The RIU properties are very grand when you drive up in your hotel transfer, but the properties lack a lot of things I would expect from a place that rates itself as 5*
There is only one pool for the entire hotel, and by mid-afternoon is packed, with many rowdy guests.
Service is occasionally excellent... there are some amazing individuals who work at this property. However, these are outnumbered by so many staff who can't even offer a smile, and make it seem like a huge effort in whatever capacity they offer (towel service, drinks, etc). Thanks so Sanchez at the buffet, Leo and many crew around the pool, and several others for WONDERFUL friendly service. The outdoor plaza area was the WORST, followed by the lobby bar. I was tipping, and still couldn't get a smile from the staff! I saw a manager several times intervening and pointing staff to tables who had not been served... I suspect there was a systemic issue going on. I understand that staff deal with difficult clients on a frequent basis, but hello, welcome to the service industry. Get on board or get out. Some of us are happy, grateful, and want to give you a tip.
My room stank of mildew, and when I returned everything I brought, including clothes I never wore, had to be completely washed. I didn't realize I'd become accustomed to the smell until I got home!!! The housekeeper responsible for my room was sweet and lovely, and did a terrific job. She amazed me... probably 8 months pregnant, and still paying great attention to all the little details to leave pretty towel art, and somehow sifting all the sand out of the shower!!
The gym was sadly outfitted, and they offered water sports you couldn't take part in because of the surf on this beach. There is a small area you are allowed to swim in, and any small boats are only allowed to traverse the perimeter but not go to the reef, offering a very limited space. I brought my own snorkeling equipment, and couldn't use it.
The beach was AMAZING in the sense that you could walk for miles on end and keep on going!!! However, with a higher tide, there was little width to walk on and it became very crowded later in the day. I went out at 6am and it was divine. That was the highlight of my trip.
You can't really leave the resort unless you go on grossly overpriced group tours. The representative for my tour kept pressing these on me, and having travelled solo through India and Southeast Asia, these are NOT my cup of tea. I had one request... how do I deliver donations for local schools and orphanages. She said I had to pay $60 minimum to ride on a 6x6 bus with 50 other people to a 'local school' and see the 'real life' of people in the DR. Uh-huh. I called the Rotary Club instead and they happily picked up my items for schools that aren't on the tour, and for children who really need the clothes and school supplies.
Food... well, I was somewhat disappointed but at the same time I'll eat pretty much anything. I've been to Cuba several times, and found it on par. Most food was flavourless, and everything is fried. I can't figure out why their tomatoes and watermelon have no flavour at all... but the passion fruit was terrific. At least I could ask for Tabasco at breakfast. The Chef's station at the buffet tended to have the best offerings... a seafood stew, curry, lobster or another specialty.
All in all, I was bored stiff, and this was not the right choice for me. For someone who loves to lie in the sun, it would probably be much more idyllic. I'd prefer to go back to Cuba... the staff AND the clients at the resorts in Cuba are so much friendlier, and that's what makes a holiday fun and enjoyable.
I had a first floor room and it stank of mildew. I don't know if higher up rooms are better or...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.