I recently returned from a 6 day trip to Puerto Plata, DR where I stayed at Lifestyles Tropical with two of my other girlfriends. We are three 25 year old women who wanted to do a friends getaway and decided to go to the caribbean because it seemed to be the most cost effective. Although the Tropical had some negative reviews, we had an awesome time there and I have no serious complaints. Unlike other travelers reviews, we were not bothered to buy the timeshare, probably because we are three young women. We were asked once to go on a tour and I said "No." End of story. I do have some advice for fellow travelers who are considering the DR and The Tropical.
When you arrive, you will be given two slips for your group. Each slip will tell you the restaurant where you have a reservation, and time and day.
I had read online that it would be difficult to book reservations for the restaurants, but we had no problem making reservations on the days we wanted to. Some reviews said you had to go to the concierge at 9am. We did not do this. Instead, we went around 2-4 to see if there were any cancellations. Get the Guest Services phone extension and give them a call if you don't feel like walking over. We ate at 3 restaurants- El Pilon which we went to twice (Order the ceviche for appetizer (see photo) the whole fish for dinner and the corn pudding for dessert. You will be in heaven!) Bellisimo (I think it was called) the Italian restaurant which we all enjoyed (get the eggplant parm!) and Indochine (my least favorite). The wine at all of the restaurants was excellent, and much better than at the bars on the resort. If you go to El Pilon, try the Mamajuana (a DR alcohol combining rum, red wine and local tree bark and roots) there as it is much, much better than what they serve at the pool cabana bar.
If you are interested in reserving for restaurants the nights that you do not already have a reservation, go to the Guest Services office in the mid afternoon to see if anyone has made a cancelation. Some other reviewers were upset that some restaurants had empty tables and they could not get a table without a reservation. The restaurant reserves those for people with reservations, and even if they do not come, they must still keep them open. Try not to let it bother you... You are on vacation so just relax and go with the flow. If you cannot get a dinner reservation, try the different resort buffets. The Pearl has more variety and we preferred it to the Lifestyle Tropical's buffet called the Casablanca. The Pearl located on the Cofresi side (easy to get to if you take a left onto the beach and then walk up up and up more stairs to the waterfall pools and towards the concierge center) (or you can just take a shuttle from the Tropical concierge center).
It is highly unadvisable to drink the water here, and I am not sure if my illness was from being hungover from the Thursday party or from eating salads on the VIP Beach, but it is your call as to whether or not you will give in and eat salads.
At night, Casablanca does have musical entertainment and on some days there are markets outside with jewelry and paintings.
The drinks were the best at restaurants, and the weakest at the pool bar. Honestly, its probably for the best that its difficult to get completely trashed there. If you are looking for a strong drink, go to the concierge center (the place where you check in). There is a bar there. Get the Yellow Bird, it is delish.
If you are looking for brand name alcohol, The VIP Beach is where you need to go. Anyone who books through Cheap Caribbean will have access to this place. Get the Cocoloco. Give a tip $1-$2-$5 to the bartenders/ wait staff and you will be taken care of all day.
The VIP Beach opens at 8-8:15 and has a sushi bar (veggie rolls, crab rolls) and snack shack type of food (chicken wings, veggie burger, salads, fries).
There is apparently a rush in the AM to get the lounge beds, but I was never up at this hour :)
If you want to lounge under a canopy bed, I guess get there early. Regular beds were usually available. If nothing is open, chill out in the cool jacuzzis and order a Cocoloco and enjoy watching little birds eat french fries and chicken wings off of other peoples plates!
Right next to VIP beach, there is a regular beach area with typical beach chair/ beds that you can ask to drag onto the beach below.
The ocean is beautiful!! There are some rocky areas off to the side so just pay attention and you will be fine.
There are beach vendors who have artwork, jewelry, etc. If you want to "take a look" without feeling pressure to buy, the best way is to go in there without a purse or any clothes. We went in with clothes and they were pretty pushy for us to buy. When we went in with only our bikinis and nothing else it was way better!
