My boyfriend and I travelled to Samana,Dominican Republic for the first time from April 27- May 4 through West Jet Vacations. Previously, we have traveled to locations through out Mexico and Cuba and have stayed in all-inclusive style resorts many times before. We read all the reviews about Cayacoa before we left and, honestly, I don't know how anyone could have much to complain about regarding this resort. It was certainly one of the top, if not the best experience we've had while traveling in the Caribbean.
We arrived at the Samana airport and customs went smoothly and quickly. I would suggest collecting your own bags, as the volunteer porters there are working for tips. Our West Jet rep, Herman, was wonderful. He was waiting for us outside,helped us onto our modern, air conditioned bus, and within 45 minutes, we were at our resort. The Samana countryside is breathtaking. It's easy to see that the people of this province are laidback and friendly, enjoying the sun from their decks and playing pool with friends. I noticed a lot of disparity driving through the villages, some very rich people parking their Audis next to their neighbors tin homes with thatched roofs. It was interesting to see, as it was certainly not this way in Cuba!
We arrived at the hotel just before 3, and our rooms weren't quite ready. We grabbed an AMAZING cocktail and enjoyed the view of the bay from the lobby bar. The lobby bar is the place to be if you enjoy a good cocktail and beautiful view. Dario was a fantastic bartender and we were pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the drinks. They set out juice and coffee and snacks to nibble on through out the day too. As big coffee afficianados ourselves, we were impressed!
We weren't overwhelmed by the room we stayed in, but we are only in the room to sleep, so this was not an issue. We paid for ocean view and a big palm tree was all we could see from the balcony, this was the only downside. The rooms were immaculately clean and everything was in working order, new towels and mini bar restocked every day... that's all we need!
We booked two excursions through Herman, who made excellent recommendations and stood behind the tours 100%. His presentation was very informative and we trusted and valued his advice and opinions. He even called us at a restaurant one night to help us reschedule our zipline tour and took a call from us after hours from his home. Incredible service from Herman, we were so impressed.
The pools were great, we visited the main pool and the Jacuzzi pools near the snack bar & the second beach. We had no problems finding a chair and we were not up early by any means. Shade can be hard to come by, so we made sure to stay out of the sun during the peak heat of the day, after burning pretty badly the first day, even after dillegent sunscreen application. The main pool was more lively, lots of people, music and activities. We aren't much for animation team type activities, but other people seemed to be enjoying them and we can see why they receive such high praise. The drinks at the pool bar were also well made, the Rum Punch is one to try! We took the stairs every day to the jacuzzi pool, which was never busy or noisy and a great place to relax. We didn't find the stairs to be a problem, but for those with mobility issues, there was a shuttle to the lower levels as often as you liked.
As for the beaches, the main beach was great. Lots of chairs and umbrellas to relax by and we were never bothered by vendors while we soaked up the sun. This is a blue flag beach, and they are constantly maintaining it, cleaning and even monitoring water quality. The ocean itself was sandy, not dirty , had decent sized waves to play in and was warm like a bath tub! We loved this beach, which also had quick access to drinks and beverages at the hybiscus snack bar. The second beach down by the jacuzzi pools was a little less groomed, more of a virgin beach. There was a gorgeous sun deck and jerry here where we took lots of beautiful photos, but there were lots of rocks and weeds in the sea, and we didn't swim here. We saw plenty of fish through the clear waters though, and it looked to be a snorkler's paradise!
We were able to make 3 a la carte reservations with our stay. It wasn't a problem to make them, we were able to make reservations for the times and dates we desired with out a hitch. The food was beyond what we expected, and the restaurants themselves were stunning. Service was impeccable... Claudio, our maitre'd, poured our bottle of wine better than most servers back home can. We don't expect 5 star dining in an all inclusive resort, but the experience we had here was pretty close. The Gourmet restaurant was really a special treat. Even the buffet food was good. Lots of variety, excellent service, with breakfast being a real stand out.
The excursions we did were wonderful. I haven't seen a lot of reviews for the jeep tour, but I highly recommend it! We visited a typical farm and then headed to El Rincon beach, a white sand paradise that was absolutely breathtaking. We even stopped at a river nearby to swim with the locals as they celebrated their Labour Day. "Mama Jaquie", our tour guide was high energy and tons of fun, and the rum never stopped flowing.
We also made a half day trip to Cayo Laventado, or Bacardi Beach, which had the clearest waters we've ever seen. If you want that Carribean powdery white sand experience, don't miss Rincon or Laventado.
We did the zipline tour as well, which, as someone terrified of heights, I wasn't too excited for this one! However, I'm glad I did it, and I was able to zipline tandem with my partner to ease ny fears. It feels like another world up in the mountains, a real jungle! And after 12 zilplines through the tops of the trees, you stop at a fresh water pool & waterfall to cool off. This excursion would have been a perfect day if it weren't for the sales pitch about the upcoming eco hotel in the area. We were also a little disappointed we didn't get to meet Bart, the owner of the zipline, from Boise, Idaho.
We did go into the town as well to shop for souvenirs, but we stayed on Pueblo Principe, which was a mistake. A string of hotel owned shops with outrageously expensive merchandise and pushy, aggressive vendors. We did not enjoy our experience in the town, but another Canadian couple who ventured down the road said they found great deals and friendly shop owners. We will keep that in mind next time!
A few tips for travelers to this property: I never once felt like tips were expected by the staff, but I noticed A LOT of patrons leaving no tips at all. I know we are generous tippers and not all travelers are going to be this way, but it broke my heart a bit to see the wonderful service going unrewarded. The staff work so hard, for long hours and not much pay. Keep this in mind during your stay, surely you would tip the waitstaff back home! I would also suggest to stay away from the Privilege Club staff members in the white outfits. They are selling time shares and we saw many a couple missing out on their time in the sun listening to a sales pitch. Politely pass on the opportunity when approached by these sales people and enjoy the beautiful weather outside!
Apart from these few negatives, if you can call them that, we had a wonderful time. We will he back to Samana for sure, and reccomend this resort to other travelers. We may try the Luxury Bahia next time as we enjoyed our experience at Cayo Laventado so much! I apologize for the long review, but I hope it was helpful & happy travels!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.