CanJet was about an hour late leaving Fredericton, the compressor on the starboard engine was broken and required an external boost. Once in the air the flight was smooth, the food good and the latest 007 movie was fun. Emergency exit row 16 has good leg room and the seats recline on this 737. Landing at POP was as smooth as that runway can manage. Immigration and customs were a breeze and there were beer vendors near the bus. A few stops at Playa Dorada and then on to Riu. Even with stops, the trip wasn’t 40 minutes. Two couples for Bachata and about half a bus for the other Riu’s. We are 50ish and wanted a similar crowd. Arriving very late, Kelvin, the night manager quickly delivered us to nearby building 9, 2nd floor where sandwiches and fruit were waiting. We had requested a building with a bay or sea view and were told that it would be arranged in the morning. Room #921 was clean and well laid out. We wandered down to the late bar and had a drink and another sandwich before hitting the sack. Bed was a king and very comfortable. Next day we were moved to building 1, 2nd floor, #123, overlooking the quiet end of the beach and reef and view of the surf towards the headland with wedding kiosk. Again, a neat and clean room where everything worked; a large safe and a good working AC too. Two double beds made up separately but pushed together. Firm but very comfortable. One soft and one firm pillow each. TV channels 1 to 100 with about 10 English and some sports and golf. No weather channel. Rum, Brandy, Vodka and Gin in the dispensers and a fridge with Brahma, Pepsi, mixes and 4l water. No ice tray. Plenty of closet space and lots of hangers. Hair dryer but no coffee maker or clothes iron. 110V, slightly recessed sockets so an ext cord would come in handy. This is a beautiful resort; mature coconut palms and mangroves; manicured lawns seeded with a sedge or herb, like thyme. (Hence the “Please don’t walk on the lawns” signs) Flowers in blues, gold’s and reds are everywhere. Petunia and Hibiscus varieties. Green mountains tower behind the property and 270 degrees of ocean, bay and reefs are the signature views from the Bachata.
Every morning the entire property is raked and cleaned. All day, the grounds keepers work at making everything perfect. While researching this property, we used GoogleEarth to have a good look. What we didn’t realize until we got there is the beach is actually much wider than the photos show. There are so many shade trees; it’s hard to see the top 200 feet of beach in the satellite shots. Indeed, the Mambo beach is widest and sandy and the beach narrows towards the Bachata end at the point, but there’s lots of room and more than enough loungers. Wear water shoes at the Bachata end because its beach is sandy but once in the water, the bottom is muddled corals and bits of shell.
We are beach people so we didn’t hang out at the pools but they are big and there are plenty of bars. Claims are staked on the poolside loungers by 9AM so stake out early and we never heard a complaint about missing towels. There is a separate pool for the kids and, on the beach, a children’s play area is supervised. Beach volley ball, ping-pong and lots of games and activities by a frenetic animation team. The massage hut on the beach is a favorite here and women offer hair braiding services by showing photos of their work. A paved walkway follows the beach for the entire length of the 3 resorts and almost every bar/restaurant is just off this trail. The staff is fantastic. Front desk staff is as good as any in the business. Multi-lingual and competent. Not once was there a shoulder shrug or a lame excuse; just a sincere interest in making everything perfect. Marguerite knows everyone on staff and is very cool under pressure. A frazzled, mother-of-the-bride-to-be from Manitoba was politely and professionally attended to, all the while, I was being bought up to date on the history of the area. Charlie, whose job is to call each guest and ask if everything’s okay, helped me try to reach our charity to take the 40 odd pounds of educational, medical and personal goods that CanJet allowed at no charge. In the end, the front desk staff made arrangements to deliver the goods for us. Wait staff were great too. Argentis, at breakfast, made sure we had a great spot on the patio and Jose …. Well, what more can be said; Jose had fresh picked flowers and a candle on our table every night at our outdoor table. Caught him picking the flowers, himself, one afternoon and took a photo to send to “Zachsmom” and family in Ottawa who gave us some great advice and told us about Jose. (find him on the buffet restaurant patio, right side) There was plenty of staff at every bar. Slushy drinks with or without alcohol and many international brands. Brugal and Barceló rums are on display. Almost instant service, every time. Genuine thank you’s for tips too. Nice. Every bathroom has a staff member dispensing hand sanitizer and another person dispensing at the entrances to restaurants too. Internet service is available and the two staff I met were very helpful. WiFi showed some bars but no connection. Plugged my laptop into the wired network. Slow but better than Morse code and cheaper than a phone call. As noted by others, the A La Carte we tried wasn’t as nice as the buffet. The house wines aren’t what a wine drinker would expect and beef-steak wasn’t the house specialty. The best place to eat lunch is the same place that becomes the a la cartes at night. Whatever is on the nightly menu is featured during the afternoon at this buffet. The pork, sea bass and salmon were great and there were fries, dogs and burgers that tasted very much like the frozen burgers we get at charity BBQ’s at home. Ketchup was pretty good. Breads, rolls and pastries were fantastic at all restaurants. And ice cream to die for. The main buffet restaurant was better than any yet. So many choices for many tastes. Fresh fruit, cooking and carving stations. The morning omelets and the evening roast chicken were very tasty. The resort was full but there were no line ups unless you arrived late or close to closing. An obvious attempt to make all nationalities comfortable was very apparent.