Before buying on the beach, *visit the gift store!*. The beach prices are way higher and you should know what the "retail" value is before you get tricked into paying way more. They take USD and the dominican peso. Also, DO NOT buy beach jewelry. None of it is real silver. For silver jewelry, buy from the gift store or jewelry store on Cofresi. I bought beautiful things from the Cofresi jewelry store and the Tropical jewelry store for reasonable prices.
The prices for paintings there vary from about 30 USD to 150 USD. Visit the gift store and see what you like before going to the beach, or resort markets. The resort will have outside vendors come in and set up tables a few days a week at around 7-10 pm. They will also try to get you to pay more! A lava stone necklace from the gift store is about 10-12 USD. The market vendors will try to have you pay at least double.
Some of the market vendors do not take USD, but most do.
The Thursday Party:
Arrive earlyish to get a good table.
Dont drink too much- the drinks are strong!!!
Resort restaurants (excluding the buffets) are closed Thurs, nite for the party.
Dance on the stage
Dont overdo it on the food.
We decided to treat ourselves to the COCONUT MASSAGE. It was so worth the $90 dollars. Gary, the spa manager, sold us the massages in a no-pressure way. He is really a great person and definitely the kindest and most personable person I met on my whole trip. We went to get our massages at 9am and, seriously, had the whole spa to ourselves. We went into a sauna, then into a cool jacuzzi. It was very private. The massage beds were a little hard, and hurt my knees. Tell the masseuse if you have discomfort. We each gave our respective masseuse a $30. USD tip. My friend had a manicure there and would not recommend it. She said they did not file her nails at all. She has short nails so this may have been the case. They also did not use a UV dryer.
We had two rooms but only used one since we did not want to separate. We slept 3 in the king sized bed comfortably.
Our room was very comfortable, and was nicer than cheap hotel rooms in the states. We stayed in building five. We also always had hot water for the shower. We left our maid perfumes that we brought to give. I handed her $20. USD when we left. ( Probably more than she makes in a week and Im sure she will spend it way more wisely than I would have). We also left her thank you notes with the perfumes in Spanish so she wouldn't be accused of stealing.
Sosua Beach / Leaving the resort:
We did not do an excursion through the resort. We left on our own to try and find the gua-gua (public bus) which runs in a hitchhiker style along the main drag. For this bus you need exact change (40 pesos per person) to give to the driver upon EXITING the bus. We ended up being picked up by a taxi van outside the resort who took us to Sosua for $20 USD (and a little more for tip). We easily found a taxi there to take us back for $25. Renting a taxi through the hotel is $75 USD round trip.
The drive there passes through Puerto Plata City. It is pretty grungy and we decided against going to walk around there ourselves the next day. (Also because we were a little harassed by the beach vendors and were afraid we would be similarly harassed in town)
When arriving to Sosua Beach (about a 40 min drive to a beautiful cove ) we were enticed to the beach by a beach chair salesman. Do not do this. Walk down further along the beach to find calmer waters with no rocks. Do not stay on the beach right near the entrance, I repeat! Unless you want to be pulling out sea urchin spikes 10 days later out of your toes :) (OUCH!)
Go further down along the beach to where there is bluer, clearer water. You can "rent" a snorkle and flippers for 10 dollars or less and bring a little bit of banana into the ocean to see the fish around you. The closer you get to the sea wall the more fish there are, and the more likely you are to get injured on the sea wall where the waves crash into it.
Walk along the vendors area for lunch and get a "Pescada a la plancha " - a grilled whole fish "con arroz y habichuelas" with rice and beans. Off the resort, having a knowledge of Spanish helps but is not necessary.
This is also where visiting the gift store before helps, so you can bargain with a better knowledge of the prices.
On a final note about the resort, if you want to go skinny dipping at nite, do not go right in front of VIP Beach unless you want to get caught by a security guard :) Go further down the beach and go in in front of the local tourist bar (usually empty at such a late hour!) or nearby it, a bit away from the resort. Then after you are finished you can go into the bar for some dancing and booze.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.