountains, ponds, gardens, topiary sculptures, trees, benches to sit on, they seem to have gone all out in the decoration of this resort. The vegetation is young and the palm trees are a little sparse right now, but these will grow quickly. There are 3 pools. The main pool is very large, with a swim-up bar. There is a sports pool, which is about 3 feet deep, and another circular pool which is deeper than the others, about 5 ft. There are lots of shade palapas around the pool area. The week we were there the beach seemed to be the most popular spot, and there were always lots of chairs by the pool and shade available. There is a kiddie pool located at the Kids Club, which was not yet operational. Several days when we went for lunch we saw a maintenance person standing there looking into the kiddie pool, I think there was some problem, but it didn’t seem any closer to resolution by the end of the week. The beach is beautiful, the water was crystal clear, different shades of blue. The water was a little cool, but not too cold to go in. The sand on the beach is quite deep, it’s not natural, it has been trucked in and I found it a little difficult to walk in. It’s not white sand like Punta Cana. The palm trees on the beach are very sparse and don’t offer much in the way of shade. They do have shade palapas, but they need to add some more, (and I understand that they are going to) as the ones they have fill up very quickly. They are trying to solve the issue of saving chairs early in the morning by not allowing anyone to put their stuff on them before 8 a.m. unless you are going to stay there. The first day we headed to the beach around 7:30 a.m. and were greeted by the security guard waving his arms, saying “no reservations”. Meanwhile another guard was coming from the beach with an armload of towels, bags, books, clothing, etc. which was taken “someplace” for the owners to claim later. I don’t imagine this went over very well, but at least they’re trying. For the rest of the week Pat would go down about 7:15 a.m. and put our stuff out and stay there, as this is what everyone else was doing. I’d come down just before 8. As long as you stayed with your stuff until 8:00 a.m., you could go for breakfast at that point and leave your stuff there. You can walk a long way on the beach in either direction. Lots of topless sunbathing along this beach.
To the left of the Iberostar is the Ventaclub Dominicus, then some vendors stalls, and then the Coral Canoa Hotel. To the immediate right are more beach vendors and Club Dominicus Palace and Club Dominicus Resorts.
Weather and Bugs No mosquitos and no bugs to speak of! This area had the same windy weather the week prior as we had in Punta Cana. Overall the weather this week wasn’t bad, but still more clouds and wind than usual. I think there was one day when it was quite cloudy and windy. But when the sun came out, it was very hot.
There are 5 restaurants:
The main buffet restaurant is very large. There is a huge variety of food to choose from and it is very good. Most items have a sign identifying what it is. This restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is a dress code in the evening for men, long pants or Bermuda shorts are allowed. Sandals for men are questionable, the thong-type beach sandals are definitely a no-no, other types some were allowed and some weren’t. We were sitting near the entrance one night and I was watching as people came in. The hostess turned away one man because of his sandals and a couple minutes later someone came in with what I thought was a very similar type and he was allowed in, so I’m not sure of the criteria here. Suggest you pack a pair of long pants and regular shoes. This restaurant does have a no smoking section. Some of the tables for 2 are very close together. The first night we ate dinner around 7:30 p.m. and it was not that busy, but when we came out around 8:30 p.m. there were about 50 people lined up waiting to be seated. That’s the only time I ever saw a lineup. Otherwise service was very good. If you ask for coffee, be sure to say “with milk” if you want it, otherwise they will bring it without, and it doesn’t seem possible to bring the milk afterwards, they will take the black coffee away and come back with another cup of coffee with milk in it. (In the morning they go around with a pot of coffee and a pot of milk) House wine is available at lunch and dinner, but I did not see a wine list available. I noted they had a raised balcony for a band in this restaurant – unfortunately we didn’t see the band playing here the nights we ate in this restaurant. The Beach Grill and Snack Bar is open during the day for continental breakfast and lunch, until around 4 p.m. It’s close to the beach and the pool. A t-shirt/coverup is required. We always had our lunch here. The food was good, they had hot items – pasta, chicken, rice, vegetables, seafood (there are no signs in this restaurant saying what the food is, which would have been helpful, you had to ask if you weren’t sure, ie. During the week I had both fried calamari rings and onion rings, and you couldn’t tell from looking which one it was). They also had hamburgers, French fries, as well as salads and sandwich items, nachos with cheese, icecream, other deserts. Note that you are not allowed to take food out of the restaurants. They do have a self-serve coffee/tea, soft drinks, juices and water bar set up just inside the restaurant. A couple of days they had a beach party barbecue set up just outside the restaurant, with a band playing.
There are 3 specialty restaurants that you have to make reservations for. You make these reservations in the lobby between 9 and 12. I went the second morning we were there and was able to make reservations for all the restaurants. I got there around 5 minutes to 9 and waited in line about 20 minutes to half an hour. A copy of the menus is available there for you to look at.
