We just returned from a fabulous week in Samana (March 10-17). The Cayacoa resort was stunning and exactly what we wanted. We wanted the conveniences and pampering of an all-inclusive, but we also wanted to experience the country and how the locals live. The Gran Bahia Cayacoa is one of four Gran Bahia resorts in Samana and it is the closest to the town- it is just a 10 minute walk down a hill to the town (or you can take a shuttle that runs every hour). The town is completely safe and lovely. If you turn to the left at the bottom of the hill you will see the section of town where the locals shop, straight ahead when coming down the hill is a row of shops run by the hotel and if you turn to the right you will head to the bay an the local market (is was open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday the week we were there). We got two big and brightly colored beautiful pieces of art work for only $20 each and they rolled them up for us for easy traveling (it’ll cost us to get them framed here, but it will be worth it)
The resort is very clean, safe, and absolutely beautiful. The staff are all so friendly and hard-working. They work 12-14 hour days, but always have a smile on their face and are so happy to accommodate you. We booked through Sell Off Vacations (and got a great deal) and our travel company was Air Transat. We arrived at the Samana airport and had about a 45-60 minute bus ride to the hotel. We had no problems at the airport in either direction. Our flight arrived in the middle of the night, since we were delayed because of a storm in Montreal, so we didn’t have to check in and the bellboys took our bags to our room immediately. The hotel even had a snack waiting in our room for us.
We were booked into the Golden Suites and they were quite large. My husband and I were there with our 11-year old daughter, so we had a room with 2 double beds, plus there was a couch. The balcony looked out to the smaller beach and pool and it was a breath-taking view all day long. The bathroom had a separate shower and bathtub. The maids work hard and do a very good job. The floor is mopped everyday and the sheets are changed everyday. She put flowers in our room and we had the typical shapes made out of our towels. I left her little gifts and a dollar or two every morning. She also did a quick clean-up every evening and put chocolate on our pillows each night.
There are about 125 stairs to get to the main building from the suites, but we got used to it. It was a good way to get a bit of exercise.
We spent most of our afternoons at the main pool. We never had a problem getting a lounge, no matter the time of day. The swim-up bar is great and this is where the animation team spends most of their days. They work so hard and are sweet and friendly, but the music was a bit loud by times. If you are traveling with kids, bring a floaty device and goggles- my daughter spent hours on end entertaining herself in the pool.
The smaller pool was by our suites and we spent the later part of the afternoon there. Around 4:30 or so we would go there for a snack (great sandwiches, hotdogs and burgers) and then basically stay there until they were closing up the pool (around 7:00 or so).
The main beach is very nice, but not large. If you are looking for a long stretch of beach to walk for miles- this is not it. It is well-maintained and you never have trouble finding a hut and lounge chairs. The sand is nice and the water is great for swimming and boating. We took the Hobie catamaran out everyday and went sailing, so that was fun. My husband tried wind-surfing a few times and there were also 4 kayaks. You never had to wait to use any of the water equipment. I collected a lot of shells along the beach and on the weekend when the locals were there my daughter had a great time playing with them. There is a bar on the main beach and an elevator leading down. At the far end of the beach you can get on the cool bridge that you see in all the photos. It is not owned by the hotel and it is not well-kept, but it was safe and a fun walk.
The smaller beach was OK, it wasn’t as clean as the bigger beach, but it was very quiet. This is the pickup point for excursions, since there is a dock leading out of this beach.
The buffet was well-stocked and had a variety of food. It got a little tiring after a while, but any buffet would. There is fresh pizza and made to order pasta every lunch and supper, so my daughter loved that. The breakfast was especially good, with made to order omelets and eggs, plus a large selection of fresh fruit, breads and hot food. There is a theme every night for supper.
We only did the Italian restaurant and it was very good. Our service was excellent, although friends of ours went the night before and didn’t have great service. The lamb was excellent. We heard differing accounts of the restaurants in general, but it is a bit of a change from the buffet, so it is worth trying.
No one we knew got sick from the food- it was always well cooked and they used purified water for everything.
Playa Rincon: We did a few of these and I have one strong recommendation- hire a taxi!!! They are very reasonably priced and can hold up to 6 people. Most of the excursions are over-priced and the hotel keeps half of the money. We hired a guy named Zoilo and his English was super. He was so open and friendly- we learned so much about the culture and lifestyle of Dominican Republic, it was amazing. One of the bell boys (Francesco, I think) called him for us and it was $90 for the full day (9-4:30). The guest service guy in the golden room, Jose (who was super amazing too) also had a friend to take us, but Jose wasn’t working the day that we were looking to book. Zoilo took us to Playa Rincon and stayed with us the whole day. He helped us choose our fresh fish and lobster for lunch from the guys at the restaurant on the beach. We went swimming and snorkeling and walked for miles- this is a typical Caribbean beach- the water and sand were beautiful. There is also a river at one end that meets the sea and there is a forest of mangroves. We visiting it and there were lots of locals there- a few willing to take you on a tour down river of the mangroves. I highly recommend this beach and getting there by taxi is the way to go.
