This was a family trip for us: three siblings plus our partners and children. A few weeks before we left, we heard a terrible story about two women's experience there, and we started to see some bad reviews on this site. We considered cancelling our vacation. We decided not to, and are so happy that we stuck to it!
I cannot argue with someone else's experience, but ours was wonderful.
There is no hint of crime or dishonesty at the resort - either with staff or with fellow travellers. In fact, security is everywhere. One guard even stopped my brother-in-law from entering our door when we were not there - he had to prove that he was family! Although warned not to, we often left valuables out, and nothing was ever taken. In fact, I realized on our last day that our patio door had been open for the entire week! No one had entered uninvited.
The resort is beautiful. Landscaping is lovely, and they work on it endlessly. The same goes for cleanliness. The resort is older, and it does look as though it is - you need to expect some dated items like faucets, bathroom tiles, and décor, but it is incredibly clean, and still very charming. The complex is filled with people washing, sweeping, dusting, and mopping - inside and outside the buildings. The architecture is beautiful. My eight-year-old niece said it perfectly: "Here you get beautiful buildings AND the beauty of nature!"
The staff were beyond helpful. They really acted as though they could not do enough for you. It almost seemed like you only had to wish for something for it to appear. The only exception to that, for me, was the man who replenishes the rooms with water. For my other family members, he dropped off three or more bottles per day at their request. For me, it dwindled throughout the week, despite a generous tip from me, to one bottle! I had to buy some. I am not sure why this happened, but otherwise I had zero complaints. These people work extremely hard, and still manage to look and act cheerful and professional.
The food is varied and very safe to eat. The resort uses purified water for washing and cooking, so all fruits and veggies are safe to consume raw as well as cooked. The buffet restaurant has a wide variety of foods to choose from so most people can find something they like. For picky eaters like the children in our group, there is always pasta, pizza, French fries, and toast. Aside from the main buffet, the small café restaurant that is open off the beach has some great western foods for children or unadventurous adults - and you can enter it dripping wet and full of sand, which is a bonus! The other restaurants also serve yummy food and, again, in all of them the staff are attentive and patient.
The beach is very nice. No, it is not white sand. One of the artists on the resort explained to me that this beach is at the apex of four rivers, and so it gets all of the sediment that is washed downstream into the ocean. However, it did not really matter for us. We went on two excursions off the resort and those guides took us to white beaches, so we did experience them. The resort beach is clean, and there is tons of space to play either in the water or on the sand. There are also multitudes of grass huts and lounging chairs under palm trees and so there is always a place to relax in the shade (or in the sun, if you would rather).
On this site, many people mentioned sand-fleas as being a problem. We went at the end of February (their winter) and they were not an issue. On day, towards evening, I was bitten a few times, but they certainly did not cause my skin to swell up. I had three little red bites on my leg and then they disappeared. I decided it was my fault for not following the advice of a previous traveller and staying off the beach past four in the afternoon.
It is a great resort for family and older people, but it also appears to be good for groups of students and twenty-somethings. Everyone dresses up at night and there is entertainment for all lifestyles. After dinner, there is music in the lobby at the same time as there is a children's show in the theatre - followed by an adult show. My husband and I did not stay up later than 10:30, but others in our party did, and they shared that there is a street party every night down on "the strip" of the resort that holds bars, a casino, and shops. There is also karaoke . . .I think in the lobby. The bar seemed to be packed every night with beautiful men and women dancing and singing. The rooms are spread out over a huge space, and so some groups seemed to be able to party without disturbing families and couples.
The main pool is clean and lovely. There are also private pools if you choose to book a Gold-Star, or S-trip etc. vacation. If you like to play on your vacations, there is entertainment staff all day at the main pool encouraging people to join water games, learn to dance, or perform water aerobics. There is a gym but, despite my best intentions, I did not visit it. I did see many people running in the cool of the evening - there are lots of paved pathways as well as the beach to run on.
You do not have to stay on the resort. We booked through Air Transat, and they had many excursions to choose from. We chose a jeep trip (full day) that took us through the mountains and some small towns. We experienced lots of great things: a coffee plantation, a crystal-clear freshwater lake that is partially underneath a cave, and many other adventures. We also took an excursion offered by the hotel (booked in the area where you get your kayaks), and it was my favourite. We went on a speed boat to the coral reefs where we did some snorkeling, went through a mangrove forest, and to a beach that the locals use. We saw Stingrays and Barracudas, as well as birds and a pond filled with turtles. We fed fish that looked a lot like Sunfish but that the locals call "Monkey Fish" because they will eat bananas. The guides dove under the water and fed the spirals of fish while we snorkeled above and watched. It was like something off a National Geographic channel. It was only four hours and well worth the $45.00 American that we paid.
I am not certain what else others would like to know . . .the rooms were pretty as well as cool during day and night, and the water-pressure was okay. The air-conditioning worked. I personally do not travel to another country and expect it to be the same as home, so I was happy with the amenities, although someone else might wish it was more North American.
I want people to know that, as long as you do not expect it to look like a new complex, Bahia Principe San Juan is a lovely resort. In our experience it is safe, pretty, and very, very clean. In some ways, its age is part of its charm: everything is spread out among the land, rather than enclosed in one or two tall buildings. Again, the sand-fleas were not an issue.
Finally, we paid for standard rooms, but our brother and his family went with the Gold Star and they were not disappointed. They had a beautiful private pool and impeccable room service as well as other perks. The staff are amazing, and the grounds worthy of any resort. The beach is not white, but still nice (I recommend taking the time to explore the beach areas - there are lots of different kinds of spaces).
If you are considering it - GO! It is well worth the money.
We did not get to choose our rooms, and we ended up at the back of the resort. This meant that behi...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.