It was nice to head back to Puerto Plata. In 2005 we were at Sun Village, just down the street from the RIU complex. Our experience there was fantastic, but then again, it was our first time. We found the Bachata lacking in some of the great things Sun Village offered. But nevertheless, the Bachata does offer a great place to stay with a great beach and a fabulous staff. Please keep in mind as you read my account, that it was Christmas week (Dec24-31) and that may have had an impact on service levels at the resort.
Your Arrival: A 2.5 Hour delay getting out of Halifax put us on the ground in Puerto plata at around 12-1230. The porter that grabbed our bags outside of the airport was friendly, but when we asked him if any of the stores were open at the airport he brought us to the guy that is on the left hand side of the Arrivals exit at the airport. DON’T buy anything from that guy…I bought two packs of cigarettes and two beers (he insisted I buy the beers…*shrug*), handed him a US 20 and he gave me back two loonies! Our bus crew was less than great. Our host was attempting to crack jokes but his sarcasm was bleeding through a bit too much. He might as well have come out and called us ‘stupid white people’…who can blame him though, it was after 1am on Christmas Morning and the idiots who screamed out "cerevza!" when he asked if we knew any Spanish deserved to be poked fun of. And then of course there was the obligatory stops in the Playa Dorada complex to drop people off. I think the next time we go to Puerto Plata, we’ll just stay at a Playa Dorada hotel, might as well, we spent enough time there (you make several stops there on excursions and on the way home as well). We arrived at the Bachata late at night, around 2:30am, and in that quirky Domincan way, were greeted by the friedndly front desk staff and the "vigilante’ (security guard) toting a very large rifle. The person behind the desk was attempting to have us wait to be brought to our rooms as a group, but seeing how bored the ‘vigilante’ was, my wife asked him in her perfect Spanish if he’d like to bring us to our room. After telling the front desk guy to stick it, he obliged, and it was great to be escorted by someone who was more willing to help than obey what his boss asks him to do. We later found out that the ‘vigilantes’ do rounds around the grounds all night.
After changing, we headed out to the late night bar (not a 24 Hour Bar as advertised, I’ll explain later) where we encountered the type of people you encounter at 3am at a bar and sat up for a couple drinks then went to bed. 4:00am Christmas Morning by this point.
Rooms: At check-in, when we found out we had a ground level room, we asked if we could switch. That was until we got to the room. It was a couple of minutes before my wife said "what’s that sound?" and we realized it was the ocean! We were about 30 meteres from the water. A beautiful location, and very private as it did not look across at any other rooms. Hint: Request room 1105! The room was very nice. Nice Cherry wood accents and tables with a great shower with great water pressure and hot water (except at night, we couldn’t seem to get hot water after 8pm). There was a definite lack of towels in the room when we got there, and the pillows were a bit impractical for sleeping on (although being so late, didn’t pose a problem that evening). Much to be desired on the patio furniture, but the room did have a terrace (all of Bachata’s rooms have a terrace). Take the room chairs from inside and put them out on the terrace. The supplied patio furniture set looks like it could have been purchased at Wal-Mart for $11.97 and is just about as comfortable.
We took advantage of the in-room Rum Dispenser, but missed not having Sprite or 7-Up to have Santo Libres along with the Cuba Libres we had with the Pepsi. RIU is a bit stingy with the mini-bar filling. They only fill once every 2 days. That’s 4 litres of water, 3 beers, 3 pepsis, a fizzy water and club soda, but it has to last you 2 days. We were forgotten on our second day and had to remind them to bring us our stuff.