Cayo Levantado: We took the catamaran to Cayo Levantado (Bacardi Island) and it was $15 through SolTours. You don’t have to book ahead, just show up with cash on the dock of the small beach at 9:00am and hop on. They pick you up at 1:00 on the island and bring you back to the hotel. There is a market on the island (feel free to barter) and it is a beautiful white sand, turquoise water public beach (use the white loungers- the locals charge for the blue ones). My daughter got her hair braided for $20. There is at least one restaurant and bar on the beach. People we met took the excursion through the conservation park and then it went to this beach, they felt that it wasn’t worth the money, but did have a nice day.
El Limon: This excursion was amazing. It was reasonably priced ($55US pp), but it didn’t include much. We were picked up at 9:30 in an open-bus and driven to the ranch. We were given rainboots to change into and then given a horse with a guide. They tell you that the guides aren’t paid and that you can feel free to tip them, but that it is not necessary. I don’t know what the real story is, but we tipped ours $10 each. My guy was especially great. My husband had 7-year old kid as a guide- he was fine too. You are on horseback for 25 minutes or so and it is fun. It was my first time and it was an adventure. I am allergic to horses (all animals actually) and have asthma, but I took a Claritin and had my inhalers on hand and was perfectly fine. After the 25 minutes on horseback, we hiked downhill for 10 minutes or so and were at the most beautiful waterfall. We swam in it and took lots of pictures. If you swim under the waterfall to the right there is a cool cave. After making our way back over the trail we were served lunch- it was very average. Then we were brought back to the hotel. I would absolutely recommend the waterfall, but I would take a taxi there and just hire a guide (paradas)- it would be time and money better spent. Our taxi guy Zoilo says he takes people to get a guide and go the waterfall frequently and then he brings them to an undiscovered, but beautiful beach, so that might be an option.
Whale Watching: We chose not to do this, but would have if we had more time. Friends that we met there did the excursion with Kim, who owns the Victoria II (she is from Ontario and has been doing tours there for 25 years). It is $50 for a half day ($25 for kids) it is much cheaper to go with her than to book and excursion. She has a shop by the bay in town and does tours everyday. Friends of ours did it and saw tons of whales and learned a lot from her.
Random helpful hints
- We didn’t feel we had to tip much, we did if someone did something especially helpful. But it wasn’t like we felt the workers were expecting it all the time.
- There were no bugs at all.
- We didn’t have time to get our HepA/B and malaria shots, but we were perfectly fine. I took some antibiotics and pepto-bismal, but didn’t come close to using anything.
- We had a week of sun- only a few clouds everyday. The Weather Network said it would be cloudy, rainy and sunny all week, but all we had was sun and a few clouds. It was about 28 degrees everyday and it rained once for 10 minutes.
- Bring lot of sunscreen (I used 45 all the time), since it is expensive to buy. Also bring aloe or some kind of after sun treatment, since you are bound to get a bit burned.
- US money is accepted everywhere. We used it all the time, but the bank machines give you Dominican Pesos (100 Pesos= about $3 US). Bring lots of $1 US with you. The front desk will exchange money for you.
- Our daughter had a great time, but there are not a lot of kids or activities for kids. She is a water bug and is good to entertain herself and was lucky to meet another kid her age to play with a bit, but there is no “kids club” or separate kids activities.
This was our first all-inclusive experience and it was fabulous. From what we heard from other people, we got a great deal and won’t find much that compares to the experience. It was truly a 5 star quality. We felt like we got to see real Dominican life and learn a bit about the country all while having a relaxing vacation.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Facilities and services Main pool with Jacuzzi surrounded by a sun terrace 3 beachside hydromassage tubs Loungers, sun umbrellas and towel service BAHIA SPA (additional charge) Water activity centre WiFi access in the lobby (1h per day free of charge) Wedding gazebo Buffet-style main restaurant and 3 speciality restaurants 4 Bars Cocktail Lounge Chill Out zone 1 snack bar Sports facilities: gym Pueblo Principe: Shopping and Leisure Mall with local craft stores, live music, shows, stores, bars and disco. Rooms 295 rooms including 4 types: Standard, Standard with Sea View, Superior Junior Suite and Club Golden Junior Suite. Junior Suites are larger than Standard rooms. Room facilities: King size bed or 2 full size beds Fully-equipped bathroom with hydromassage bath tub, hair dryer and magnifying mirror. Air conditioning Ceiling fan Telephone Satellite TV Coffee-making facilities Mini-bar Safe (additional charge) Terrace WiFi (additional charge) Junior Suite: sitting area, sofa-bed and ironing set Club Golden Junior Suites (See page 18 Club Golden, Club Hacienda) Children Bahia Scouts The hotel is perfect for families, offering a range of facilities tailored especially for children, including the following: Park Mini Club for children aged 4 to 12 Evening Mini Disco Babysitting service (additional charge) Other services Medical service (additional charge) Pharmacy (additional charge) Bus stop opposite the hotel Auditorium for corporate meetings Panoramic lifts Personalised menus (for celiacs, diabetics, etc.) Available on request Specialised service for organising weddings, incentive trips, events and anniversaries. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gran Bahia Principe Cayacoa Hotel
- Gran Bahia Principe Cayacoa Samana