We were at the Dona Elvira for a week in March 2013. Our room was clean and comfortable with a large window that opened into to courtyard. We had a tv and a wall a/c unit. The private bath was small, but was it was clean and worked fine.
The greatest selling points of this place are its charm and its location. It does not offer the same level of luxury as a 5-star big-name hotel, but I think its charm more than made up for that. It's in a converted 16th-century mansion and centers around a courtyard with a small swimming pool. The pool is shaded by a large mango tree...a net beneath the tree keeps mangoes from bonking you on the head while you swim. All of the guest rooms (I think) as well as the common areas of the hotel open to this lovely courtyard. We ate breakfast in their dining area every morning, and it was breezy and beautiful. And it's an easy, easy walk from tons of restaurants, shops, and sights in the Colonial section of town.
The staff were polite, friendly, and helpful. They do not, however, speak much English. We were there as part of a group, and most of the arrangements had been made for us by local friends, but even so, the fact that I have a working knowledge of Spanish came in very handy.
We ate breakfast at the hotel every day. It didn't vary, but that could very well be because it was prearranged for us that way. I didn't ask. We had coffee, fresh fruit (banana, melon, papaya, pineapple), scrambled eggs with ham, and potatoes. Breakfast might have been my favorite interval of the day...had we not had places to go, I might have lingered with my coffee in the cool of the morning by that courtyard for a long time. They also packed us a lunch one day when we took a day trip outside of town.
If you are visiting the Dominican Republic, this is probably the kind of place you will enjoy if you prefer an international experience that feels local. I'm glad we stayed somewhere that felt like we were in Santo Domingo. If you prefer to have your lodging more familiar and just venture out into the culture during the day, there are big-name hotels on some of the main streets in Santo Domingo, but that would have felt sort of sanitized to me.
Having said that, and reiterating that I enjoyed our stay and would gladly return, let me list a few hints that might me helpful.
1. The safe in our room didn't work at all. I don't know whether this situation might have been easily addressed...we never tried.
2. The water pressure and temperature in the shower were unpredictable and sometimes varied dramatically during a single shower. When we first arrived, the shower wouldn't turn on at all, but they fixed that quickly. There's a dispenser in the shower with some body wash/ gel stuff.
3. On the fourth day of our trip we returned home to discover our dirty clothes were missing. It turned out that the housekeeping staff had taken our laundry bag. They washed and dried our laundry and returned it the next day. The same thing happened to others in our group. They didn't charge us for this service (we never figured out if it was standard or if our friends had arranged for it), but I should mention that a bunch of us were missing a sock or two by the time we left. :) Still, it was nice not to go home with a huge pile of sweaty clothes.
4. They have a cat and a calm, sweet old dog that meander around the common areas. I'm allergic to cats but didn't have any reactions.
5. There's a jacuzzi or hot tub or some such thing upstairs on a little veranda, next to a little shaded sitting area and a couple of pieces of ancient exercise equipment. The jacuzzi is very pretty with its colorful tile, but it wasn't clean-looking enough for me to want to venture into it.
6. Very important--there is no fence or guard rail or anything blocking the pool, which is central and prominent in the courtyard. It would be very difficult to have a toddler around it...you'd have to be on your guard every moment.
Even with all of the above quirks, we really had a wonderful time. If I return to Santo Domingo, and I may, I would happily stay there again.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.