The first restaurant we tried was the Steakhouse, which is located in the Beach Grill and is open-air. I ordered a rib-eye steak medium well and it was a little too well done, but was good anyway. Pat had the ribs. Before the main course you can help yourself to the appetizer buffet, which included salad items, fish appetizers, shrimp, etc. Then they bring a “blooming onion” and some dipping sauce to your table, which I had never seen served in the DR, thought that was a Canadian thing. It was good. The main course came with a baked potato and sour cream, stewed tomato and corn. Service was excellent. The next night we went to the Japanese restaurant. This restaurant is enclosed and air-conditioned. Most people are seated around the show tables, although there were some regular tables around the sides of the restaurant. The night we were there, it wasn’t very full and there were lots of empty tables. You could order from a menu, which had quite a large choice. Some menu items were prepared in the kitchen and served to you, while others were prepared in front of you. You are served several courses of appetizers, soup, suishi, your main course and then desert. Again, service was excellent, no complaints. On our last night we went to the Mexican Restaurant. This is also enclosed and air-conditioned. This restaurant had the most elegant atmosphere, it was beautiful. I’m not a huge fan of Mexican food, but I really enjoyed this meal. They had an appetizer buffet which could have been the full meal, it had so many items on it. Very good, and good service.
Late-night snacks are available at the Mexican Restaurant, can’t tell you what they had, we never felt hungry. Food and drinks are available pretty much 24 hours a day.
Bars Lighthouse bar at the beach – this was the most popular bar during the day. There were times when they could have used another bartender, though.
Beach Grill Bar – near the pool area.
Swimup Bar/Icecream bar at the pool
There was a bar in the disco and in the theatre.
This was where we spent a lot of evenings after dinner, comfortable chairs and tables, with table service. A nice place to sit and chat. Some premium liquor is available, as well as Heineken beer.
Staff and Service
Considering the hotel has only been open for a few months, I thought the service was excellent. Staff are friendly and many speak English.
The “Star Friends” activities staff work hard to provide daily activities – water polo, beach volleyball, water volleyball, basketball, dance lessons, aerobics. There are 2 tennis courts (lit). There is a video game room and billiard/games room. Movies are shown at 4:00 p.m. every day. One night they had a Manager’s Cocktail Party in the theatre, followed by the show, which were Dominican Folklore dancers, it was excellent. This is the only professional group they have in, the activities staff put on the rest of the shows. They do a good job, good effects and costumes, and of course they have the usual audience participation shows. We only saw two shows, it was too easy to get comfortable in the lobby bar. After the show the disco opens. Just took a peek in one night, it’s decorated in a nautical theme.
Dressel Divers operates the watersports. There is catamaran sailing, windsurfing, kayaks, snorkeling, diving clinics. Lessons cost extra, ie. Windsurfing class is $20 US per hour, private lessons $30 US per hour, Sailing classes $25 US per hour, private lessons $35 US per hour. Diving is available at $52 US with equipment. They have dive packages as well as open water certification courses. Local snorkeling trips are $29 US + taxi charge, snorkel and equipment rental $5 US, Waterskiing $35 US, Banana ride $9 US. There is a gym, beauty salon, spa with sauna and Jacuzzi, as well as massages and other beauty treatments.
There is Lucy’s Kids Club for kids 4 to 12, with supervised activities from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The kids seemed to be enjoying themselves, and at lunchtime they take them into the Beach Grill for a supervised lunch. There is also a Kiddy Disco at night before the adults show.
There is an internet access room, they have 4 computers, although only 3 were working the week we were there. They will be charging for this service in the future, it was still free the week we were there.
There is a casino trip available to Santana Beach Resort, not sure I think it’s about an hour away. Golf is available at Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog golf course, a world-class golf course.
Tours and Shopping
There are jeep safari tours, trips to Catalina Island and Saona Island, Santo Domingo, just to name a few. See your tour operator at their desk in the lobby for full details on trips. We didn’t go on any as we have done all of these trips before. A couple we met went on the Saona Island tour by catamaran, and really enjoyed it. You can go into the village of Bayahibe, which is about 5 minutes away by car or local bus, or if you go down the road to the right of the hotel, there is a souvenir shop/convenience store. If you go to the left and then cut back towards the Club Dominicus Palace, there are shops there, artwork, crafts, souvenirs, etc.
Going Home Checkout was a long process, as there was only one person on the checkout desk. As they had just started to charge for the mini-safes that week, there was some confusion about returning the safe key (the safe is electronic, but there is a key on the inside of it, which we didn’t even know that it had because it was there already). Now that you have to pay for the mini-safe, you will be given this key at checkin. Just be sure you have your towel cards, remote, and key safe with you when you check out. If you are leaving from La Romana airport, note that almost all luggage is searched at checkin, as they don’t have x-ray equipment for the checked luggage yet.
A really beautiful hotel, with good service, which should only improve with time. An enjoyable week. A special thankyou to Angelica Martinez, Juan Llinas, and Yahaira Tejeda.
And hello to Dave and Janet!