We stayed at this resort from Feb. 27 to March 6/2014. The primary purpose of our visit was to go "whale watching" and this excursion with Whale Samana did not disappoint. I should mention that the whale excursions leave from Samana bay, and this is a $120. return fare by taxi. However, the trip advisor blog is a great manner in which to find another couple or two to share the taxi. This was an educational excursion, not a party boat, although those are available. Our only issue is that there is no food provided, only a few crackers/soda and water. so bring something along, as it is a long time out. They do provide Gravol, if you forget, as well as Sea Bands ($10. reimbursed on return)
Outside of the whale watching, we had few expectations for this vacation. However, we were overjoyed with the quality and beauty of this hotel, and the entire Portillo region. To begin, we arrived at the Samana airport (El Cate), which is west (I think) of El Portillo, not in the city of Samana. It is a short 40 minute ride to the resort through amazing country, over mountains, past caverns, and a number of small villages, and with the most spectacular views of the ocean, particularly noticeable on the return trip to the airport, where our driver graciously stopped for photo opp's. We did find all our taxi and bus drivers very safe, and felt very comfortable during our drives. There are many mopeds, scooters, motorbikes and horses along the very narrow roads, as well as cars parked on the shoulders, but the drivers are generally courteous and cautious.
On arrival, check in was quick and efficient. Our room was not quite ready, so we had a quick brunch and by then were able to get to our room. We stayed in building 9 on the second floor, which looks out over a bush. The water pressure and temperature, air conditioner, and room fridge was excellent. We actually found that the AC was by far one of the most efficient and quiet of all the resorts we have visited. We do have an issue, however, with the price for a safe key ($28 per week). Knowing the importance of keeping one's guests happy and safe, we feel management should rethink charging for this service. Many resorts we have stayed at have a fee which is reimbursed on check out, once the safe key is returned.
Our room was cleaned by Margarita. Although her knowledge of English was very limited, she was lovely and so efficient in cleaning our room. The decorative touches to our bed, and flowers were so very appreciated! We also appreciated the tourist information magazine provided in our room.
Our building (9) and building 8 are in a quieter area, private with limited foot traffic. Buildings 10-12 surround the small pool, which could get noisy at times.
Some reviews indicate the hotel is large with a lot of walking from one area to another, however, we found this not so, it took only a few minutes to walk from our building to the lobby and buffet, and the main pool and beach were not much beyond that. We are an older couple, late 50-early 60, and had no issues at all with the distances around the resort.
The beach of this resort and surrounding area were astounding! Soft sand with a deep beach, and lovely sand bottom in the ocean. In front of the resort, there is coral and a few areas of seaweed which gave lovely snorkelling opportunities, and the water is shallow enough that you can easily walk out and view the fish, if you don't like to snorkel. That being said, be careful of the coral- it is sharp and unforgiving if you get caught up in it, and since the water is shallow, that can easily happen. There is a lovely surf at a distance, but the swimming area did not have much of an undertow, and no surf due to the outer reef.
This beach is remote and expansive, surrounded by private dwellings and a new condominium complex. You can walk for hours, and swim in the ocean anywhere along the way. We walked in both directions every day- whether it was into the town of Las Terranes or in the opposite direction. Both were lovely. If the tide comes in, there is a roadway/path that follows the ocean that is equally lovely. There are security guards at the beach boundaries to this resort, whose English was excellent, and the guard at the East edge was so friendly and spent quite some time chatting and answering our questions about the area.
An odd point perhaps, but I must commend the developers of this resort for the numerous bathroom facilities throughout the resort, with close proximity to all sections of the beach and pools. And very clean and well maintained. The cleaning women were always in attendance and rarely was the tissue low or the area not clean!
Beach and pool chairs were a commodity. Although hotel policy prohibits "reserving" of chairs with towels and personal belongings, many lounges are held, particularly the pallapa's, and left for hours at a time. We did not see anyone enforcing or even monitoring this, which was unfortunate for the people who arrive from a long flight only to find they cannot get a chair on the beach or pool..., or any of us, for that matter.