Restaurants and Bars: No Brugal or Presidente!!! What the heck is with that??!! The beer is Bazillian (Brahma) and the Rum seems to be some sort of private labelled RIU stuff (??Normandy Rum??). I want Dominican product in the Dominican Republic! RIU should be obliged to offer it! The only good coffee in the whole place comes from Nescafe branded dispensers, of which there is 4. Out of those 4 only 3 get switched on in the morning, but NOT UNTIL 10AM! Before 10am you’re stuck with the very bad coffee served in the buffet restaurant, which is only comforted by the smoothie bar and great breakfast selections. The Nescafe machines ALWAYS had at least 4 people queing up to use them at 10. (Hint: get the Cafe con Leche from the machine, it’s great!) RIU advertises a "24 hour Bar". They should change that ad to: "Late Night Bar. Open til the last drunk person goes to bed and not open again until 530pm. If you want a drink before 530pm go to the bars that are not 24 Hours" On the restaurants: The main buffet, Bahia de la Maimon, is quite nice. We had our best dinner experiences there. The "A la Carte" retaurants are horrible! It seems that RIU thinks that people don’t mind dressing up to eat dinner in the same spot that they sat shritless and ate a hamburger in at lunch. The "A la cartes", if you can call them that, are the two sides to the large all day snack bar. At 5pm, the snack bar is converted into a "Steak House" and "Italian Retaurant". By "converted" I mean they put up dividers, move the tables and chairs around a bit and put down table cloths. It’s cheap, but from reading other RIU brochures they do it at alot of their resorts. I guess people don’t expect much. The service at the a la cartes was fine with two exceptions: When you’ve converted a self serve "Snack bar" into a full service retaurant you shouldn’t ask your guests to get their own apetizers "buffet style". Seriously, serving myself? It’s supposed to be something different than what you’ve been doing all day. The entrees and desserst are brought to the table by wait staff. I say wait staff, but that’s one thing you don’t get in the a la cartes at the Bachata is "waiting". They have you in and out of there very quickly. The a la carte wait staff can be renamed ‘rush staff’.
My adivce: if you’re looking for a pleasent and slow dining exprience, stick with the main buffet restaurant. The A la cartes are not worth the trouble, and you have to serve yourself anyway. It’s a shame because the staff that work them rely on the tips.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach is fantastic. Great shade, and a very nice long strecth to walk along. At night, it is quite nice to take the pathway that runs along the beach and to the Merengue and Mambo resorts. You get to check out what’s going on at the other hotels as well as walk along the water, stopping for a drink when you get tired. There is also a fantastic stairway/walkway that when followed brings you to a point where RIU has placed a nice gazebo. It’s a great walk and great lookout point and is by far the best grounds feature.
The pool is nice. It is large, but if you’ve been to a place in the past that has a clearly demarcated adult pool and family pool then the Bachata’s pool will take awhile to get used to. The pool does have two sides, but both seem open to children. So peacful soaks with a pina colada are out of the question.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Okay, the "Cheapy-Cheapys" (guys who are ostensibly ‘selling their wares’ on the beach) wear UNIFORMS! What is with that? Their stalls are also numbered and they openly talk (in Spanish) about one ‘stealing’ the other’s sale etc. etc. Their products are ALL the same. And the numbers on their stalls also follow the sequence of numbers that appears above the shops on the Calle Caribena (Carribean Street). RIU should try to make the on-resort shopping experience just a little more authentic. Ditch the uniforms for the cheapy-cheapys, and I’m sure you can get around having numbers above all the stalls. We didn’t take part in any other activities other than shopping and entertainment. The entertainment was…suprisingly good. It had just the right mix of fun and poking fun that it should have. We watched more of the shows than we thought we would. We went off resort for one shopping excusion…"Simply Shopping" and it seems our tour provider inverted the order of usefulness of the shops we went to. We started at a relatively boring ‘souvenir’ shop (where we spent over an hour) and ended at La Sirena (less than 45 mins). La Sirena is a supermarket/department store. We were looking forward to browsing the shelves and taking our time, comparing produce prices, noticing the quirky differences etc…but were rushed in and out of La Sirena because we had spent too much time at other less useful and entertaining shops.
We hope the tour provider inverts the order of this excursion. Yes it is important that we visit small local businesses, but not at the expense of enjoying ourselves.
All in all, I would suggest staying at one of the less expensive RIUs in the RIU complex. The Bachata is, I think, overrated in a very literal sense. It is NOT a 4.5-5 Star place. Paying the cheaper rate and staying at the Mambo or Merengue will give you the same expereince as the Bachata.