Breakfast had cheeses of every kind, cold cuts and breads for some; Great bacon, eggs any style and toast for others and bangers and mash, and piles of pastries too.
The fresh fruit smoothies (love the mango) were very nice. Too bad there wasn’t fresh OJ and Champagne. Dinner had fresh pork, several types of fish, roast leg of beef, goat, pork-hocks, chicken, sushi and more. So many side dishes, I had a full plate with just a taste of each. There were plenty of wait staff and bus boys; Management was always present. Fine linen and nice glassware; monogrammed tableware and good silverware make this closer to a 5 Star than a 4 Star. We chose to do a private tour with a local operator on the first rainy day. Our first choice was always busy when we called but we were fortunate to find a real gem. Professor Fausto Guzmann is the definition of a DR tour guide. Always ready to introduce you to his friends and associates, he provided the most fun we’ve had in years. When we walked, our driver, Hito, shadowed our every move; his Camry always ready for us. A personal introduction and tour of the Amber museum by the manager. The drive and walk in the barrios, the kids waiting for us at a lookout and the one legged man at the cash machine across from the old church and the happy faces when Fausto brought us into the shops, cigar makers and jewelers workshops. We met a wonderful old man in a back shop who, by local acclamation, churns out almost all the “bent-over-palm-trees-on-the-beach-at-sunset” oil paintings with/without flocks of birds that are sold in Puerto Plata. He paints family portraits for the locals as his profession. Prof. Fausto was a high school teacher of English, Spanish and History. Before hiring, I checked him out with some locals and resort staff who told me Fausto is president of a local citizen’s group and fights for services like water and transportation. A trained history teacher, we learned more interesting things than we ever could on a tour bus. A stop by the old fort, seawall, port, a cold Presidente in a neighborhood cantina where the locals checked out my snowed-in home photos then a tour through a new subdivision named Alto something where the houses were all walled, gated and guarded. We somehow managed not to hit a crazed moped or motorcycle and not trip into the gutters that line the streets. The perfect tour; 3.5 hrs for $65, car, driver and the Professor, including tips. Arrived back at the Bachata with treasures, photos and memories … not once worried about our safety. Priceless! There is a great retail area, Caribbean Street, between Merengue and Bachata that caters to the stay put shoppers. Prices are quite negotiable and it’s a great place to practice your bargaining. There are local vendors set-up in huts at both ends of the property too. Very good prices and pretty good quality at the bay location. Alberto at hut #2 is a load of fun. Average $10 per items like earrings, rings, bracelets and pendants in Amber, Larimar and Pink Coral. (5 for $50) Vendor #9 will sell you 3 – XXL Presidente/Made in DR, T-Shirts for $9 each. They’re $20 each elsewhere. We didn’t get to the Mambo beach vendors. Remember to apply for your Riu Class membership at the front desk. Doesn’t cost anything to join and the ID card gets you 20% off Riu logo (not bad) merchandise in the gift shop and 10-15% off other items, massages and at stores in the resort. Also collects reward points for your next visit to a Riu property.
Nightly entertainment was fun and well attended. Lots of audience participation, good music, dance and humor.
Weather was off and on all week. Sunny with clouds, cloudy-bright and very warm and humid. No sweaters in the evening. A couple of showers and a heavy rain once, over night. We were on the beach all but the one day when on tour. There were no mosquitoes. Not one. Just a few honeybees. Didn’t use any repellant all week. Had a good tour of the Dorada complex on the return to the airport then a quick run through security and immigration. Flight was a little late and the movies didn’t work. Sat up front with the attendants from Newfoundland and had a great trip, good food, good chats and a nice view. The drug sniffing dog was a good diversion while watching the baggage conveyor run and quit and run again. Ran the rat maze to customs and were out in 5 minutes. The snow squall was depressing.
We are already planning for next year and would recommend this resort to our friends. PM’s to Spunky.