Resort rating – In comparison to other resorts in Puerto Plata or the Playa Dorada area, it is a 4-star resort. However, it will be a 3-star resort in comparison to resorts in Jamaica, Barbados, Aruba, St Martin, etc.
Restaurants – There are 4 restaurants within the resort. The general buffet restaurant with 3 ala carte restaurants, Oriental, Mexican & Italian. The oriental restaurant, Lotus, and the Italian restaurant are very nice and fairly classy with the Mexican, Pancho Villa, being casual. We found the food in all 4 restaurants to be very good, even after 14 days at the resort. It was the first time I tried the goat and it was very good! There is a fifth restaurant being built, Caribbean Restaurant, that should be ready sometime in February ‘07. It is on the beach and open aired – will be great once it is finished.
Reservations are required in the ala carte restaurants with 2 seating’s available, at 6:30 and 8:30, nightly. However, the Mexican restaurant is closed on Fridays. Men are required to wear long pants/slacks in the ala carte restaurants. Although this is mentioned in the travel brochures, the orientation sessions and the reservation letters, male guest still arrive in shorts. The main buffet restaurant has smoking and non-smoking sections that is great for non-smokers.
Gym – There is a small but very well equipped gym available. The equipment is brand new and should remain new as it was hardly used for the 14 days we were there.
Rooms – We found our room to be a bit small even though we booked a “Royal Suite” that was described as more spacious. Other that the size, the room was quite nice but basic. There was a 19” television with a DVD player, fridge & bedside clock/radio. The room was cleaned every day with fresh towels provided – 4 bath, 2 hand, 2 wash and 1 floor. Brand new bathrobes and terry cloth slippers were also provided.
The fridge was re-stocked every day with domestic beer, pop and bottled water. You were also provided with 2 x 1.5L bottles of water to brush your teeth with, should you choose to do so. Although we did not drink the water directly from the tap, we brushed our teeth with the tap water and suffered no negative consequences.
Pools – There were 4 pools within the resort. The “activities pool” was just beside the buffet restaurant and the outside bar. As the name suggested, it was busy with diving lessons, swimming lessons, water polo, etc.
The “main pool” was a wave pool that had wave action for 20 minutes every 40 minutes. There were 2 water slides that were lots of fun for both kids and adults alike. There was a bar/grill within the “main pool” area for your convenience as it was a 5 minute walk to the buffet restaurant. There was a “kid’s pool” for pre-schoolers – we cannot comment as we only saw it at night as we were strolling around the resort after dinner. There was an “adults-only pool” that was assigned to the guest of the “Royal Suites”, the adults-only section of the resort. The “Royal Suite” guests wore a different colored wrist band that allowed use and access to the “VIP Club House”, the “adults-only pool”, the “adults-only beach”, etc. However, it was not unusual to find general guest using the facilities assigned to the “Royal Suites” even though they did not pay the supplementary cost to do so.
Beach – The beach was nice and we did not have a problem accessing chairs regardless of the time we got to the beach. The water is great for swimming but not for snorkeling. However, it is not that beautiful blue/green colour you would find in Varadero or Punta Cana. You can walk for miles in either direction, and there are many resorts along the way. The Holiday Village resort caters to Canadian and British guests only, so don’t expect to see too much European sunbathing, i.e. topless tanning. Other neighboring resorts, having European guest, did have their share of topless tanning but nothing to the extreme.
Nightly entertainment – From 8:00 to 9:00 PM there was a kids’ interactive show that the kids appeared to enjoy. From 9:00 to 9:30 PM there was BINGO where you could win cash prices. However; the show from 9:30 to 10:30 PM was nothing short of bad karaoke with the performers frequently forgetting their lines. As the resort only opened in December ’06, this may improve over time.
Playa Dorada Plaza – There is a plaza within a 10 minute “lazy” walk that has some fairly decent stores with prices much lower that the gift store in the resort. Alcohol, i.e. domestic rum, in the plaza is around the same price as airport duty free; but shop around as prices differ significantly from store to store. There is a store called Jimenez where you can get some terrific deals on European & British team soccer shirts, designer jeans, etc. Hugo Boss, Versace, etc jeans for US$20.00 per pair! However, stay away from a clothing store called Mara. They will speak perfect English when you are buying something but suddenly can only speak Spanish if you need to get something exchanged! There are about 2 to 3 vendors in the plaza offering tours that were much cheaper than booking with the resort.
The “Garage” – Within a 5 minute walk on the beach, left of the resort, there is a flea market. Mainly wood carvings, coral necklaces, paintings, etc.
Tours – We took advantage of 4 tours – Paradise Island, ATV, horse back-riding and the Jeep Safari. All were enjoyable except for the Jeep Safari that was far too long. The hi-lit of the Jeep Safari was the falls. It would cost you a fraction if 4 people took a taxi to the falls, paid the entrant fee and tipped the guides.
Comments – Over all, it is a great resort for guests with young children. If you have children between ages 4 – 12, it is a great resort as there are dedicated “In2Action” coordinators that will keep them busy. Teens will find it boring with little to do. Guests without children, like ourselves, could take advantage of the various tours ($) available. We heard that several guests had problems with their rooms but we did not encounter any major concerns. The toilet did not flush but it was fixed by the 2nd day. There will be laundry facilities in the near future (1 dryer, 1 washer). Although the dryer was not hooked up while we were there, it should be by February. There are laundry facilities in the Fun Royal resort within walking distance, in the Playa Dorado area (5 dryers, 4 washers). It is about USD$1 to wash & USD$1 to dry a load of laundry with Fab detergent sold in the gift shop – a cheaper alternative than using the resort laundry services at USD$1 per item.
There are approximately 17 resorts in the Playa Dorado area. The entrance off the highway is controlled by guards and there are additional guards at the entrance to each resort. Generally, we felt very safe in the Playa Dorado area as well as within our resort.
Advice – Negotiate everything! Start by offering them ¼ of their asking price. Don’t worry; you would not be offending them. This includes the various tours.
Book your ala cart meals as soon as you arrive.