We did have one concern we hope management will consider. Free WiFi is provided in the lobby for 60 consecutive minutes every day. otherwise, there is a considerable fee. Although we appreciated the free time, it is frustrating. If you access your time during the day time hours, your free time expires before you can do an evening connection with family. We felt the fee to purchase additional time far exceeded any fees we have paid at other resorts. We did find the front desk so very helpful if we had any problems with accessing the WiFi- or any issues for that matter. We were also impressed with the phone call moments after our arrival in our room to see if there were any concerns and the phone extension provided to call if we did have any. We did call once to make an enquiry and had very prompt response.
We were amazed at how staff overall recognized patrons within days of arrival and greeted in our native tongue, followed by Spanish. Could not figure out how the not only recognized us, but also that we spoke English and the couple walking behind us would be greeted in their native French!
Las Terranes is approximately 1h.20m. walking by beach at a comfortable pace, or a $10 cab fare each way. This is a small town with some very nice restaurants. It was very safe to walk about. We also enjoyed watching the kite surfing lessons offered on the beach, as you walk toward the town. We did not have any concerns with the dogs that run the beach. Some did come up to us, and they looked healthy and were very friendly. But there is a pack who keep to themselves up the beach- look like a family. They did not growl or approach us.
The sun is very hot, and if it does rain, running into the treed area keeps you drier, but be careful of sunburn. I burned even with regular use of sunscreen, but my own fault, as i was in and out of the ocean... Water is supplied in abundance in your room, but in large bottles, but we took along small bottles for walking, from home for our walks. I think there may be sand fleas as I have a few itchy spots on my ankles, but managed well with hydrocortisone cream. No mosquitos anywhere in the area were noted. Actually we saw very few pests, a few beetles, no animals of any sort, other than birds.
Food selection in the resort was ample. The pastries and bread products were always fresh and delicious. Meats were varied and generally tender and flavourful. We ate at all three of the a la carte's. Thoroughly enjoyed El Piscadore (I ate the lamb, my husband had red snapper) and the Italian restaurant. However, we did not particularly enjoy the Gourmet restaurant, and with an early dining hour of 6:30 we were surprised when both our initial selections were not available. My husband then selected the Veal, and it was so tough he was not able to eat it. Otherwise, we very much enjoyed the buffet, and our most wonderful server, Yicel, whom we sought out to say goodbye, but sadly missed. We also enjoyed Victor's service. Overall, the service in this resort was amazing, particularly in the restaurants.! You will not have beach or pool service with your beverage brought to you, but we did not have concerns with this.
The bars provide domestic and some international alcohol. There is a fee for premium liquor, including Canadian Club, which was $4. The range was around $2-4. for these. House wine in the bar and buffet is harsh, but you can purchase a bottle of higher end wine for as little as$20. which is generally what you will pay in town in the market.
The bar itself in the lobby is not conducive to meeting others- it is fairly short, and sitting at the bar is not comfortable. We found it easier to meet others at the beach or pool. We did meet a number of lovely individuals and thoroughly enjoyed our time with them.
Vendors are often passing along the beach, but there was no harassing. A simple "no thank you" and they would move along.
We did not see much of the nightly entertainment, other than circus night (excellent) and the magic show (not impressive). The resort quiets down quickly at 11 but that was fine with us, as the sun rises early and we were there for sun and sand more so than nightly entertainment, although we did enjoy our time in the lobby bar... with particular thanks to Josefina for your friendship, service and professionalism!
I should mention that there were many people we met who were travelling with large groups, including a delightful group from Halifax area and southern Ontario. We were very impressed with the way this resort accommodated these groups for dining, including the a la cartes!
That pretty much sums up our review of this resort. Would we recommend this resort? Absolutely! Would we return? in a hear beat! We have travelled extensively throughout Mexico and the Carribean and feel confident in our review that you will not be disappointed in selecting this resort.